When most people hear the word “rat” they immediately think of a filthy pest. The truth is, wild rats are quite a problem in the United States. They can carry serious diseases and cause major structural damage to homes.
However, rats also have a beneficial purpose for a healthy ecosystem in small numbers. Furthermore, they are highly intelligent creatures that can be quite fascinating to learn about. Still, most of us don’t want wild rats hanging around our homes or properties.
But what should you do if you find a baby rat on your home or property? For many people, disposing of a baby animal can feel wrong, and if you have it in your heart to rescue the poor critter, you’ve come to the right place.
There are several options you have when it comes to what to do if you find a baby rat, and we’re here to help you find the best option for you that is not only safe and humane but efficient in keeping wild rats from becoming a nuisance in the future.
So, Let’s Talk About What To Do If You Find A Baby Rat
Baby rats are often born blind and bald, and they are helpless without their mothers.
You might be surprised to learn that rats are one of the most common pets in the United States. They’re intelligent and affectionate, and they can live up to five years in captivity. With that said, domesticated rats and wild rats are not one and the same.
If you do find a baby rat that has been abandoned by its mother, you may be tempted to hand raise it. Not only is this going to take quite a bit of work, but it will ultimately end in you releasing the wild rat back into its natural habitat. This is important to keep in mind, as wild rats are typically aggressive towards people and will likely not be responsive to humans in the same way that domesticated rats will be.
With all that being said, if you do find a baby rat, it is likely it will not survive without its mother. Furthermore, most wildlife rehabilitators will not take baby rats or baby mice as these animals are considered pests. If you call a wildlife rehabilitator regarding a baby rat, they may advise that you dispose of it humanely or simply leave it outside where you found it.
However, if you wish to hand raise the baby rat, you can certainly attempt to do this, and we are here to assist. Of course, in order to do so properly, it’s important to learn as much as you can about a baby rat in order to provide it with the best chance at survival.
With that in mind, let’s talk about a baby rat.
Baby rats are about 1 1/4th of an inch long at birth. They are born with their eyes closed and no fur yet on their bodies. They typically weigh between 1/4 ounce and one ounce at birth (about the size of a quarter). Their eyes open after two weeks of age, but they still won’t have any fur at this point — instead they look like pinkish-brown pups with tails! It’s important not to handle them too much at this time as they are fragile and need to stay warm in their nests.
If you find a baby rat, it’s important to provide them with a safe space like a cage or shoe box that is lined with warm, soft fabrics and is resting on top of a hot water bottle or heating pad to keep the pups warm.
Baby rats are called pups. They are born naked, blind, and deaf. The pups’ eyes open after about 10 days and their ears start working by the 14th day.
The first two weeks are the most critical for a baby rat. It needs to be kept warm and fed every few hours with tiny amounts of food.
Baby rats cannot survive without their mother. If she dies, the litter will die. If they get separated from her, they will likely die as well without the proper care. That means if you find a baby rat alone, and if you are up for it, you must take care of it until it can be reunited with its mother or until it gets big enough to take care of itself.
If you find a baby rat that is separated from its mother but still alive, there are some steps you should take to care for the pup.
First, you must prepare to feed the baby rat every two hours around the clock for the next week or so. Use an eyedropper or syringe to feed the pup an equal mixture of milk replacement formula (like KMR®) and water. Use only one drop per feeding for infants under two weeks old, and use two drops per feeding for infants over two weeks old as they grow more quickly at this age.
Other types of milk you can feed the baby rat include kitten milk replacer or human soy infant formula.
When feeding your baby rat, only drop small amounts of skin-warmed milk on your finger or palm. Allow the baby rat to suckle from your skin. Do not drop the milk directly into the rat’s mouth, as it can aspirate the milk and become ill.
When you are finished feeding the baby rat, place it back in a warm space like a shoebox or cage (as mentioned above), that sits upon a heated water bottle or beneath a heat lamp. Be sure to check on the baby rat every two hours and feed it on schedule. From birth, rats take about four to five weeks to reach an age at which they can take care of themselves. At this point, and as mentioned, it will likely be that you will need to release the baby rat back into the wild.
If you do this, be sure to release it at least five or so miles from your home to ensure it does not return and get into your home and cause problems in the future.
Why Might You Find A Baby Rat
Rats rarely abandon their young for more than a few hours.
Rats often create dens or nests where they keep their babies safe. Like many rodents, female rats may leave their babies for several hours during the day while they find food. If you do come across a nest of baby rats, leave it be and observe it for the next day or so before deciding if you should move the baby rat.
Keep in mind that rodents rarely abandon their young, and female rats are no exception. In fact, rats are excellent mothers. They will care for their babies no matter what the circumstances are. If you find a litter of baby rats, your first instinct may be to take them all in and raise them yourself until they are old enough to be released. However, this isn’t always the best option for the mother rat or her babies.
If you remove baby rats when their mother is simply off looking for food, you are greatly reducing the baby rats’ chances of survival.
Keep in mind that even if you do everything right when you find a baby rat and feed it every two hours around the clock, they still could have a lower chance of survival than they would if they were raised by their mother.
It is always best to leave a baby rat to be raised by its mother unless you are certain that the mother is not returning.
Though rare, a mother rat could abandon her babies for a few different reasons.
Rats are very protective of their babies and will do anything to keep them safe. If she feels threatened or senses danger, she’ll leave her babies behind so that they don’t get hurt. Rats are very maternal and will do whatever they can to protect their young — even at the risk of their own lives.
A mother rat may also have gotten killed by a predator while out looking for food, or she could have been hit by a car, killed by a rat trap or rat poison, or a number of other things.
If you find more than one baby rat together in your home, there’s a good chance that they’re siblings or half-siblings who were born from the same litter. They may have been separated from their mother at birth due to a disturbance and have been struggling to survive on their own ever since. If this is the case, then it’s important that you do what you can to help them survive, if this is something you are willing to do.
Of course, if you prefer to look into other resources, you may have options depending on where you live. In some regions, there are specific groups that will rescue orphaned rats and mice, or be able to offer you guidance on how to care for them.
For the most part, though, wildlife rehabilitators will not take a baby rat, as mentioned above. This is because rats are commonly seen as nuisance pests that can also pose a public health risk.
Keep reading to learn more.
What You Should Know About Rats In General
Rats are intelligent and interesting, but they can be dangerous pests.
Rats are a major pest in the United States. These rodents can carry disease and damage property, making them unwelcome visitors to homes and businesses. This is one of the reasons why some may look at you with bewilderment if you tell them you are attempting to raise a baby rat.
Rats are common rodents that can be found throughout the world. They are known for their long, pointy noses and tails that are longer than their bodies. Rats can vary in size depending on the species, but most rats weigh less than one pound when fully grown.
In addition to being small animals, rats have short gestation periods and lifespans. A rat’s pregnancy lasts only 21 days on average, and rats will usually give birth to a litter of up to seven pups. All of these factors make rats very prolific breeders in comparison to other types of rodents.
The most common type of rat found in the United States is the Norway Rat (also known as the brown rat), and the roof rat.
Norway rats are large rodents that can grow up to 18 inches in length from nose to tail. They have stout bodies with short ears and bushy tails. Their coats can range in color from brownish gray to black with paler underbellies. The fur on their backs is coarse and thick while the fur on their bellies is soft and short.
These rats prefer to make their homes near man-made structures such as sewers or drains where they have access to food scraps and other debris. They also inhabit basements, attics, crawl spaces, storage areas, garages, and sheds as well as industrial sites such as farms or warehouses where food may be stored outdoors or where crops are grown close by.
In urban areas where there is plenty of debris for them to eat, Norway rats can reproduce rapidly, leading to large infestations that can cause serious damage if left untreated.
Roof rats are a common pest in the United States, particularly on the West Coast. They are also called black rats, ship rats, and house rats, but they aren’t really any of those things. Roof rats are native to Asia and were brought over to America by traders looking for a new source of food.
Roof rats are larger than Norway rats, who live underground. Roof rats have larger ears and tails, and are excellent climbers. Their fur is also longer than Norway rat’s fur and they’re more slender in appearance.
Roof rats are mostly active at night, so they’re rarely seen by humans during the day. They like to live in trees (hence the name “roof rat”), but they can climb down if they need to find food or water or if they’re startled by an animal or person walking beneath them.
If you see a rat running across your lawn at night (or even during the day), it’s probably a roof rat. Roof rats tend to stay on the ground only when there’s no other option available – usually due to extreme weather conditions like heavy rain or snowfall that make climbing trees much more difficult for them.
Are Rats Dangerous?
Rats can spread serious diseases when they get into food.
Though they are not known to be aggressive, rats can be very dangerous animals. They can destroy your property and spread disease. For this reason, it is important to know how to get rid of rats. Not only will keeping rats at bay help keep your home in ship shape and your family safe, but it will also reduce the chances of you running into a baby rat and having to decide if you can hand raise a baby rat in the future.
Rat control is an important part of pest management because rats can cause significant damage to homes and other buildings. They can also spread diseases such as typhus, leptospirosis, salmonella, and bubonic plague.
Some of the most common diseases and parasites are known to be transmitted by rats to both people and pets include:
Hantavirus – This is a rare but potentially fatal disease spread by contact with rodent urine, droppings, or saliva. The virus causes flu-like symptoms such as fever, muscle aches, and headaches, followed by respiratory distress and shock (pulmonary edema).
Leptospirosis – This bacterial infection can cause kidney damage and jaundice. It is spread through contact with infected rat urine or contaminated water sources such as drinking water or swimming pools.
Tularemia– This is another bacterial disease caused by exposure to infected animals, including rodents like rats, rabbits, and mice. It can be transmitted through bites or scratches from an infected animal. Symptoms include fever and swollen lymph nodes, but some people remain asymptomatic after being exposed to the bacteria.
Salmonella – Salmonella is one of the most common causes of food poisoning in humans, salmonella is found worldwide in rats and their feces which can contaminate food sources like fruits and vegetables.
Bubonic Plague – This disease was responsible for killing 25 million Europeans during the 14th century Black Death pandemic; it is caused by bacteria called Yersinia pestis which is found in fleas that ride on rats. Symptoms include fever, headache, chills, and back pain followed by swelling of lymph nodes (buboes). If left untreated, death usually occurs within 4-7 days. Thankfully, this is an incredibly rare disease in modern times and especially in the United States.
Lymphocytic Choriomeningitis (LCMV) – LCMV is another virus that rats can transmit to humans. Symptoms include fever, headache, and nausea that appear within two to ten days after exposure. The disease is not usually fatal for adults but can be fatal for children under age five and for those with compromised immune systems, such as persons with AIDS or cancer.
Fleas – Fleas can carry several different diseases, including plague and murine typhus. A plague is a serious disease that can be transmitted from rats to humans. It causes fever, headache, weakness, and swollen lymph nodes in the groin area. Murine typhus is caused by Rickettsia typhi bacteria and causes symptoms such as fever, muscle pain, and rash. It is spread through flea bites or contact with rat urine or feces.
While a baby rat is not likely to carry the above illnesses, finding a baby rat inside your home or near your property could be an indicator that other rats are nearby. It’s important to be cautious when handling a baby rat or any nesting material around the baby rat that could be contaminated with urine or feces.
Furthermore, it’s also important to prevent future wild rats from coming around. This is true whether or not you choose to hand raise a baby rat or turn it over to a potential rescue group in your area.
Keep reading to learn more.
Tips And Products For Keeping Rats At Bay
There are several ways you can go about getting rid of or eliminating a rat problem on your property.
The first step in controlling rats is to identify their location. Once you know where they’re coming from, you can take steps to seal holes and prevent new ones from forming. Rat poison is highly controversial and even illegal in many regions throughout the United States. The best products for rat removal include repellents and traps.
The best way to determine if you need to use methods of rat control is to look for signs of rats on or around your property.
You should look for signs of rat activity including droppings (which look like small pellets), burrows (holes in walls), and chewing on items such as wires and pipes. Rats are nocturnal creatures who run away when they see light; if you hear scratching noises at night when you turn off your lights and go to sleep, it may be rats trying to get into your house through holes or cracks in the wall or floorboards.
Once you have determined that you are dealing with rats, use quality products you trust to get rid of them like those we have listed below.
Natural Armor Mice & Rat Repellent
Natural Armor Mice & Rat Repellent is an all-natural rodent repellent that is safe for humans and pets. It’s also effective against mice, squirrels, raccoons, skunks, and other varmints. The best part about this product is that it uses natural ingredients to keep mice away from your home without having to use any harmful chemicals or pesticides.
Natural Armor Mice & Rat Repellent is easy to use. Just spray it in areas where mice and rats are known to be active. Spray around doors, windows, under sinks and cabinets, along baseboards, and other places where rodents might be entering your home. You can even use it on your lawn or garden — just spray around the perimeter of your property to keep rodents from getting inside!
TomCat Rodent Repellent
TomCat Rodent Repellent is made from peppermint oil, which is a chemical that does not harm humans or pets. However, it’s extremely irritating to rodents, causing them to flee from their current location to find somewhere less smelly. The peppermint oil also makes the area where it was applied smell pleasant for humans without being overpowering or offensive.
By using TomCat Rodent Repellent you can eliminate your rat problem without having to use harmful chemicals or traps that may pose a risk if they are used incorrectly or set off by children or pets who wander into your yard while they’re still active.
Victor Power Kill Humane Snap Rat Trap
Victor Power Kill Humane Snap Rat Trap is a humane way to trap and kill rats. It is made of steel, which makes it durable and sturdy. The trap has a sensitive trigger plate, which ensures that the rodent dies instantly.
The trap comes with an easy-to-see door that can be opened from either side. This allows you to easily dispose of the dead rodent without touching it.
Victor Power Kill Humane Snap Rat Trap is easy to set up and use. You just have to turn the spring-loaded handle to set the bait, place the trap in a location where there are signs of rodent activity, and wait for it to be triggered by an unsuspecting rat.
What To Do If You Find A Baby Rat – Let’s Summarize
Hand raising a baby rat can be time consuming.
If you find a baby rat or a nest of baby rats that you are sure has been abandoned, then the first thing you need to do is make sure that the babies are not in danger. They can’t take care of themselves, so if you have it in you to be a caretaker for these creatures, then you will be their only chance.
Remember, while adult rats can be dangerous, baby rats are not dangerous when they are first born. However, if they are old enough to bite or scratch, they may when you try to handle them. Keep in mind that domesticated rats and wild rats are very different.
Even a newborn baby rat may not be as docile as you might think, and you could wind up with a bite if you’re not careful. A bite from a baby rat could result in infection if you do not clean the wound carefully with hot, soapy water.
Although you may opt to care for a baby rat and raise it until it is old enough to care for itself, you should still take steps to prevent rats from coming around your home in the future.
First, make sure you store food and garbage properly. This is one of the easiest ways to prevent rats from getting into your house. Rats are attracted by food and water sources. If you keep these types of items away from your house, you will have fewer rats entering your home.
Also, make sure you use a form of pest control year-round to repel rats. Rats reproduce very quickly and they can become an infestation in no time at all if left unchecked.
It’s also important to keep up with home maintenance and yard maintenance. Rats like dark, damp places where there may be water leaking or other problems with moisture build-up in your walls or ceiling areas. Make sure that you inspect these areas regularly for any signs of water leaks or other problems that could attract rodents like mice and rats.
Outside, rats like overgrown grasses, shrubs, and trees. Trim back trees and vegetation so it’s a few feet from your home’s siding, and be sure to repair any vulnerabilities in your roof to keep rats from getting inside.
Last, if you do find a baby rat, it’s best to call around to different resources before ultimately deciding if raising a baby rat is your only option. Remember, raising a baby rat is very time-consuming. Though it can be rewarding to see a baby rat thrive, it is also highly unlikely that you will be able to keep that baby rat as a pet for long.
We hope this has been a helpful guide on what to do if you find a baby rat. Now we want to hear from you!
Have you ever found a baby rat that you attempted to raise on your own? Share your story with us in the comments.
Jack founded our blog after two decades of working in the pest control industry. His vast experience dealing with a wide array of pests allows him to diagnose issues quickly and get to the heart of pest problems quickly and effectively. He has serviced more than 2,000 homes over his career and there is hardly any pest situation that he has not seen before.