This article is from the WSSF 2004 AFRMA Rat & Mouse Tales news-magazine.
Breeding & Stuff
Christine James, Weatherford, TX
Q I was told by a lady that I obtained my breeding stock of rats from, that Hairless rat mothers sometimes fail to produce milk for their babies. Is this true? If so, can you hand rear the babies if you don’t have another female to foster them to? If you can hand raise the babies, what would be the best formula to feed them. The feline formulas are high in fat and protein (38%), whereas the canine is a little lower in protein (33%) and fat (28%).
A Yes, Hairless mom-rats sometimes have trouble taking care of their kids. People who breed Hairless will breed a furry rat at the same time as the Hairless mom, so if the Hairless is unable to care for her kids, you will have a foster mom available. One breeder found that if she put a heating pad on low setting underneath half of the cage on the outside, that it helped keep the babies warm. It’s always best to have a rat mom raise the kids.
If you are in need of hand raising babies, there are several factors to consider. First, the chances of successfully raising newborns by hand are not good. Second, you need to feed them every couple hours, keep them warm, stimulate them to urinate and defecate, and use a suitable formula. Most people will use a plastic carrier lined with a towel and place a hot water bottle underneath the towel or a heating pad underneath part of the carrier on the outside to keep them warm. Use a warm damp towel or cotton ball and rub their belly/genital area to stimulate them to urinate/ defecate. To feed them you can try using a baby bird feeding syringe, a piece of small diameter wire tubing, or even a piece of string acting like a wick. The formula used needs to be high in fat to most match rat mom’s milk. For more detailed information on raising babies by hand, see the AFRMA Breeding Book or see the Caring for Orphans article on the web site. Karen Robbins
A What I know is that the moms in most lines had trouble producing enough milk or producing milk with the right stuff in it. Their diets should be heavily supplemented with high-protein/ fat stuff like cat or kitten chow, and I would also supplement with the same during pregnancy as well. Some of the lines carry problems with heavy bleeding before and after birth or problems with birth itself and a high risk of death to the mother, while other lines seem to have no problem producing zillions of kits. As far as the hand raising formula to use—I think kitten milk is the one of choice. Helen Pembrook