A List of Safe and Dangerous Foods for Your Pet Rat
What You Can and Cannot Feed Your Pet Rat
Knowing what your rat can and cannot have is important. Of course, pet stores and most large store chains carry rat food, which is fine for feeding your rat. However, sometimes you may want to give your rat a snack or feed him or her what you’re feeding your family that night. In that case, it is important to research to make sure that the food is safe for your rat.
When I cook, I try to conserve food that I would have thrown away for the rats. Potato peals are a good example. I keep a bag in the freezer, and when I peel potatoes while cooking, I will place the peels in the freezer and occasionally treat my furry friends to a snack. Frozen veggies are great for rats on hot days. They love it when I place the veggies in some water so they can play with their food before they eat it.
When you first feed your rat a new food, you will probably notice them take a small bite, then ignore the food. Many owner think they are done and will take the food away. However, what the rat is doing is testing it. Rats do not have a gag reflex, so if they eat too much of something that will make them sick, it could kill them. By testing their food, the rat is trying only a little to see if it makes him or her sick. If it doesn’t, your pet will go back and finish off the food.
However, I’ve noticed that after a while, rats will begin to trust their owners and eat all of the food without testing it more and more frequently. It is important to realize this as an owner so that you are careful to not feed your rat something that may make him sick.
It is also important to remember that your rats are strong. If you leave food laying around while your rats are out, you can expect it to be dragged off before long. Rats are strong enough to move large pieces of pizza, hot dogs, and even tacos or bean burritos.
Below are lists of the foods that are okay for your rat, the foods that are not, and the foods you should be careful with. If you don’t see a food you are looking for, try doing a little online research. Always check around before you feed your rat a new kind of food. You never know whether or not the food could be poisonous or toxic to your furry friend.
Safe Foods (A-C)
- Apples. Cut the apple up and make sure to remove all the seeds. Seeds are hazardous for rats.
- Applesauce. Feed them very little if the applesauce has lots of sugar or other fattening ingredients.
- Avocados. These are very fatty for rats and should be given in moderation.
- Bananas. My rats love it when I smash the bananas up like pudding and add nuts or other fruits.
- Beef. Chicken is healthier for your rat, but beef is okay if the fat is kept to a minimum.
- Blueberries. Be careful when feeding these to your rats because they can be messy!
- Blueberry buckle baby food
- Bread. While my rats love bread and haven’t had any problems, I’ve read some articles about rats choking on bread. I would recommend feeding only very small pieces to your rats and toasting it first. You may even soften the bread by dipping it in milk or water.
- Butternut squash. Make sure that the squash is thoroughly cooked before feeding it to your rat.
- Celery. This vegetable is fine for rats, but it doesn't have very much nutritional value.
- Cheese. Small amounts are okay for rats. Soy-based cheese is healthier for them.
Safe Foods (C-G)
- Chicken. This is the healthiest meat for your rat.
- Chicken bones. Surprisingly, these are not only healthy for rats but also good chew toys. Next time you have chicken for dinner, save the bones.
- Cold cuts
- Corn. Corn is good for your rats whether it is on the cob, from the can, or even frozen.
- Cottage cheese
- Cream cheese on crackers
- Dog food. People who make their own rat food will often add dog food to the mix. However, you don’t want to skimp on quality, and you want to get a low-protein type of food.
- Dog treats (small). Small treats are ideal because rats should only have treats in small portions. You can always cut up larger treats into smaller ones—you may even need to do the same with small treats.
- Dried bananas. These are great for rats because they are high in potassium.
- Dried cranberries. If your rat is prone to urinary tract infections, this is great to add to its diet. Cranberries are good for keeping the urinary tract clean and healthy.
- Dry cereal. Cheerios are great for feeding your rat. However, be careful about cereal that contains a large amount of sugar. Puffed rice cereals are yummy for rats, but avoid rice krispies and other sugary choices.
- Dry rolled oats. Any type of oats is fine as long as it does not contain any sugar.
- Fruit baby food
- Grapes. Purple grapes are believed to prevent cancer in rats.
- Green beans. Cooked green beans are very nutritious.
- Green peppers. Just make sure they aren’t too spicy for your rats and try to feed them in small amounts at a time.
Safe Foods (H-P)
- Hard-boiled eggs. These should not be fed to your rat on a regular basis, just as a treat once in a while. I’ve heard that these are good for pregnant rats because of the fat and extra protein.
- Honeydew melons
- Lettuce. Romaine lettuce is the best for your rat because it has more nutritional value than iceberg. Some people will tell you to avoid iceberg lettuce altogether because it has close to no nutritional value.
- Macaroni and cheese
- Mashed potatoes
- Meat baby food
- Mushrooms. These are only okay for your rat if they are cooked and should be fed in moderation.
- Oatmeal cookies
- Pasta. Rats can have cooked or dried pasta. They find tri-colored spirals that have a spinach or tomato flavor extra tasty. Dried pasta is good because it is crunchy and they like to chew on it. Pasta has a great source of carbohydrates, which are good for rats.
- Peaches. Make sure to remove the pit from peaches because it can be harmful.
- Popcorn. It should be unsalted and unbuttered if possible.
- Popsicles. These are great for rats on hot summer days. However, try to only feed your rats non-fat and sugar-free popsicles.
- Pumpkins. Pumpkins are fine for rats to eat. However, the seeds are high in fat and should be fed to your pet in moderation.
Safe Foods (R-Z)
- Red peppers. Test the pepper first to make sure it isn’t too spicy. Then feed only small amounts of it to your rat at a time.
- Rice. Brown rice is especially good for your rat.
- Saltine crackers. My rats love these as snacks. I keep a small sack of them by my chair and feed them crackers when they want a snack. I try not to overdo it though because the crackers are high in salt and I’m not sure if too much would make them sick.
- Scrambled eggs. The protein is great for rats, especially pregnant rats.
- Soy products. Soy nuts are good for rats, but make sure they are roasted and unsalted. Soy products are high in protein and have cancer-preventing agents. Other good soy products include soy milk, soy yogurt, soy tofu, and soy crumbles.
- Squash. Cooked squash is best.
- Strawberries. Rats love strawberries. They are not only sweet and yummy but also healthy for them.
- Sunflower seeds. Make sure that the seeds are unsalted. You can buy these cheaply in bulk and add some to your rat's cage every once in a while for a healthy snack.
- Sweet potatoes (cooked)
- Turkey. Chicken is the better meat for your rat, but small amounts of turkeys are fine too.
- Vanilla custard baby food
- Vegetable baby food
- Walnuts. Make sure to only feed your rat these in moderation. They make a great treat every once in a while.
- Whole grain crackers. Add a little topping to the crackers for a wonderful little snack.
- Whole wheat pasta
- Whole wheat bread
- Yellow peppers. Peppers are fine for your rats as long as they aren’t too spicy, so you may want to test it first.
- Yogurt. Probiotic yogurt in small amounts is good for the gut flora.
- Yogurt-covered pretzels
- Yogurt drops. Most rats absolutely love these.
Dangerous Foods (A-H)
- Apple seeds. Apple seeds have a small amount of cyanide in them that can be harmful for rats.
- Avocado skin
- Artichokes (raw). This vegetable inhibits protein digestion in rats.
- Beans (uncooked). Destroys vitamin A and enzymes that rats need to digest protein and starches. This can cause red blood cells to clump and is a hazard for rats.
- Beet tops. These can cause urinary tract problems and stones in the kidneys and bladder due to their extremely high levels of oxalates.
- Blue cheese. The mold that is used to make blue cheese is toxic to rats.
- Brussels sprouts (raw). These can destroy thiamin.
- Carbonated drinks. Rats can’t burp, which is why they should never drink carbonated drinks.
- Caffeinated drinks. Drinks containing high amounts of sugar are bad for your rats.
- Candy. Like chocolate, candy is too sugary. Rats can have problems with digesting these foods.
- Chocolate. This is also bad for rats because of the high fat and sugar content. I’ve heard that some owners feed dark chocolate to their rats once in a great while without problems. However, I just avoid chocolate altogether.
- Dried corn. While fresh corn is okay, dried corn is not. This is because it contains fungal contaminants that can lead to liver cancer in rats.
- Green bananas. While regular bananas are okay, green bananas inhibit starch digestion enzymes.
- Green potato skins and eyes. These contain solanine, a toxin for rats.
- Hamster food. Hamster food is high in fat.
Dangerous Foods (L-P)
- Licorice. This food is suspected to cause neurological poisoning in rats.
- Mango. This fruit contains d-limonene and can cause kidney cancer in male rats.
- Moldy foods. Some people think that just because rats are rats, they can eat moldy food. However, mold and bacteria can be extremely toxic to rats, just as they can be to humans.
- Onions (raw). These can cause anemia and give rats upset stomachs.
- Oranges. Both the outer and the white parts of orange peels can be harmful for male rats. I’ve heard that it seems okay for females, but I would just avoid citrus fruits like oranges to be on the safe side.
- Orange juice. Orange juice contains d-limonene, which can cause kidney cancer in male rats.
- Peanuts. These have been found to have anti-nutrients that, like raw dried beans, will destroy vitamin A and certain enzymes that rats need to break down proteins and starches. This will then cause red blood cells to clump together.
- Poppy seeds. While the reason is unknown, poppy seeds seem to cause rats to become sick and sometimes even die.
- Potato eyes
Dangerous Foods (R-Z)
- Red cabbage (raw). Raw red cabbage destroys thiamin.
- Rhubarb. Rhubarb contains toxic amounts of oxalates.
- Spinach. Due to the high levels of oxalates, spinach can cause urinary tract problems and stones in the bladder and kidneys.
- Sweet feed. This is feed made for horses and is not good for rats because there is too much corn and molasses in it.
- Sweet potato (raw). Since sweet potatoes are potatoes, people think they are okay to feed to their rats. However, raw sweet potatoes recently have been found to have compounds that will form cyanide in rat's stomachs.
- Tofu (raw bulk). The bulk unpackaged tofu contains bacteria and is unsafe.
- Wild insects. These should never be fed to your rat because they can carry diseases and internal parasites. I’ve heard that cooked insects and insects bought from a store is okay.
Foods to Be Cautious With
- Peanut butter and other thick, sticky foods. These should be given in very small amounts because they can cause choking. I will mix the peanut butter with a little bit of jelly or water to help it become less sticky and less of a choking hazard.
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.