Food: Do's and Don'ts

Rats are able to eat a wide variety of fruits, vegetables, grains, legumes and meats, as they are naturally omnivorous. This does not mean, however, that they are able to eat everything under the sun without side effects, good and bad, much like humans. Obviously, like humans, foods high in fat, sugar, salt and protein should be avoided. Keeping your rats diet varied is important, as it helps prevent boredom and canThe following is a list of foods that are good and bad for rats and the reasons why.

Never feed your rat...
  • Raw sweet potato (contains an anti-nutrient which destroys thiamin. Cooked sweet potato is ok)
  • Green bananas (inhibits digestion of starch)
  • Green potato skins and eyes (contains solanine, highly toxic to most animals including humans)
  • Raw peanuts, beans and legumes (can trigger clumping of red blood cells. Roasted peanuts are ok only in small amounts due to high fat content. Canned and cooked beans and legumes are excellent for you rats)
  • Raw onion (can upset their stomach, also causes anaemia)
  • Raw artichoke (inhibits digestion of protein)
  • Rhubarb (contains high amounts of oxalates. These inhibit the absorption of calcium)
  • Blue Cheese (and other mouldy cheeses. Mould is toxic to rats)
  • Wild insects (may harbour parasites which can infect your rat)
  • Oranges (d-limonene in oranges is linked to kidney cancer in male rats)
  • Alcoholic drinks (it's not good for you, don't feed it to them either)

Avoid feeding your rat...
  • Dried corn (and any other dry vegetable. Not only do they lack the nutrients of the real thing but they can easily harbour mold)
  • Carbonated drinks (rats cannot burp, nor can they vomit)
  • Peanut butter (or any thick spread. They can cause your rat to choke. If you must feed them this, limit the amount because it's quite fatty and thin it with water)
  • Chocolate (contains stimulants which can trigger cardiac arrest. Dark chocolate OK in small amounts, and can actually alleviate respiratory distress temporarily)
  • Cheese (can cause bloating and constipation. Can be given as a treat in very small amounts)
  • Avocado (some of the flesh is OK in small amounts. Avoid the flesh near the skin and the pit, these are toxic)
  • Anything marketed at rats and mice in a pet store or supermarket unless advised otherwise by multiple sources. These are often incomplete diets, contain ingredients of poor quality and ingredients that rats cannot process (like alfalfa), as well as high fat content due to the excessive amounts of seeds and 'fillers'.

Feed freely (available 24/7, should make up 80% of diet)...
  • Lab blocks (not rat pellets from the pet store, they're often complete rubbish)
  • Suitable dry mix (as mentioned on the Every Day Diet page)

Feed Occasionally (once a day or less in small amounts)...
  • Vegetables like cooked sweet potato, corn on the cob, broccoli and spinach (especially good to serve cooked as it makes it easier to absorb the iron), pumpkin, zucchini, garlic, carrots, peas.
  • Fresh fruit such as apples, pears, peaches, plums, kiwi fruit, mango, banana and many more!
  • Fermented soy products such as Tofu (avoid unfermented soy products, e.g. soy milk, as they can cause the body to store excess amounts of fat from the food they eat rather than convert it into energy)
  • Dog food (dental chews and low fat, low protein dog treats are nice occasional treats)
  • Nuts and seeds in small amounts. They're high in good fats which are beneficial for coats and rats love them, but if you over do it it can lead to weight problems.
  • Cooked meat such as chicken, beef, prawns, fish (be cautious of big sea fish such as tuna as they can contain high mercury levels), oysters and liver. Meat on the bone makes a great chew toy (make sure the bone is thick, like a beef bone or chicken thigh bone).
  • Natural Yoghurt (good for those on antibiotics. With all dairy products, use only small amounts)

Vegetables high in nitrates and oxalates (e.g.: spinach, eggplant, beets, cucumber, radishes, lettuce, celery, collard greens and almonds) can hinder calcium absorption, however in small amounts they can be very beneficial to your rat's diet.