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Pet Rats - Want to breed adorable pet rats?

Breeding rats

Breeding rats is not just a case of putting a male in with a female. While there are many things you need to consider before breeding, I think there are 3 main rules:

Pet rat peeking out of a toy house

Are the parents healthy, friendly, and free of problems?

You should never breed rats that are aggressive, unhealthy, or have any deformities such as odd-sized eyes, club feet, kinked tails etc. Only experienced breeders should breed manx and hairless rats, as they have special needs. Aggression can never be "bred out" of rats, so even if you have a stunning rat with fantastic bloodlines, she shouldn't be bred if she is known to be nasty to humans or other rats.

Will I have time to properly handle and socialise the babies?

Pet rats that are handled from birth are more comfortable with humans

Rats that are handled from birth are more comfortable with humans

If you are careful, you can handle baby rats from birth - just be careful to distract the mother first, as some mother rats can be very protective of their babies. It is a myth that mother rats will kill and/or eat her babies if you get your smell on them.

A mother rat will only do that if the baby has a severe deformity, is stillborn, or if she is so undernourished from the pregnancy that she is forced to eat the baby to save herself. If you are able to distract the mother to handle the babies, it can be very beneficial.

By handling and playing with the babies, they will be used to humans from day one, and make much better pets. Rats that aren't handled early, or are mishandled or hurt by humans, will either be very timid and frightened of humans, or may be aggressive.

Will I be able to find good homes for all of the babies?

This is VERY IMPORTANT. If you don't know where you will home your babies, or you assume that you can send them to the local pet store, DON'T BREED RATS.

Always make sure that people want the babies first, in fact, always have several people waiting for your babies at one time. If you can't find good homes for all of them, then make sure you are prepared to keep the rest - Be a responsible breeder. Responsible breeders do not send their babies off to bad homes, nor send them to pet stores. Pet stores, although it is illegal, DO SELL BABY RATS FOR SNAKE FOOD. Even if the pet store is responsible, and refuses to sell rats for snake food, snake owners can easily pretend to want to buy a rat as a pet, and get away with it.

Remember, breeding rats is not something that you do for fun. It needs careful planning, and a lot of work.

Things to Take Note Of

Litter of pet rats babies with the mother rat

Females rats should not be bred before 65 days of age. They are continuously "polyestrous," which means that they come into heat at fairly regular intervals (every 4-5 days) throughout the entire year unless they are bred.

The period during which the male is receptive to the male and allows breeding is out 12 hours and usually occurs at night. Female rats can come back into heat 48 hours after giving birth to a litter. This is called a "postpartum estrus."

This period of receptivity is not used when breeding rats because the breeding male is removed from the enclosure just before the female rat delivers her litter because of the high probability of injury to the new pups by the male.

After mating, a white, waxy substance, called a coupulatory plug, is visible within the female's vulva for 12-24 hours. It is not uncommon to find these plugs within the enclosure after they have been discharged.


Pregnancy lasts an average of 3 weeks. Litter sizes average 6-12 pups, though it is not unusual for a female's first litter to be smaller in number. Litter sizes decrease as breeding females age.

Female rats should not be disturbed for the first few days after delivery because stressed females may destroy their pups. Excessive handling, loud noises, and even insufficient nesting material have all been implicated with this destructive behavior. Pups are usually weaned at about 3 weeks of age. The female rat resumes her breeding cycle 2-5 days after her pups have been weaned. last updated 1 Oct, 2017


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