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Why Do Rats Eat Their Babies? Why Do Rats Cannibalize?

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Some behaviors in rats are quite bizarre. Case in point, why do rats eat their babies? As a rat pet owner, the answer to this will save you some shock when you realize your female pet rat ate one of her offsprings. 

According to research, many animals and birds eat their offspring—animals like bears, wolf spiders, and rats.

Related: Best Rat Cages

Why Do Rats Eat Their Babies?

Research shows that animals result in cannibalism for food, even if it is their offspring. In other instances, rats will eat their babies if the baby is unhealthy or deformed. When a baby rat is born and is showing signs of good health and survival, the mother will nurse the infant religiously.

Keeping baby rats safe

If your female rat has babies, you can keep them safe by separating it from the mother if it looks weak and unhealthy. If you can nurse a weak baby rat on its own, then you will be eliminating the possibility of the mother turning it into a meal. 

Another way to keep a baby rat safe is by keeping it away from any male rats. Male rats are bigger and stronger than a baby rat. The male rat might want to exert dominance over the baby rat. Or simply want to play but end up hurting the baby rat.

Feeding a baby rat 

You need to nurse a newborn rat every 3 to 4 hours during the day and once at night for the first week. During the second week after birth, you can nurse the baby rat after 4 to 5 hours. Avoid constant feeding of the baby rat as it might affect his/her digestion. 

You can also use a piece of rag to form a “nipple.” Dip the “nipple” into the formula and let the baby rat suck from the end of the rag. Instead of dipping the rag back into the formula every time, you can keep it wet with the formula by using a dropper. 

The easiest way to feed a baby rat formula is by using a rubber tube (ask you vet) or an IV catheter. A baby rat has a tiny mouth, but these can fit in the mouth comfortably. The ideal feeding rubber tube or catheter needs to be 4-inches long. 

The formula’s temperature needs to be warm and not too hot. Your wrist will be useful in testing this. You can warm it using a microwave for about 3 to 5 seconds. Alternatively, put the container with the formula you are feeding the baby rat in a cup with warm water.  

Avoid feeding a baby rat formula from the dish as they might get it into their nose. However, after two weeks or so, and the baby rat’s eyes are open (for at least 3 days), then you can start feeding him/her from the dish. By the third week, the baby rat is ready to start eating solid food. However, keep feeding them some formula as a supplement. 

So, why do rats eat their babies? A female rat will eat its babies as a source of food, especially if the baby rat is weak or deformed. You can separate such a baby rat and nurse it yourself.  

Remember do be vigilant when trying to decide if a rat will eat their babies as it will not always be obvious. If you suspect that something is going wrong then step in first and fast to ensure the baby rats safety. Always try to put the rat’s safety first and you can try and re-introduce the baby rat at a later stage if you think the mother rat is in a more accommodating state.

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