Caring for Orphaned Baby Rats or Mice

Sharon Dubois
From the March/April 1997 Rat & Mouse Gazette


REHYDRATING SOLUTION - Lactated Ringers Solution from a vet or Pedialyte, a rehydrating solution for human infants found in the infant section of your local grocery store. Note that Pedialyte is only good for 24 hours after opened. Lactated Ringers solution is a better choice as it has an expiration date of six months after opening. Hint: Pedialyte can be placed in ice cube trays and frozen. The frozen cubes can then be placed in a freezer bag with the air removed. Then you can take out a cube and thaw it at room temperature as needed. Do not microwave the cubes as the solution is altered by high heat.

SYRINGE - 1cc syringe from a vet or mail order. It is preferable to have some catac nipples which fit on the tip of the syringe.


BEDDING - Soft material such as old T-shirts, baby receiving blankets, flannel, or any other cloth that will not allow their little toenails to get caught. For a single baby, a small stuffed animal will provide extra security.

ESBILAC PUPPY MILK REPLACEMENT - The powder form, not the liquid. It is manufactured by Pet-Ag and can be obtained from a pet store, veterinarian, or by mail order.

DISTILLED WATER - If the quality of your tap water is not good or you are on well water.

GRAM SCALE - It is very important not to overfeed the babies and you need to know their weight in grams to accomplish this.


Examine the baby for any wounds. If the baby has been caught by a cat, you need to get it to an exotic vet immediately. It needs to be put on an antibiotic (amoxicillin is good) as per the vet's instructions. After antibiotic treatment is finished, replenish lost gut flora with yogurt, Lactobacillus capsules/granules, or Bene-bac (made by Pet-Ag) which can be obtained from a vet or through mail order. A cat's saliva is lethal to birds and small mammals if left untreated.

Baby ADA
Photo by Grove Pashley

Baby Ada Stimulate the baby to go to the bathroom. It cannot go on its own. The mother would lick their private parts to stimulate them. Use a cotton ball (or your finger) dipped in warm water and lightly and quickly brush over their private parts. If the baby is dehydrated, it may not urinate.

If the baby has no fur or its eyes are closed, the housing must be placed on a heating pad set on LOW. Put its housing half on and half off of the heating pad. Place soft snuggly bedding in the bottom and put the baby in, then add more bedding to cover the baby. Place a cover over the housing so the heat doesn't escape. The baby must be warmed up before it will drink. Added heat would also benefit a stressed baby or a baby in shock. (ED. NOTE: Be careful not to overheat the baby, as that may also cause dehydration which could lead to death.) The babies digestive system must be given a rest before introducing it to the new formula. An added benefit is that it will be rehydrated if needed. For the first 24 hours (or at least 12 hours, depending on the condition of the baby) feed Lactated Ringers Solution or Pedialyte. Warm it as you would the formula (see below).

Weigh the baby. Divide the weight by two to get the number of ccs 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.

Mix the powdered Esbilac according to the label instructions (1 part powder to 2 parts water). When first introducing the formula, do it slowly so the little body gets used to the change. Watch for bloat. This is a digestive problem where the stomach fills with gas and is very painful. If bloat occurs, place the baby, belly down on a heating pad and massage by taking index finger and thumb and placing on both sides just below the rib cage. Gently but firmly push in and back. Keep doing this for as long as you can. Also, try the homeopathic remedy listed below. Slowly introduce Esbilac by taking 1/4 part mixed Esbilac and dilute with 3/4 parts water for a few feedings. Watch for diarrhea. If none, then take 1/2 part mixed Esbilac and dilute with 1/2 parts water for a few feedings. Watch for diarrhea. If none, then take 3/4 part mixed Esbilac and dilute with 1/4 parts water for a few feedings. Again, watch for diarrhea. If still none, then give mixed Esbilac full strength. If diarrhea occurs, then remain on the current strength and wait until it becomes normal again. If it doesn't, you need to administer some medicine (see below). Warm formula by placing it in the syringe and allowing the syringe to sit in a cup of hot tap water for a few minutes. Once the baby is established on formula, a normal stool will be mustard yellow in color. If it is not, there may be a problem. If the stool continues to look abnormal for 24 hours, take the baby to an exotics vet and have the stool checked for parasites. There may also be other problems. Remember to stimulate after every feeding. If they act fussy eating, them stimulate before as well. The baby will let you know what it wants.


Note: If you are pulling babies from a large litter where there are too many babies for the mother to handle, allow the babies to receive the mothers milk for the first 48 hours. This milk is called Colostrum which contains natural antibodies from the mother used to build up the baby's immune system. If need be, remove some of the babies, keeping them on heat and allow some to nurse, and then switch.


0 - 1 week

6 - 8

1 to 2-1/2 hours
+1 night

1 - 2 weeks

5 - 6

3 to 4 hours
+ night

2 - 3 weeks


4 to 5 hours
(no night)

4 weeks

Can add a few pinches of crushed rodent blocks and may give small pieces of peeled apple or peeled grape to practice gnawing food.

5 weeks

Make rodents blocks available at all times and add other fruits and vegetables.

6 - 7 weeks

Rodent blocks should be the main staple of the diet as formula feeding decrease.

Weaning should be a gradual process. It is not necessary to adhere to the table as every baby is different.


  1. Use cold water to mix Esbilac.
  2. Warm only the amount you need to feed.
  3. Mixed formula can be used for 24 hours. After that, new formula should be mixed. Keep unused formula refrigerated.
  4. Keep opened can of Esbilac in the refrigerator.
  5. Warm your hands by running under hot water before feeding newborns.
  6. Feed the baby in an upright position, body perpendicular and chin parallel to the floor. Support the lower body with the palm of your hand and hold the head steady with your thumb and forefinger just behind the jaw. An older baby may choose his or her own position of choice.
  7. Carefully control the pressure on the feeding syringe to avoid aspiration. This is when formula goes into the lungs and comes out of the nose.
  8. Introduce one new solid food at a time to monitor any adverse reactions to the food.
  9. Sterilize the feeding syringes by soaking in Nolvasan (from a vet or mail order) between feeding, or by placing in boiling water at the beginning of each day.

SPECIAL NOTE: If the baby refuses to drink, it must be given Lactated Ringers Solution by injection. The baby should be given the fluids under the skin, but you should learn how to do this from a vet before attempting it yourself. You will have to get the Lactated Ringers Solution from your vet anyway. If the baby is not given fluids, it will become dehydrated.


AMOXICILLIN - good for upper respiratory or cat bites.

PEPTO BISMO - can be used for persistent diarrhea. The lowest dosage I have available is for a weight between 15 - 40 grams. The dosage would be .1 cc up to three times in 24 hours. Anything smaller than this, consult a vet. It may not be feasible to use on such a small baby. Once the stool becomes normal, stop giving the Pepto.

HOMEOPATHIC MEDICINES - These can be obtained from a health food store and come in tiny sugar pellets. They are based on lactose or sucrose. Select the lactose as it is easier to crush. They come in different potencies. The most common is 30c. Crush the pellet, mix with a small amount of water (just enough to dissolve the pellet), put in a dropper and administer (it tastes good!). Do not give the formula. The mouth should be clean. Try to administer at least 15 minutes before or after feeding. Try not to handle the pellets. These remedies are very safe and unlike antibiotics, once results are seen, treatment can be stopped. Here are just a few you may find useful.

  1. Diarrhea - ARSENICUM ALBUM 30c between feedings.
  2. Injury/Shock/Trauma - ARNICA 30c every 5 minutes for trauma, otherwise four times per day.
  3. General Infant Remedy - CHAMOMILLA 30c four times per day.
  4. Bloating - LYCOPODIUM 30c four times per day.


UPCO: 1-800-254-8726 Good source for Pet-Ag products.

HEALTH CARE LOGISTICS: 1-800-848-1633 Good source for syringes.

KV VET SUPPLY: 1-800-423-8211 Good source for general pet products.

SUMMIT PET PRODUCTS: 1-800-882-9410 For catac nipples (Item #10-13 small. $2.50 for 3 pack).

For further help or questions, contact Sharon Dubois at (972) 664-1805 or Email sharon@wildrehab.com