Do rats eat their babies?

In this brief guide, we will address the query, “do rats eat their babies?” We will also discuss what other animals have this type of behavior and how to stop it.

Do rats eat their babies?

Rats may eat their babies, but they are not the only animals with this behavior. There are different factors that cause this bizarre behavior, it might be because the mother is starving to death, also the babies could have been born ill or dead. Also, mentally ill rats tend to eat their babies. 

This behavior is not exclusive to rats, also some other species possess this natural instinct like lions, birds, and fish. However, this only happens under severe circumstances that let no choice for the parents.

Rats have complex behavior patterns, so various researchers think that there are different factors that could cause the disturbance of their mothering behavior.  

Why do rats eat their babies?

Animals are more complex that we think, there are different factors that can disrupt the normal mothering behavior of rats. Some of the reasons that have proven to trigger this behavior are

  • Disturbance of mothering behavior. One of the reasons why rats might change their behavior after giving birth is because of Postpartum Depression, which also affects humans. Their mind will be messed up which can lead rats to kill their babies and eat them.
  • Lack of resources. When rat mothers know that their pups will not have access to a reliable source of food, water, or that their surroundings are not safe, they can also be motivated to eat their own babies.
  • Lack of infant care. There is a gene that plays a major role in the survival of the rats, when the mother takes proper care of their pups, this gene will be active. However, when this doesn’t occur, the gene will not be expressed, which can lower their survival rate.
  • Stressful environment. If the mother rat does not feel safe in their environment, it is possible to cope by licking their babies hard. Sometimes, this is done so hard that rats can kill their babies in some cases, to be fed on them later on.
  • The baby is injured or dead. Animals are forced to survive in hard situations, especially rats. So, if the mother notices that their pups are injured or dead, they will consume the baby.

Being a mother is not an easy task, it doesn’t matter what species we are talking about. Even rats feel the fear and stress related to becoming a mother, especially when they become mothers for the first time.

What other animals eat their babies?

As we have already discussed, this is not a behavior that only rats can display, some other animals have also been proven to develop cannibalistic tendencies towards their pups. Some other species that can experience this behavior are

  • Polar bears. It is clear that global warming has affected all of the resources, but for polar bears it is even harder. Mother bears know that it is not easy to survive in those conditions, so they eat their pups.
  • Sand tiger shark. These animals are part of the reduced group of species that eat their young at an early stage. The reason for this behavior is that female sharks can carry a lot of eggs, but they only have two uteri, which means that only two of their eggs will survive. 
  • Chicken. Chickens might not be the smartest animals on Earth, so they tend to eat eggs without realizing what is going on. Another reason for this behavior is that the chicken might suffer from calcium deficiency.
  • Lion. These top predators develop this behavior to keep their social dominance, the fathers are the ones that evict their cubs to prevent competition and also cause females to go back into heat.
  • Chimpanzees. This is not a common behavior of this species, they only do it when there are conflicts between chimpanzee groups, the males tend to steal new borns and feed on them. 

If you want to read some more about this bizarre behavior, I recommend you to check this article by National Geographic.

How to prevent rats from feeding on their babies?

If you have rats as pets and you want to prevent this behavior, there are some suggestions you can attend to:

  • Provide them with enough food and water. As you can tell, this behavior can be motivated by the lack of resources, make sure your rats do not starve and their pups will be fine.
  • Do not stress the mother rat. If your rat is under a lot of stress, which can be caused by sudden noises, they can kill their babies without wanting to.
  • Check on their babies daily. If rats notice that their babies are ill, they can decide to kill them because they would not survive, it’s part of their instinct. 


In this brief guide, we have addressed the query, “do rats eat their babies?” We have also discussed why these animals have this behavior and other queries related to the subject at hand.

Hope you found this blog useful. If you have any questions, please let us know.


Leave a Comment