The answer, of course, is not “rittens,” but “pups.” I’m going to use “rittens” anyway.
Last night, I had the unexpected surprise of 9 baby rats. I say “unexpected” because when I got the rat, the conversation went something like this:
Me: This is a male?
Pet Store Clerk: Yup.
Me: [flips rat over] You sure? Boys usually have, uh…big balls.
PSC: Yeah, it’s just probably too young to tell easily.
So I shrugged and think “well, these people must know what they’re doing.” Plus the rat was amazingly friendly and cute. We went home, and, wouldn’t you know it, now I have a ton of these tiny critters.
The major concern is that hairless rats often do not make the best mothers. So far, everything looks okay, though. Momma and babies seem to be doing alright. Here’s hoping that the survival rate is good.
It can take a while for a rodent’s balls to drop. I usually try to identify the penis when determining sex. Females have their genital opening just below the anus. Males urethra/genital opening is further up the abdomen away from the anus.
Depending on the strain (is that a furless rat? I couldn’t tell from the photo), rats can be very good mothers. Don’t change the bedding until the pups are moving around on their own.
Rats are great pets! Very intelligent, trainable (usually equated with a dog’s ability to learn things) and cute (in my opinion). The few down sides are that they poop a lot and have relatively short lifespans.
They eat almost anything, too. Along with her usual lab blocks (big pellets of food), I’m giving her a bit of cat food for now (higher protein and fat to help with feeding the rittens). I also throw whatever fresh veggies I have on hand into the cage, along with an occasional treat of nuts or seeds.
I assume your rat lives by herself. If she has a cage mate, and he’s the father, you need to separate them. Some males are OK with pups, some aren’t. Also, females are fertile again hours after giving birth.
The pups will be mature at about three weeks. You’ll need to segregate them by sex. The girls can stay with mom, but the boys need to be kept away. The rodent motto is “Live fast, leave lots of young” and there is no incest taboo. Also, the young males may become aggresive with each other. Its depends on the personalities of the rats, some brothers get along great, others fight a lot. Keep an eye on them once they’re bigger.
Somehow I knew I could count on you for good rodent advice.
I’m going to try to spend a half hour to an hour a day socializing them–basically handling them and such, probably starting after their eyes open. I’ve already put things in their cage that smell like me, and will try to get others to give them some lovin’, too.
Quick question–I’ve read that hairless females often have trouble producing enough milk. Would it be a bad idea to hand-feed them once or twice a day to give mom a break? How would I be able to tell if the little ratlettes are going hungry?
Eh, the milk thing is a problem. Feed mom lots of fat rich foods - sunflower seeds and peanut butter are good. For the first couple of days, you should be able to see a white spot in the pups’ belly. That’s the milk. Once more pigment gets into their skin, this spot will no longer be visable. (I could be wrong. If your naked rats were nude mice, I’d have a better idea.)
If the pups are wriggling around and look nice and pinkish. They’re ok. Sadly, some infant mortality is part of their life cycle. You may notice that the pup count has changed, Mom may have eaten one.
Is your rat comfortable with you? Since she is a pet, I’m guess you play with her regularly so she’s familiar with your scent. Don’t let other people handle the pups until they are weaned. Mom may panic at the new scent and go into “OMG! A predator is around! These pinkies have to die because I can’t take them with me.”