For one of the most widely hated and notorious species of rodent on the planet, baby rats look utterly harmless. These tiny, fragile looking naked creatures, no bigger than a bottlecap certainly don’t look deserving of the negativity they will likely attract as adults.
They are not handsome by any stretch of the imagination, but they hardly look like the villains they are likely to be perceived as.
Truth be told, baby rats will become very intelligent little rodents as they grow, very social, with the ability to feel and express a range of emotions and feelings. They are far more remarkable than many would like to believe.
Here are some awesome baby rat facts, as well as some pictures of these curious creatures and answers to some frequently asked questions.
7 Awesome Baby Rat Facts
A Baby Rat Is Called A Pup
Baby rats are usually called ‘pups‘ but are also commonly called ‘kittens‘. This is similar to other rodents and lagomorphs. New born rats are also sometimes called ‘pinkies‘, likely in reference to their naked skin color.
Similarly to baby deer, as rats grow up, males are known as ‘bucks‘ and females are known as ‘does‘. There are a few collective nouns for a group of rats. The most common are ‘colony‘ and ‘swarm‘ (most common), but ‘horde‘ and ‘pack‘ are also used widely in some regions and circumstances.
A group of baby rat siblings is a ‘litter,’ and ‘mischief‘ can be used to describe a group of young rats that are either related or not.
Baby Rats Are Born Naked And Blind
Like many other rodents, and even similar to us humans, rats are born fully dependant on their mother doe. They are born both naked and blind, eyes closed and helpless. Their eyes will remain closed for around the first two weeks of their life and during this time they are particularly vulnerable.
New born baby rats are incredibly tiny, with naked pink skin, much shorter tails and a head that looks far too big and heavy to hold up compared to the rest of its body.
They are usually born into a litter of between 8 to 18 pups, averaging between 5-10 depending on the species of rat. There are 56 species of rat across the world.
Baby Rats Grow Up Very Quickly
A baby rat will start to develop its fur around the first week and open it’s eyes at around two weeks. It will feed from its mothers milk for the first three weeks of its life. After this time it will become more or less independent. It will move onto an omnivorous diet of insects, vegetables, grains and seeds.
City rats are more likely to also eat meat than country rats. They will scavenge bins, alleys and water sources for any food they can find. This includes any leftover food and pet food thrown into garbage by humans. They may even live in sewers which provide food and shelter for these furry rodents.
By five to six weeks old, a rat will be sexually mature and able to start producing litters of their own. From birth to maturity in five to six weeks, now that is fast!
Baby Rats Can Laugh
Believe it or not, rats have been identified as being able to express joy and to laugh, particularly when being tickled. In one study explored in an article in science.org, neuroscientist Shimpei Ishiyama from Humboldt University of Berlin explains that “Not only do rats return over and over again to the place they were tickled, the handling triggers the neurotransmitter dopamine in key reward-related brain circuits in the rodents.“
The tickling experiments work best with juvenile male rats who appear to be the most playful. They will also jump for joy when stimulated and experiencing positive emotion.
One interesting thing that came out of this experiment, is that with both rats and humans alike, if we are not tickled when we are young, we are unlikely to enjoy it later in life.
Baby Rats Develop Great Memories
Baby rats develop exceptional memories as they grow. In studies, rats show the ability to remember the identity of any other rat or human (and probably any other animal) they have interacted with before. They remember places and they remember routes that they take to get from A to B.
Other studies show that rats can remember up to 32 items in context, and unique events including the context in which they occurred. They display the ability of episodic memory, can recognize voices and even show signs of missing their owners.
It’s no surprise that with great memory, rats are believed to be one of the 10 smartest types of animal on the planet!
Baby Rats Have Very White Teeth
One way to tell the age of a rat is by it’s teeth. Baby rats have very white teeth, but as they mature their teeth turn yellow to orange. This change in color happens as their teeth develop and strengthen.
They have very strong enamel in their teeth that they need for gnawing, which they must do very regularly. A rats teeth keep growing for the whole of their life so they need to gnaw to keep them from getting too big. Their front teeth can grow by 4.5 to 5.5 inches in a single year.
Baby Rats Cry, But You Might Not Hear It
Infant rats are known to create an ultrasonic vocalization to call for their mothers when they are hungry or in distress. As the cry they emit is ultrasonic, they might go unheard to us humans. We just can’t hear that high.
We are used to hearing high pitched squeaks of mice and rats in different situations, but this infant cry is so high, you probably don’t even know they are squeaking. It is real though, and this distress squeak has been widely studied.
Baby Rat FAQs
Baby Rat Lifecycle
Rats grow from infant to sexually mature in as little as 5 to 6 weeks. In the first three weeks they are constantly changing and maturing. From six weeks they can start having litters of their own and can have up to 12 litters in a year!
The average lifespan of a rat in the wild is around a year, mostly due to predation but this does vary across the different species. In captivity they average between 2-4 years, but some examples have been known to live longer.
How Many Baby Rats Are Born In A Litter?
The average litter will have between 5-10 rat pups, but again this varies from species to species. Some can have up to 18 pups, or as few as 4.
Are Baby Rats Filthy Animals?
It is a myth that rats are filthy animals. We often perceive them as sewer dwellers and unclean, but rat pups and adults alike are very house proud and clean animals. They clean themselves many times a day and make efforts to tidy their nest.
What Do Baby Rats Eat?
Baby rats live off their mothers milk for the first three weeks or so of life. After this they move onto the same omniverous diet that their parents eat including insects, vegetables and grains, and some eat scavenged meat scraps too.
Where Do Baby Rats Live?
Baby rat pups live with their siblings in a nest for the first few weeks of life until they are big and clever enough to set out and build their own nest. They will create nests usually in places of cover in gardens, along river banks or close to sources of food. When mature, they may burrow into the ground to create nests where they can rear their own young or store food.
The only rat free continent on Earth is Antarctica, but there are some areas, such as Alberta in Canada that have employed extreme extermination policies to completely eradicate populations from within their borders.
Natural Predators Of Baby Rats
Among the most common predators for baby rats are domestic and wild cats, canids (foxes and dogs), birds of prey, weasels and snakes. It does vary depending on the territory and the predators native to the area.
Do Baby Rats Spread Rabies?
Despite popular belief, rats along with other small rodents such as squirrels and chipmunks are not prolific rabies spreaders. They are hardly ever found to have the disease and are not known to spread it to humans at all.