Everything you could possibly need to know about pet rats in one handy spot!
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Curly Rex Rat
Rex rats are endearing with that “just-woke-up” swirly hair. Rex fur is soft, satiny & oh, so curly. Even the whiskers curl!
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I’m a hairless rat. My owners love me because I don’t shed or make them sniffle! And I’m just as snuggly and smart as any other rat.
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What do Pet Rats Eat?
What do pet rats eat?!
Just about anything you like to eat!
Feeding rats can be such an enjoyable part of their day. It’s also one of the most important. Your choices can help them live longer and happier lives.
If a food is good for you, plan on sharing. Make sure to offer fresh water daily along with your choice of tasty eats.
Read on to discover a variety of answers to the question: “What do rats eat?”
What do Pet Rats Eat: The easy way!
Rat lab blocks and a few fresh treats.
Lab blocks are specially made for your pet rats. They provide every vitamin and mineral in just the right dose to keep your curious critters alert and healthy. With such a high metabolism and small size, it’s important to get it right!
If you can, look for a brand that has soymeal as one of the first three ingredients. Soy is incredibly beneficial for preventing cancer, especially in female rats.
For males, look for low protein blocks, in the 16-18% range. Higher amounts of protein can give them itchy scabs and cause excess buck grease. Regal Rat Oxbow (for adult rats) and Harlan Teklad both make quality lab blocks with lower protein levels.
Pregnant and nursing females and their rat pups, up to 13 weeks old, need more protein. Aim for 22%. Again, Harlan Teklad has a variety to fill this need. Mazuri is another great brand.
Nutro® Natural Choice® Lite Dog food is another great all-in-one source. Since rats are omnivorous, they eat meat along with their grains, beans and veggies. This low-fat dog food is an excellent choice.
If your mom would like to see you eat it, your rats will probably do well with it too. The bulk of your rat’s diet, about 80%, should be lab blocks. For the rest, spice it up with tasty fresh treats.
Fruits & Veggies.
Fresh fruits and veggies are filled with wonderful cancer-preventing nutrients. They also have enzymes that processing destroys.
Pick common fruits like berries, melons, pears, apples, peaches, plums and bananas. Or go more exotic with kiwi, papayas and mangoes.
Good vegetable choices include squash, zucchini, and pumpkin; greens like collard, Swiss chard, spinach & Romaine lettuce; and good old-fashioned broccoli, cauliflower and carrots.
Don’t get carried away with fresh produce or your rats might get the runs. They’re too little to tolerate this problem for long. Simply feed small portions, stay away from really juicy treats like oranges and iceberg lettuce, and you’ll be fine.
What do pet rats eat for protein? This might sound odd, but your rat friends might love gnawing on bones! They benefit from the marrow and protein and also from the workout, just like a dog. You can feed your rats bites of chicken, beef, shrimp and salmon, and a favorite – liver! Canned oysters top the list for a nutritious rat diet.
Experiment. Have fun! The key is variety. You’re sure to keep your rats healthy if you offer a rainbow of colors and flavors.
Other fun treats.
- low sugar cereal, whole wheat bread
- dog biscuits
- cooked pasta & rice
- yogurt (has good bacteria)
Not all fresh goodies are rat-friendly though.
Never feed your rats…
- green bananas (inhibits digestion of starch)
- oranges (has d-limonene that can cause kidney cancer in male rats)
- green potato skins and potato eyes (has solanine which is a toxin)
- raw onions (might upset your rat’s tummy & can cause anemia)
- raw artichokes (inhibits digestion of protein)
- raw sweet potatoes (has an anti-nutrient that destroys thiamin; cooked is okay)
- raw dry beans (has an anti-nutrient that triggers clumping of red blood cells; cooked or canned beans are great)
- raw peanuts (similar to raw dry beans; roasted are okay in small amounts since high in fat)
- rhubarb (has high amounts of oxalates which keeps calcium from being used)
- blue cheese (could contain mold which is poisonous to your rats)
- wild insects (might have parasites that would transfer to your rats)
And use caution…
- carbonated drinks (rats can’t burp!)
- peanut butter (they can choke; thin it with a little liquid so it’s not so sticky)
- chocolate (has a stimulant that can cause heart failure; one chocolate chip is okay and can actually help a rat with a respiratory problem)
- dried corn (can have fungus which causes liver cancer; can have small amounts of fresh corn)
- avocados (are full of fat! a good treat if you have an underweight rat; needs to be ripe; stay away from the pit and skin as they are toxic; flesh close to the pit is also more toxic)
- beets, eggplant, cucumber, radishes, spinach, and lettuce (high in oxalates and nitrates which keep them from absorbing calcium)
- collards, turnip greens, celery, Swiss chard, and almonds (also high in oxalates)
Say “no” to generic rodent mixes.
Rats have very specific nutritional needs. Generic rodent mixes are popular and look tasty, but they don’t provide the right amounts of nutrients. They can also contain foods that your rats just don’t need. Check it out…
- Unlike guinea pigs, rats can manufacture their own vitamin C. They don’t need the green little pieces.
- In fact, those little green alfalfa pellets scattered throughout the most mixes are almost indigestible by rats.
- Many blends contain abundant nuts & seeds that are too fattening for your sweeties. And the excess protein can cause skin problems, especially in your boys.
- Some brands have preservatives and fillers that just aren’t healthy for your rats.
Try to stay away from commercial “Rat” mixes too.
You can also find many mixes that are labeled specifically for “Rats.” These are usually fortified with the right vitamins & minerals – Great! But your picky little ratties will typically sneak out their favorite bits – Bummer.
Have you ever picked out all the almonds and M&M;’s from your trail mix? Same idea. Your rats will usually do it too, and you could end up paying for a lot of waste.
Also, the rat blend is only a complete meal if all of its parts are eaten. If your little pals leave goodies behind, they won’t get their full load of nutrients. It’s like skipping the peas and tanking up on yummy pasta.
What do Pet Rats Eat: The gourmet yet simple way!
Mix up a tasty tofu and molasses mix.
This recipe comes from Debbie Ducommun, “The Rat Lady,” creator of the Rat Fan Club. We have used this recipe with our own rats, and they just love it. One of our youngest girls will squish her little paws through it and just revels in the dish!
You can rest easy knowing that your rats are getting all they need, are thoroughly enjoying it, and it’s really quite simple to make. Make sure to offer fresh treats to round out the meal!
If you’d like even more details about this mix, they’re available . Here’s that recipe. Let’s get cookin’! (It’s really just mixing and stashing in the fridge.)
Homemade Rat Diet Recipe
all foods raw unless otherwise indicated
(t=teaspoon, T=tablespoon, g=gram, mg=milligram, mcg=microgram)
about 3 T molasses mix (see recipe)
one serving of fruit (see menu)
2-3 servings of vegetables (see menu)
Twice a week (see menu)
1 serving cooked beef liver (organic is best) or canned oysters
cooked beans (2 t, use a variety of types)
cooked sweet potato(3/4″ cube)
broccoli floret (1 1/2″ across (cooked or raw)
leafy greens(about 2″ square)
other veggies (1″ square)
cooked beef liver (1″ X 3/4″ X 1/4″)
canned oysters (one average)
fruits (1/2″ cube)
Recipe for Molasses Mix
(will last two rats about a week depending on size–for more than two rats, you can multiply the recipe)
1500 mg calcium from chewable tablets or liquid calcium with vitamin D
2000 mcg chromium picolinate (yes, 2000 mcg is correct, the dose is based on their metabolism, not their weight)
250 mcg vitamin B12
40 mg manganese (from capsules)
3/4 C Total cereal
1 lb packaged (not bulk) soft tofu
4 t shelled raw sunflower seeds
1 T flax seeds
3 T raw oatmeal
4 t pearled barley
4 t millet
3 T cooked brown rice
4 T toasted wheat germ
2 1/4 T nutritional yeast flakes (5.6 g)
2 T blackstrap (dark or full flavor) molasses
Soak the chromium picolinate, calcium, and B12 tablets in a tiny bit of water and when soft, crush. Coarsely crush the Total in a plastic bag. Mash the tofu in a bowl. Add all ingredients together with warm molasses and mix thoroughly. Store covered in the refrigerator or freezer.
The oysters or liver, beans, sweet potato, broccoli, kale, and bok choy are required. (If bok choy isn’t available, substitute brocolli or collard greens.) The other veggies and fruits can be substituted with others if you like.
Monday: berries, kale, sprouts, kale
Tuesday: banana, broccoli, tomato, sweet potato
Wednesday: grape/raisin, bok choy, parsley, beans
Thursday: melon, broccoli, corn, liver/oysters
Friday: prune/plum, kale, squash, beans
Saturday: banana, broccoli, peas, sweet potato
Sunday: apple, bok choy, carrot, liver/oysters
Hope this answers the question of what do pet rats eat!
Lay low on fats, sugar and calories. Drink plenty of water. Eat a variety of foods and keep it fresh. Surprisingly, rat nutrition sounds a lot like people nutrition!
What if I want to train my pet rat?
Check out this handy Guide to Buy Pet Rats before you head out. It provides:
- Tips for finding the friendly ones.
- Where to shop.
- Pitfalls to avoid.
Want to know more about how to care for rats?
How do I choose a cage? And then how do I easily keep it clean? What toys will interest rats and keep them lively? Where do I go to buy pet rats? How do I decide? Find ideas that help keep it fun and easy to take care of pet rats!