How to Care for Baby Rats

Updated on May 31, 2019

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

Pregnant Rats Instinctively Build a Nest

However, don't underestimate your pet rat. 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!

Are There Other Adult Rats in the Same Cage?

If you still have the buck 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 well. Females can stay. In the worst case, they don't care, in the best case they help look 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.

Male and Female Babies Need to Be Separated

The babies have to be separated 4 to 4.5 weeks after their birth. The does (female babies) 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 will. It's no fun to catch an escaped rat if it hides behind the cupboards.

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

Process of Labor and Birth

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 and watch your rat if you recognize that she's going into labor.

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, but she is busy cleaning and licking her babies and keeping them warm. This intensive care has several purposes:

  • Clean the babies
  • Initiate blood circulation
  • Initiate the bonding process between mom and babies, as 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 have their 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 immediately check on the babies but do not touch them yet!

First Few Days After the Birth

The mother stays in the nest most of the time, feeding her children. Only when she is hungry will she 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 can do this with a stick while you keep their mother busy outside. Check if there are dead babies. Usually a mother eats ill or deceased 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 tamest pet rat might turn into a roaring lion, and her teeth will dig deep.

  • Day 5: 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 developed.
  • ~Day 8: 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.
  • ~Day 14: The ears are open 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.
  • Day 22: They are fully developed and start eating solid food, though they are still being fed by their mother for about a week.
  • 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 should you consider giving them to caring people.

After 6 Weeks

If you decide to keep all the babies, be sure you have cages that are big enough. If you plan to put the males with their father, be sure to integrate them properly (which requires an additional cage), as the father will not recognise his offspring and will fight for his territory. Treat the situation as if you had bought a new male rat.

It is great to watch little rats be born and grow up. Even if you don't know what to do, the mother knows what to do, so don't panic. Of course, if something seems off to you, go see a vet.

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.

Questions & Answers

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      • profile image

        Dee Dodge 

        6 months ago

        Is there any way to take care of 5 day old babies? Mom is missing and I cant find her.

      • profile image

        Poornima Gupta 

        7 months ago

        When I start giving food to babies?

      • profile image

        ashley rafus 

        8 months ago

        I do not breed only pets but I also breed feeder rats as well all of my breeders trust me and will actually squeak and squeal after giving birth and will run to and from her nest until I pick the babies up and make sure everyone is ok, if I do not she will go crazy until I do and never has she ever abandoned them or killed them. I have two females in each cage while pregnant and they will also normally join their nests goin into week 2 or 3 as well.

      • profile image

        Pip2008 

        11 months ago

        Had accidental litter too on november 9 2018! Luckily i was well informed though. But once i saw this i had a better idea of what to do than before!!!

      • profile image

        Jamie 

        18 months ago

        I wish I would’ve seen this article before! I had an accidental litter in December 2017 and held them the morning they were born. Lucky, all 12 lil babies grew up to be healthy ratties! I still own all. ❤️

      • profile image

        Melissa 

        19 months ago

        The mom rat just keeps staring at me and my mom as if we are going to take her babies, what do I do?

      • profile image

        hi 

        19 months ago

        my cat found a rat a we don't know what to feed it and it has ingured legs where should we look for foor we cant go to the store and where should we look for the mom

      • profile image

        Wendyfrog 

        19 months ago

        Found 3 baby rats in the brush we were clearing mom was around going frantic moved them without touching them but she's gone..

        They squeeked for her but nothing, how do I take care of them?? Or just leave them in the box outside

      • profile image

        ann 

        22 months ago

        I have two fancy white rats and now 5 babies who desperately need a home. Please email ann@rmayo.com or text 916-712-5925 if interested

      • profile image

        Juane' 

        22 months ago

        I you find wild baby rats it is not that hard to raise them as a few years ago i found three baby wild rats outside on the lawn, I didn't know what to do so i just fed then milk every few hours and kept them warm. Their eyes were still closed when i found them but all three of them survived and grew up beautifully.

      • profile image

        Jordan 

        2 years ago

        My rats have babies I think it’s two each as I have 4 but 2 have more furr than the others. The other have next to nothing. How old do you think they are as I can’t tell

      • profile image

        Priscilla 

        2 years ago

        I found a baby rat in my room and I don't know what to do with it .it's tiny hasn't even open the eyes any suggestions?

      • profile image

        Jake 

        2 years ago

        And if your female is mean remove the male because she will kill him Danielle

      • profile image

        Jake 

        2 years ago

        My rats are 3 weeks old and mother just died what do I do

      • profile image

        Danielle 

        2 years ago

        I have yet to find a site that will answer my unique question! Please tell me what the best thing for me to do is. My rat Bambi had a litter of 12 babies on the 21st of last month. They have 4 days until they're exactly 5 weeks and can be separated by gender. Well, Bambi got pregnant right after she had this liter with the litter she just had about 2 hours ago. She is being very mean to her previous litter. Should I separate them now? At least the mom from the babies. I had the daddy rat and he is wonderful with the babies. He would stay with them until I have to take the female babies from him but I only have 2 cages. Would it be safe to put the female babies in with mom until they go to their new homes in a few days ehen she had had time to bond with her new litter? I dont know what to do. I don't want to separate them too early but they've become jumpy since she's started abusing them. She doesn't seem to have injured anyone but that doesn't make me feel like she won't! Please tell me what to do...

      • profile image

        Ashleigh Jade 

        2 years ago

        I am going to breed my rats soon... Any advice on making sure everything go smoothly?

      • profile image

        Vicki 

        2 years 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.

      • profile image

        Vet rot 

        2 years ago

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

      • profile image

        Daniel 

        2 years ago

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

      • profile image

        Chyanne 

        2 years 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???

      • Laurie Bennett profile image

        Laurie Bennett 

        2 years 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!

      • profile image

        Arabella McKennett 

        2 years 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

      • profile image

        Abby 

        2 years ago

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

      • profile image

        eranga 

        3 years 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

        Alieena 

        3 years 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

        Ginger 

        3 years 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

        Emma 

        3 years 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

      • profile image

        sierra 

        3 years ago

        hey what gender is it

      • profile image

        Vinnie 

        3 years 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

        little harlie 

        3 years 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.

      • profile image

        tabitha cowan 

        3 years ago

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

      • profile image

        Kathryn 

        3 years ago

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

      • profile image

        Emma 

        3 years ago

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

      • profile image

        Ayush 

        3 years 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

        Alaina 

        3 years 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??

      • profile image

        rika 

        3 years 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

        Chevelle Sevey 

        3 years 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.

      • profile image

        Ebonie 

        3 years 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??

      • profile image

        Navie 

        4 years 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

      • profile image

        bulbul 

        4 years ago

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

      • profile image

        Pedro 

        4 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

        Abby 

        4 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

        i love pennell 

        5 years ago

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

      • profile image

        Brooke Morris 

        5 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!

      • profile image

        Thompsons 

        5 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

        Brett 

        7 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!

      • profile image

        shadman 

        7 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

        Bonnie 

        8 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

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