9 Animals That Look Like Rats (But Aren’t!)

Last updated on December 14th, 2023 at 08:25 pm

Animals that look like rats often find themselves underappreciated or misunderstood. In a world of 8 billion, it’s easy to mistake various creatures for rats. This article clarifies distinctions between true rats and larger look-alikes. While rats, members of the Rodentia family, are typically small and omnivorous, some animals, though bigger, share a deceptive resemblance.

While we might be familiar with the fundamental facts about rats, there’s a trove of surprising and intriguing information that often goes unnoticed. Did you know that rats cannot vomit or burp? Or that they are skilled swimmers and can even be potty trained?

In this blog post, let’s delve into the realm of animals that look like rats but exhibit larger dimensions. Join the exploration as we uncover the unique features that tie these creatures to the familiar rat, unraveling the intriguing stories woven into the rich fabric of the animal kingdom.

9 Animals That Look Like Rats

1. Jerboa

Animals That Look Like Rats

Image source iStock

In the scorching deserts of North Africa and Asia, jerboas reign as remarkable tiny creatures with limbs akin to kangaroos. Swift and agile, these hopping rodents have evolved various species, some resembling rabbits, others rats. Native to arid landscapes, jerboas are adept nocturnal hunters with keen hearing, using their kangaroo-like leaps to escape predators. Their diet is insect-focused, and their long tails serve as essential stabilizers, allowing them to gracefully land after impressive three-foot jumps. Discover the wonders of these desert-dwelling marvels.

Quick Summary: At first glance, their facial features might trick you into believing they’re rats. However, their distinctive limb structure, unpredictable hopping movements, and solitary behavior quickly differentiate them.

2. Shrew

Animals That Look Like Rats

Image source iStock

Not all creatures that resemble rats are rodents, and the shrew stands as a prime example. Though often mistaken for rats at first glance, shrews are more accurately described as “mammals that look like moles.”

Geographically widespread, shrews can be found in diverse regions, spanning North to South America, Africa to Asia, Europe, and possibly even Australia. While native to North America, these tiny mammals have adapted to thrive in temperate and tropical areas worldwide.

Measuring a mere 6 inches in length and weighing around 3.5 ounces, shrews boast a distinctive appearance. Often likened to mice with elongated snouts, they come in shades of grey to light brown. Notably, their dark red teeth, rich in iron, set them apart.

In the wild, shrews navigate a difficult existence. Predators such as hawks, owls, and snakes pose threats. Some shrew species, however, possess toxic saliva, a potent defense mechanism that can be lethal to small frogs and rodents.

Quick Summary: Despite differences, both exhibit common traits—they are omnivores and skilled burrowers. This shared lifestyle highlights their adaptability in the diverse ecosystems they inhabit.

3. Opossum

Animals That Look Like Rats

Image Source Pixabay

Mistaking an opossum for a rat is a common occurrence due to their shared features. However, a notable distinction emerges when these marsupials reveal their mouths.

In North America, they go by possums, although they are not related to Australian possums. Their ‘full’ jaw, characterized by an unusual dentition, sets them apart. Opossums boast a total of 50 teeth, a unique feature in the animal kingdom.

In areas infested with ticks, a single opossum can consume up to 5,000 ticks per season, as reported by the National Wildlife Federation. Remarkably, over 95% of ticks attempting to feed on opossums end up becoming the opossums’ meal instead, showcasing the valuable ecological role these marsupials play in tick control.

Quick Summary: Opossums, being omnivores, thrive on a diet of both meat and plants. Notably, the water opossum stands out as the sole semi-aquatic marsupial. These shared traits contribute to the perceived similarities between opossums and rats.

Read Also: How Tall Are Cats 

4. Muskrat

Animals That Look Like Rats

Image Source Pixabay

Despite their misleading name, muskrats have little in common with actual rats, often leading to mistaken sightings in certain parts of North America, particularly Canada.

Native to North America but introduced elsewhere, muskrats are strong swimmers, capable of staying submerged for an impressive 17 minutes. With their size and prized fur, muskrats rank among the most trapped rodents globally.

Resembling beavers, muskrats are semi-aquatic, establishing their burrows at the entrances of streams, lakes, and rivers in wetlands. Adult muskrats, measuring 8 to 10 inches and weighing 1.3 to 4.4 pounds, sport thick brown fur and long, scaly tails. Spending the majority of their time in the water, they primarily consume aquatic plants.

Quick Summary: In the realm of rodents, two species stand out as exceptional swimmers. Despite their differences, both share the common characteristics of being rodents and displaying impressive aquatic abilities.

5. Bats

Image Source Pixabay

With a staggering 1400 species globally, bats defy geographical constraints, populating nearly every corner of the world except the harshest deserts and arctic climates. Their remarkable ability to fly at speeds exceeding 60 miles per hour sets them apart as the only mammals with this capability.

Bats, being omnivores, showcase a diverse palate, consuming fruits, leaves, bulbs, mosquitoes, and even scorpions. This adaptability contributes to their success in various ecosystems.

A fascinating aspect of bats is their droppings, known as guano, recognized as one of the most potent natural fertilizers. This nutrient-rich substance plays a crucial role in ecosystems, demonstrating the multifaceted contributions of these extraordinary flying mammals.

Quick Summary: In the night’s embrace, bats and rats converge with shared characteristics. Both nocturnal, omnivorous, and dwelling in similar habitats, these creatures defy expectations by demonstrating a surprising commitment to cleanliness and dedicating ample time to grooming.

6. Gopher

Image Source Pixabay

Recognized for their destructive tunneling habits, these small brown pests wreak havoc on farmland, gardens, and lawns. Adults typically measure 6 to 8 inches in length and weigh slightly over 2 pounds.

Feeding on plant roots, shrubs, and succulent vegetables like carrots, gophers earn their reputation as crop nuisances. Their voracious appetites pose a threat to agricultural and garden landscapes.

In the intricate balance of nature, gophers have their share of predators. Coyotes, snakes, skunks, and hawks play crucial roles in keeping the population of these critters in check

Quick Summary: In the rodent realm, gophers and rats exhibit commonalities: ever-growing teeth, burrowing habits, and a unique inability to vomit. This shared trait arises from a specialized esophageal flap, emphasizing their close kinship in the animal kingdom.

7. Porcupine

Image Source Pixabay

Characterized by a coat of 30,000 spiky quills, porcupines are brownish-yellow, measuring 2 to 3 feet in length and weighing around 20 pounds.

While their quills lack venom, they inflict extreme pain on both humans and animals. Porcupines inhabit diverse landscapes, from forests and deserts to hillsides and rocky terrain.

Feeding primarily on bark, berries, seeds, grasses, and roots, porcupines navigate their environments with a varied diet. However, their spiky defense doesn’t make them invincible, as coyotes, owls, and bobcats stand as formidable predators in the natural hierarchy.

Quick Summary: In the realm of nocturnal rodents, porcupines and gophers stand united with common traits. Both creatures navigate the night with eloquent (ever-growing) teeth, showcasing their adaptability in the rodent world.

Read Also: Animals that Look Like Deer

8. Chinchilla

Boasting the densest fur among land animals, chinchillas, native to Chile and Peru, are prized for their luxurious pelts used in commercial products. Recognized by their long tails and ears, these nocturnal creatures come alive in the darkness.

Chinchillas, with a lifespan of 8 to 10 years, exhibit a nightly routine of gathering leaves, seeds, fruit, and small insects for sustenance. Despite their furry charm, they face threats from skunks, snakes, and birds, employing a unique defense mechanism—spraying urine—to deter potential predators.

Quick Summary: United by their classification as rodents, both chinchillas and gophers showcase common characteristics. With eloquent teeth that continuously grow, these creatures exhibit adaptability in their dietary habits, being omnivores in the vast tapestry of the rodent world.

9. Chipmunk

Image Source Pixabay

Native to North America, chipmunks find their homes in wooded areas, nestled among rocks, brush, logs, and shrubs. Measuring up to 12 inches, tail included, and weighing between 2 to 5 ounces, these reddish-brown creatures are adorned with distinctive dark stripes down their backs.

Equipped with cheek pouches, chipmunks efficiently store food to transport back to their burrows. Their varied diet includes seeds, fruit, flower bulbs, insects, and grass, showcasing their adaptability in foraging.

Despite their busy lifestyles, chipmunks are creatures of rest, dedicating about 15 hours a day to sleep in their woodland abodes.

Quick Summary: In the world of burrowing omnivores, chipmunks and gophers share a common kinship with rodents. Both creatures, with their knack for burrowing, navigate their environments as versatile omnivores, adapting to a diverse range of foods in their quest for survival.

Final Words

In bidding adieu to this exploration of animals that look like rats, we’re left with a captivating mosaic of nature’s ingenuity. From the Opossum, Jerboa, Shrew, and Muskrat to the distinctive Dassie Rats and Bosavi Woolly Rats, these creatures provide a glimpse into the fascinating diversity that thrives on our planet. As we conclude, let’s carry with us a newfound appreciation for the intricate similarities and unique characteristics that define each species, underscoring the beauty and complexity inherent in the world of animals that resemble our humble rat companions.


1. What animals look like rats?

Several animals share a resemblance to rats, including Opossums, Jerboas, Shrews, Muskrats, Dassie Rats, Bosavi Woolly Rats, and more. Each has its unique features and characteristics that may be mistaken for a rat at first glance.

2. What distinguishes Jerboas from typical rats?

Jerboas have limb structures similar to kangaroos, aiding in their swift escapes. They are native to hot deserts and have unique characteristics that set them apart from traditional rats.

3. Do Shrews look like rats?

Yes, Shrews might be mistaken for rats due to their similar facial structure, but their limb structure, erratic hopping movement, and solitary behavior distinguish them.


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