How to Breed Rats

If you leave rats to their own devices, they will happily breed freely, and you will soon have an unmanageable population. It is best to breed rats in a controlled way to prevent an explosion in numbers and to show that you are a responsible rat owner with a sole focus on your rats’ welfare.

Whilst your rats will have little trouble mating, it is up to you to ensure you have the best conditions for your pair and subsequent kittens. We can help you make sure everything is perfect for rat breeding…

Do You Have Enough Room?

Usually, rats produce 10 to 12 kittens. These will grow up into adult rats and will need ample room and the correct environment to live a happy life. If you plan on keeping all of the offspring, you will need to ensure you have enough room and cages before you even think about the breeding process.

Whilst rats of the same sex can live together if they were raised together, sometimes males can develop too much testosterone and become aggressive to their other male cohorts. You can also not house male and female littler mates together as this will lead to inbreeding. Therefore, be prepared if you want to take all of the babies on.

It is important to remember:

  • Do not sell rats to children under 16 without the seal of approval from their parents
  • Do not sell rats that are under six weeks old
  • Do not sell rats in large quantities to one individual – they may be used as reptile food
  • Pet stores rarely purchase rats from local breeders

Are You Buck and Doe Related?

If your male and female ferret are related in any way at all, you must not use them as a breeding pair. This is how genetic flaws can be passed on and your kittens could end up being very ill or deformed. It is best practice to breed rats which are not related.

How Old Are Your Rats?

You cannot breed rats until they have reached sexual maturity, and this will vary from rat to rat. The best age for most does is between five and seven months old. Any earlier and your doe will not be able to reproduce. Females often see a drop in fertility after 15 months of age.

It is best to breed from a male who is between six and 12 months old. Older bucks can be sterile or, if allowed to produce, could mean kittens have deformities.

Are Your Rats in Good Health?

You will want to make sure both the male and female rat you plan to breed from are lively and in good health. They should be a healthy weight and have a shiny and glossy coat.

You should also take into consideration their temperaments. It is advised not to breed from a rat who is aggressive as they could pass this trait on to the kittens.

Is Your Doe in Heat?

Female rats go into season every four to five days, so you won’t have to wait for long if she is not. Typically, your doe will display some common signs when she is ready to mate. This will include ear wiggling and excessive back arching so that her genitals are on display.

The Breeding Process

When your doe is in heat, it is time to place them together so that they can mate. Place them in a cage overnight and give them some privacy. If you are at all concerned, you can remove the male at any time. You can leave your buck with your doe for up to 10 days, which is a popular method with many rat breeders.

Is My Doe Pregnant?

The gestation period for rats is just 21 days. During this period, you will be able to tell that your doe is pregnant as she will have a much fuller belly and chest. She will simply appear much more rounded. However, to cement your findings, take your female rat to the vets for a physical exam. Never try to feel the babies in your doe’s stomach as you may injure or kill them as they are so small.

Caring for Your Pregnant Female

If you discover that your doe is pregnant, it is best to move her to a quiet cage with plenty of room so that she can prepare for birth. You will need to clean her cage every other day as when she has given birth you will not be able to do so. Make sure she has plenty of food and water during the gestation period and try to disturb her as little as possible.

What Should I Do When My Doe Delivers?

You should allow your female rat to give birth on her own in peace and quiet. Simply glance an eye over her and the kittens now and again to ensure everything is going to plan. She is capable of delivering and cleaning her babies on her own so do not intervene if everything is going smoothly.

Your female rat will eat her placenta once the babies have been born. If she has given birth to any stillborn young, she will likely eat these or ignore them. Both actions are perfectly normal.

If your doe has not delivered her babies within two hours, contact your vet immediately.