Jessica is an experienced pet mom with dogs, cats, rats, fish, axolotls, a gecko, chickens, and ducks.
Rats are awesome pets, and they deserve care and nutrition just like other pets. Although they are known for eating just about anything, their diet is a little more complicated than that. They need more than just a bag of pet food from the pet store, and there are actually foods that they can’t eat!
This article will take you through everything you need to know about what to feed your pet rats, as well as foods that they should never eat.
Start With a High Quality Rat Food
The most important thing to feed your rats is a high-quality rat block such as Mazuri or Oxbow. Another good choice is lab blocks, such as the Teklad brand, which are made for rats in labs.
These won't be the only things your rats will eat, but it is important to give them block food every day because this is the best way to make sure they are getting all the nutrients they need.
Opinions vary about just how much protein rats should have, but the general consensus is that their diets should be made up of no more than 25% protein.
Younger rats, pregnant female rats, and hairless rats will need more protein, and older rats will not need as much.
Oxbow rat food has 18% protein so it is appropriate for all stages of life. Mazuri rat and mouse food has 23% protein—this is a pretty high protein content so I choose to use it for my hairless rats. Teklad's rodent blocks range from 14-19% protein.
The seed mixes that you find in pet stores are not a good choice for your rat's everyday diet. Most of them are not nutritionally complete, and the ones that are are only complete if your rats eat everything in it.
Rats are known to stash food and most of them will not naturally eat everything in the bowl. Some of the foods in these mixes are perfectly fine as a treat, but they shouldn't be relied on to give your rats everything they need.
Fruits and Veggies
Fresh fruits and vegetables are really good for rats. They can eat a huge variety of fruits and vegetables.
- They shouldn't eat any fruit seeds, but they can have the fruit around the seeds.
- They can eat apple slices or pitted cherries, for example.
- Unlike dogs, rats can eat grapes. Purple grapes are even said to have anti-carcinogenic effects.
- One type of fruit that is not recommended for male rats is citrus. This has been debated so I will leave sources for both sides of the argument in the ¨further reading¨ section. The main argument against male rats eating citrus is the presence of the chemical D-Limonene which can cause cancer and kidney problems.
It is important not to overdo fruit because of the high sugar content. Fruits are good for your rats, but vegetables are even better. You should offer veggies and fruit every day, and this should make up about 20% of their diet.
Supplements and Snacks
There are a ton of foods that rats can eat. Some fun ideas to supplement their regular diet are:
- Cooked or uncooked pasta: Carbohydrates are important for your rat to have in their diet, and uncooked pasta is super good for their teeth!
- Eggs or meat: Rats are omnivores so they can eat both of these things. This is something that should be fed as a treat since you don't want them to have too much protein.
- Treats: Any rat owner will tell you that rats love yogis. These are a yogurt drop rat treat that comes in a variety of flavors. Some other little treats you can give your rats are Gerber baby puffs or unsweetened cheerios.
- Little bits of whatever you're eating: As long as what you're eating is made of rat safe ingredients and it isn't too high in sodium your rats can have a little bit. Some people even make their rats little plates on holidays.
There are some vitamins for rats available. Most of the time your rats will get everything they need from their diet as long as they are on a good block food, and they are getting fruits and vegetables. However, if you suspect that your rats aren't getting what they need or your vet recommends supplementing with vitamins there are definitely options to choose from!
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Foods Rats Should Never Eat
Although there is a wide variety of food options for rats, there are still some things that they should never eat. These foods are all toxic to rats:
- Raw beans
- Avocado skin and pit
- Raw sweet potato
- Green potatoes
- Green bananas (ripe bananas are fine)
- Cabbage and brussels sprouts
- Wild insects
- Poppy seeds
- Raw onion
- Moldy foods such as blue cheese
Be careful with sticky foods such as peanut butter. They can get it stuck in their throats and it can choke them. Rats are unable to vomit, so if they eat something that can harm them they have no way to get rid of it.
Chocolate itself is not actually bad; it's the sugar content that is bad for rats.
What to Feed an Old or Sick Rat
Old or sick rats often have a hard time eating. They may have trouble with their teeth, or they might not have the same appetite that they used to. Here are some ideas for rats that need help eating:
- Baby food: I had an older rat with missing teeth that really liked to eat out of the baby food pouches. Just make sure that the ingredients are safe and they aren't getting too many fruits or veggies that will upset their stomachs.
- Make mush out of their rat blocks: This is a good way to make sure that they are getting all of the nutrition that they need if they can no longer chew on the hard blocks. Just soak the blocks in water and mash them up.
- Blend food or use a food processer: You can blend up fruits and veggies with the rat blocks for a lot of nutrition all at once.
- Try soft foods like cooked oatmeal: You can even throw in some soft veggies or an egg to give it a boost.
One of the most important things to look out for with an old or sick rat is that they are getting enough food and water. You may have to hand feed them or give them water in a little dish. You can also let them drink water slowly out of a clean medicine syringe.
Rats and Citrus
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.
© 2021 Jess H
Jess H (author) from Oregon on January 05, 2021:
Alexander, me too! They are so much fun.
Alexander James Guckenberger from Maryland, United States of America on January 05, 2021:
I love rats so much. They're so sweet.
Jess H (author) from Oregon on January 05, 2021:
Thank you so much, Ivana!
Ivana Divac from Serbia on January 05, 2021:
This is such a great and informative article! And the photos you chose for the article are too adorable. Thanks for sharing!