Whitney has extensive domestic animal husbandry experience and has cared for various species.
Store-Bought Rat Food and Nutrition
Proper nutrition is the basis for maintaining a healthy pet rat. Rats' diets should contain essential nutrients, vitamins, minerals, fruits, nuts, and vegetables. Because rats are omnivorous, they require both plant and animal food sources.
When feeding pet rats, it is not recommended that you use a packaged mixed grain mixes because they tend to contain very high corn and seed contents, which can make for an incomplete diet. Additionally, rats tend to pick out their favorites ingredients, leaving everything else behind; usually, the healthier items go uneaten. If you want to use a packaged mix diet, stick with those that are higher in soy content than corn.
The best diet that you can feed your pet rats is composed primarily of lab-blocks, as these are considered to be the best nutritional staple. When feeding a diet composed primarily of lab blocks, you will also want to provide your rats with other sources of nutrition, such as vegetables, fruits, and certain nuts.
Harlan Teklad and Mazuri brands are the best brands of rat lab-blocks that you can find on the market today. Try to avoid Forti-Diet Mouse & Rat lab-blocks, as these are high in fat content.
Foods Rats Cannot Have
For the most part, if you would eat a food, you can give it to your rats, but there are exceptions.
Foods You Should Never Feed Your Pet Rat
- Raw dry beans and peanuts: contain anti-nutrients that destroys vitamin A and enzymes needed to digest protein and starches, and they cause red blood cells to clump
- Raw sweet potato: contains compounds that form cyanide in the stomach
- Green bananas: inhibit starch digesting enzymes
- Green potato skin and eyes: contain solanine, which is a toxin
- Wild insects: carry internal parasites and diseases
- Raw bulk tofu: contains bacteria, packaged raw tofu is safe
- Orange juice: (forbidden for male rats only) can cause kidney damage and kidney cancer due to a protein that only male rats have in their kidneys.
What Can My Rat Eat?
Oysters, liver, beans, sweet potato, broccoli, kale, and bok choy are items that are great for any rat's diet.
Other appropriate items are listed below
Safe Foods for Rats
Cooked sweet potato
Foods to Feed With Caution
- Carbonated beverages: rats can't burp, but they can pass gas
- Dried corn: can contain high levels of fungal contaminates which has been shown to cause liver cancer in rats. Corn contains high levels of both nitrates and amines, which can combine in the stomach to form nitrosamines which are carcinogenic.
- Turnip greens
Subee's Homemade Rat Diet
This homemade diet is formulated using regular items you can find at a grocery store. The measurements in the below recipe are approximated and can be altered to fit your needs. The below measurements are for larger groups of rats.
- 1/2 to 1 lb. dry rolled oats
- 1 5.3-oz. box puffed wheat cereal - Malt-O-Meal, Quaker, or Kashi. Cheerios can be a viable alternative, but remember that there may be added sugar.
- 1 6.4-oz. box puffed rice cereal - Quaker is the best brand as it contains no sugar. Rice Krispies are not recommended because of their salt and sugar content.
- 1 12-oz. box Total Cereal; Some people think Total has too many vitamins, but keep in mind that on average, a rat will eat one or two flakes a day.
- 1/4 to 1/2 lb. roasted, unsalted soy nuts - High in protein but contain valuable cancer-preventing agents, so they are a good addition to the mix. Roasted soybeans are also a good source of vitamin K.
- 1/2 lb dried fruits - Bananas and cranberries are great to add because bananas are a good source of potassium, and cranberries are good for the urinary tract. (If you would rather use fresh fruits, that's fine. Just place them in a separate bowl so they will not mush the other dry content.)
- 1/2 lb dry pasta - The tri-colored elbow noodles with a spinach and tomato flavor work well and are crunchy, which can help their teeth. Noodles are a good source of carbohydrates, which helps balance the protein in the soy nuts, as well.
- 1/4 lb sunflower seeds - Make sure they are unshelled and not salted.
- 1/4 lb muesli - (optional)
Read More From Pethelpful
- Mix everything together in a huge bowl.
- Store in an airtight container in a cool, dry place.
Because this mix makes a large amount, it will last a good while if you only have a couple of rats. For an average of four rats, this recipe can last up to two months.
Video of Rats Feeding
Rattattat's Homemade Diet
Every ingredient is healthy. Make sure not to include unwanted seeds, corn, or any ingredient that is too high in fat, sugar, or salt.
You can estimate the measurements as you will.
- Rolled oats - iron and dietary fiber
- Uncooked pasta - great for teeth and carbohydrates
- Puffed wheat
- Puffed rice
- Raw pumpkin seeds
- Unsalted sunflower seeds
- Dried bananas - potassium
- Dried cranberries - great for the urinary tract
- Vital 100 (or Total cereal) - 100% whole grain; fiber and 12 vitamins and minerals
- Toasted Oats (or Cheerios) - iron, vitamins A, C, D, B6, and B12, zinc, copper, folic acid, calcium, thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, phosphorus, and magnesium
- Unsalted, roasted soy nuts - calcium, phosphorus, potassium, magnesium
My Homemade Rat Food
I try to provide my pet rats with this homemade diet at least twice a week. On the other remaining days, they receive Mazuri rat blocks.
- Flax seeds
- Raw sunflower seeds
- Raw soy nuts
- Uncooked egg noodles
- Puffed Rice cereal
- Total cereal
- Dried tomatoes
- Dried cranberries
- Banana chips
- Mix all ingredients into a large mixing bowl.
- Store in an airtight, covered container.
- Measurements are up to you. I try to add a few handfuls of Total, puffed rice, and uncooked egg noodles. I add the other ingredients as needed.
Sources and Further Info
- Commercial Diets | About Pet Rats
Three main brands of commercial pet rat diets are considered to be high quality. Most rat food sold in pet stores should be avoided.
- What Do Pet Rats Eat? Learn What To Feed Your Pet Rats | Petco
Do you have questions about what you can feed a pet rat? Petco has the answers to this and other pet rat questions!
- Unsafe Food for Rats | Exotic Nutrition
- Rat & Mouse Club of America | Corn in the Rat Diet
Corn in the rat diet should be limited. Why?
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.
Tania Kovar on May 17, 2020:
I have been feeding my girls the homemade diet by Debbie Ducommun. Its called Molasses Mix. It is made with Chromium Picolinate, Calcium, Vitamin D, Vitamin B12, Manganese, Total cereal, Packaged Tofu, Wheat Germ, Brown Rice, Raw Oatmeal, Nutritional Yeast Flakes, Flax Seeds, Millet, Pearled Barley, Sunflower Seeds & Molasses. They turned 2 in March so I'm not sure how beneficial it would be to switch them at this point but I did just get 4 baby girls. They are all fed this mix along with fresh fruits and vegetables on a schedule. They also get organic beef liver twice a week. I have heard different opinions on this diet and am curious what your take is on it?
Colleen on January 23, 2020:
Just want you to know my little girl Marble died because of cancer caused from corn. Dry corn no mold.
M on March 11, 2019:
The only problem I have with this is that it's mostly muesli recipes, which small animals commonly pick at and won't eat all of, so I'd be worried about giving this to a rat.
You also put several dried ingredients in them, e.g. dried banana, dried cranberry, and dried tomatoes, which have lost more sugar in them due to the drying process they undergo. Which is why many vets recommend not to give them to small animals, and instead to give them the un-dried equivalent.
Maybe it works for your rats, but I feel maybe you should address this and maybe put up another recipe or dietary plan which uses fresh fruit and veg. Or even make a note saying that you can instead leave out the dried fruit and just add the fresh equivalent in with the food mix on the day.
I know the logic of dried fruit/veg is so that you can give it them without having to constantly buy fruit and veg, worry about storing it, or it going off, but I felt it would be good to know about the higher sugar content.
Amanda on March 19, 2018:
Hi im very new to this my old girl and I stay in South Africa she has been diagnosed with a pt she is on cabergoline medication and today she ended up in hospital im so worried hope she pulls through im looking for a dry mix diet that has low carbs, low sodium, low protein, low phorsphouse. I have managed to get a bag of burgees rat excel nuggets finally into the country and I give her veggies and the only fruit she gets is paypaya and blue berries I want to cut out sugar all together cause that just feeds cancer which she has.
Ashley Nicole on July 20, 2017:
Where do you find Muesli, flax seed?
rhona hopkins on May 21, 2014:
this page is really resourceful and I have found it useful as I got 2 approx 6 weeks old rats, I have tried them wirh small amounts of cooked chicken and beef mince, apple (they didnt eat) and cucumber again small amounts. I have been giving them pets at home rat nuggets for their main diet. is there any advice anyone could offer just to make sure my boys are getting the best. thank you
kelly on September 02, 2013:
just wanted to say thank you, my 3 girl rats love this homemade mix you suggested. I give it to them 2-3 times a week and the other 4 days they eat mazzuri rat block. Everything works out perfect
Claire on March 13, 2012:
My rat has Been sneezing so much and I love him to death I can't take him to the vet what do I do!? I think he has respotory problems sumone help me
Whitney (author) from Georgia on August 18, 2011:
I prefer to use Mazuri mice and rat food
maddie on August 17, 2011:
what's a good pakaged food?
Lei_Kei on June 26, 2011:
I'm so glad I found this! My rat's been getting kind fat, and it's probably because I don't feed her the healthest things :/
janet deavers on June 23, 2011:
my rat is fat and scratche hes 1 year old very sweet .
I got another baby rat for a companion for him as I didn't want babies I got another male and put him in a cge inside his cage the new rat is small just a baby and nips a bit My rat takes no notice of him I think the new rat just needs time to adjust to me then he will stop niping
Crobin28 from Pelham, Alabama on June 21, 2011:
Whitney, I have read several of your articles and everyone of them seem to be extremely informative! I am a rat lover, currently owned by 5 beautiful females! Although I knew most of the information here, it is all information that I would recommend to any new prospecting rat owner! Thanks for all of your hard work!! I am going to leave you good feedback!!
Chelsea on May 15, 2011:
About the message above, be sure to separate all rats from the mother and babies because the mother rat will probably be teritoral. Plus any other rats could harm the babies. Also whenever the kits (young rats) get a bit older you should find out their gender and separate them out unless you want many more rats. lol. Goodluck, I hope all goes well with your pets.(:
cate1317 on April 28, 2011:
We purchased a feeder rat as a pet and she came pregnant. Do we need to increase anything in her diet? We got her a friend about 4 days after we got her and they are inseparable. Do you know if we need to remove the second rat when her babies are born? Or could you direct me to the appropriate website.
Mike on March 27, 2011:
My rats eat what I eat and they are perfectly healthy.
paris barlow on February 07, 2011:
i have three rats i but them £3.00 pounds worth of rat food but i get it home ang it has bird seeds and meal worms in it is that alright
Emily on January 29, 2011:
I currently have 2 rats and hey love their Mazuri lab blocks...they alos love peas. currently my rats are Ralph and R.Jaye...but RIPmy past rats : Rascall, Rebbel, and my very first rat, Rosco
Emma on January 28, 2011:
i have never found a web site as good as this! my rats (6 of them)all have a pets at home nuget with veg and fruit as treats and they have chew toys but one of my rats have a split tooth and her teeth are over growing she had them clipped and sorted but she still not eating solid food and she lost loads of weight so I have started to giver her soft food eg cooked paster, cheese, bread and popcorn(from pet shop for rats)and cooked egg I just wanted to know if I am doing the right thing for her. i offer her the nuggets still but she wont take them.
Whitney (author) from Georgia on December 12, 2010:
That diet sounds good. I would still offer mazuri rat block though. I'm still unsure about a staple diet being 100% homemade
Katie B on December 12, 2010:
I have done several things wrong in my rats diet, one of which is giving them raw sweet potato. I have been giving a cm cubed of raw sweet potato each day for about 3 or 4 months and am scared of the effects it has had on my rats health (contains cyanide-forming compounds). Some websites describe their rats getting ill from eating it so what signs should I look for? I am also concerned as I have fed my rats raw broccoli and frozen corn (which apparently is bad for them) and canned bean mixes, all of which had been mixed into their dinner mix.
I have now reviewed my diet for my rats which is almost entirely homemade and I am hoping you could spare the time to give me feedback on their diet. Perhaps there is something I have overlooked and it is bad for them? Their diet is as follows:
All day mix (available all day to the rats):
RSPCA Peters Mouse and Rat mixture (contains wheat, sorghum, crushed maize, crushed lupins, black sunflower seed, lucerme chaff, oaten chaff and soyabean meal - about a third of the entire all day mix is made up of this. Although its not listed on the packet it looks as if it contains dried corn)
Lowan Apricot and Almond Muesli (contains wholegrain oats, dried apricots, almonds, coconut and seeds)
Pecan nuts (chopped)
Crushed vita wheats
Crushed anzac biscuits
Dinner mix (given at dinner, usually eaten quickly):
- Dinner mix is kept in the freezer and is entirely frozen and is given to the rats this way (please let me know if I should defrost it before giving it to them) -
Cooked sweet potato
Edgell four bean mix (canned) (contains small red kidney beans, butter beans (lima beans), chickpeas (Garbanzo beans) and great northern beans)
Cooked pasta (home brand)
Other foods given to them occasionally:
Cooked steak bones (different websites say different things about this. I am not sure if it is good for them? Does it matter if its barbequed or marinated? Will it splinter? I dont like giving them chicken bones as there are really fine bones they might choke on. Are there any meats they can't have?)
Milk (warm milk in winter)
I look forward to any feedback
Lucas H. from Las Cruces, New Mexico on October 05, 2010:
Hey thanks for the info, can't wait to try out the recipes.
Whitney (author) from Georgia on September 22, 2010:
Sounds more like stress than upper respiratory infection.
JayJay on September 21, 2010:
Ok because when i brought my rats home one of them was sneezing, but i decided to wait a couple days because i read that sometimes they just have new home sneezes. She sneezed less and less everyday but sometimes she would have some porphyrin around her nose after she was sleeping. But now she doesn't have any signs of resiratory disease.
Whitney (author) from Georgia on September 21, 2010:
JayJay, that will all depend on the rat and the severity. Some rats (rare and seldom) may heal without treatment, but it should never be tested and treatment should always be provided.
Jasmine, It's no sharper than chewing wood. It's a good treat that is hard enough for their teeth to get some usage.
Jasmine on September 20, 2010:
Ok, I'm sure that would be fine too. I've just heard that dry pasta can be sharp for eating but you seem to know quite a bit about rats so I won't worry about it. Your other rat articles are a lot more helpful than other stuff I've read too!
JayJay on September 20, 2010:
Oh one more thing- If a rat gets a resiratory disease, and wasnt treated, do you know how long the rat would have before it died?
Whitney (author) from Georgia on September 20, 2010:
JayJay, just give a few treats Nothing excessive.
Jasmine, I'm not sure. I've always just used dried pasta. I guess any dried carb. I'd be leery of rice, but I guess it would do. I would just try to stick with the pasta.
jasmine on September 19, 2010:
What are good substitutes for the dried pasta portions of the diets?