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Baby Rats: Life Cycle, Appearance, Dangers & Care

Baby rats are born hairless with pink skin and are called pinkies. They are also born with their eyes closed and short tails. After three weeks, the babies have hair, open eyes, and leave the nest at five weeks of age. Their tails grow with their bodies.

Most animals are cute when they are babies, including rats and mice. 

Adult rats have short fur, sometimes in several colors, tiny feet, and pink tails, but rat babies look completely different.

Baby rats are born bald. They have a pink color or pink with dark spots and have velvety skin. 

They depend on their mothers for protection and food until five weeks of age, after which they are ready to fend for themselves.

In this article, you will find out what a rat baby looks like, what a baby mouse looks like, what the life cycle of rats is, what the dangers baby rats are exposed to, and much more.

What Is a Baby Rat Called?

A baby rat is called a kitten or pup. They are also called pinkies due to their pink skin when they are born.

Baby rats are usually referred to as pups or kittens. It is a common name for baby animals, as many other baby animals are also called this:

  • Skunks
  • Otters
  • Foxes

Baby rats are also called pinkies due to their pink and hairless skin when they are born. People who sell baby rats as reptile food usually refer to them as pinkies, and they are sold frozen. 

This way, the buyer knows how old or what size they are. Baby rats grow their hair out at around 2-3 weeks of age, whereafter they are no longer referred to as pinkies, but rats.[1]

Male adult rats are called bucks, while female rats are called does. Pregnant females are called dams or moms.

What Is a Baby Rat Called

What Do Baby Rats Look Like?

Baby rats are hairless at birth with closed eyes and short tails. The skin is velvety, and the head and legs are larger in proportion to the body.

Baby rats are born without hair with their eyes closed. Most baby rats have pink skin at birth, but their skin can also be pigmented with dark spots.

Rat pups are also born with short tails. These grow as their body grows, and reach their full length after about three weeks.

Their fur starts to grow at around two weeks of age, and their eyes open at about three weeks. Around the age of three weeks, baby rats are also weaned and start eating solid food.

Related: Do Rats Lay Eggs?

Rat ageAppearance
NewbornNewborn rats are hairless with pink skin. Their tails are short, and their eyes are closed. They can also have dark spots. They are about two inches in length (5 cm).
2-week-old ratAt two weeks old, rats start growing hair.
3-week-old ratRats open their eyes after about three weeks. They are also slightly larger than at birth.
6-week-old ratAt six weeks old, they reach the juvenile stage. At this point, their fur coat is fully grown, and they have doubled in size to about four inches (10 cm).
9-week-old ratWhen they reach nine weeks of age, rats are considered adults. They are not fully grown yet, as they grow for up to seven to nine months.

How Big Are Baby Rats?

Baby rats are born at about two inches (~5 cm), reaching up to four inches (~10 cm) in the juvenile stage.

Adult rats can reach 10 inches (25 cm) without the tail. Their tail is often as long as the length of their body.

Related Article: How Big Do Rats Get?

How Big Are Baby Rats

What Does a Young Rat Look Like?

After three weeks of age, rats are no longer considered babies but young or juvenile rats. They have fur, fully open eyes, and long tails. A young rat looks like a miniature adult rat.

Rats grow rapidly, and at six weeks of age, they become sexually mature (especially males). Social maturity is reached around the age of six months.[2]

What Does a Baby Mouse Look Like?

Baby mice are born hairless and blind. They have soft skin and long tails. Their hair begins to grow at around two weeks of age, as for rats. Baby mice can measure approximately one inch long at birth.

People often confuse baby mice and baby rats.

Baby mice are tinier than baby rats, having about one inch in length at birth (~2.5 cm) and three inches (~7 cm) in the juvenile stage.

They are also called pups or kittens and are similar to rats. They are pink and hairless, and their eyes are closed at birth.

Apart from the size, another aspect that differentiates mice from rats is the length of the tail. Baby mice are born with long tails (at least as long as their bodies).

What Does a Baby Mouse Look Like

Baby Rat Life Cycle

Rats reach sexual maturity around six weeks of age. Female rats can give birth to 5-14 chicks per litter or even more. A wild rat lives on average 1-1.5 years and a pet between 2-3 years.

Rats go through three life stages:

  • Baby rats
  • Juvenile rats/Young adult
  • Adult rats
Rat’s Life StageAge
Babies0-42 days
Young adults/Juvenile42-63 days
Adults>63 days

Female rats wean their babies at three weeks of age. At six weeks, the pups are ready for reproduction.

Rats can give birth to an average of 5-14 pups per litter, but there are cases when they a litter contains 18 babies. Gestation in rats lasts 21-23 days, and females can become pregnant again two days after giving birth.

If you keep both sexes as pets, breeders and vets recommend separating them as soon as they become sexually mature or sterilizing the males if you do not want rat pups.

You should give your pet female rats a recovery period of at least two months until the next pregnancy.[4]

Their total life cycle takes place over 1-1.5 years in the wild, while pet rats live for 2-3 years.

Related Article: Rat Lifespan: How Long Do Rats Live?

Baby Rat Life Cycle
Image Source

How Fast Do Baby Rats Grow?

Baby rats grow fast. Rats are animals with a very active metabolism, meaning they live life at an accelerated pace.

They have a much faster pace of life compared to humans. One month of a rat’s life is equivalent to 2.5 years of humans.[5]

Baby rats reach sexual maturity and can reproduce at six weeks of age.

When Can Baby Rats Eat Solid Food?

Baby rats are weaned at the age of three weeks. At this age, most pups stop feeding on their mother’s milk and start eating solid food. Some rats feed on solid food and milk until five weeks of age.

How Long Do Baby Rats Stay With Their Parents?

Baby rats leave their nest when they are five weeks of age or more. That is the time when they are consuming solid food and can survive on their own.

Baby rats spend their time with their mother. She is the one who feeds and protects them. According to studies, male rats do not show spontaneous infant care.[6]

How Long Do Baby Rats Stay With Their Parents

What Sounds Do Baby Rats Make?

Baby rats communicate through elaborate high-pitched squeals and squeaks.These sounds are often so high that the human ear cannot perceive them.

Baby rats love to communicate and play with their siblings. They communicate through high-pitched sounds such as squeals and squeaks.[7]

Adult rats communicate in other ways as well. They show they are scared or hurt through chirps and hisses.[8]

Most of the time, people with rat infestations hear scratches and movement, but not the sounds rats produce. Rat sounds are so high that people can’t hear them.

Dangers for Baby Rats

Baby rats are exposed to many dangers, such as malnutrition or predators. They are also in danger if their mother doesn’t take care of them. Rat pups depend on their mother for up to five weeks.

The most common dangers to which baby rats are exposed are:

  • Malnutrition
  • Abandonment
  • Predators
  • Diseases


Baby Rats Malnutrition
Image Source

There are cases when the female’s milk is not very nutritious, resulting in malnourished pups.

A study where lactating females were given a low-protein diet showed the pups developed locomotor problems, decreased activity, and behavioral changes (they rarely left the nest).[9]


If their mother abandons them for one reason or another, baby rats can die of cold or malnutrition. 

If another lactating female is around she can nurture the orphans and protect them.


Whether they are babies or adults, rats are hunted by predators. If the nest in which the rat babies are living is exposed or compromised, there is a big chance that predators will hunt them.

Here are the most common rat predators:

  • Cats
  • Dogs
  • Snakes
  • Lizards
  • Hawks
  • Owls
  • Crows

Related article: What Animals Eat Rats? 39 Natural Rat Predators in the Wild

Baby Rats Predators


Rats are resistant animals in terms of disease, but some illnesses still affect them.

Baby rats can get sick from cold or humidity and develop respiratory infections. Respiratory diseases are the most common diseases observed in rats.

Adult female rats are more likely to develop mammary tumors than males.

How to Take Care of a Pet Baby Rat

Rats that do not yet eat solid food should be fed slowly and frequently with milk. They should also be kept warm and kept from air currents, especially when they don’t have fur. Wipe their private parts with a damp cloth or napkin to encourage them to urinate and defecate after eating.

Did you find a rat baby and don’t know how to take care of it? Or are your baby rats suddenly orphans? 

Here are some tips that will help you take care of your unweaned baby rats:

  • Keep a warm and dry environment at all times.
  • Feed slowly with warm milk every three hours a day.
  • Feed once a night.
  • Wipe the private parts with a damp cloth or napkin to help them urinate after eating.

The number of meals per day decreases with age.

After the weaning period ends at three weeks, feed the rats solid food: fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, and meat.


What Do You Do if You Find Baby Rats?

If you find baby rats and want to help them survive, build an environment that is warm and dry and feed them often and slowly with warm milk until they are fully weaned (at three weeks of age). Feed the baby rats every three hours during the daytime and one time per night.

How Do I Differentiate a Baby Rat From a Baby Mouse?

Baby rats and baby mice are similar. To differentiate them, look at the size. Baby rats are about two inches at birth, while baby mice are about one inch in length. Another difference between these two species is the tail. Baby rats have short tails, while mice are born with long tails (as long as their body).

What Time of Year Are Baby Rats Born?

Baby rats are born throughout the year as females are in heat every few days, being polyestrous animals. Gestation lasts about three weeks, and two days after birth they can reproduce again. Rats prefer not to mate in the cold season.

About Iulia Mihai (DVM)

Dr. Iulia is a certified veterinarian with more than 10 years of experience in the field. With extensive knowledge of diet, care, and medication, she helps Misfit Animals provide readers with accurate knowledge on technical topics.

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