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Should I breed?
If you answer no to any of the following questions then you are should re-consider breeding rats:
1) Are the rats going to have the best possible life for them?
If you cannot guarantee that the newborn ratties are going to be well cared for and loved throughout their whole life you should not be breeding.
2) Do you have space for another 12-15 rats?
Even if you already have homes for them always think about the possibilities, i.e. there is a chance everyone will turn around and say that they changed their mind. The baby rats will soon need just as much space as a grown rat as they will be exploring and climbing around.
3) Are both of the parents healthy and of good temperament?
If both of the adults are not healthy then you shouldn't breed them. The main reason to breed rats is to try and make the species stronger and healthier. If one of the parents or their parents has been prone to tumors or mycoplasma then there is a higher chance of the litter being ill during their lives. It is always best to ask the breeders if the rats are suitable to be bred from, they are most likely to know about the history of health and temperament. A lot of people get 2 pet rats from pet shops and decide to breed them. This is not a good thing to do as you could be continuing a line of rats with aggression issues, heart problems, tumor history, any of the above or possibly even ALL of the above.
4) Do you have enough money?
Adding another 15 rats to anyones house can cost a lot of money, if you do not have enough money to be able to support that number of rats. This doesn't just mean food, litter and bedding but also new cages to accomodate the arrivals, new food bowls, new water bottles, new toys and also some extra money for potential vet bills due to illness.
If you have answered yes to all of the above questions then here is something for you to think about:
There are rats being put down everyday because the rescue centres are full. If you are not improving the species, creating a healthy, friendly litter with interesting markings, colors, or special qualities, then you should think carefully. If breeding is just another way to get more rats to play with then think about adopting.
Yes, kittens are incredibly cute, but its like having a baby, unless you can give them the best life possible, don't bring them into the world. I believe that a responsible rattie owner and breeder are careful to know as much about the pregnancy etc. and make sure that the babies (if selling them) go to happy, healthy families in pairs or more. Also be prepared to welcome the rats back into your home if the new owner changes their mind or their stuation changes and keeping the rats is not an option.
Choosing the parents
- Both rats should be of good temperament.
- Both rats should be healthy.
- Avoid breeding from older rats as there are more risks involved.
- Make sure you know something about genetics and the line you are breeding from (back a few generations) for health and temperament.
It is recommended that the males and females should always live and play separately, and only meet for a planned mating. When the mom gives birth, she immediately goes into "post-partum estrus," and if a male is present she can get immediately pregnant again, which is not healthy for her, her newborns, or the unborn litter growing inside.
Different people have different methods as far as the actual mating is concerned.
A possible method is to place the rats into a cage with all the necessities (food, water, bedding etc.) towards the end of the evening (keeping an eye on them to make sure they get on ok for a little bit) then to remove the male in the morning.
Tip from an expert:
" You can watch for when your doe is in heat, you will see her waggle her ears, and arch her back if you tickle her along the spine. When you see her in heat place her and the buck in a cage whilst mating takes place and then return them after a few hours to their cages. To check if she has taken look out for her coming in to heat four nights later (sometimes five) , even if she doesn’t you can always put the the buck and doe together for a few hours to see if she responses to him."
Some people leave the rats together for longer, but this has the potential of causing troubles when the male is returned to the cage as he will smell strongly of the female.
Tip from an expert:
"More that he will be full of him self and want to take over as alpha, this method is only recommended if you can afford to take the chance that the buck may not settle down with his cage mates again. This doesn’t always happen but it is a risk to think about if leaving them together for any length of time. If you have a doe that is proving difficult to get pregnant sometimes the only way to get them to take is to leave them togehter until she shows signs of pregnancy. This is big risk to take with a buck if you want to get him back in with other bucks, so think carefully before you undertake ths type of breeding."
How to tell when your doe is pregnant
Signs over the first few weeks will include your doe being very dominant over other females in the cage, she will generally instantly become the alpha rat and be very restrictive of others taking "her" food. BUT, this doesn't mean that you need to give them extra food as the doe will become large and may cause complications during labour. Generally the other rats will "know" that the doe has become pregnant and will let her have the food that she needs and will give her respect and space if needed.
After the first 14 days you should notice an increase in weight and the doe can look like she has swallowed a tennis ball.
A doe 4 hours before giving birth
BUT if the doe is large and carrying a small litter there may not even be a noticable weight change.
Most does will give birth during the 21st night, it is rare for them to give birth early, but sometimes they don’t drop the till the 22nd or 23rd day. If it is any later than this you should start to look out for the doe as there may be problems.
Some people do restrict the does activities, i.e. restricting climbing etc. but others just give her the option to if she wants. You shouldn't place water and food on different levels, she should have everything she needs as close to her nesting position as possible so that if she doesn't want to roam too much she doesn't have to. The doe is pregnant and she should be allowed to do what she wants, she is after all carrying a litter of babies inside her and shouldn't be blamed for mood swings.
You should be very careful when lifting a pregnant doe, as you can upset the babies inside her and make her very uncomfortable. It is suggested that you move the doe into a cage of her own, about a week before she is due to give birth. This is to allow her to have her own space and feel relaxed (although some does prefer another doe with them for company). The "birthing home" should be small and cosy et large enough for the doe and her babies to live in for about 4/5 weeks. It is possible to leave her in a cage with cagemates during her pregnancy but if she seems to be upset then it is best to keep her alone in a cage during pregnancy.
During pregnancy continue will the normal food and amount but supplement with extra protein (but not too much) sources of protein include meat, fish, nuts, bread soaked in milk from the last week onwards.
The last week of pregnancy the doe will be very large and will start to build a nest.
Most rats will either have their babies at night or early in the morning and expect litters of around 12-15 (some have a lot less some have more).
A sign that labour is approaching is that she will lick her private parts a lot, other signs are a lot of stretching and repositioning to make her comfortable for the birth. It is also likely that you may see spots of blood.
NB: When the doe is approaching labour it is best to keep your distance and leave her in peace. She needs to feel relaxed. I know it is exciting to see rats being born but try and keep away as much as possible and if you are checking then to be as subtle and quiet as possible.
What can go wrong
When to call the vet:
- If the doe has been bleeding for more than 24 hours or sooner is she is showing signs of distress.
- If the doe seems uncomfortable or distressed.
- If the doe is going pale.
- If the doe goes more than 2 days over the due date.
These are all signs that something could be seriously wrong with the doe and should be acted upon immediately.
There is always a chance that the doe will not want to look after all of her babies, so it may be down to you to hand feed them. This occasionally happens if there are too many babies or if one of the babies is a runt and cannot get to the milk. If you think this is the case then it is best to consult a vet or an experienced breeder to find out what is the best thing to do.
If there are a lot of babies you may find that one or two are being ignored or shoved out the way, if this is the case try and supplement their feeding with extra milk (consult a local breeder to find the best type in your area)
Babies can be born deformed and if this is the case you may need to have them put to sleep by a vet. If you are worried or anxious about anything with your pups then it is best to seek a breeders advice or someone that has been in a similar position.
Make sure that all the newly born babies are eating properly by looking for a yellow band that crosses it's tummy (Also called the Milk Band).
It is important to not be too curious once the pups are born. It is best to leave her alone the first days only peeking when she is out of the cage exploring, unless you think that there is something wrong. This is so that you do not put the doe under any unnecessary stress and give her time with her babies.
After the first few days have passed you can start handling the pups every morning and evening, letting them get to know the feeling of our hands and later to hear us.
1 day old babies
If this is done before the eyes are opened they will be very affectionate and secure with people.
For the first couple of weeks the babies will survive solely on milk from the doe. After about 2 weeks the babies will start to taste and play with solid food. Try making something soft, i.e. oatmeal to start them off then within 2-3 weeks they will start to move on to the same food as the other rats.
Tip from an expert:
"EMP is the very best food to give also ready break both can be mixed with water of Lactol (puppy milk) It can also be good to give them mum a small bottle of lactol or soya milk daily to help her."
EMP is available from www.ratmad.com
Sexing and separating babies:
Once you get the hang of it, it is easy to tell the sex of the rat from the first day
For sexing advice check out Lucie Mann's Guide to sexing
If you decide to breed your rats then i hope you have considered everything and you know that you are fully prepared for anything, and most of all good luck!!!!
"Accidental mating can happen in mere seconds -- it seems that when you WANT it to happen, it takes longer."
The information posted on this page is not set in concrete, it's only advice. See your vet for the correct advice for your rattie.