Rats often get a bad reputation, but there are many animals that resemble rats which are docile and even make good pets. If you’ve ever seen an animal scurrying by and thought it was a rat, it may have been one of several rat-like creatures.

Read on to learn all about animals frequently mistaken for rats.

If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer: Some animals commonly mistaken for rats include voles, gerbils, muskrats, degus, and even baby squirrels or chipmunks. While similarities exist, each has distinct features and behaviors.


Voles are small rodents that often get mistaken for rats due to their similar appearance. However, they are a distinct species with their own unique characteristics. Let’s explore their appearance, behavior, and habitat.


Voles typically measure around 4 to 8 inches in length, including their tail. They have stout bodies, short legs, and small ears. Their fur can vary in color, ranging from brown to gray, depending on the species.

One key feature that sets voles apart from rats is their short tail, which is usually less than 2 inches long.


Voles are herbivorous animals that primarily feed on grasses, roots, and seeds. They are known for their extensive tunneling behavior, creating intricate systems of runways underground. These tunnels provide protection from predators and allow them to forage for food without being easily spotted.

Voles are also prolific breeders, with some species capable of producing multiple litters in a year.


Voles are found in various habitats, including grasslands, meadows, and woodlands. They prefer areas with dense vegetation, as it provides cover and a good food source. Voles are adaptable and can thrive in different climates, ranging from temperate to subarctic regions.

They are often found in close proximity to water sources, such as rivers or wetlands.

If you want to learn more about voles, you can visit National Geographic’s website, where you can find detailed information about their behavior, life cycle, and conservation status.


Gerbils are small rodents that are often mistaken for rats due to their similar appearance. However, there are distinct differences between these two animals. Let’s take a closer look at gerbils and understand what sets them apart.


Gerbils are typically smaller than rats, measuring around 4 to 6 inches long. They have a slender body with a long tail and large, round ears. Gerbils come in various colors, including white, gray, brown, and black. Some gerbil species also have a distinctive tuft of fur on the end of their tail.


Gerbils are known for their active and social nature. They are highly energetic animals that enjoy running, digging, and exploring their surroundings. Gerbils are also known to be curious and intelligent creatures.

They are often seen grooming themselves and each other, engaging in play fights, or building intricate burrows.


Gerbils are native to arid regions, such as deserts and steppes. They are well adapted to survive in harsh environments with limited water resources. In the wild, gerbils live in complex burrow systems that provide them with shelter and protection from predators.

These burrows can extend several feet underground and have multiple entrances and chambers.

Popular as Pets

Gerbils make popular pets for many reasons. They are generally friendly and easy to handle, making them suitable for both children and adults. Additionally, gerbils have a longer lifespan compared to other small rodents, living an average of 2 to 4 years.

They are also relatively low-maintenance pets, requiring a proper diet, regular exercise, and a suitable habitat.

If you are considering getting a gerbil as a pet, it is important to provide them with a spacious cage, plenty of toys and tunnels for enrichment, and a balanced diet consisting of pellets, fresh vegetables, and occasional treats.

It’s also crucial to have a good understanding of their social needs, as gerbils are highly social animals and should ideally be kept in pairs or small groups.

For more information on gerbils and their care, you can visit The Spruce Pets.



Muskrats are semi-aquatic mammals that are often mistaken for rats due to their similar appearance. They have a plump body covered in dense fur, which can range in color from dark brown to black. Muskrats have a long, scaly tail that is flattened vertically, enabling them to swim efficiently.

They also have webbed hind feet, which further aids in their aquatic lifestyle.


Muskrats are excellent swimmers and spend a significant amount of time in the water. They are known for their ability to construct elaborate burrows or lodges, which they use for shelter and protection.

These burrows typically have underwater entrances and are made up of a series of chambers for different purposes, such as nesting, food storage, and resting. Muskrats are primarily herbivorous and feed on aquatic plants, roots, and stems.


Muskrats are found in wetland habitats such as marshes, swamps, ponds, and lakes. They prefer areas with abundant vegetation, as it provides them with both food and material for constructing their burrows.

Muskrats have adapted well to living near human settlements and can often be found in urban areas with suitable water bodies.

If you want to learn more about muskrats, you can visit National Geographic’s page on muskrats.



Degus are small rodents that belong to the Octodontidae family. They have a body length of around 6 to 10 inches and a tail that is about the same length as their body. Their fur can range in color from gray to brown, and they have large, round eyes and short ears.

Unlike rats, degus have a slender body with a long, bushy tail that they use for balance.


Degus are highly social animals and are known for their playful and curious nature. They are diurnal, which means they are most active during the day. Degus are excellent climbers and can often be found exploring their environment and using their sharp claws to scale various objects.

They are also known for their ability to communicate through vocalizations, such as chirps, squeaks, and barks.


Degus are native to the central region of Chile in South America, where they inhabit a variety of habitats including grasslands, scrublands, and forests. They are well adapted to dry environments and are often found in burrows that they dig in the ground.

In the wild, degus are herbivorous and primarily feed on a diet of grasses, seeds, and plant material.

Degus as Pets

Degus have become popular pets due to their social nature and their intelligence. They can form strong bonds with their owners and enjoy interactive playtime. However, they require special care and attention to ensure their well-being.

Degus thrive in large, spacious enclosures with plenty of climbing opportunities. Additionally, they have specific dietary needs that should be met with a balanced diet of high-quality pellets, fresh vegetables, and occasional treats.

For more information about degus as pets, you can visit the Degutopia website, which provides comprehensive resources and guidance on their care and behavior.

Baby Squirrels and Chipmunks


Baby squirrels and chipmunks share similar appearances, often leading to confusion between the two. Both species have small bodies and fluffy tails, which they use for balance and communication. Baby squirrels typically have a more rounded appearance, with short limbs and a plump body.

They are born hairless and gradually develop fur as they grow. Chipmunks, on the other hand, have a slimmer and more elongated body shape, with longer limbs. They also have distinctive stripes on their backs.


Despite their similarities in appearance, baby squirrels and chipmunks exhibit different behaviors. Baby squirrels are known for their acrobatic nature, as they are often seen climbing trees and leaping from branch to branch.

They build nests called dreys, typically made of twigs and leaves, high up in the trees. Chipmunks, on the other hand, are ground-dwelling creatures. They are known for their burrowing habits and can often be seen darting in and out of their burrow entrances.

Chipmunks also have cheek pouches that they use to store food, allowing them to gather and transport large quantities of nuts and seeds.


Both baby squirrels and chipmunks can be found in various habitats, but they have different preferences. Baby squirrels are commonly found in forests and wooded areas, where they have easy access to the trees they climb and build their dreys in.

They are adaptable and can also be found in urban environments, often taking up residence in attics or tree hollows. Chipmunks, on the other hand, prefer areas with dense vegetation, such as woodlands, meadows, and gardens.

They dig burrows underground, which serve as their homes and provide protection from predators.

For more information on baby squirrels and chipmunks, you can visit the following websites:


While rats get a bad rap, many rat-like creatures are friendly and fascinating. Voles, gerbils, muskrats, degus, baby squirrels and chipmunks may resemble rats, but each has defining features when examined closely.

Hopefully this guide gave you a better understanding of animals commonly mistaken for rats.

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