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How to Care for Baby Rats

Updated on February 8, 2016

If you have decided to breed your rats or have a pregnant female, you have to expect 8-15 babies, sometimes even more.

However, first of all: Don't underestimate your pet rats. She has probably prepared a nest in her house, piling up everything she gets her teeth on into a wall with only one entrance. Offer her some unscented undyed toilet paper or something similar. Your pregnant rat will accept this and layer the nest with this. It is important that the mother-to-be has her own shelter. Rats who cannot build a proper nest might eat their children!

If you have the buck still with your pregnant rat, remove him. Rats go into heat as soon as they have given birth. Neuters have to be removed as well, as they. Females can stay. In the worst case, they don't care, in the best case they help looking after the babies. It can even happen that, if two females have babies at the same time, they will put their little ones into one single nest.

However, consider you have to care for the babies. The babies have to be separeted 4-4.5 weeks after their birth. The does may stay with their mother, but you need a second cage for the males. If the wires are too far apart the small rats can escape - and they'll do. It's no fun to catch a fled rat if it hides behind cupdoards.

The offspring after 5 days. With most rats you can now pick them up carefully
The offspring after 5 days. With most rats you can now pick them up carefully
Rats 7 days old. Their eyes are still closed.
Rats 7 days old. Their eyes are still closed.
A rat 15-22 days old. The eyes have opened and their fur has grown.
A rat 15-22 days old. The eyes have opened and their fur has grown.
Rats 6 weeks old with their mother. By now you can give them to caring people. Males and females are already seperated.
Rats 6 weeks old with their mother. By now you can give them to caring people. Males and females are already seperated.
A baby rat with a milk belly.
A baby rat with a milk belly.

Rats go into labor late in the evening or during the night. It lasts about an hour and after that you have 8-15 baby rats. I recommend you stay up, watching your rat, if you can determine when she's giving birth.

Usually there is nothing to worry about, but complications can kill your rat and her offspring so it can be important to go see a vet. If you think something is wrong, don't hesitate and take your pet rat to an emergency vet.

However, if everything is going fine, do not disturb the mother. She is stressed cleaning and licking her babies and keeping them warm. The intensive care has a few reasons:

  • The offspring is cleaned
  • Blood circulation initiated
  • The babies and the mother bond and the mother takes in the smell of her little ones.

The mother eats the amnion as well as the afterbirth and everything that might remain is some blood in the nest. The babies are tiny, bald and with eyes closed. They scream for their mother and that might be the first thing you notice if your rat gave birth while you are asleep. You should immeadiately check on the babies but do not touch them yet!

The mother stays in the nest most of the time, feeding her children. Only when hungry she will come out to get some food. A special diet is recommended during that time: Cheese and yoghurt make good additions to her ordinary food.

During the first five days it is not good to pick up the little ones. The mother might abandon them. However, you still have to check every day if the babies are healthy. You do that with a stick, while you keep their mother busy outside. Check if there are dead babies. Usually a mother eats deceased and ill babies, but you might find one. Also check if the little ones have milk bellies. Through the thin skin there should be some white visible in their belly. It is a sign that a baby is well fed.

Some mothers can be aggressive, even to you! Even the tames pet rat might turn into a roaring lion and their teeth dig deep.

On day five, you can begin picking up every baby and start whispering to them so they get used to humans. Beware of the mother if she's aggressive and don't take them out for too long. They are still naked and cool out quickly, though their color can be seen and fuzzy hair has already deeveloped.

On about day eight you may find a baby outside his nest. The offspring is, though still blind, investigating the new world. Now the mother is busy picking up her babies and bringing them back. If you have a mother who trusts you, you can even give her the babies after you cared for them and she'll bring them back safely.

After about a fortnight the ears are opened and they begin opening their eyes. They resemble mice or tiny rats by now as they have developed fur. Now they start trying their limits, however, the mother is still trying to keep them inside the nest.

On day 22 they are fully developed and start eating solid food, though they are still being fed by their mother for about a week.

After 4 to 4.5 weeks, the males should be separated since they could impregnate their mother. They should still remain within sight as those weeks are important for ratty behaviour development. Only after six weeks you should consider giving them to caring people.

If you decide upon keeping them all, be sure you have two cages big enough and if you plan upon putting the males with their father intergrate properly (which requires an additional cage) as the father will not recognise his offspring and fight for his territory. Treat it as if you had bought a new male rat.

It is a great time watching little rats grow up and even without knowledge the mother knows what to do, so don't panic. Only if something seems off to you, go see a vet.

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    • profile image

      Bonnie 5 years ago

      I just got two baby rats 6/10/11. From pictures they don't look any older than 22 weeks. My daughter got them free at a place that closing.She "saved their lives" being snake food. They didn't tell the age but they are small cute and I hope they eat. I have a habitrail thing, it looks real nice I think they will be happy. Any advice on special care due to their size. They both curl up in my hand and as I said from a picture online they look to be about 22wk. Please use my email bbnovotny@gmail.com

    • profile image

      shadman 5 years ago

      i just got my rat few days ago and they give babes at 14/5/12 and theY are really cute hand thanks for the help and tips AND I HAVE A FEMAIL ONLY

    • profile image

      Brett 4 years ago

      This site helped so much I bought a 5 month old or so rat and she is very pregnant. I started worring about the situation but you really helped me. Thank you!

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      Thompsons 3 years ago

      we got two pet rats and the female ended up peg. And had 14 baby's she lost one they are now 1 week old and moving everywhere thinks for the enfol it helps a lot

    • profile image

      Brooke Morris 3 years ago

      So, the guy at the pet store told me my rat was a male ( I asked because I would be housing it with another male). Imagine my surprise when I woke up this morning to ten bald babies!

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      i love pennell 2 years ago

      My rat just had 1 baby last night is it normal to have one baby only?

    • profile image

      Abby 2 years ago

      Help I got these two baby rats the lady told me they was 6 week there is not way they are sooo tiny and look to be about a month maybe they are eatting some sunflower seeds but I haven't seen them drink at all today!! Do u think it's just bc they are in a new home and scared!! Should they start coming around!! She said they was males but u can't see anything on either of them yet!! I'm beginning to think they where way to young to even take from momma yet!! There so cute and I want them to be ok!!

    • profile image

      Pedro 2 years ago

      I have a week and a half old baby rat do you know where I can buy feeding equipment? Pgamez4@icloud.com please get back to me

    • profile image

      bulbul 22 months ago

      I have to rats one day she gave me 15 baby after 2 days all died i nead the help

    • profile image

      Navie 20 months ago

      Hello . i have female rat from last month. Now she got 5 babies on 7.9.15 but yesterday i noticed that one baby was much weaker than others. Hes 11 days old . he was not getting any chance of feeding. And i fed him by a dropper. But today he died. Was that because of i fed him or he was already weak

      Plz help me to know that

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      Ebonie 17 months ago

      could someone give me tips about female rats cause this is my first pet. IF anyone is from South Grafton cause i need to know if anyone that goes to coles in South Grafton should i feed my female rat nibler. If you go down the pet ile at the very end you will see bird seeds but near the top there nibler is.

      Should i get it??

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      Chevelle Sevey 16 months ago

      My rat had 12 babies lastnight and 5 died leaving her with 7. She bit me once and now I'm scared to touch her, how am I supposed to clean her cage, when can I touch the babies, I'm 15 and appreciate all the info I can get.

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      rika 14 months ago

      i am having a hard time telling if my female is lactating enough or at all for her litter of 5 i cant really see if they have milk belly's as well they are about a week old

    • profile image

      Alaina 13 months ago

      I found a wild baby rat who was abandoned I have it wrapped on a blanket and I feed it regular milk I've never raised rats IDK if he will make it but can u help me out??

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      Ayush 13 months ago

      Hey there, I have a male baby rat. He acts weird most of the times. Is this some kind of weakness kind of thing. Please help me

    • profile image

      Emma 13 months ago

      My pup has a black spot on its head not like a design, just a black spot is it a disease?

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      Kathryn 12 months ago

      Does anyone know when it is okay to put the male rat back with the female and babies?

    • profile image

      tabitha cowan 11 months ago

      What kinds of food do u give them when they r older

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      little harlie 10 months ago

      i like the artical and my cousin thinks that her brothers rat jade is pregnet shes breathing really hard and walking like a four legged penguin. she is old enough and big enough to be pregnet. and she is scard.

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      Vinnie 10 months ago

      help! i found a baby rat on my way to work. it was squirming around on the rough pavement, out in the open. not sure if abandonned but it was dirty and not looking good. i scooped it into a paper bag and threw in some clean tissues. i am reading up on care, but wondering if anyone in NYC can adopt

    • profile image

      sierra 9 months ago

      hey what gender is it

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      Emma 6 months ago

      My rat just had 25 babies and I don't think she is feeding all of them what is safe for them please answer quick and send answer to 17epaine@psesd12.org

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      Ginger 6 months ago

      Hey, Emma, I tried to email this to you, but it wouldn't let me send it. Hopefully you'll check on here again. First off, congrats! Second off, there's a very high chance that not all of them will make it concidering such a huge litter, but I would suggest switching the babies out, half and half every 3-4 hours.The babies not with the mother will be fine as long as they have a source of heat, but nothing too hot. This should give the mother some relief as well because she's not stressing about trying to feed all 25, or however many you currently have. However, if the mother seems aggressive when you try to remove some of the babies, I'd just leave her be. Although, this will make the chance of not all of them making it higher.

      Hopefully this helped! My girlie just had her first litter too, and I was expecting maybe 10, but she had 17! I know it's not as many as 25, but I was quite shocked to say the least. Good luck with your litter!

    • profile image

      Alieena 6 months ago

      This is my third rat since I was four, we rescued her from the pet store as snake food the lady said that she used to be a pet but the owner could no longer care for her, she has had babies before but she did not look pregnant at the time, doing chores I had walked into my room seeing her surprised as she was licking her babies still have no idea how many she's had I'm too nervous to even get close enough to look, but so far this article has been very useful, I cannot wait to see them at 17 weeks old I will text you back at the sight of them. Just remember that if you need any help come to pethelpfull.com.

    • profile image

      eranga 6 months ago

      Hi I found a baby rat ..but his mother has die . he still not open the eyes. i dont know his age but now he has body hair . the case is dont have a proper idea about how to feed him artificially.plz tell me how can I do that ??? Thanks

    • profile image

      Abby 3 months ago

      My rat only gave birth two 4 babies does that mean she ate 2

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      Arabella McKennett 3 months ago

      So my rat is looking a bit bigger in the stomach but i might get a bigger, better cage but i don't know if\when my rat is going to give birth and if it is okay to move the babies

    • Laurie Bennett profile image

      Laurie Bennett 2 months ago

      Great article! However tissue or toilet paper is not a good bedding material until later as it can stick to the wet babies and suffocate them. Also mother rats will not kill the babies if you touch them. Thanks for the article!

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      Chyanne 2 months ago

      I just found a wild baby rat I don't know what to do I fed it warm milk and is wrapped up in a warm sock sleeping it's eyes are still closed but is wondering around. Am I doing it right???

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      Daniel 2 months ago

      I can't really understand half of this because of the atrocious grammar...

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      Vet rot 7 weeks ago

      Mist I take the male out of the cage when the female gave birth?

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      Vicki 3 weeks ago

      I have 2 tiny babies that were found in the street. I *think* they are rats but I am not sure. I can't post pictures here I guess, but is there someone who could positively ID them? I've had them 4 days. I'm guessing they are 5 days old, maybe 6.

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