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The Difference between Rats and Mice

While they may at first seem very similar, the difference between rats and mice can be significant. Both animals are fun and lively pets that are nocturnal by nature, meaning they will be most active at night. Some of the differences between rats and mice can be classified as physical differences, social differences, and habitat differences.

Physically, the difference between rats and mice begins with the simple matter of size. Rats are generally much larger than mice, often averaging around 9 to 10 inches in length. By contrast, many mice are only around 3 inches in length. Both animals have hairless tails that are roughly the same length as their bodies. Mice tend to have more pointed noses than rats, whose snouts are often more blunt.

There an important social differences between rats and mice. Mice generally get along with other mice, with a few notable exceptions. Male mice, unless they are from the same litter and have never been separated, do not get along well. Rats, on the other hand, are also social animals but usually thrive when kept in same-sex pairs.

Both mice and rats are very playful and will enjoy a variety of toys. Either animal can usually be trained to eat from and climb into your hands. In terms of socialization and training, the difference between rats and mice is that rats are generally considered more trainable. Mice are often very timid and while they can become accustomed to humans they do not usually seek their company as readily as rats do. Rats are very intelligent animals and can often be taught to respond when their names are called, complete mazes, sit on your shoulder or in a pocket, and other “tricks.”

Both mice and rats need a secure home, such as a glass aquarium or wire cage for a habitat. The difference between rats and mice in terms of habitat is that rats like to climb and generally benefit from cages more than tanks. Mice are not as interested in climbing, and can adapt well to life in a tank. Even though they are not generally accomplished climbers, a tight-fitting mesh lid is important to keep mice from attempting to escape. Rats especially enjoy cages with horizontal bars, which lend themselves to climbing. A secure cage is important for rats, since climbing can lead to escape attempts.