How to feed Orphaned Baby Rats or Mice

By Lindsay Pulman with notes & photos by Lisa Dunsey

Call the pet stores to see if any of them have nursing moms with young pinkies, as rats will take in other rat babies very easily. That may be your best option - either buy the nursing Mom with the idea that you can return her with her own pups, or see if they will take in your pinkies and place them with the nursing Mom.

Or, you can hand raise them but it takes a lot of work.


Some females will not lay on the babies and nurse when there is anyone watching. we had one like that - she could hear us coming in the room and would, in a flash, be on top of the box guarding it. We thought she was never on the pups - but, on day three, we picked her up out of there with a towel she was not friendly) and checked each baby, and they all had little crescent milk bellies.

Are you sure there are no milk bellies? if not, get to the store asap and get human soy based infant formula or go to the pet store for kitten milk replacer, get the kind in the small can that is already liquid. All pet stores carry it. You can also buy the powder type & mix it yourself.

You will also need:

(1) A one-ml syringe or a small dropper (1 ml syringe preferred, the drops are smaller).

(2) A box lined with a towel, and a liter plastic pop bottle that you can fill with hot water - cover with a thin towel to allow heat through.

(3) Some Q-tips and a small bowl of warm tap water.

(4) Some Kleenex

Directions to Feed: Warm a small amount of kitten milk replacer or human soy-based infant formula in the microwave until JUST skin temperature. NO warmer than that.

Take a baby, and hold her in the palm of your hand, curled around her, and drop a single drop of milk into one of the creases, near her mouth - she must suckle the milk from your skin.

An alternate position is to hold the baby in your fist, upright, head up, with the mouth near the top of your curled index finger - and place one small drop of milk at a time on the flesh of your index finger, right by her mouth. Once they learn the milk is there they will eagerly suckle it from your skin. The excess can just run down the inside of your hand.

NEVER TRY TO PUT THE MILK DIRECTLY INTO THE BABIES MOUTH WITH THE SYRINGE OR DROPPER. They easily inhale milk if you try this, and once milk gets in the lungs, you will have a serious pneumonia, the baby will die.

Also be careful to not get milk over the nostrils, they don't know to sneeze out, and may suck it in - same result, pneumonia. Let the baby suckle it from your skin which is almost like them nursing on that tiny nipple on Mom's skin.

At the beginning each baby will hopefully eat between .1 and .2 ml, a very tiny amount. You will be doing well.

They must be fed every 2 hours or as close to that as possible. Or, set the alarm to allow 3 hours of sleep and then get up and feed again, for the first week. They will gradually increase the amount they are eating at each feeding.

After each feeding - this is a must - moisten a Q-tip in the warm water and gently roll and stroke that Q-tip over the genital area - both the urinary opening and the anal opening, to stimulate peeing and pooping. You will be able to tell instantly that you have succeeded, the Q-tip will turn yellow.

At the end of the feed, if you can see some milk in the belly you will be doing okay.

Keep them warm, very important. If they are cold, they will not even digest what they take in.

Take the whole litter out at one time, and nestle them under towels next to an object - along the water bottle, or a bowl set out for this purpose.

Keep track of who was fed and who needs it - place one bunch on one side of the object, and the other bunch on the other side.

Keep the cage very warm and dark. Gallon plastic jugs filled with HOT water, around the outside of the cage, then drape towels over the cage. Always put the babies back in the nest, together, after feeding.

Mom may very well turn into a good Mom if you can just keep them alive in the meanwhile. If not, with enough dedication and doing the procedures right, you will be able to hand raise all of them yourself. I have done it twice.

During the second week, you can back off the feedings a little - feed every 3 ot 4 hours all day long, and get up once during the night.

If you take them out for a feed, and they have visible mild milk bands before you start, Mom may be feeding them!

Don't give up. Give it a try, it is one of the most rewarding things to do ... save those little lives.

Additional notes from Lisa Dunsey:

The only thing I would add is when Lindsay actually visited my shelter demonstrating the exact technique she describes in this e-mail on how to feed the babies, Lindsay had a little one that after eating didn't make her waste on the Q-tip. So they don't necessary do it every time you try to get them to go to the bathroom.

Had I not seen Lindsay doing it and then the little one not wanting to go potty I would have thought I did something wrong. Since it was Lindsay and she even said something about the baby not wanting to potty I knew for future feedings of the babies that they may not go even with help from us with the Q-tip. So every feeding I would do the Q-tip after feeding but not necessarily would the babies make waste. In closing though you should always try to make them pass waste each time you are feeding them.

Supplies needed to feed orphaned baby Rats or Mice :

- KMR or Soy based infants formula

- Luke warm water

- Q tips

- 1 ml Syringe

Baby rats sucking formula from hand

Use q-tip w luke warm water to clean baby's private parts to help baby make waste.