Small Stomachs Need Food Too: What Foods Are Safe For Pet Rats

Pet Food


September 7, 2020

So you got a rat! You now have a beautiful, tiny, furry little friend to play with. Rats are not only wonderful playmates, but they are also living, breathing animals that need proper care.

Meaning, you must clean their cages, wash their fur, take them to the vet regularly, and of course, give them the appropriate food. But what does that mean?

I know that the pet store around the corner probably has a thousand types of different rat food products. However, I also know that, just like with humans, processed stuff is not always the best (or the cheapest) choice. Whether you are a student on a budget or a health nut who would like to apply their foodie knowledge onto their pets, let’s look at a few homemade options.

Your Rat’s Daily Protein: Can Rats Eat Meat?

Rats can most certainly benefit from a protein fix, especially during lactation, pregnancy, and while recovering from surgery. Nevertheless, it is also good to treat your furry friend to some meat, even if they are not going through any of the stages mentioned above. That being said, what protein source should you choose?

Can Rats Eat Salmon?

Like humans, rats need their protein to be accompanied by healthy fats. However, unlike humans, not every type of healthy fat is suitable for your furry friend.

For example, red and processed meats, just like beef and ham, have a high fat content, too high for a rat’s tiny liver. On the other hand, fatty fish, like salmon, are rich in Omega 3 fatty acids, which have many benefits for both humans and rats, such as aiding heart and hair health.

Now, if after reading all about the wonders of Omega 3, you are still hesitant about feeding your pet rat some salmon; let’s talk a bit more about the benefits of this specific fish delight.

In all of its pink, salty glory, salmon is 27% protein and is very high in Omega 3, selenium, and vitamin B12. As a perk, vitamin B12 is known for its effects on decreasing the risk of fatty liver in rats, making salmon an excellent addition to your pet’s diet.

If you wish to feed your rat salmon, the easiest way would be to steam it lightly and cut it into rat-sized portions. If you want, you can steam some for yourself too and share a nice meal with your furry companion. After that, you can freeze what is left and save the fishy treat for another day – its nutritional content will not be affected.

Can Rats Eat Tuna?

Tuna is an excellent addition to your rat’s diet since it contains 25% protein and very little fat. Not to mention, it is conveniently available in small cans you can buy at any grocery store. Nonetheless, if you opt for canned tuna, make sure it is canned in water and not sunflower or olive oil, as the high fat content may pose a threat to your rat’s liver.

You can feed your pet rat tuna straight from the can, which will give them their fix of vitamin B12 and Omega 3. However, try to limit tuna time to small portions, and only twice a week, seeing as tuna contains a high amount of sodium.

Veggies are always good for everyone! What About Rats?

Everyone needs to eat their greens, even rats. But, that does not mean that you should make a second bowl of Caesar Salad for your pet, it means that you should feed your rat one vegetable a day. That way, your cuddly friend gets enough nutrients from different sources.

Can Rats Have Cucumber?

Cucumber is an excellent choice when it comes to rat feeding. Not only is it full of water, but it is also very refreshing and has a light taste, which makes it less likely to be rejected by your pet.

This watery green food is perfect for when your pet is recovering from surgery, if they’re nervous before a vet visit, trying to lose some weight, or they’re feeling hot on a particularly warm day. Not only can rats eat cucumber, but they look amazingly cute doing so.

Can Rats Eat Asparagus?

Asparagus is universally hated by children and loved by fancy chefs. It’s also a great source of vitamins A, C, E, and K, thiamine, fiber, and folate, making it a conscious choice for you and your rodent friend alike. Aside from that, its high copper content can be a savior when it comes to preventing anemia.

Of course, asparagus is perfectly safe for rats, as long as you stick to small portions three times a week.

Can Rats Eat Olives?

Olives are a great addition to a feta cheese salad, and they are also a great addition to your rat’s little food bowl! However, since olives are soaked in salt water to remove their bitterness, it is recommended that you feed your pet only 1/4 of an olive once a week.

Their sodium content is a bit of a disadvantage, but the high amounts of vitamin A, E, and copper are amazing at preserving bone health and protecting your rat against cancer. So, a small, salty, disadvantage, but great perks!

Do Rats Like Fruit?

Fruit! It is an excellent addition to everything, from cocktails to cakes, including rat food.

Rats can have fruit, and they enjoy it, too. However, please remember to treat your tiny friend to minimal portions of fruit (once a week and tiny pieces). Also, not every single fruit is right for your pet. Let’s take a look at some examples.

Can Rats Eat Grapes?

Grapes, green or purple, are a great source of vitamin K and manganese, as well as antioxidants that can fight against aging, cancer, and heart disease. These benefits apply to humans and rats, but while you can have a whole grape (or two) as a healthy snack, your rat can only have half a grape twice a week due to the high sugar content.

Can Male Rats Have Oranges?

Oranges are said to be a great source of vitamin C, and everyone knows this. However, they are not for everyone, especially not male rats. 

Why? Well, oranges, along with other citrus fruits, are high in d-limonene, a compound that can activate a specific protein in your male rat’s liver, allowing for a tumor to grow. But, hey, more orange juice for you!

What About the Girls?

Girls do have more fun, and that includes girl rats, too. Meaning, you can totally give your female rat a little bit of orange as a fun treat, since their liver does not contain the protein that male rats have. However, it could still cause diarrhea, so make sure to limit your portions to once a week and stop if you see any changes in your girl’s digestion.

Rats and Spices: Can Rats Have Garlic?

Yes, they can! 

Garlic is an excellent source of vitamin C and B6, thiamine, calcium, copper, selenium, manganese, potassium, and phosphorus. All of these components boost immunological health, so a bit of garlic might give you a healthy little buddy. You can feed it to them raw, or microwave it for 30 seconds to make it taste better. 

Your furry friends can eat garlic every day, but only one clove per rat.

Can Rats Eat Cheese?

As far as pop culture is concerned, rats are absolutely crazy about cheese, but is it good for them offscreen?

The short answer is yes. However, it is always better to elaborate. The rumor that rats are lactose intolerant is just that – a rumor. Cheese is good for your furry pet, but not in excess, and not all cheeses.

The best cheeses for your pet rat are the semi-hard ones, such as Gouda, Colby, Emmental, and Gruyere. But wait! Before you excitedly put a hard block of cheese in your cart as a treat for your little friend, please remember to check if that specific block is of the plain variety and does not contain nuts or herbs or, God forbid, chilly.

Cheeses to Avoid

Rats do not have molars, so they cannot break down food before swallowing it, which increases their risk of choking. With that in mind, it is better to avoid cheese spreads (like cream cheese) and soft, chewy cheeses like mozzarella and cottage cheese.

Please stop feeding your rat cheese if you notice loose stool or diarrhea. We have established that not all rats are lactose intolerant, but, just like us, some of them can be allergic to the compound.

Chocolaty Goodness: Can Rats Eat Chocolate?

Good news! Next time you rip open a chocolate bar, you can share a little piece with your pet. Not only is it full of fiber, but it also contains some fantastic components. These include theophylline (which is used for metabolic enhancement and renal cleaning in rats) and phenylethylamine, which is known to be a natural anti-depressant.

Although chocolate can be good for rats, please steer clear from white and flavored chocolate, and focus instead on dark chocolate with high cacao content. On top of that, remember that chocolate contains trace amounts of caffeine, which is why your furry friend will benefit from no more than a pea-sized amount of this dark treat.

So, How Should I Feed my Rat?

In other words, your pet rat will benefit from a balanced diet rich in fiber, healthy fats, vitamins, and minerals, including the occasional treat. Yes, just like you! But, unlike you, rats should have tiny portions, and you, as a rat owner, should be on the lookout for loose stool or a sore tummy. 

So, cut up a tiny piece of chocolate or cheese, steam some salmon and asparagus, and bon appetit to your little pal!