… And Then There Were Three

Our little girl Serena only has three babies to take care of now.

We had left Serena with her babies relatively undisturbed for a full 24 hours, listening from time to time for telltale squeaks of the babies. There was no reason to believe there were any problems.

Although Serena’s pregnancy was accidental, we had decided we would keep the entire litter. Mrs. Rattitude and I have read extensively about rats; about caring for pet rats; about raising rats; and, more recently about rat pregnancy. We’ve had pet rats for over three and a half years.

We were certain Serena was pregnant. We made adjustments to her diet. We made the girls habitat more young rat friendly. We read more. We researched more. We were prepared … or so we thought.

You cannot prepare for over half of a litter not surviving the initial birthing processes. You cannot prepare for two live, apparently healthy, babies to be “removed” from the nest by the mother?! Now with great and unfortunately sad expense we are learning and making every effort to gain the best of this situation.

We checked on Serena and her babies last night (April 3) to take a head count. We could find only three babies after we had coaxed Serena out for some free time, and to give her a change of pace. Two of the original surviving five are no longer to be found, the only evidence left is a dark red spot in the nesting material.

We had the cage on the bed with Serena. The top of the cage was separated from the bottom and we were carefully searching through the nest, trying not to disturb it too much but still be thorough. Serena became agitated after seeing us pawing through her nest, she jumped into the cage and grabbed one of the babies by its torso and started to take it … elsewhere?! We quickly put the cage back together and managed to settle her down enough to not rough up the babies too much.

Serena got more free range time later in the evening as being in the cage with the door closed is something she has not had to live with in months. She has not been behind closed doors since we originally brought her and her sister Samantha (“Sammy”) home.

I made a point of getting up earlier this morning to allow Serena some extra free range time. This was a good chance for her to have a visit with Sammy, as well. We separated the girls after the births due to the high mortality rate, just in case. Mother and babies seem to be doing well.

As Samantha was distracting Serena with a chase around the bed, I lightly touched each of the three babies in the corner of the cage where Serena is nesting. There were some wiggles and squeaks, and a sigh of relief from me.

This rat pregnancy does not reflect all rat pregnancies, but it does serve as a reminder that even with the best intentions, and preparedness, things can go wrong. If you are considering breeding pet rats, be absolutely certain … and remember to separate the sexes before they are older than five weeks, or you could be starting all over again.

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