I pop Xia back in with her cagemates while I take a first good look at the babies. This turns out not to be the kindness I intend, as Xia is in post partum oestrus (the first season that closely follows giving birth) and the other girls take this as an invitation to chase and mock mate her. If she was still living with a buck it’s possible that she could become pregnant again straight away, which wouldn’t be best for the well being of her or her little ones.

Handle babies. Gets them used to people and makes mum lick them, which makes them less stress sensitive when they get older.

There are twelve little ones, a nice manageable number as most female rats have six pairs of nipples, and there seem to be four males and eight females. All look healthy and strong, with no obvious runt, and most of the babies have white milk bands showing they’re feeding well. The litter weighs 70 grams in total, or about 5.8 grams each.

The babies all have very fine straight whiskers, as neither of the parents is rex coated. A rat’s whiskers are incredibly sensitive, so it makes me wonder whether the babies first begin to make sense of their world using their whiskers before the other senses of hearing and sight open up to them.

Translucent food 1 day old