Rats and mice both
belong to the family Muridae (order Rodentia). The rat is a dark
animal with a pointed nose. It is similar to the mouse, but larger
in size. Neither of the species has a definite scientific
definition. Similarly a few varieties of rodents are confused with
rats and in fact some of them are even called so. The bamboo rat,
cane rat, kangaroo rat and rice rat are some classic examples. The
typical rat belongs to the genus Rattus and it has a pointed
nose and naked feet and tail.
The Norway rat and the black rat are two very common
varieties of the typical rat. Both these varieties are aggressive,
active, omnivorous, adaptable, and fecund animals. They have very
finely tuned sensory organs. Their remarkable ability to climb,
jump, burrow or gnaw gains them entry to places inaccessible to many
other small mammals.
The rapidity with
which these two varieties multiply is amazing. They breed at
three to four months and can produce up to seven litters a
year. Each litter contains anywhere between six and twenty-two
The black rat is known by many other names, namely roof
rat, Alexandrine, climbing rat, or gray rat. Its length
including the head and the body is about eight inches. Its
tail is somewhat longer. Both its nose and ears are pointed.
The black rat is usually dark gray or brownish at the top and
light gray or whitish below. It is a skilled climber and
The Norway rat is better known as the barn rat. Other
references to the Norway rat are brown rat, sewer rat, or
wharf rat. Rats used in laboratories are domesticated albino
strains of the Norway rat.
As compared with
the black rat, the Norway rat has smaller ears and a more
robust body. Its tail is shorter than the body length
(including the head), which measures between eighteen and
twenty-five centimeters in length. Usually brown in color, it
may also be gray, white or black.
The Norway rat digs
burrows and is an adept swimmer. It is larger and more adaptable
than the black rat. When both species live in the same area, they
occupy different habitats. In a building, for instance, while the
Norway rat would prefer the lower levels, the black rat would opt
for the upper floors.
Mice are indigenous to almost
every land area. They eat grain, roots, fruit, grass, insects, and
in some instances human foodstuffs. They prefer to dwell in man-made
structures. Wild mice are a nuisance as agricultural pests. One
blessing for human beings is that mice are often food for predators,
who then spare livestock.
The different types
The house mouse is the most common among mice. Needless to say,
this species looks for shelter and food in human dwellings. The
house mouse grows to a length of twenty centimeters, of which ten
centimeters is the length of the tail alone. It feeds on anything,
right from soaps and glue to what's available in the kitchen bins.
They multiply quickly and every litter contains about twelve young
ones, with breeding taking place throughout the year.
The species kept as a
pet or bred in laboratories is the white lab mouse. It is a
domesticated form of the house mouse. Piebald mice, singing mice,
and waltzing mice are some variations of the house mouse.
Mice can become serious
pests. They destroy food and gnaw all types of things. There are
also possibilities of them harboring disease-producing organisms
such as murine typhus and plague.