Feeding your pets, regardless of their species or breed, is fairly simple if you stick to store bought products as a base of your rat’s diet. Nowadays there’re countless brands of ready formulated foods for all type of animals, including rats, and you can’t really go wrong with them. Sure, your little rodents might prefer a specific mixture of ingredients and snub others, but overall commercially prepared food is a safe choice.
It gets a bit tricky when you want to treat your animals or try something different in their diet. It’s hard to know for sure what type of foods are safe for your rats and what they definitely shouldn’t have, that’s why doing a little research is highly recommended.
Rats are omnivores and love to munch on many different things (including cage bars, hideaways and plastic shelves, but that’s a different story!) and will often try a little bite of any new foods you offer them and then leave it. It doesn’t mean that they don’t like it.
Because rats don’t have gag reflex and cannot make themselves throw up anything bad they’ve eaten, they are testing any new food to see whether it’s going to make them sick. After a while and if the test goes well, they will go back and finish off whatever you gave them to try. However, if you have a good bond with your rats, they will trust you more and more with new foods and eat it without thinking twice. That’s why it’s extremely important to know what you can and can’t feed your rats. No one wants to make their pets sick, so here’s a list of foods safe for your rat and things to avoid.
Before going into the good stuff, let’s mention foods that you DON’T want to feed your rats. Some people might list some of them as not harmful, because there’s not many cases or studies about them but we go by the golden rule “Better safe than sorry”, so if you are in doubt… better avoid.
- Apple seeds. They contain trace amounts of cyanide which is a known poison for humans and for rats.
- Artichokes. If eaten uncooked they will cause your rats to not be able to digest protein.
- Beans. Raw beans break apart vitamin A and make it impossible for your rats to digest protein, leading to dangerous blood conditions.
- Beet tops. Those greens might look nutritious but are known to cause kidney stones and other urinary track issues in rats.
- Blue cheese. The mould it contains is highly poisonous to rats.
- Brussels sprouts. Uncooked, they will destroy thiamine in rat’s system causing cognitive and memory deficits.
- Carbonated drinks. Due to lack of gag reflex and burping ability, rats
can’t expel the gas in fizzy drinks from their body.
- Candy. Too high in sugar for rats to digest. There’s plenty of good rat treats out there, so candy is just not worth it.
- Chocolate. Milky chocolate is a total no-no because of the high sugar and fat content. High quality dark chocolate (with 90% cocoa solids) is rumoured to help with breathing difficulties in rats but it is best to also avoid it until we know more.
- Dried corn. Even though it’s present in many dry food mixes for rats, dried corn can contain fungus causing liver cancer.
- Green bananas. Only ripe bananas are ok. Chemicals in green bananas deactivate starch digesting enzymes in rats.
- Green potato skins and eyes. You wouldn’t eat them, so don’t feed them to your rats. They contain solanine, a known toxin.
- Hamster food. Hamster food is not suitable for rats due to high content of fat. In fact, if it doesn’t say “suitable for rats” on the packaging, simply don’t buy it.
- Liquorice. Can cause neurological poisoning in rats.
- Mango. Due to d-limonene content, mango can cause kidney cancer, especially in male rats.
- Mouldy foods. As a rule, treat your rats like humans. If you wouldn’t eat mouldy foods, why would your rat? It’s highly toxic.
- Onions. Raw onions can cause upset tummy in rats and make them anaemic.
- Oranges. All citrus fruit and juices should be strictly avoided as they can be harmful to your rat’s kidneys and cause cancer in male rats.
- Peanuts. Raw peanuts will destroy vitamin A in your rat’s digestive system and harm their gut. Roasted peanuts in shells are fine as an occasional treat.
- Poppy seeds. Avoid poppy seeds all together, even on bread or bagels. They can cause rats to fall sick or even die.
- Radish and spinach. Both are high in nitrates, a known cause of cancer in rats (and humans!)
- Red cabbage. Raw red cabbage contains anti-nutrients harmful to rats.
- Rhubarb. Toxic to rats due to high level of oxalates present which are
known to cause clumped blood and kidney problems.
- Sweet potato. Raw sweet potatoes contain chemical compounds that will form cyanide in rat’s stomach! Baked sweet potato however is absolutely safe and has great nutritional value.
- Tofu. Raw tofu is a breeding ground for harmful bacteria and can cause infections in rats.
- Wild insects. Because they can carry diseases and parasites, they are
unsuitable for your rats to eat them without getting infected.
SAFE FOODS FOR RATS TO ENJOY
Now that we got the nasty, harmful foods out of the way, it’s time to mention all the goodness filled, super tasty snacks your rats will love.
- Apples or Applesauce. Great fruity snack when fed in moderation. Make sure to remove all the seeds as they are dangerous to rats.
- Apricots. Full of vitamin C and other nutrients.
- Avocado. A small piece won’t do your rats any harm, although is high in fat and should be avoided in large portions.
- Bananas. Only feed your rats ripe bananas, they will love it!
- Beef. Occasional sliver of beef is fine, but keep it to minimum.
- Blackberries and Blueberries. A very messy treat! Stains can be hard to clean of wooden ledges and fabric hammocks, but rats will enjoy these fruit.
- Bread. If you want to give your rats bread, it’s best to do it in small
pieces to avoid choking hazard. You can also either toast it or soften in in milk or water.
- Broccoli. Good green veg for your rats, either cooked or fresh.
- Butternut squash. Safe if cooked thoroughly. Don’t serve it fresh.
- Cantaloupe. Juicy snack your rats will enjoy especially in hot weather.
- Carrots. It’s a staple in any rat diet. Rats will eat it raw, boiled or
steamed. Tip: if you are peeling carrots, save the skins and give to your ratties to munch on!
- Cashews. Quite fatty nuts but one every once in a while is fine.
- Cauliflower. Same as with broccoli, rats will eat cauliflower cooked or
raw. Be aware though, it might make their pee smell!
- Celery. Even though celery has hardly any nutritional value, it’s a good crunchy snack for rats on a diet.
- Cheese. Rats go mad for cheese but feed it to them in very small pieces, as a treat. A soy based cheese is also ok.
- Cherries. Halve them and remove the pip before giving cherries to your rats.
- Chicken. The best meaty choice for your rats. Breast pieces or lean chicken on the bone will entertain rats for ages and they will often chew on the bone and suck out all the marrow.
- Corn. Rats enjoy corn because of it’s sweetness. Corn on the cob, tinned or frozen are good all the same.
- Cottage cheese. Dairy foods are okay for rats in small quantities.
- Cranberries. Very good choice if your rats suffer from urinary track
infections or to boost their kidney function.
- Crackers. 1/8 of a cream cracker will satisfy your rat’s need for crunch!
- Cucumber. As a water based vegetable, it’s great in the summer.
- Dog food. You can add it to your rats diet but make sure it’s good quality and low protein.
- Dried bananas. Good source of potassium and your rats will enjoy grinding their teeth on the crunchy surface. Best to choose dried bananas with no added sugar.
- Dry cereal. Cheerios, puffed rice or plain cornflakes are a great choice
for a tasty treat. Avoid cereal with high sugar content.
- Dry rolled oats. Rats love plain rolled oats, it’s a good substitute for
store bought treats.
- Fruit baby food. What’s good for human babies, it’s good for rats. Whether it’s baby foods from a jar or a pouch, rats will lick it clean.
- Green beans. Super nutritious and yummy, best served cooked.
- Hard-boiled eggs. Your rats will enjoy cracking the shell and scooping out the insides. It’s a great high protein treat if offered every once in a
while. Very entertaining to watch them eat it too!
- Kale. Dark green, leafy veg is best. Cooked or raw.
- Mashed potatoes. Try to keep it plain without added salt or butter.
- Mealworms. Not only for birds! Rats enjoy them a lot and it’s not an
- Meat baby food. Like with the fruity version, baby food is super tasty for rats. Chicken casserole or spaghetti bolognese are the ones to try!
- Melons. Tasty treat for the summer months.
- Mushrooms. Serve cooked. You can boil or steam them.
- Pasta. Rats live for carbohydrates so pasta based foods are much loved by them. Whether is cooked or dried, they enjoy munching it. Green (spinach) or red (tomato) pasta is especially tasty but spaghetti will also suffice. Dry pasta is great for your rat’s teeth and will provide something to chew on.
- Peaches. Cut them up in small pieces and remove the pip. Watch your rats lick their juicy hands afterwards! It’s sooo cute!
- Peas. Rats LOVE peas. Cooked, dried or even frozen. Put them in a bowl of water and let your rats fish them out. It’s so much fun.
- Plums and Pomegranates. They are the perfect source of vitamin C which is vital for healthy rat bodies.
- Popcorn. As rats adore corn, popcorn is not different. Choose a variety
with no salt or butter.
- Popsicles. Ice lollies made from fruit juice can be a refreshing treat on
- Potatoes. Mashed or boiled. Rats will even enjoy the peel if you keep it in the freezer for them and whip it out every so often.
- Pumpkin. If you are carving out pumpkin for Halloween, keep some for your ratties. The pulp is fine but keep the seeds to minimum as they are high in fat. For a fun change you can place a half of mini munchkin pumpkin in your rats cage and they will do the rest!
- Raspberries. Can be a messy treat but highly enjoyable.
- Red peppers. You can feed them raw or cooked, in small quantity, providing they are not spicy! Bell peppers are best.
- Rice. Like with all carbs, rats enjoy eating rice. Brown rice is the
healthiest option but a sprinkle of white one in their bowl will be a nice treat.
- Scrambled eggs. Whisk one whole egg and scramble in the pan without any oil or butter. Wait for it to cool down, then serve. 1 egg is enough for 2 rats.
- Soy products. Soy has cancer-preventing qualities in rats so it’s a good
choice to offer them some soy milk, unsalted nuts or yoghurt.
- Strawberries. Healthy and full of goodness, rats enjoy eating them whole.
- Sunflower seeds. Sprinkle them around your rats cage to encourage their sniffing skills. Make sure the seeds are unsalted and to maximise your rat’s enjoyment, buy them in shells.
- Sweet potatoes. Always serve cooked.
- Tomatoes. High in vitamin K, potassium and vitamin C, which makes them a fantastic nutritional treat. Your rats might not like the skins but they will eat everything else.
- Turkey. Thanksgiving leftovers won’t go amiss with your rats. Turkey is not as good as chicken but it will do!
- Watermelon. One of the best treats for a hot summers day. Flesh and seeds are fine, as your rats will only eat the red parts and leave the skin.
- Yoghurt. It’s a great treat for bonding with your rats. Dip your fingers in yoghurt and let them lick it all off while stroking them. Plain or fruity yoghurt in small amounts is absolutely fine.
- Yoghurt drops. Every rats kryptonite! One of the best snacks to reward your rats with, especially if you are teaching them new tricks! Rats will do anything or yoghurt drops.
As you can see, there is plenty of different foods your rats can enjoy without a worry. Most of them are readily available in your fridge or cupboard, so you don’t have to go out of your way to provide your rats all the nutrients they need. A varied, well balanced diet consisting of commercially formulated rat food and fresh produce will keep your little friends happy and healthy, so you can enjoy as much time together as possible. And remember: if in doubt, research it! In this instance Google is one of the best sources out there but don’t forget to use your common sense too!If you enjoyed reading this article, please share it with your friends and on your social media! Also leave us a comment below with your thoughts or questions.