You are here:

Pet Rats/Mama rat not taking care of babies?


Please help! I recently adopted two adorable baby girl rats from a feeder shop. (Meant to only get one but seeing all the snake owners throw them in paper bags was heart wrenching so I asked the clerk if the two I was handling were both females so I could save them both). The clerk agreed that they were both girls so I took them home at about 4 weeks old. A few days later, suddenly one of them was not a girl anymore....
So instead of returning the male, I bought a second cage and separated them. The girl was still able to crawl through the wires of the cage until recently but I guess I was too late. Apparently they mated through their cages. I woke up 2 days ago to 9, 4 or 5 day old babies. While I did everything I could to prevent babies, they did happen and they are so precious.
Here is the problem though...

I found 9 live babies in her cage and no dead ones buried anywhere. They have a very thin coat of fur, so I know they are almost a week old already. I cleaned moms cage thoroughly and gave her lots of fresh food, water, and a couple yogurt treats. I hardly handle the babies except to move them out of the cage for the one cleaning. Mom now seems to be neglecting them. I had 2 pass yesterday and 2 more when I woke up this morning.
Last night I was inspection one that seemed very weak and decided maybe my mama wasn't lactating enough or was in fact neglecting them. I ran to the store to get soy-based human formula and a small syringe. I took the week baby and hand fed it the best I could. He took some of the formula but eventually I decided that I should let nature do what it will do... Sure enough, that baby was dead this morning along with another one that seemed perfectly healthy last night?? I don't know what to do at this point. There are two more this morning that appear very weak as well. I tried bottle feeding the weakest one but it wouldn't even take the formula.
I am keeping that room as quiet, dark and warm as possible and they are dying off. I did notice the 3 of the remaining five had the "milk bands" and seem to be hanging in there OK.
So, to sum up the details: Mama rat is about 5 months old now, the room is dark warm and quiet. She is not aggressive towards me at all. I do notice her sleeping on top of her igloo a lot lately instead of with the babies. She actually buried one that passes yesterday morning. So she is not eating them. They are not clicking or acting sick by any means. This is her first litter.

Is this neglect normal for a first time mama or should I be concerned with something else?

What can I do or not do?

Dear Casey,

Although I would not say *normal* I might say *common.*

There are a few reasons moms might abandon their babies.

1. They are stressed out (sounds like you are taking great care on this one)
2. They are first time moms and confused
3. They know something is wrong with those pups (I have no idea how they know this, but they often do), or
4. They are just terrible mothers.

I would first put her in a small, say 20 gallon,  aquarium where she can't avoid her babies. No igloo, just maybe kleenex to make a soft nest.  Then watch those milk bands, or watch for any signs of weakness, dehydration, thinness, anything different about any kits. Any kit who doesn't pass this health test needs to be nursed every two hours 24/7. This means you need to peek in to see pretty often, until you are satisfied.

Remember, if something is genetically wrong, even the best care may not save them. But it seems cruel not to try.

These links can help you to nurse a baby. Mice and rats are the same. These ten short videos are invaluable:

Raising Orphan Mouse Pups: ten videos about raising orphans from day one (1/10 through 10/10) by Aud Fischer, member of RAA

The Rat Fan Club: Raising orphaned rats or mice

American Fancy Rat and Mouse Association: Caring for Rat & Mouse Orphans

Lastly, I run a group on Facebook for people with orphans. It is called Oh, No, Babies! because we help with oops litters too. If you friend me I can put you in it and give you your own post thread with at least one experienced person who can answer your questions. If you have no questions, fine, ignore it; if you have questions you will get much much quicker answers there than here (lately I have taken up to 3 days to answer. My other group has grown to 6000 people so I am spread extremely thin!). You will also be able to post an emergency post which others can see and help with.

Friend me here:

and pm me.

I wish you and the rat kittens the very best of luck and health.



Pet Rats

All Answers

Answers by Expert:

Ask Experts


Natasha Millikan


Consider me a sub, when no one else is available. NOTE YOU MUST NOT HAVE ONLY ONE RAT. JOIN MY FACEBOOK GROUP (because there are smarter people than me there!!): ***** ***** Excellent sites: **** **** **** **** **** ****


I have had rats for 3-1/3 years and have researched them extensively. I am a mouse expert with 40 years' experience with mice. The two species are similar and yet also quite different.

My Facebook group is Rats (and Mice) are Awesome.

I have a Bachelor's and two Master's degrees in Linguistics

Awards and Honors
I am honored that my rats love me!

Past/Present Clients
My Facebook group, Rats are Awesome, serves at the moment 5300 members, and, considering all the huge rescues, probably averages 5 rats per member. That means my clients are about 25,000 rats!!!

©2016 All rights reserved.