Did you know that a Mama rat can get pregnant again right after giving birth to her babies? If the male rat is not removed from the cage PRIOR to birth, the female will deliver another litter 3-4 weeks after her first one arrives. (this could mean 25+ babies for mama) This does not give her a chance to recoup from the first litter beginning to wean and means more babies will need to find a loving home, which is not always easy.
I often get emails from new rat owners telling us they just adopted from a pet store or from a 'breeder' where they got two rats but think one is the wrong sex. I can pretty much guarantee that the female is pregnant if she is over 6 weeks of age. This is not an ideal breeding age (females should really be closer to 4-6 months/300 grams to give them the optimum health and successful litters) No matter how much you want to have them enjoy each other's company male and female rats cannot play together. (unless the male is neutered or female spayed) When rats breed they only need a few seconds, yes seconds! I often encourage those with two babies different sexes to take one or the other sex back to where they got them and get one of the correct sex as a companion.
Of course sometimes we also hear that someone adopted two females (correct sex) but one or both are pregnant and deliver 1-3 weeks after joining the family. This is not something everyone is prepared to deal with after just adding new rats to the family. Most important all babies need to be sexed correctly, especially by 4-5 weeks of age. Though the males are not always able to, they sometimes can breed their mama/sisters by 5-6 weeks. If this happens the whole crazy cycle can start again!! It is not always easy to find good homes for 'the oops! litter' babies.
What happens when people can't find homes for the babies??? This is were many rescues have stepped up to help the new rat owners and those that have gotten overwhelmed with 'oops! litters' Right now a great rescue in British Columbia has a plethora of babies. A social worker brought in two mamas and their new babies the end of November 2017. Unfortunately, the mamas had already been bred again prior to joining Small Animal Rescue Society so they have BABIES!!! LOTS OF BABIES on the way! in need of good homes.
Because we have such amazing support in the rat community Best Friends Rodent Rescue in Washington is also helping in the efforts to get the SARS babies home. What a great way to start the new year - with an new furbaby or two! Contact them at firstname.lastname@example.org to see if they have a sweet baby or two to join your mischief.
If you are not close to British Columbia, don't be discouraged there are so many rescues out there with babies and lovable olders in need of furever homes.