Rats & Mice

Rat and mouse are common names for rodents that look alike to the common eye, these names are not scientific classifications.

Appearance, life cycle and habits

Rats and mice are mammals and rodents. Rats are medium-sized rodents with long thin tails. A Mouse is a very small rodent with a long thin tail. Mouse ears are very large relative to their heads, where rat ears are smaller relative to their heads. Rats also have thicker tails than mice. Rats are cautious, and mice are curious.

Rats and mice find food and shelter in buildings, particularly during late autumn and winter. Rats and mice are mostly active at night and they eat a wide range of foods.


The presence of rodents is often detected from their damage, odour, and faecal droppings. Droppings of about 18 mm indicate the Norway rat, 12 mm the roof rat, and 3-4 mm the house mouse. The following signs should always be investigated to confirm rat and mouse presence prior to trapping or baiting:

  • Disappearance of food
  • Sounds, often occurring at night, which may include squeaking and fighting
  • Nests behind cupboards and lounges, made of paper and rags
  • Pets are sensitive to other animal intruders and often bark when rodents enter houses or are active

Useful tips on rats & mice

  • The prevention or termination of rat and mouse infestations by sanitation and hygiene is the most cost effective
  • Use a vacuum cleaner to reduce food particles on floors
  • Seal food in containers
  • Ensure the lids on garbage bins are tight-fitting
  • Inspection of the building to locate entry points is a good first step. Holes in walls for water and drainage pipes should be sealed to prevent rodent access. Cement or metal sheeting can prevent access.
  • Trapping rats and mice is often done by home-owners and pest-control technicians. There are several types of traps – from the simple single snap trap to multiple mouse-catching devices that can hold up to 30 mice. The single snap trap may be used with bait or set unbaited. Suitable foods for baited traps include bacon, nuts and apple. Unbaited traps have a trigger covered with fine pieces of cardboard or sawdust.
  • Because trapped rats and mice may exude blood, urine or faeces, traps should not be set near food preparation areas. When a rodent is caught, its fleas leave the dead body and seek other hosts. It is therefore important to check traps frequently and remove the dead rodent together with its fleas, at the same time.

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