The Main Diet

There are several types of diets that are available for small animals. The first and most prominent is a “rodent mix” that claims to be sufficient for all pocket pets including hamsters, mice and rats. Mixes are not a good idea for rats because they will often pick out what they like and leave the rest behind, resulting in a not-so-balanced diet. Then there are rodent blocks. This is the easiest and best diet found in pet stores. All the food rats need is packed tightly into a small, processed block that is sold in bulk or packages. The major problem with this type of food is moths. There is a certain type of moth that lays its eggs in these, that can result in a huge breakout of maggot-type worms. To avoid this problem, store rodent blocks in the freezer. A more complicated diet for rats is the homemade diet that originated from Debbie Ducommun, a former lab technician that is now the founder and president of the Rat Fan Club. This diet is great for rats because everything they need to be healthy is in it. It is also easy to control the weight of your rat through this diet. You can find information on this diet from several places. You can join the club, order the Rat Health Care Booklet (Commonly referred to in our family as “the Rat Bible”), or get Debbie’s book, “Rats! A Fun and Care Book”.

Properties and Safety of Different Foods

These foods may help rats with specific problems.

Antibiotic Properties
banana, garlic, prunes/plums, tea, eggplant, onion, raspberries, yellow mustard

Anti-viral properties
cranberries, onion, prunes/plums, strawberries

Arthritis
clove, ginger, dates, garlic

Dangerous Foods

Foods NEVER to feed your rat

  • chocolate–contains stimulants that can cause heart failure or neurological poisoning.
    licorice–neurological poisoning
  • raw beans–anti-nutrients that destroy vitamin A and enzymes rats need to digest proteins and starches. Also may cause red blood cells to clump.
  • carbonated drinks–rats can’t burp, causes a significant amount of discomfort and god knows what else.
  • raw sweet potato–compounds form cyanide in the stomach.
  • bleu cheese –the mold is toxic to rats.
  • raw red cabbage–antinutrient that destroys thiamin.
  • raw brussel sprouts–antinutrient that destroys thiamin.
  • raw artichokes–inhibits protein digestion
  • orange juice –can cause kidney cancer in males only.
  • green bananas–makes it difficult to digest starches.
  • green potato skin and eyes–contains a toxin called solanine.
  • rhubarb–contains high levels of oxalates.

Foods to feed with CAUTION–that is, not too often.

  • dried corn (often sold as entire cobs in pet and feed stores)–may be carcinogenic. Also watch out for cucumber, radishes, spinach, collards and turnip greens.
  • beets–include oxalates, which bind up calcium.
  • almonds–include oxalates, which bind up calcium.
  • Swiss chard–include oxalates, which bind up calcium.

Treats

In the beginning, treats have a lot to do with encouraging your rat to trust you. A note on trust: if you are trying to encourage your rat to trust you, try and get him to retrieve the food from your hand. There are many types of treats that are good for rats. Rats enjoy cereals, most fruits and vegetables and many other things. Use your common sense, and don’t feed rats anything that is toxic to ANY type of animal. Candy is a very BAD idea, and rats can’t burp, so carbonated drinks can result in death. Please note that all fruits and vegetables must be washed thoroughly to avoid poisoning from pesticides. The following are suggestions.

Good for teaching tricks
Rice Krispies, Cheerios, Total, Small pieces of any fruit or veggie

All around good treats
Strawberries, Grapes, Watermelon, Apple, Carrots (note: too many can cause diarrhea), Peanuts (unsalted. In the shell is fun!)

Water

There are many types of water feeders for animals on the market, from bottles and dishes to faucet adapters. The only acceptable ones, however, are water bottles. The bottle pictured here is made by Oasis, which can be found in many pet stores, with a shield guard also made by Oasis. The Oasis water bottle is leak free, keeps the water clean and cool, and is easy to fill. When I first got the “big” Oasis water bottle (They come in several sizes), for Lukass and Rizzo, Lukass immediately attacked the bottle and chewed part of it to bits. It still works, of course, but this is where the shield guard comes in handy. As far as the water itself, make sure it is always cool and replace it daily or every other day. There is something concerning water that people never think about, though. There are many toxins in tap water. If you drink tap water, I am certainly not saying “Go out and buy bottled water just for your rats”, but if you have water like Alhambra delivered to your front door, use that for the rats, too. You never know. Always let the water from the tap run for a while, until it is somewhat cooler than it was coming out when you first turned it on. This means the water is coming directly from the source.