Skip to main content

How to Care for Pregnant Rats and Baby Rats

  • Author:
  • Updated date:

I have experience with breeding rats and enjoy sharing my knowledge with other rat enthusiasts.

The baby rats in this photo are 5 days old. With most rats, you can now pick them up carefully.

The baby rats in this photo are 5 days old. With most rats, you can now pick them up carefully.

Baby Rats and Mother: What to Know About Them

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

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. 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.

Your Cage May Not Be Babyproof

If the wires in your cage 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.

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.

Why Do Mother Rats Lick Their Babies?

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.

What Happens Right After the Birth?

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!

A baby rat with a milk belly.

A baby rat with a milk belly.

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.

Please remember that 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.

Check the Babies, But Don't Touch Them

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 (see the photo above). It is a sign that a baby is well fed.

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.

Baby Rats: Day by Day

  • 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.

© 2010 Nepenthe


Maye on September 01, 2020:

You should feed them baby formula

Start with like 4 parts water one part formula,

and decrease the amount of water from there until you're giving them the formula undiluted.

You need to keep them warm, and feed them slowly. You need to wipe their privates with a warm/damp cloth after and before each feeding so they can pass waste. They need to be fed about every 3 hours to start, and once at night. This will decrease with age.

Once they're about 2 weeks old, you can start putting a bit of formula in a lid for them to try.

Once they're 3-4 weeks, they can have things like softer fruits, crushed rat blocks and vegetables.


baby rat founded cute at our backyard on August 31, 2020:

what can we fed to a 5 day old abandoned baby rat? question from Filipinos we need answer asap

WildEyes on June 21, 2020:

We found baby rats in our shed and had to move them out. We left the in a sheltered hollow right outside. How long should we wait for the mom to come get them?

monica on May 21, 2020:

i found a newborn rat in a alley what do i do

Ollie the rat lover :3 on April 01, 2020:

Hello! I found rats in my garage, and my dad knows, and he hates rodents. But he actually was brave enough to keep them. He said “let’s keep this a surprise for mother.” And I said “yes!” I loved rats back then andI still do. But... We don’t have and yogurt so we can just feed them cheese

Cutiemice67 on December 14, 2019:

I found 2 babie rats in my drawer while I was cleaning it and I don't know what to do with them.I want to keep them but I'm scared my parents are going to find them and kill them.I don't know what to feed them and I can't move them to a safe place where it's comfy.Can you please tell me what to do with them.I think they are about 1-6 weeks old I don't know.

Dee Dodge on June 08, 2019:

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

Poornima Gupta on April 28, 2019:

When I start giving food to babies?

ashley rafus on March 22, 2019:

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.

Pip2008 on December 23, 2018:

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!!!

Jamie on June 02, 2018:

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. ❤️

Melissa on May 15, 2018:

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

hi on May 06, 2018:

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

Wendyfrog on April 20, 2018:

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

ann on February 11, 2018:

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

Juane' on February 09, 2018:

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.

Jordan on December 10, 2017:

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

Priscilla on August 29, 2017:

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?

Jake on August 28, 2017:

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

Jake on August 28, 2017:

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

Danielle on August 21, 2017:

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...

Ashleigh Jade on August 19, 2017:

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

Vicki on May 02, 2017:

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.

Vet rot on April 03, 2017:

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

Daniel on March 21, 2017:

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

Chyanne on March 10, 2017:

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 on March 09, 2017:

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!

Arabella McKennett on February 23, 2017:

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

Abby on February 22, 2017:

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

eranga on November 10, 2016:

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

Alieena on November 09, 2016:

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

Ginger on November 07, 2016:

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!

Emma on October 29, 2016:

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

sierra on August 03, 2016:

hey what gender is it

Vinnie on July 25, 2016:

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

little harlie on July 10, 2016:

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.

tabitha cowan on June 16, 2016:

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

Kathryn on May 04, 2016:

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

Emma on May 01, 2016:

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

Ayush on April 19, 2016:

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

Alaina on April 17, 2016:

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??

rika on March 19, 2016:

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

Chevelle Sevey on February 01, 2016:

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.

Ebonie on January 01, 2016:

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??

Navie on September 18, 2015:

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

bulbul on July 26, 2015:

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

Pedro on May 25, 2015:

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

Abby on January 26, 2015:

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!!

i love pennell on September 06, 2014:

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

Brooke Morris on March 06, 2014:

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!

Thompsons on March 04, 2014:

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

Brett on June 05, 2012:

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!

shadman on May 14, 2012:

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

Bonnie on June 10, 2011:

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