Good and Bad Food for Pet Rats
We all know that rats are some of the most adaptable mammals on the planet.
They can overcome some of the toughest environmental conditions and eat anything to survive, including things other animals will actively avoid.
But you don’t want your pet rat to survive, you want it to thrive. Because of this, you need to learn what your pet rat can and can’t eat and which foods are preferably acceptable or unfit for consumption.
So, let’s get into that.
Safe Food for Pet Rats
Since they’re omnivorous, rats eat pretty much anything, but they don’t have a filter to inform them of the difference between good and bad foods. So, you need to decide for them.
The following are the best foods for your pet rat:
- Vegetables – Rich in fiber, minerals, and vitamins, and very delicious; what’s not to like? Your rat will consume a variety of veggies, depending on its preferences, including broccoli, squash, peas, carrots, potatoes, parsley, etc. You can cook some, blanch others, and even feed them raw to your rat, depending on the type of veggie and your rat’s likes. Some rats prefer some veggies raw, while others like them cooked.
- Fruits – The sky is the limit here. Fruits are rich in fiber but also in sugar, so it’s no wonder that rats prefer them above everything else. Some good options include apples, blueberries, bananas, strawberries, plums, etc. You can also experiment with many fruit types, so long as you understand each fruit’s effect on your rat’s metabolism. For instance, you should serve your rat avocados in moderation due to the fruit’s high fat content.
- Treats – These fall into the ‘feed only occasionally’ category. Some notable mentions include dog food, cooked lean meat, sunflower seeds, almonds, walnuts, etc. Food leftovers from your own meals also fall into this category. You can also include here any food particularly high in protein and fat.
- Commercial foods – We’re talking about rat-specific foods that are specifically designed to cater to your rodent’s needs and preferences. Depending on your rat’s needs, these products offer unique blends of protein, fibers, vitamins, minerals, and amino acids. They also allow you to personalize your rat’s diet according to its needs, given that juvenile rats require different foods than adults. Some of the top ingredients present in commercial foods include soybean meal, wheat bran, vitamin supplements, mineral supplements, fish meat, etc.
Safe Food in Moderation
This category only contains foods that are best served in moderation. Your rat should eat them in small portions and only on occasion as treats.
The most notable entries include:
- Meat – As omnivores, rats also consume meat, especially as juveniles. The added protein and fats are great for your rat’s development, providing the rodent with accelerated growth and more energy throughout the day. They also promote better satiety, so your rat won’t get hungry as often. However, you should only feed your rat meat (mainly chicken and beef) in moderation to prevent digestive problems.
- Pasta – Rats always enjoy a good carb meal, but only serve them pasta in small portions and only occasionally. Carbs come with a lot of calories and can contribute to your rat’s overweight problems. This is an important point, given that rats are just as predisposed to obesity as humans are.
- Peanut butter – You’ll struggle to find a pet rat that doesn’t like peanut butter. Peanut butter is highly nutritious but also extremely fatty. Only provide your rat with some peanut butter treats 2-3 times per week and always in small portions. Also, serve the peanut butter in easy-to-consume forms to prevent your rat from choking on the sticky food. I recommend going for some peanut butter cookies for a tasty and crunchy treat.
- Corn – Corn is good, corn is tasty, and corn is healthy. But only in small doses. Corn contains a lot of sugar and nitrates, which aren’t ideal for your rat.
- Bread – Bread is also only good in small portions, preferably as a treat. Not only can your rats choke on the mushy bread, but the overall ingredients aren’t good for them in excess, either. Bread contains a lot of ingredients, including sugar which can promote obesity and other health problems.
- Dairy products – All pet rats love dairy products due to their sour-sweet taste and high-fat content. But they aren’t exactly ideal foods for your rodents. Keep dairy consumption at a minimum to prevent your rat from experiencing sugar and fat-related health problems.
Foods to Avoid Feeding to Rats
This section includes foods that come with various health hazards, both mechanical and chemical.
Here are some of the top food types to avoid feeding to your pet rat:
- Fruit seeds – You should avoid these primarily due to the risk of choking. Most fruit seeds are slippery, so your rats can’t crush them but swallow them whole instead. You can imagine the risks associated with that. Then you have apple seeds that contain cyanide which will release upon crushing the seed. And rats are way more sensitive to cyanide than we are; it will take far fewer apple seeds to induce poisoning than it would in humans.
- Some fruits – We’ve already established that fruits are beneficial to your rats in general. But there are some you should only feed in moderation and others you should avoid entirely. The latter category includes fruits like green bananas (inhibit starch digestion), mango (known carcinogen fruit for rats), oranges (the white peel harms male rats), avocados (too fatty), etc. The list is quite a handful, so you should research the topic carefully to know what to avoid.
- Some vegetables – Some veggies are simply not safe for pet rats, each for different reasons. Some notable mentions include raw onions (which cause stomach problems and even anemia), raw artichokes (inhibit protein synthesis), raw brussels sprouts (destroy thiamine), raw beans (destroy vitamin A and enzymes necessary for protein breakdown), etc.
- Avocados – We’ve already mentioned these, but they’re worth another mention. Avocados aren’t too dangerous in small portions, but it’s easy to go past the safe zone with them. These are nutritious fruits, but they’re simply too fat-rich for your pet rats. I would avoid them out of principle.
- Chocolate – It goes without saying that chocolate is filled with sugars and unhealthy fats. You should never feed chocolate to your rats, not even as treats. Some people feed their rats dark chocolate with low sugar content, but why bother? It’s not like rats ask for chocolate, it’s just you feeding it to them at your own accord. They won’t be bothered one inch if you remove the product from their meal plant entirely, which I strongly advise anyway.
- Blue cheese – Blue cheese is a moldy type of cheese, making it a treat for humans. But the same mold that imbues the cheese with its staple color, odor, and taste is hazardous to rats. The presence of the mold makes the cheese toxic to rats, so this is an obvious pass.
- Soda – Too much sugar, too many unhealthy colorants, and additives. Another obvious and easy pass.
- Sugary foods – That’s right, you can skip sugary foods altogether. This includes candy, chocolate, ice cream, and any other type of sugary food that could give your rat diabetes, obesity, or even cancer. The main problem is that these sugary foods are made for human consumption, and humans are much larger than rats. One small candy won’t hurt us but will hurt an animal several dozen times smaller that doesn’t need as much sugar.
- Salty foods – Avoid salty foods. Salt generally benefits rats as it regulates their bodies’ mineral content; many rats could use a salt rock to lick on occasionally. But solid foods containing salt are harmful due to the extra salt content. This can cause the rats to easily eat excess salt, leading to neurological problems and even death.
- Wild insects – Pet rats will never say no to any type of insect, no matter its source. The problem is that, wild insects are unsafe for consumption. These are often filled with parasites, bacteria, and even chemical contaminants coming from the environment. It’s best to feed your rat insects from safe sources, such as your feeder tank. Set one up to provide your rat with a steady source of clean and safe protein.
- Dry corn – Remember when I said rats could eat corn? Yea, well they can’t eat dry corn. This type of corn contains specific fungal contaminants responsible for cancer in rats.
Fortunately, rats will eat anything. Unfortunately, ‘anything’ also includes unsafe and straight-up dangerous foods that could spell your rat’s demise.
So, learn the distinction between the various types of foods to understand what to keep and what to avoid.