Can Pet Rats Eat Tomatoes? Benefits & Risks
Variety is the spice of life when it comes to food. You wouldn’t want to eat the same three things week in, week out. Why would your pet rat be any different? After all, rats are omnivores. They’ve evolved to eat a lot of different things.
Of course, not all foods are safe for pet rats. Rats can’t eat onion, citrus, mango, raw sweet potato, raw cabbage, peanuts, and chocolate, among other things. So, you can’t just grab anything lying around in your house and stuff your pet rat with it.
But what about tomatoes? Tomatoes are a commonly enjoyed food, and they’re easy to find. You probably have some in your fridge right now. Should you feed some to your pet rat? Keep reading to find out!
Are Tomatoes Safe for Rats?
Rats are omnivorous and opportunistic eaters. They consume almost anything, including various veggies and fruits, seeds, grains, and lean meats. Whether you count the tomato as a fruit or a vegetable, this beloved food can be a healthy addition to a rat’s diet.
Ripe tomatoes are not known to be toxic to rats. In fact, rats enjoy eating these and can even derive nutritional benefits from doing so! Be careful about unripe tomatoes with green spots, though. Green tomatoes contain small amounts of tomatine and solanine, two known poisoning compounds.
Another potential downside of tomatoes is that they may be a choking hazard. The sweet, juicy tomato isn’t as innocent as it seems. Its fibrous skin and tiny seeds can be difficult for rats to chew properly. Luckily, you can always peel the tomato and take out the seeds. Problem solved!
Benefits of Tomatoes for Pet Rats
Tomatoes are fresh and delicious. Most pet rats go crazy over them. When your rat seems bored with its dry chow and regular snacks, tomatoes come to the rescue! But the benefits of tomatoes go far beyond taste. This food can do a lot more than satisfy your rat’s hunger. Here are just some of the benefits of tomatoes for rats:
Big and juicy heirloom tomatoes, chewy beefsteak tomatoes, tiny cherry and grape tomatoes— the options are endless!
Tomatoes come in many shapes, sizes, and textures. But they’re all equally nutritious and fun for your pet rat. Cherry tomatoes, in particular, are the perfect size for your small pet.
Rich in good carbohydrates and low in fat
Rats need lots of carbohydrates and fiber for healthy digestion and appetite regulation. Your pet rat also requires a very low-fat diet to maintain a healthy weight and avoid metabolic diseases.
Luckily, tomatoes cover all bases! One small tomato contains 1.1 grams of fiber, 3.5 grams of total carbohydrates, and virtually 0 grams of fat. This food has the perfect nutrient profile for a balanced rat diet.
High in key vitamins in minerals
Tomatoes are an excellent source of vitamin C, vitamin K, potassium, and B vitamins. These nutrients play key roles in your pet’s health.
Vitamin C acts as an antioxidant and promotes healthy skin and wound healing. A vitamin C deficiency in rats may lead to cardiovascular problems and intestinal lesions in rats.
Vitamin K helps with healthy blood clotting and prevents excessive blood loss from open wounds.
Potassium is important for optimal growth, bone density, and electrolyte balance. Too little potassium may lead to stunted growth, poor mineral balance, and heart problems.
B vitamins fulfill many important functions in your pet’s body. They are crucial for sustaining digestion and the absorption of other nutrients. The body also uses B vitamins to maintain healthy body tissues and to make new blood cells.
Great source of antioxidants
Besides vitamin C, tomatoes contain two other important antioxidants— lycopene and beta-carotene. These antioxidants can support healthy vision and reduce inflammation in rats.
Antioxidants are all the more important, considering that rats are predisposed to multiple cancers and other inflammatory diseases. Numerous experimental studies on lab rats have shown promising findings. A high intake of antioxidants, particularly lycopene, may prevent the development of liver, prostate, and mammary gland cancers.
How to Feed Tomatoes to Rats?
Rats are resourceful little creatures. They’ll work their way around virtually any food. However, proper food prep is still important for your pet’s health. Here’s how to make tomatoes safer and easier to eat for your rat:
- Choose fresh tomatoes. Like us, rats are susceptible to foodborne illness. You don’t want your pet eating spoiled or old food. Avoid tomatoes that are squishy, discolored, wrinkled, blemished, or leaking.
- Wash well and remove leaves and stems. Although the fruit is edible, the tomato plant is a nightshade and mildly toxic to rats. So, the leaves have to go. After removing the top green part, scrub the tomato under running water to remove any impurities.
- Peel the tomato. This step is optional, so skip it if you want. But removing the peel will make the tomato easier to chew. For easy removal, simmer the tomato in boiling water for one minute. Then, rest the tomato in a bowl of cold water. After a few minutes, you can easily separate the peel from the fruit.
- Portion out the tomato. A proper serving size for an adult rat is half a cherry tomato or a quarter slice of a regular tomato. This much will leave your rat feeling full without overeating.
- Remove seeds and serve. The seeds can be a nuisance for your pet. So, take a coffee spoon and scoop out the gooey part to remove them. Once you’re done, the tomato is ready to serve!
- Clean up the aftermath. Rats can be messy eaters, and tomatoes won’t do them justice. Tomatoes are soft and watery. Don’t be surprised if the juice and pulp bits end up everywhere. It gets even worse if you leave the seeds and the skin on. It’s annoying but remember— despite their chaotic eating habits, rats enjoy cleanliness and need a hygienic environment.
It takes a bit of preparation to feed your rat tomatoes. But it’s so worth it! Your pet will have lots of fun eating tomatoes, especially if it’s a new food on the menu. Just a warning— your rat might have softer droppings after eating tomato. If your pet doesn’t often consume watery fruits and veggies, there will be changes in texture. Don’t panic! This is completely normal.
Can Rats Eat Tomato Seeds?
Tomato seeds are non-toxic, so, in theory, they’re okay for your rat. However, the seeds are not particularly nutritious, and they’re very hard to digest. It’s not worth including them in your rat’s meal. Besides being virtually useless nutritionally for your pet, tomato seeds also have two big disadvantages.
First, tomato seeds are small and tough. Rats have difficulty chewing them, making the seeds a choking hazard. Secondly, leaving the seeds and the gooey part in will only make a bigger mess in the cage. More cleaning for you!
For these reasons, I recommend discarding the seeds. However, you might get away with seeded cherry tomatoes. The smaller tomatoes sometimes have softer seeds and are less runny and messy.
Can Rats Eat Tomato Sauce?
Can you feed your rat tomato sauce? It depends. By itself, tomato sauce is safe and healthy for your rodent pet. However, you must know exactly what went into the sauce. Commercially-sold sauces contain added sugar, salt, preservatives, and sometimes herbs and oils. Any food that contains added sugar, salt, or fat will be unhealthy for a rat.
Plain homemade tomato sauce without anything added to it is alright. You can give your rat some from time to time. But don’t overdo it! Tomato sauce is highly concentrated, so it contains more calories than raw tomatoes.
A 25-gram serving of raw tomato contains 4 calories, while a 25-gram serving of tomato sauce contains 20 calories. To get a better idea of how fattening tomato paste could be, keep in mind that a rat needs to eat approximately 60 calories per day.
Tomatoes are a safe and healthy addition to your pet rat’s diet. They’re low in fat, high in fiber, and rich in nutrients and antioxidants. And most rats love the taste! Tomatoes make a refreshing, fun snack for your pet while supplying a good dose of vitamin C, K, and potassium.
The only downside to tomatoes is that they’re very messy. The combination of rubbery skin, multiple tiny seeds, mushy pulp, and juicy goo make tomatoes the most unholy food of all. There’s no escaping it. But you can minimize the mess by peeling and seeding the tomato first.