So you’ve taken the plunge and gotten a pet rat. You’ve brought him or her home, given them some water, but you’re at a loss as to what they are able to eat. You notice the open bag of dog food slowly going stale in the kitchen cupboard and wonder to yourself, “Can my new pet rat eat dog food?”
Your pet rats can eat dog food, but not solely. Rats are omnivores; they need a balance of fruits, vegetables and proteins in their diet to survive. Dog food is designed to meet the nutritional needs of dogs, not rats, and as such, it should not be given to rats on a regular basis.
Dog food is far too fat-rich and protein-dense for rats to have very often. I rarely have a reason or necessity to feed my rats dog food, so I generally don’t do it. But that begs the question: what should you feed your pet rats? Read on to find out.
Is It Okay if My Pet Rat Eats Dog Food?
Your pet rat will be just fine if it eats dog food, but dog food should not be included as a regular part of its diet. Rats need a nutritionally balanced diet in order to thrive, but dog food is mostly proteins and carbohydrates, as it is made to satiate a dog’s diet.
Dogs are carnivores and rats are omnivores, and as such, their nutritional needs are very different. Now, let’s take a look at what you should feed your pet rat so they can be healthy and nutritionally balanced.
What Should I Feed My Pet Rat?
Dog food isn’t balanced enough in nutrients to be a regular addition to a rat’s diet. So what do I feed my pet rats? Let’s talk about it.
I mostly feed my pet rats the following fresh fruits:
These fruits are stocked at my local supermarkets almost year-round and essentially never run out. That is most likely true for the grocery stores near you as well. They’re cheap, ubiquitous, and the rats love them.
For vegetables, you cannot go wrong with the leafy green and starches
- Potatoes (but not sweet potatoes)
- Other tubers
All of these choices are a great source of fiber and my rats love them as well.
For proteins, lunch meats are an easy solution for me. Additionally, if I don’t finish dinner myself, I will give them some of my leftover meat.
These choices are quick, easy, and most importantly, already cooked:
- Sliced ham
- Roast beef
Rats will eat almost anything, but they shouldn’t eat everything, which leads us into the next topic.
What Shouldn’t I Feed to My Pet Rats?
These are a few things you shouldn’t feed to your pet rats:
- Raw or uncooked meat or eggs. You can feed them this and they will most likely be fine, but I prefer not to put unnecessary strain on their digestive systems. While it is true that rats can handle raw meat, it is likely to harbor so much bacteria that it just isn’t worth the risk.
- Chocolate or caffeine. Stimulants are generally not good for rats, and chocolate has an ingredient called Theobromine that is toxic to all animals.
- I don’t feed them any citrus, either. Citrus fruits, including their peels and zests, contain d-limonene, which is toxic to pet rats. So I steer clear of citrus, and anything else containing d-limonene, which actually includes mangoes.
Remember that pet rats are tough, and descended from wild rats, and can handle a lot. Even if you do make a mistake and feed them something you shouldn’t, don’t panic. They’ll most likely be fine.
However, if you think that your rat is showing signs of sickness after being fed something they weren’t supposed to eat, you should immediately contact your local exotic or small animal veterinary clinic.
What Sweet Treats Can I Feed My Rat?
Other sweets besides the ones mentioned above are fine as a treat once in a while, such as:
- Nilla Wafers
- Froot Loops
- Cooked pasta
- Plain old bread
These choices are quite useful when attempting to teach them to do tricks. I used Froot Loops when I taught them to come when I called them by name, and they haven’t looked back since. Man, who knew fancy rats were so smart?
How Can I Tell If My Pet Rat Has A Well-Rounded Diet?
Obesity in pets has become a very significant problem in recent years. While it is most prevalent among dogs and cats, the problem of obesity extends to pets across the board, from turtles and snakes to pet rats and rabbits. So can you tell if your pet rat is eating right?
For me, the easiest way to go is the eyeball test. Does my pet rat look emaciated or obese? Is the rib cage visible or are there folds of fat around the neck? If any of these are the case, then my pet rat may be over- or underfed.
Most people can tell if an animal looks healthy or not, and I imagine you are one of those people. If your pet rat looks like it’s eating too much or too little, adjust its diet accordingly.
Another important thing to remember is that weight gain in pet rats is not always the result of overeating. This is certainly possible if some of your pet rats are female. If some are female, they may not be obese; they might just be pregnant.
So we’ve covered the do’s and don’ts of feeding our pet rats. I care about my pet rats and if you’re here I imagine you care about yours as well. Remember that if you’re not confident about what you’re feeding your pet rats, you can always get pet rat food, like this one from Kaytee.
My fancy rats do just fine with fruits, vegetables and lunch meat, but rat food is never a bad choice. Either way, enjoy feeding your pet rats; they love eating and will love you for feeding them!