House Mouse vs Deer Mouse

While most rodents are somewhat similar in appearance, there are certain ways to tell them apart. Deer mice have white feet and underbellies, with tails almost as long as their bodies and completely covered in hair. House mice are around the same size and color, but their tails are instead covered in scales. Deer mice also have larger eyes and ears than house mice.  Knowing the differences between house mice and deer mice is essential for homeowners dealing with an infestation.

Summary of Differences

PestDifferentiating Facts
House Mouse
house mouse outside
house mouse
House Mouse

  • All gray fur
  • Shorter hairless tails
  • Smaller eyes and ears
  • Distinctive musty scent
Deer Mouse
deer mouse
deer mouse
Deer Mouse

  • Gray or brown fur with white bellies and feet
  • Longer tails with fur
  • Larger eyes and ears
  • No special odor

How to Correctly Identify Them

What do house mice look like?

house mouse image
house mouse
The slender house mouse boasts brownish or dark gray fur and displays a white or buff underside. Additional identifiers include big ears, a pointy nose, and small, black eyes with somewhat of a bulging appearance. An acute sense of smell, hearing, touch, and taste compensates for the house mouse’s poor vision, and the rodent continuously explores and memorizes its surroundings. On average, adults measure two or three inches long, excluding a three to four inch tail.

The Mus musculus uses its long, hairless, scaly tail for balance when running and climbing. Four small feet prove agile, allowing house mice to run and climb over most surfaces very quickly.

Learn more about house mice.

What do deer mice look like?

deer mouseThe deer mouse possesses a round, slender body typically no bigger than four inches long. The head tapers to a pointed nose with pronounced vibrissae, or whiskers. The species has beady black eyes, nearly hairless ears, and a furry tail that nearly doubles the length of the animal. The coloration typically appears dark on top and varies in shade from gray to reddish-brown and white on the bottom.

The tail features two contrasting sides, as the top remains dark while the underside is lighter in color. The forelimbs generally are shorter than the hind legs.

Learn more about deer mice.

Behavior Differences

House mice and deer mice are both found throughout the U.S.

While house mice can live outdoors, they prefer to stay near humans and make homes in secluded places between walls and rafters. They are known for ripping up insulation, paper, and cardboard to use as nesting materials.  House mice infest homes year round.

On the other hand, deer mice tend to shelter in hidden areas outdoors like hollow tree logs or piles of debris. They are also agile jumpers and climbers, a skill that helps them escape predators. When they do get inside, they prefer to nest in attics.

Both pests may gnaw on siding to enter homes and chew into stored foods. They also make unsightly messes and contaminate pantry goods.

Diseases and Removal

The habitat and behavior differences between a house mouse and a deer mouse mean that these rodents transmit different illnesses.

House mice can carry meningitis, leptospirosis, and rickets. House mice may also trigger allergies with their feces, urine, and dander, especially in young children. However, they are not known carriers of plague.

In contrast, deer mice may harbor hantavirus, which can be fatal. Deer mice also carry parasites that spread Lyme disease, plague, and babesiosis.

Both mice can pass along salmonella, rat-bite fever, and plague. These pests are also capable of carrying numerous parasites into homes that can affect pets and people.

How to manage a mouse infestation.