Like other marsupials, the Zuul female forcefully ejects her “milk” into the mouths of her offspring while the eyeless, worm-like pups nestle in the safety of her pouch. Unlike ordinary marsupials, however—or ordinary mammals, for that matter—the milk of a Ripper female is not primarily intended to nourish her young. Instead, she secretes a narcotic fluid which is designed to keep her pouchlings dormant. They will remain effectively comatose until the flow of her “milk” has stopped, and will only awaken and begin to grow and develop when she has died, or removed them from her pouch.
Once the flow of “milk” to an undeveloped Zuul has stopped, it quickly rouses from its dormancy. At this stage of a Ripper’s life, the tiny infant has no eyes, no ears, and only vestigial limbs; the full length of its body is not more than 15 centimeters. Shaken from the sleep induced by its mother’s milk, however, the infant Ripper will obey its one imperative: to eat. Within minutes it will begin to devour all animal and vegetable matter in its path.
Since they are used almost exclusively for hard and hazardous labor, it is not unusual for a brooding female Zuul to die while carrying a pouch full of young. If she does, the members of her coterie will not be concerned; the mother’s own body immediately becomes a host for the proto-worms sleeping in her pouch.
Upon awakening, the larval Rippers will tunnel through flesh and bone until every particle of their mother is devoured. However, it is not necessary for a female Zuul to die in order to provide nourishment for her children: she may also remove proto-worms from her pouch at any time and place them within the corpse of a fallen foe, or into any mound of meat or vegetable matter she may have gathered for the purpose of feeding them.
After an initial burst of growth, the infant Zuul has an average length of 40 centimeters and a mass around two kilograms. Rippers this age greatly resemble the members of the Terran family Mustelidae (weasels, ferrets, etc). Armed with sharp teeth and claws, the young Ripper will also have the keen senses and intelligence of a cat-like predator, combined with a rudimentary telepathic sense. This very primitive instinctive telepathy allows the infant Zuul to detect prey, and to recognize other members of its own species.
Following their instinctive drives, Zuul of this age will usually form a nest with one or two other infants of the same sex and begin a life of hunting and stock-piling kills. Infant rippers have a metabolism so high that they sleep only rarely; they must hunt constantly for the calories to keep their long, slender bodies warm, and support their rapid growth and development.
There is no necessary relationship between infant and adult Zuul at this phase. When living on the surface of a planet, it seems to be common practice for adult Zuul to abandon their offspring during infancy and expose them to the elements, forcing them to adapt to the environment or die. Some xenosociologists claim that this is a cultural practice; the high rate of infant mortality may actually be deemed desirable, because only the fittest Zuul will survive the ordeal.