Norway Rat vs Roof Rat vs Pack Rat

Summary of Differences

PestDifferentiating Facts
Norway Rat
norway rat or brown rat
Norway Rat

  • 8 to 10 inches longs on average
  • brownish gray
  • long hairless tail
  • rounded snout
  • oval shaped droppings with blunt end
  • usually found in basements and crawl spaces
  • aka “brown rat” or “sewer rat”
  • image source:
Roof Rat
roof rat
Roof Rat

  • 7 to 8 inches long
  • black
  • long scaly tail that can measure 10 inches
  • pointed snout
  • droppings taper to a point
  • usually found attics
  • aka “black rat”
Pack Rat
wood rat or pack rat
Pack Rat

  • up to 11 inches
  • brownish gray
  • short, bushy tail
  • builds nests outside
  • aka “wood rat”
  • image source:

Difference in Droppings

Norway Rat Droppings

norway rat poop
Norway Rat Feces

Measuring about three-fourths of an inch in length, Norway rat droppings are easy to identify. They’re much larger than tiny, rice-sized mouse poop and also different in shape than waste left by other kinds of rats.

While Norway rats and roof rats, both leave behind waste measuring between one-fourth and one-half inch in length. They can be told apart because roof rat droppings are pointed at the ends, while Norway rat feces are blunt.

Roof Rat Droppings

roof rat feces
roof rat droppings

Roof rat droppings, typically measuring approximately half an inch in length, exhibit a range of colors from gray to black, which varies depending on their freshness. As they age, these droppings tend to become brittle and eventually turn into dust, while newer feces maintain a softer consistency. Roof rat droppings are uniquely shaped, resembling bananas, setting them apart from the feces of Norway rats.

  • If droppings are three-fourths of an inch long with rounded ends, they belong to Norway rats.
  • If pellets are one-half inch in length with ends that are pointed, the culprit is a roof rat.
  • If feces are one-fourth inch long with pointed ends, they come from a house mouse.

Pack Rat Droppings

Pack rat poop typically indicates an infestation. Their feaces are small, dark, and oval shaped. Droppings may appear on counters or in cupboards and create a trail leading back to the nest.

Unlike the waste of other rat species, pack rat droppings serve a specific purpose for the pest. These rodents create middens, structures made of plants, feces, urine, and other materials as part of their nests. Homeowners might find these unsightly piles of debris in their attics or basements.

All Droppings Are Dangerous

Finding rat droppings is a sure sign that Norway or roof rats have invaded the home, and may even point to where the pests are nesting, feeding, and traveling.

The presence of rodent waste poses serious health risks for homeowners. Diseases spread by rat droppings and urine include salmonellosis and leptospirosis. These illnesses can be transmitted directly by handling excrement or indirectly by touching contaminated surfaces or eating infected food

Norway Rats


norway rat illustration with droppings
Norway Rat
image source:

Size: Norway rat adult’s head and body length is about 7-9 in (18-25 cm ); tail length is 6-8 in (15-21 cm ); weight is 7-18 ounces, up to 20.5 ounces.

Color: Norway rats are brown with scattered black hairs, gray to yellow-white on underside.

Characteristics: Heavy body; coarse, shaggy fur; blunt muzzle, small eyes, small ears with dense short hairs; scaly, 2-colored tail, which is darker on top, and is shorter than the length of its head and body.

Learn more about Norway rats.

Difference Between Norway Rats vs. Roof Rats

roof rat and norway rat in same photo
roof rat (top) vs norway rat (bottom)

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Norway rats are also called brown rats, and some people refer to roof rats as black rats. Despite these common names, colour is not a good way to identify a rodent problem. The fur of both species can vary from gray or brown to black.

Instead, consider the build of a Norway rat vs. a roof rat. Norway rats are stocky and powerful, while roof rats are slender and athletic. The Norway variety is also larger in general, though they have smaller ears and eyes. In addition, the tail of a Norway rat is shorter than its body. Roof rats have tails longer than their bodies.


Roof rats are natural climbers, which means they usually enter attics and the upper levels of houses. On the other hand, the Norway rat prefers to stay low to the ground, appearing in basements and garages.


Even though the pests have the same diet, Norway rat vs. roof rat feces look different. Norway rat scat has an oval shape and blunt ends, while roof rat poop tapers to a point at the ends. Because these pests leave behind trails of waste wherever they go, droppings are often the first sign of rodents.


In addition to appearance, the two rats also have differences in behavior, which can translate into different kinds of destruction around the home. For example, Norway rats dwell at the ground level and invade homes and yards through burrowing. This can lead to the destruction of foundations, sidewalks, and structures. Roof rats tend to seek shelter on roof tops and in attics, where they may chew through walls, insulation, and wires.

Both the Norway rat and roof rat can also spread disease through their droppings, urine, and fur. In fact, the hantavirus can be transmitted to humans and pets through direct contact, ingestion, or inhalation. When infected, people and animals can become extremely ill and some cases may even lead to death.

Roof Rat


roof rat
roof rat closeup
roof rat illustration with drawings
Roof Rat
image source:

Size: The long and slender body of the roof rat typically measures between 6 and 8 inches (16 to 20 cm) in length, with another 7 to 10 inches (18 to 25 cm) added by the tail. Full-grown adults generally weigh between 8 and 12 ounces (226 to 340 g).

Color: Roof rats are sometimes completely black in color but may also display shades of brown interspersed with black. The underbelly is lighter than the rest of the body, ranging from gray to white.

Characteristics: Roof rats can be distinguished from other rat species by their soft, smooth fur, pointed snout, large eyes, and nearly naked ears, which are big enough to be pulled over the eyes. The tail serves as another point of differentiation; while other types of rats have hairy or sparsely haired tails shorter than or equal to the length of the body, the tail of the roof rat is hairless, scaly and dark, and longer than a body length.

Learn more about roof rats.

What’s the Difference Between Pack Rats and Roof Rats?

Knowing which kind of rat is an issue in the house can make control easier. Thankfully, pack rats and roof rats look and behave differently.

pack rat
Pack Rat
image source:

Pack Rat vs. Roof Rat Identification

  • Appearance – The most obvious difference between roof rats and pack rats is their tails. Roof rats have long, hairless tails, while pack rat tails are short and bushy.
  • Location – Roof rats rarely live at ground level and are most common in attics. On the other hand, pack rats may nest almost anywhere, including vehicles.
  • Behavior – Pack rats prefer to live alone or in small group, whereas roof rats gather in large numbers.

Roof Rat vs. Pack Rat Damage

An infestation of roof rats comes with contaminated food, harm to personal property, and waste all over the house. These pests also spread diseases like rat-bite fever and leptospirosis.

Pack rats steal items that catch their attention. They’ll snatch anything from coins to jewelry and hoard the items in their nests. While pack rats and roof rats transmit some of the same diseases, plague is the main concern when pack rats are around.

All rats can spread disease through their droppings, urine, and fur. In fact, the hantavirus can be transmitted to humans and pets through direct contact, ingestion, or inhalation. When infected, people and animals can become extremely ill and some cases may even lead to death.

Learn more about pack rats.

Learn how to get rid of rats.