Wildlife rehabilitation is formally a process that includes taking care of sick, injured or orphaned animals in order to eventually take them back to the wilderness when they are capable of taking care of themselves. However, when it comes to rats, the situation is complicated and isn’t easily handled.
Rats are considered a big nuisance and a health hazard in cities, and there are conflicting attitudes when it comes to the wildlife rehabilitation of rats. Is it safe to release them somewhere in the wilderness? There are some scientific discoveries that say unless you take them more than 25-30 miles into the wilderness, they will simply return back (to the human habitat) and continue with their old life. Rats can be carriers of several dangerous diseases that can cause serious consequence for people if they contract any of these.
When you look online, you will discover specific advice on how to personally care for orphaned rat babies – if you are sure that their mother is dead and if there is no other rodent mother near that could adopt them and feed them with her babies. This indicates that it is a better solution to do the rehabilitation yourself, if you don't want young rats to meet a terrible destiny, because many wildlife rehabilitation centers feed rats with the intention to sell them to a zoo or pet shop as fresh food for snakes or owls.
However, if you find an injured rat, it is always better to contact a wildlife rehabilitation center because they have the necessary medical expertise to care for it. You will probably not be able to help it. If you have found rat babies, then don't move them or touch them – their mother will probably return to them soon. She can't be with the babies all the time because she has to go out and find food for herself. If you touch the babies, she will smell your scent on them and will know that the nest is no longer secure, so she will probably move them to another location.
If you are certain that the babies are without a mother but you don't want to care for them yourself, then contact a wildlife rehabilitation center. They will try to feed them with a formula specifically designed for these small rodents and nurture them as well because small rats need lots of care to grow and to be able to become independent (this process takes about a month to a month and a half from the day of the birth).
Go back to the How to Get Rid of Rats page or email us if you have any other questions about What do wildlife rehabilitators do with rats?
We are the Pest Education Network, a non-profit organization that focuses on wildlife and pest removal education. Our approach utilizes Integrated Pest Management, a strategy advocating prevention and humane methods.