Rodents: Orphan Babies

Orphan Babies

Every once in awhile a mommy will die or abandon it’s helpless babies. It’s hard to know what to do in a situation like that, but making the decision now may be able to help in a very stressful moment.

Caring for Orphaned Baby Rodents.

Every once in awhile a mommy rat or other rodent will die or abandon it’s helpless babies, and leave you with the option of trying to raise them yourself, or putting them swiftly out of their misery, (RMCA article on euthanasia). It’s impossible to think that you can provide all the special care that their mother might give them, but hopefully this will help you give them the best that you can.


If the babies are not fully furred and with eyes open, you’ll need to find a sterile eyedropper or needle-less syringe to feed them with. I’ll include a homemade recipe for feeding baby rodents, but if you don’t have the time to make it yourself, the next best thing is probably human infant formula. Something like Esbilac, the kind you can pick up at the supermarket. The puppy or kitten formula you find at pet shops are based on a carnivores diet, so it doesn’t give baby rodents a very good balance. If the babies are very dehydrated, try offering them a little Lactated Ringers Solution from a vet or Pedialyte (a rehydrating solution for human infants found in the infant section of your local grocery store). Warm up the liquid so when you drop some on your wrist it feels just a little warm, but not hot.

Baby Rodent Formula

Here’s a basic formula that can be used for most rodent babies that still have their eyes sealed. (Use blender to liquefy the following ingredients) 1 cup of fresh goat’s milk or 2% cow’s milk 1/2 teaspoon of sunflower oil 1/2 teaspoon of yogurt (make sure it has Acidophilus as an ingredient) A drop of Nutra-Cal (available in petstores) Weigh the baby. Divide the weight by two to get the number of cc’s to feed. For example, if the baby weighs 6 grams, you will feed .3 cc. If the baby weighs 7.7 grams, you will feed .38 cc. Continue to weigh daily and keep records. A decrease in weight may occur until the baby is established on the formula. After that, there should be a steady increase in weight. After EVERY meal you’ll need to stimulate the baby to use the bathroom by gently stroking the genitals with a dampened cloth or cotton swab. Then give the baby a gentle, full body massage, starting with the nose and moving backwards towards the genitals, to encourage proper blood flow. If you don’t give this full body massage with each meal, the baby can die of toxicity poisoning, so it’s VERY important. Once they have all their fur, and are starting to wander around the cage, then you can add the following to their diet: Heavy grain wheat bread dipped in milk lab blocks soaked in milk until they are soft Bottled water (unless you are sure that your tap is safe) in a water bottle hung in their cage When their eyes open they should start eating a basic adult diet of seeds and such in a shallow food dish, supplemented 2-3 times daily by milk dipped wheat bread until they are about three or four weeks old.


Baby rodents are born blind and hairless, so they will require a safe and warm place where they can sleep and grow. A ten gallon tank with a heating pad under one end is a good start. Then wad up a small towel to make a “nest” for the baby(s) to cuddle down into, and sleep in. Make sure that the towel is thin enough to allow heat to come up from the pad, but thick enough to keep them from getting too hot. Reptile heat pads can get way too hot if not kept on a low temperature, or too little padding is used between the pad and the babies. If the babies eyes are still closed, they should be given some sort of a “cover” to shield them from strong lights. A box house should work if it allows good ventilation. If you use wood shavings in the remaining portion of the cage, they should be aspen, paper based, or hay. Try to avoid Cedar or Pine.

Special needs

Babies can be lifted gently to clean out cage or for feeding, but try to keep them out of bright lights until they are fully furred out and their eyes are starting to open. Pinkies may become chilled very quickly if not in contact with a heat source, so keep them under your shirt, against your belly if you have to hold them for any extended period away from the heating pad.

Pet Dog or Cat

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