Feeding pet rats is easy. The common saying is, “If you eat it, they will.” The problem with that “rule” is that most people don’t eat healthy. An amended version should be, “If you would feed it to your baby or small child, you can feed it to your rat.” Even that version has some limitations. The point is, it is easier to say what your pet rat shouldn’t eat then to list everything he can. Many foods are unhealthy for your rat, but he can eat it. Several foods can be dangerous.
Rats are lactose intolerant. Like many humans, rats can’t digest the lactose in cow’s milk. It will cause tummy troubles and can be dangerous. Pet rats should not be given any foods with cow’s milk, such as cheese or ice cream. Yogurt is acceptable, especially if a pet rat is sick and on antibiotics that are harsh on the stomach. Yogurt will coat the stomach. It should only be given minimally or as a special treat now and then. You can give pet rats soymilk.
Some raw foods should not be given to rats. Raw vegetables contain more nutrients than cooked veggies, and should be the choice for pet rats. There is one exception to this, though: sweet potatoes. There are toxins in sweet potatoes. They should always be cooked before given to pet rats as they will become sick and could die. Green potato skins, plant and sprouts also contain a toxin called solanine, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization, which can make pet rats ill. Apple, apricot, pear, peach, plum and nectarine seeds are also toxic. They contain a substance that releases cyanide when digested. Most people know not to eat these seeds, but might toss the fruit wit seeds to a pet rat and not realize it will harm them, too. Also, avoid the pits from peaches, apricots and cherries.
Some liquids are harmful to pet rats. Rats should be given fresh water daily. If using tap water, or even some bottled water, make sure there is no fluorine. Fluorides are toxic when taken in large doses, even for humans, and since rats are so small, it doesn’t take much fluorine to harm them. Never give pet rats soda or other carbonated drinks because they can’t burp. Male rats should never have orange juice. For some strange reason it causes cancer in male rats, but not in females. Personally, citrus is very acidic and is not given to my rats at all. If you want to give your rats citrus, cut off any of the skin and all the white before giving it to them.
Keep pet rats away from household plants. Many, but not all, common plants are toxic to animals, including rats. Some of them include aloe vera, eucalyptus, mistletoe, poinsettia, tomato leaves, tobacco and rhubarb. It is safer, and easier, to just keep your pet rats away from any household plants then it is to keep track of what is safe for them and what isn’t. Let them play in rooms that do not have potted plants. Some plants will just cause rashes and diarrhea, while others can cause kidney failure, abdominal pain and tremors.
Some quick tips on feeding pet rats: Give ratties foods that have low sugar, additives or preservatives. Organic and fresh foods are the best choice as there is little fear of pesticides or unnecessary and harmful ingredients. My ratties eat healthier than I do no matter the cost. When in doubt, ask your vet.
Rat Health Food, The Rat Fan Club
Poisonous Plants, The Rat Fan Club
Toxic substances and antinutritional factors in roots, tubers, plaintains and bananas, fao.org
Raw Food Toxins, VegPeace.org