In this post I'm going to cover the development of Deadpool's first litter, from birth to day 10.
This will be a fairly image heavy post as I tried to accurately and thoroughly document their growth process. Hope you enjoy!
They're not the prettiest little things fresh out of the oven, but they make the cutest little peeps and squeaks! One thing that consistently came up when I was researching rat pregnancy and birth was that when the moment comes, you'll usually hear the babies before you realise it's already happened. Both Antho and I had been out of the house and when we got back we were surprised to find a few little warm and squishy things squeaking under Deadpool when we checked on her. We set her up in a clean aquarium tank with lots of shredded paper for nesting materials and she went about doing her mama business right away. It's recommended to separate the rats from their cagemates a day or two before labor begins, but aside from an occasional tussle for dominance the girls had gotten along fine. Even so, we separated Deadpool and her babies for the first couple days just to be safe.
Dead pool is still a bit protective and doesn't appreciate having her babies manhandled, so we tried to keep the disruption minimal. The little yellow spots in their tummies is milk, so it's easy to check if everyone's getting fed well. Their fingers and toes are barely defined little nubs still and they're almost completely hairless aside from a few short whiskers.
Their skin has grown a little lighter in colour and slightly more opaque but not much else has changed. Ripley has been reintroduced into the cage with Deadpool and shows little to no interest what-so-ever in the pinkies.
By this stage we're starting to be able to see a little bit of light colour on the babies, giving us a hint as to what their patterns are going to be like when they grow up! I'd taken more photos outside the cage but lost them when I rebooted my computer..womp.
A few of them have little white spots or blazes on their faces! How cute!
While they're still not stable on their feet, they're starting to wriggle around a little more and it's getting harder to keep them still for photos. The tips of their ears are starting to stick out from the side of their heads. They should all have low-set, large dumbo ears since both parents had them.
By now their ears are definitely starting to stick out and their little digits are starting to look more like real rat hands and feetsies.
By now their patterns are definitely visible, with the dark coloured babies looking especially pretty. Their thin coats have a nice satin-like sheen to them and they're starting to actually resemble little rats, though from some angles they look like little seals! They're definitely getting harder to keep still and have started trying to lift their heads up high while they wiggle around. Still quite squeaky!
They've started exploring their environment a little, crawling out of the nest or across my hand when I hold them but they're far from nimble. I've been trying to hold them several times a day now to ensure they get comfortable with human handling and to familiarise them with my scent. Our other female, Ripley, has been showing more interest in them now and I've found some of the babies curled up next to her outside their nest. While opinions vary about housing two pregnant does in the same cage, we've had no real problems. Initially Deadpool was a little defensive but the girls sorted it out with the usual bit of wrestling and submissive squeaking. No one was harmed. Also, at this stage Deadpool has shown more interest in leaving the nest herself. I've found her cuddled up with her sister instead of the babies and she's been eager to climb up my arm when given the chance. She's also resumed her peculiar habit of standing on the rim of the dish she's eating out of.
Their whiskers are getting long while their fur is getting thicker by the day!
The bigger ones are starting to hold their head up and crawl with intention though they still can't see.
Meanwhile, our other doe Ripley had a litter of 7 pinkies this morning, so I thought for comparison sake it'd be interesting to see the newborns next to a 10 day old:
Again I've separated the girls. While Ripley hadn't shown much interest in Deadpool's litter, the reverse has not been true. Deadpool tried to pick up one of Ripley's little newborns and carry it off, which could lead to the girls having a deadly tug-of-war with the infant's life at stake. It's earlier than I'd wanted to be transferring DP & her litter to the fortress of squeaktitude, as I'd hoped to wait until her kits opened their eyes before rehoming them, but it's likely safer for all the rats involved.
So, there you have it!
10 days worth of rat growth and development.