Do You Know the Three Main Species of Rats and Mice?

These creatures usually do not stand around so you can get a good look at them. Typically, you see them scurrying across the kitchen floor late at night when you turn on the lights to enjoy a late night snack or get a glass of water. With your fight or flight mode kicking in, you probably are not taking notes of their similarities or differences. Let us help you.

First off, did you know that there are three main specifies of rats and mice? These three are the most common pests in the United States.

  1. Norway Rat
  • Rattus norvegicus, common or brown rate
  • Heavy and thick body
  • Blunt snout with short ears with dark hair
  • Tails are dark on top and pale underneath
  • Brown body with black shading and a shaggy coat
  • Tails are dark on top and pale underneath
  • Their droppings are shaped like capsules
  • 11 ounces
  1. Roof Rat
  • Rattusrattus, black rat or ship rat
  • Light and slender body
  • Pointed snout with large ears with no hair
  • Gray body with black shade
  • Smooth coat with dark tail
  • Their droppings are shaped like spindles.
  • 7 ounces
  1. House Mouse
  • Mus domesticus
  • Small head and feet
  • Pointed snout with large ears with some hair
  • Light brown body with some gray shading
  • 5 ounces
  • The mice droppings are shaped like rods.



“Rat is used to describe medium-sized rodents with long thin tails. There are many species of rats that are called rats — kangaroo rats, cotton rats, Norway rats, black rats, African pouched rats, naked mole rats, wood rats, pack rats, Polynesian rats, and many others. These different rodent species may not be closely related to each other at all,” according to

Mouse explains that Mouse is used to describe tiny, sparrow-sized rodents with long thin tails. As with rats, there are many species of rodents called mice which may or may not be closely related to each other: house mice, field mice, deer mice, smoky mice, spiny mice, and dormice are all called mice.


The similarities of these rodents are:

  • A pair of incisor teeth in the upper jaw.
  • Both are nocturnal.
  • Tend to have short legs and a long tail.
  • Both rats and mice are omnivorous, but the brown rat and house mouse prefer cereals, while black rats prefer fruit and foods with a high moisture content.

Main Differences

There are a large amount of differences between a mouse and a rate:

  • Rats kill mice, but mice don’t kill rats.
  • Size and weight – rats are bigger. Rates are over ten times heavier. Rats are much larger, have coarser fur, and have proportionately larger heads and feet.
  • Tails – the rat tail is longer and thicker.
  • Head shape – the mouse head is more triangular.
  • Droppings – different size and shape. Mice droppings are much smaller.
  • Biology – young mice develop more quickly.
  • Nipples – rats have an extra pair.
  • Mice are curious and rats are cautious.
  • Small mousetraps that work for mice will not work for much larger rats.
  • Rat traps set on the floor will not capture roof rats that tend to stay up high.
  • Rats are strong swimmers, and that is why they can handle living in sewers. Mice are not.

Signs of Rodents

The tell-tale signs that you have rats or mice in your home or business are:

  • Droppings
  • Urine odors
  • Gnawed holes
  • Rub and gnaw marks
  • Rodent runways
  • Rodent nests
  • Scampering noises
  • Unusual pet behavior

Inspection and Removal

Both rats and mice can be very dangerous from a health standpoint and property damage, so if you have any evidence of mice or rates, contact expert help to handle the situation quickly. They can provide a thorough inspection, and upon detection of a rodent, they can remove them from your home. It will be important to seal up the entry points that they came in through.

If you would like assistance with wildlife, give Houseman Services a call at 866-964-PEST? We also control Armadillos, Rats, Mice, Skunks, Snakes, Beavers, Canine, Feral, Bats, and Birds.

Houseman Services is the only complete service company in the Athens, GA area. We provide Weed control, fertilization, shrub care, mulch & pine straw, sod, annual plantings, irrigation, and commercial & residential lawn maintenance. We are also state certified and licensed in wood destroying organisms (termite control), household pest control, public health, and turf & ornamental weed control. We are licensed to control and treat mosquitoes, termites, all pest problems and turf & ornamental weed control. Contact the professionals at Houseman Services and set up a free inspection of your yard. We have been servicing homes and businesses in the Athens, Clarke County area since 1985!