Abstract Rat litters were divided and cross fostered on a postnatal Day 15 so that each mother had 4 of her own pups and 4 pups of a second litter, until weaning at 21 days. Daily weight and body temperature measurements made between Day 15 and 21 showed no differences between foster pups and pups who stayed with their biological mothers. However, by the age of 30 days, foster pups weighed less than pups reared by their own (biological) mothers; and foster pups at that age did not survive food deprivation as well as the pups reared by their biological mothers. In their Day 30 weights and the capacity to survive food deprivation, foster pups resembled pups that had been permanently separated from their mothers on postnatal Day 15. We conclude that the split cross foster design may introduce variability rather than reduce it. Nonetheless, this design may be useful in the experimental investigation of maternal behavior and mother-pup interactions in the rat.