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How to Tell the Difference Between Rats and Mice

Rodents are sneaky creatures to deal with. They scurry around after dark, which means you might have an infestation without even seeing one in the flesh. If you do happen to catch a glimpse of a long tail disappearing between your baseboards or into your home’s eaves, you might not even be able to tell whether it’s a rat or a mouse at all.

The catch? Identifying what kind of an infestation you have can be crucial to finding a  treatment strategy for Toronto pest control. Rats don’t always respond to the same removal methods as mice do, so if you’re mistaken about which unwanted guest is getting comfortable, all your efforts might be in vain.

Here’s how to tell exactly what kind of long-tailed pest is creating a disturbance in your home or office.



An obvious way to tell the difference between rats and mice is to keep in mind that rats are significantly larger than mice. If you’ve never seen either in the flesh, however, you might not be familiar with just how big or just how small either of them are.

A house mouse, the most common type in North America, is usually between 10 to 20 centimetres in length, from nose to tail. That’s roughly the length of a soda bottle. They’re small and light in size – comparable to a hamster you might see in a pet store – making them skilled at sneaking into very small spaces.


Rats are commonly larger, often being as long as 20 centimetres and even up to 40 centimetres for some breeds. They have more weight and bulk to them, and, while still a small rodent, all things considered, are markedly larger than your average mouse.


The exception to this rule is the Roof Rat, commonly found in North America in rafters, trees or eaves. These are smaller than most rats and are sometimes mistaken for a mouse. This is why it is often best to contact your local pest control service if you’re unsure about what you’re dealing with.


This is a key factor in determining whether you live with mice or rats, particularly because both rodents are so sneaky and quick that you may only have time to glimpse the quick swish of a tail as it disappears down a drainpipe or into a hole in the wall.

When determining whether you have rats or mice, keep in mind that mice have long, skinny tails that are covered in hair. Rat tails – while also long in size – are commonly hairless and have a scaly texture to them.

Mice are usually a light brown colour with gray undertones, while rats are gray or black in colour and often have a tail that’s dark on top and light on the underside.

Ears and face

Though you might not feel so charitable towards a mouse infestation in your own home, it’s true that mice have somewhat delicate features, the ones you may associate with certain cartoon mice. They commonly have a small, but pointed snout and large round ears.

Rats tend to have a more blunted snout and smaller ears, although one variation of rat – the Roof Rat – has somewhat larger ears. You might not even get close enough to a rodent to see these details up close, so if you do, make sure you mention this to your Toronto pest control specialist.


Remember what we said about the difference between rats and mice being key to pest control strategy? That’s because mice and rats have different behaviours.

Mice, for example, are curious and will often stand up on their hind legs to get a better view of things. They:

  • jump
  • swim
  • climb
  • like to explore

Though they are normally nocturnal and mostly active from sundown to sunup, they will sometimes scrounge for food during the day.

Rats, on the other hand, are more cautious and reserved, often staying close to their nest or burrow. This can make it difficult to find them and difficult to treat, unless you’re using a professional pest company.

Rodents, once they’ve infested, are unfortunately difficult to get rid of. They’re sneaky to find and can breed quickly, multiplying the number of unwanted guests nesting in your rafters or basement. There are a number of effective ways to treat an infestation, but the strategy depends heavily on identifying whether you’re dealing with rats or mice. If you’re unsure, it’s best to call a professional pest control company like Pestend Pest Control Toronto.