An Amazing Journey
A rat's gestation period is only 21 to 24 days long. In that short period of time, a new life is created and is ready to come out and meet the world. When a rat is born, its eyes and ears are closed, and it relies on its mother for warmth, nutrition, protection, and even to help move bowels and urine. They are pretty feeble when they arrive. On this page, I documented a litter of rats on their journey from naked, eeping blobs of pink to fully furred, curious creatures. The litter pictured directly below was born on March 8, 2011 at four o'clock in the afternoon. I picked a random male and female pup and marked their tails with food coloring so the same rats could be followed for the entire period. There are also pictures to help sex young rats, which is fairly easy once you figure out the differences. There are also pictures to help determine the difference in coat, ear type, and colors, but those pups were from a different litter as this one was standard everything.
Photos taken March 9, 2011---As you can see from the pictures, they don't quite look like rats at this point. Their skin is pink with no sign of future markings or colors. You can look at the eyes and figure out what some possibilities may be, though. All of the pups in this litter have dark eyes, probably black with a possibility of dark ruby. If the eyes are pink, or light ruby, they are harder to see under the skin at this point. Their ears are completely closed and they rely on scent and touch to find their way around. Their skin is translucent and many of their organs can be seen clearly through their skin. When they eat, their stomach is very visibly as a yellowish white half moon in their side. This is known as the milk band, and it lets the breeder know that mama rat is doing a good job of keeping her babies' tummies full.
Photos taken March 10, 2011---In these photos, you can see that the skin is beginning to change colors from a bright pinkish-red to a softer pink. Markings are barely visible at this point, but some are defined enough to make an educated guess as to adult markings. The skin is becoming thicker and less transparent, and the digits on the paw are becoming more pronounced. Ears and eyes remain closed. Whiskers are growing longer and coat type can be determined by an experienced breeder at this point. Both of these pups are standard coated and standard eared. Looking at the pictures, you can also see that the pups have really grown overnight.
Photos taken March 11, 2011---On day three, the markings have really darkened up with darker colored pups. It's possible to venture a guess with markings now, though more darkening and lightening will occur over the next two days, and it's not as easy on lighter dilute varieties. The whiskers have grown extensively overnight and coat type is easily distinguishable, even for the novice enthusiast. The fingers and toes have grown longer, and nails are easy to see at the tips. The haven't separated yet, but will do so soon. The ears are starting to unfold from the head and sometimes pop out to the sides, like with the face picture of the male above. The skin becomes less transparent, and their eyes are the only part of the inner body that is still easily seen. The noses are starting to take more of a shape and they are finally starting to look like rats!
Pictures taken March 12, 2011---There is a noticeable change in the pups between day three and day four. A thin coat of hair has sprouted up, and the markings are nearly as clear as they will get before the full coat comes in. The fingers are almost completely separated and the nails are much longer today. Whiskers are easy to see, and the faces are really starting to shape up. A slit is beginning to form on the eyes, though they won't open for days yet. They still rely on mom for temperature, potty needs, and nutrition, though mom can safely spend time away from the nest for longer periods, as long as the pups don't become chilled. The pups aren't very active, but they're starting to explore the nest a little bit with their noses, though they won't choose to venture out of it just yet.
Pictures were taken on March 13, 2011---As you can see, there really hasn't been much of a change between day 4 and day 5, but these babies have already come a long way in just five days. Take a moment to look back at the day one picture. The differences are astonishing! These pups are finally starting to look like real rats. Their fuzzy newborn coat is coming in much thicker, but the belly will remain fuzzless for a few more days. As you can see, their fingers and toes are more separated, and their markings are very dark. They have become much more active and are more difficult to keep still for photos. Their whiskers have lengthened and their ears are unfolding and will soon open. Their eyes still have a ways to go, however, and will remained shut for the time being. Now they are finally starting to get the cute factor!
Starting on day five, the markings are really clear, and by this point, I can usually figure out what their adult markings will be. For example, the male will most likely be a variegated hooded and the female will most likely be a bareback. The colors for both will be black.
Pictures taken March 14, 2011---As you can probably tell, not much happened between day five and day six. The fur is getting thicker and they are gaining weight at a steady pace, though nearly all development is starting to slow down considerably. The eyes remain closed, and teeth are just below the surface, though they haven't broken through yet. The nails are considerably more prominent and they look like tiny rats now.
Pictures taken March 15, 2011---Now the fur is thick enough to determine colors, even most of the tougher dilutes. They're starting to get fatter, and mom is spending more time away from the nest, enjoying time away from her babies. They're much more active now and will wiggle when you pick them up, especially if startled. Still no noticeable teeth yet, but they'll poke through the surface very soon. Other than that, it's just a matter of the fur growing out and putting on weight for the babies at this point. Oh! And making really cute pictures!
Pictures taken March 16, 2011---There are a few changes happening from day 7 to day 8. The fur is considerably thicker, the darks are darker, and the lights are lighter. The white is really showing up nicely now. They're able to find their way back to the nest if mom drags them along when she leaves to eat or use the bathroom. They tend to squirm quite a bit more when held as well. Also, as you can see from the picture directly above, the teeth have finally broken through the surface, but just barely. These are the lower incisors and will grow much longer than the upper incisors. They start out white, but will turn yellow by three weeks of age. This is normal, as all rats have a yellow pigmentation to their teeth.
Pictures taken March 17, 2011---Everything is growing at a slower pace now. The fur continues to thicken, the teeth continue to break through, and the ears start to unfold more. It will still be three to five more days until the eyes begin to open, but that doesn't stop them from exploring! They will crawl a little ways away from the nest in search of mom if they're hungry and she hasn't returned. As you can see from the bottom picture, the markings have darkened up considerably.
Pictures taken March 18, 2011--- Things are pretty much at a stand still regarding major changes. The pups aren't quite getting up to crawl yet, and still kind of drag along, though they are more active than they were yesterday (as you can see from the boy's blurry pic *sorry*). Mom is able to spend time away for as long as two hours at a time, and she really enjoys the break.
Pictures taken March 19, 2011---The pups are now too squirmy to hold in my hand for pictures. They just walk right off the edge. They're starting to pick up their bellies as they walk along, as you can see in the female's picture. I took side shots of the faces so that you can see how much longer their noses have gotten, even overnight! The eyes and ears will begin to open over the next few days, and the pups will continue to move around more and gain strength in their growing muscles.
Pictures taken March 20, 2011---On day twelve, the pups really start using their neck muscles more. They lift their heads and smell all the new smells. The teeth are very visible now as well and can clearly be seen. The pups also start trying to clean themselves, though they aren't very effective at this point. The fur has come in on their bellies. Their ears are opening up and they can hear sounds!
Photos taken March 21, 2011---Some of their littermates have started opening their eyes, but these two haven't yet. Growing continues, but the pups still stick close to the nest. Mom spends more time away from them to groom, eat, and relax. They're still entirely dependent on her milk, and she nurses them several times a day.
Pictures taken March 22, 2011---On day fourteen, the eyes are finally starting to open. The female's eyes opened today, but the male had one eye open and one eye mostly still closed. Even though they can detect light and movement now, their vision is still very blurry. It will be a few days before they can see more clearly. They now leave the nest to go exploring, but they still stick close to home.
Photos made March 23, 2011---All of the pups have open eyes now, and they're much brighter today. Their faces seem to have filled out overnight and they're even cuter now. Their confidence is growing and they will even play a little amongst themselves.
Pictures made March 24, 2011---It's pretty impossible to hold them and get a good shot of their faces now. They're very wiggly and they want to explore! They're a bit more alert but still don't see well, and they prefer low lighting. Bright lights bother their newly opened eyes. They're developing their personalities now and testing the world with their developing senses.
Photos taken March 25, 2011---The pups are now tiny versions of what they will one day look like. Their eyes are looking much clearer and rounder today. Keeping them in one place for pictures is a real feat. They're exploring and popcorning all over the place! The teeth are now considerably longer and much easier to see. The upper incisors can even be seen now as well.
Pictures made March 26, 2011---The pups can now see very clearly and are bright eyed and bushy tailed when they're out for play time. Changes in appearance are now pretty minute, but changes in temperament are pretty extreme. They've started to develop personalities all their own. Some are more timid than others. Some will explore anything, no matter the danger.
Photos made March 27, 2011---The pups are difficult to photograph now. Cicero, the male, just wants to run back to me and sit in my lap! The female just wants to run wherever she can. They're almost three weeks old, and while their motor skills are improving daily, they still aren't as sure footed as their mother and will walk right off the edge of anything without even missing a beat.
Pictures taken March 28, 2011---The cuteness is now growing exponentially. These little guys are exploring the world and now have little fear about anything. Taking these pictures is increasingly difficult because they are literally all over the place. They're now nibbling solid food, though Jazz still lets them nurse a few times a day. They still have a lot of growing to do before they reach maturity in a few months, but that's the end of this photo journey!
Sexing Young Rats
Sexing newborn and young pups is pretty simple once you know what to look for. Shown below are pictures of their genitals at various stages of growth. As you will see, there are differences that help determine sex correctly.
These photos were taken 24 hours after birth. One major difference at this stage is the distance from the genitals to the anus. The small nub on the male is his penis. The nub on the female is her urethra. Her vagina is just below this nub, but it's sealed at this stage in life and won't open for several weeks. In the male, the distance between genitals and anus is nearly twice as long as the female. The female's genitals are much closer to the anus. Also, if you look closely, that "distance" is a little puffy on the male. This is where his testicles will be when they descend.
The pictures above were taken seventy-two hours after birth. The only distinguishing factor at this point is the puffy scrotum on the male. The males genitals are also a little bigger, and experienced breeders can just glance and decide male or female correctly. The distance from the genitals to the anus is still longer in the male, but it seems less noticeable as the pups age.
The pictures above were taken seven days after birth. The distance between genitals and anus is more similar than it has been, and differentiating sexes now may be difficult for a novice. Generally, the female will have a line which runs from her vagina to her anus, and the male has a puffy scrotum in the same area. Some people say that you can sex a rat by the presence or lack of nipples, but this isn't always accurate because males will occasionally have nipples.
In my opinion, ear type is one of the hardest things to determine in rats younger than one week old. It is possible, though, if you've had enough experience. Standard ears will tip upwards slightly, while dumbo ears have a slight downward tip. Dumbo ears are also set lower on the head than standard ears, but while the body is developing rapidly in the first week, this can be hard to see. It's also important to hold the heads in the same manner and at the same angle when comparing ears. Certain positions can make a standard look like a dumbo and vice versa.
Coat type is very simple to determine, and at an early age. At just five days of age, the whiskers are long enough and defined enough to determine what the adult coat type will be. Standard coats produce perfectly straight whiskers. Velveteen produces slightly wavy whiskers. Rex and mock hairless produce very kinky and curly whiskers.