Feeding pet rats

Dry food

Rats should always have access to dry food. Many people believe that rats can live on bird seed, and while they probably could, it's not very healthy.

Typically, my dry food mix consists of:

Parrot seed
Dry pasta
Pepitas
Walnuts
Puffed wheat
Weetbix
Bran
Brown rice
Dog biscuits
White rice
Dried legumes
Barley

Fresh food

Along with a constant supply of dry food, rats need fresh fruit and vegetables to stay healthy. In summer, give cooling, juicy foods, and in winter, give warm foods such as cooked rice and vegetables. Rats should be given the same amount of food at the same time each day. I usually feed my rats later in the evening, because rats are most active at night, and that's when they eat the most. Rat "dinners" might consist of:

Broccoli
Carrots
Rice
Pasta
Corn
Peas
Tofu
Tomatoes
Bean sprouts
Snow peas
Fruit
Sardines
Boiled egg
Oysters

"Desserts"

For dessert, I always give my rats soy milk - either plain, or mixed with fruit, yoghurt, baby cereal, or Weet-Bix. Soy products are thought to help prevent tumours. Soy milk, tofu, soy beans, soy yoghurt, soy custard and miso are all soy foods that rats love. Soy milk is also high in protein, and helps to "fatten up" sick, old, or orphan rats.

Water

Rats should always have access to clean water. Glass or plastic water bottles are best, and must be scrubbed out every few days and refilled. Bottles are better than bowls, because they keep the water free of food, litter and waste. Bowls can be easy to tip as well, leaving the rats with no water.

Treats

Some foods are best given only occasionally - they are the equivalent of human "junk food". Dairy can cause upset stomachs, but rats love cheese, so a small amount every now and then is ok. Rats also love chocolate. Although chocolate is toxic for dogs, it's not toxic for rats - but it's still not very healthy. Rats can get cavities in their back teeth, so avoid sugary foods. Boiled egg, sardines and oysters can be given with dinner, but don't overdo it.

Peanut butter is another favourite, but rats can choke on it if they try to eat too much in one mouthful. Try smearing it thinly on bread, so that it isn't thick and sticky. Sheets of dried seaweed from the asian food section in the supermarket will also be gobbled up. Large chicken bones are great for rats - they spend time gnawing on them and trying to get the marrow out.

Anything green and juicy will impress a rat - try fresh mint leaves sprinkled over their dinner, or just as a treat during the day. Helps get rid of sardine or spaghetti breath!

The ultimate in ratty treats: avocado. Avocado is great for fattening up sick rats, and also excellent for disguising medications. Or, mash it up and spread over their dinner as a treat.

Foods to avoid

As a rule, rats will eat just about anything that smells interesting. It's tempting to feed them "human food" like softdrink, chocolate, and fatty foods, but this can damage their health. Rats can't burp, so fizzy drinks should NEVER be given to them. Sticky foods such as peanut butter or lollies can cause rats to choke. Citrus fruits are thought to contribute to causing cancer in male rats, so it's probably best to avoid them.

Rats can suffer similar health problems to humans if they are given too much fatty food, so limit fat in their diets as much as possible. Sunflower seeds, nuts, and meats are all quite high in fat. They can be given occasionally, but not too often. Also, too much fat and protein can cause skin problems. As a general rule, the bulk of a rat's diet should be 8% protein or less. High-protein foods should be given occasionally, not every day.

 

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