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Pet Rats/Raising orphan rat

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QUESTION: Hi there, I'm raising a rat that my cat had brought it one day and I'd say it's about 10 days old. Lots of fur but eyes are still closed. He wasn't injured at all but if his mother is still alive, I don't know where the nest is so I'm trying to raise her baby until it's fit to be free.

I have been feeding it as often as I can. On my days off work I'll feed it every few hours but sometimes it won't get a feed until I come back from work. I have been feeding it kittens milk through a teat I bought at a pet store. My main concern is that it still hasn't done a poo nor urinate as far as I have been about to see? Is there something I need to do to help this happen? Should I change milk? 11

ANSWER: Dear Bonnie-

Thank you for your question.

First off, how wonderful that you are doing all you can to help this poor little baby rat! From one animal love to another, thank you for having the compassion to do so. From your description, I would say you are probably very closer in estimating the baby's age. I would say the baby is probably between 12-15 days of age. At 8-13 days of age, baby rats will have a significant coat of short fur. By 14-15 days of age, the babies eyes will most likely be open no more than slits but their fur is much fuller.

You have made a wise choice in feeding the baby kitten's milk and by using a rubber teat. And by feeding the baby every few hours, you are helping to ensure that the baby is getting adequate nutrients into its body. From the ages of 5-14 days of age, the baby will need to be fed every 5-6 hours, however if the baby is 10-14 days of age you can start giving very small amounts of wheat bread soaked in the kitten formula (and I do mean tiny, thin layers of bread).

When the baby is closer to 15-19 days of age, evident by its eyes having opened and by its more adventurous exploring, you can space out the feeding to every 3-4 hours and add somewhat larger (although still pretty small) pieces of bread or even begin introducing a rat-specific lab block or high quality dog kibble (I personally recommend Solid Gold Holistique Blendz dog food) soaked until soft- almost mushy- in the kitten formula.

Naturally, a mother rat will groom her babies, licking their genitals to stimulate them to urinate or defecate. To mimic this behavior, and to ensure that what goes in comes out as nature intended, you can moisten a cotton swab under some warm water and gently rub the genitals and anus, in small circular motions, for a few minutes to stimulate the baby to go. You might not have noticed any obvious urine as it should be quite clear whereas the fecal matter will be a yellowish brown color.

All in all, I would say you are on the right path to helping this little guy or gal have a fighting chance of survival! :)

Thanks again for writing to me- I do hope I have been of assistance!

---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: Thank you so much for your help and responding so quickly! I will be sure to do that when it awakes and take note of your feeding instructions.
Also, any tips on finding whether it is a girl or boy? It's so small, I can't tell!

Answer
Dear Bonnie-

For many inexperienced rat owners, sexing babies this young, without having a litter mate to compare the genitals with, can be very difficult! However, sexing baby rats can begin as early as when the babies are two days old.

The most obvious thing to look for would be the presence of teats if the baby is a female. They begin to show up around the time the baby is a week old, so if the baby is as old as we both agree on, you should be able to see them. You might be able to see a "line" or crease in the skin of the female, from the anus to the urethra. A male will not have this line. The distance of the urethra and the anus is also further than that of a female. You most likely will not see testicles until about 19-20 days of age.

Good luck with the little one! And feel free to share with me how he/she is doing!
Thanks again!

Pet Rats

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Shawna Laufer

Expertise

Nutrition has always been an interest of mine as well as creating stimulating environments for rats. I conduct product reviews on my blog so I can take questions regarding products marketed or intended for rats. Other questions regarding basic husbandry, feeding, grooming, and other pet rat care will be accepted. I have very little breeding experience so I would not be able to answer much in the ways of breeding or genetics questions. I can help with some basic health care questions but am not a vet and always suggest contacting your vet for serious inquires.

Experience

I have over 13 years of experience with pet rats, having worked in several pet stores, as a veterinary tech assistant, and with my own pet rats. I run a highly regarded blog on the subject of pet rat ownership (www.ratwhisperer.net) with a corresponding YouTube channel and Facebook page. I have been and always will be open to questions and comments.

Publications
A photograph of my lady rat's cage is being published in Worth Publishers' college textbook "How Children Develop, 4e" by Robert Siegler, Judy DeLoache and Nancy Eisenberg on the subject of how complex, stimulating environments and how they relate to the brains of rats.

Education/Credentials
I have some college experience, but not in the field of animals. I completed the majority of an at-home Veterinary Technician course which I was unable to complete due to financial reason. The majority of my knowledge on rats have come from personal experience, conducting my own research with the help of published medical studies and journal, the internet and through other knowledgeable 'rat people'.

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