Field Mouse Vs House Mouse: What’s The Difference?

Mice are a pest found in homes around the world, and most people are aware of them. That said, many people know next to nothing about individual breeds or the unique risks presented by each one.

A common comparison is the field mouse vs house mouse.

These are two of the most common species of mice found in residential areas. They are only slightly similar in appearance and behavior though they are mistakenly identified regularly. 

Despite their commonalities, however, one species is significantly more concerning to your overall health and well-being. 

Differences In Appearance Between Field Mice And House Mice

field mouse vs house mouse

Field mice and house mice have a very similar appearance. They are usually around the same size, although field mice tend to be smaller and house mice have thicker, almost hairless tails. 

Field mice have a pointed nose, large rounded ears, and big beady black eyes, whereas house mice have smaller eyes and flatter noses. When it comes to their coloring, both can have white or light gray bellies, but house mice tend to be greyer, and field mice are most often reddish-brown. 

Field Mice Key Features:

  • Normally gray but can be darker
  • Small body and head
  • Pointed nose
  • Big round ears
  • Long tail with hair on it

House Mice Key Features:

  • Typically brown, black, white, or a combination
  • Small body and head
  • Big eyes
  • Large ears with no fur
  • Long tail with lack of fur

Field Mouse vs House Mouse: Behavioural Differences

The most obvious difference between the two breeds is that field mice tend to be found in rural areas, such as fields and forests. This does not mean that a field mouse can’t find its way into your home though; both field mice and house mice are known for seeking refuge indoors. And, especially during colder months, this factor makes little difference.

Traces of food left in nests are an indication of field mice because house mice tend to eat as soon as they find food, which is another significant difference between the two species. That said, both house mice and field mice are omnivores. So, they eat fruits, seeds, nuts, and berries, but won’t have a problem eating other things including pet food and livestock feed.

Field Mice Key Behaviors:

  • Territorial
  • Social with other mice species
  • Avoid humans
  • Most live less than two years

House Mice Key Behaviors:

  • Territorial
  • One male claims several females
  • Does not vomit
  • Avoids humans and rats

Field Mice Vs House Mice: The Differences In Dangers

Although mice appear cute and harmless, they can be quite dangerous. A distinction between field mice and house mice can be seen when analyzing the different risks that they pose to our households. House mice and field mice carry different bacteria and viruses, and some are more often associated with food contamination and household fires. 

The Dangers Posed By Field Mice

First of all, bear in mind that the term ‘field mouse’ does not always refer to a single species, rather a group of species, and some of these species are particularly more dangerous than others.

Deer mice, for one example, are a type of “field mouse” commonly found in the United States. This particular breed of the field mice is known to carry Hantavirus Pulmonary Syndrome (HPS). 

If you have never heard of HPS, it is a respiratory disease that can cause severe respiratory illness (or even death in extreme cases). Early symptoms of the illness include aches in the large muscle groups, fever, fatigue and vomiting. Even more serious symptoms may include fluid in the lungs and low blood pressure and there is currently no permanent cure.

The scariest part about HPS and field mice is that you can contract it by simply inhaling the air infected. If the field mice have left droppings, urine, nesting materials, or saliva, there is a chance they have left traces of HPS with it. 

This makes it crucial to not avoid disturbing the carcasses or nests of these particular pests if possible, as this may spread the virus further. 

If, however, you need to dispose of a carcass (as you can’t just leave one laying in your home), do so with caution. A facemask, gloves, and disinfectant are highly recommended for the job as well.

Aside from carrying HPS, field mice are dangerous in the same ways that many mouse breeds are; they like to chew on stuff, poop on stuff, and pee on stuff. That means structural damage and contamination of food preparation or storage areas. 

They also tend to carry in other pests which may then cause outbreaks in your home.

The Dangers Posed By House Mice

House mice aren’t the filthiest of animals (quite the opposite), though they can carry similar diseases as fleas, ticks, and lice. And, even though they do not carry HPS as some breeds of field mice do, they are still dangerous. 

Furthermore, house mice may cause flea or lice infestations to occur in your home due to the pests they carry with them.

On a different front, the house mouse’s love of gnawing things to pieces and its appreciation of warm spaces make for a serious safety hazard. Cables, wires, and electrical components chewed on by mice cause house fires regularly.

In addition, these pests are known for covertly infiltrating food storage areas and contaminating them. This is particularly disconcerting as they are prone to eating, urinating, and defecating, simultaneously. 

They may not be the most dangerous, but to say that you will need to keep things cleaned up after them, on a regular basis, is an understatement.

Final Thoughts

House mice and field mice may look pretty similar at first glance, but upon analyzing their appearances and behaviors there are several plain and clear differences to see. From the way that they look to the places that they tend to frequent by choice, field mice and house mice are indeed different breeds.

That said, as field mice are known carriers of HPS, you should be familiar with what they look like; a small-framed mouse with big eyes and large naked-ears with a long naked tail. They vary in fur color from black to brown to white and multi-colored coats as well.