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Rat Photos: Babies
ats!  Filthy, disease-carrying, parasitic vermin.  Or something like that.

I've had pet rats since about 1990, and have owned at least 100 since then, usually 3-5 at once.  My pets have birthed at least 60 litters in that time, averaging around 10 kits per batch, so if I counted the total of all rats I'd be up into the 700+ range, though most of those were only for a few weeks until they grew large enough to sell to pet stores.

Owning rats is sort of like owning a furry ant farm, but you can take them out and they won't vanish into the walls. Well come to think of it, they probably would, if there were a large enough hole. Okay, but ants won't chew the paint off the walls and eat electrical cords! Oh wait, that's not a bonus either.  Hmm...

Rat discussion in daily updates:

 

Baby rats are adorable!

Well, at least in comparison to their scaly-tailed, plague-spreading and adult form. Rat litters range from 6 to 22+, the gestation is about 21 days, and they mature rapidly.  The new borns are usually pink and utterly helpless.  They look a bit like earth worms, with somewhat transparent skin, though some larger babies have fur when born. They start to look nubby around 4-6 days, you can see their coloration clearly by 10 days, and they open their eyes around 14 days.  Within a few days of opening their eyes they are able to crawl out of the bed and will explore all of the cage they have access to, eat anything they are given, and yet remain eerily-able to find their way back to the bed box at almost the moment the mama rat decides she's in the mood to nurse again.

Once they can walk they gain coordination and strength very quickly, and are nimble little spider monkeys by 4 weeks, if not sooner.

Photos on this page go chronologically, covering all stages of cute baby ratness, from just popped pinkies to nimble little tweens.  Newly-added photos will be noted.

(The two sisters I brought up with me from San Diego got old and died a few months apart in early 2004, and have not been replaced. I may get some more rats someday, when we've got a bigger place to house them, or when we need breeders to feed our future tegus. Or both. I do miss the little furry scurriers, at times.)

 

These are all new born, or nearly new born.  They are just sort of ugly and worm-like on their own, but with a big rat sniffing they are cuter.  Plus you get a sense of scale.

I'm not sure why, but I love photos of rats sniffing a pile of baby rats.  Never the mother sniffing them though, since she'd either be panicked, disinterested, or try to carry some of them off to someplace safer.  That's "safe" as the mother rat defines it, a definition that will often change between the first baby and the last baby she carries.  One of the main reasons I keep them locked up in a small area when they are nursing.

The top left black/white and the top right gray/white are both males, and males are often fascinated by sniffing at baby rats, though they hardly ever try to hump them. The orange one above is a female, and like most females she is a lot less interested in sniffing at them if they aren't her own.

The rat in the lower pic with the wonderfully hang dog expression is a male, a juvenile at the time of the photo, and for whatever reason he was camera gold, almost always looking over just as I was about to snap, with a skulking expression on his face.  He was good at holding still for the picture as well, and even had some interesting facial markings.

Love the camera, baby!


These little ones are into their "nubby" stage, are a bit plump, and are are probably 5 or 6 days old.

Nothing in particular is special about this one, but I liked the shot.  Baby rats, just into the fuzzy stage, and the rat is a male, and not even their father.  They are on a fleece pullover by the window for ease of photography, and the male rat was taken by the urge to sniff at a dangling frond from a spider plant.  The light shining through his fur from the side shows how irregular the fur lengths are on a male rat, with their longer, coarser guard hairs sticking out from the softer pelt.


Baby rats begin to be cute around 10 days, when their fur is coming in enough to show their color, and cover up the pinkness.  Lighter colored ones look pink for longer, since the white fur needs to be longer/thicker to show. They can also crawl a bit at this stage, though since their eyes won't be open for a few days yet they aren't in any hurry to go anywhere in particular. Their instinct is to pile up, so if you put a bunch of them down on a flat surface, such as a t-shirt on a desk to get their picture, they'll all crawl into a heap, and want to be on the bottom of the pile, for obvious "avoid being picked off by a predator" reasons.  I call them "little squirmers" at this point, since it's hard to hold them in your hands, they are so wriggly.


After a few days of "squirmers" they graduate to "squinters".  The white/grey one on top here has the left eye open just a slit.  There is a membrane inside their eye lids that only gradually cracks open, and it's almost entirely related to their growth rate.  I've seen litters with just a few large kits where they were all eyes open by 9 or 10 days, and others with a lot of small rats where some were still eyes closed at 16 or 17 days.  It's usually around 13 or 14 days, and quite often the darker colored ones do it first.

I don't know why, but I've noticed it in almost every litter where there were some black/brown and others that were peaches/white/orange; the dark colored ones are usually first to eyes open, even if they appear to be identical in size. There isn't any noticeable difference between them by color other than the eyes open part, which makes it odder.

 


As they mature they learn to climb up out of their cage very quickly, and are quite able to eat once they find food on top. It's not uncommon to see 2 or 3 little ones actually sitting inside the can of corn.

They learn to descend the four foot straight descent from the top of the cage pretty quickly too. Quite often one will learn the trick and forever be zipping out the lid and down the back and behind the pillows by the bed, often unnoticed by me until I do a head count, or the one roaming one will crawl over my foot or right up to my face on the bed when I don't think there are any rats out at all.

This can be surprising.


The ratfruit tree blooms slowly.  Generally when they are about 3 weeks I'll first put them in the planter, after they have been out of their bed box for a few days and are able to roam around and have some coordination. At first they all sniff and sniff and sniff and root around and stay piled up in front.  If I leave them alone some will usually sniff up and stand up next to the limbs, but won't actually try climbing at that age.

However what I usually do is pick them up and hold them with a branch right in front of them.  They'll usually scamper out onto it, and then down to the bottom.  Do this a lot, as they're all roaming around the box and climbing into my hand, and after a while they get used to it, and will stay on a branch for a bit, rather than immediately descending. And after a bit longer they'll start to explore and climb.

The key is really time; if I put them in there for an hour two or three times every day, they get very used to it and will climb like spider monkeys. If I only put them in there once in a while an adventurous 2 or 3 will climb, but the rest will never bother to do so, and will just descend if placed in the branches.

The left photo shows a bunch of young ones just thinking it over for the first time. The right photo is a batch a few days older, with one brave one climbing while his siblings don't yet have a clue.  This is usually the way of litters, where one or two are obviously larger, smarter and faster to develop then the rest. And the one that's smart and out is played with more, which makes it smarter and more used to being handles and therefore its out more, and it's self-reinforcing.


They really do climb all over when they spend a lot of time on the tree, and are old enough to be coordinated and clever, but still young enough to be light and very nimble, and eager to explore.  It is quite funny to see them all in action at once, 8 or 10 or 12 rats going up or down, all crashing into each other in various central nexuses.  They'll often curl up in the crook of a limb and sleep, or at least vegetate for a while, and sometimes even wrestle or push at each other while they are up there.

Rats that really spend a lot of time in the tree get so nimble and quick that they'll go out long limbs and transfer to other plants, or climb up hanging tendrils to hanging plants overhead.  This is discouraged as they tend to vanish or make a mess digging into the dirt and chewing up roots.

Nothing that interesting about this pic, I just think she's beyond adorable here.  Looks like a little lamb, with the big dark blue eyes and the pink nose and muzzle and the fluffy white fur.  This is a bit past a month old, when they really do look a bit like little sheep, aside from the long scaly tails, at least.  Their fur is sort of fluffy and poofy, rather than sleep and streamlined as it is in adult life.

There is a shot of this one about a month later on the adult rats page, climbing on my legs, and she's grown so much she is hardly recognizable.

 

More to come, perhaps...

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