The information section contains the following articles relating to feeding rats:
- List of fruit, vegetables and legumes that are safe for rats
- Scatter feeding
- Weight management
- Vitamin D and the rat
- List of commercial cereals and their suitability
- Feeding rats for reproduction and growth
- General principles of feeding rats
- What should I feed my rats?
- The Shunamite diet
- Suggested diet for rats with kidney disease
- Feeding to support the immune system
Q: What is the best food to feed my rats?
A: There is no one ‘best’ mix to feed your rats, but a number of alternatives which are suitable for the purpose. Your choice might depend on the accessibility of foodstuffs, cost and personal preference. Sadly there isn’t a perfect rat food on the market.This is because some of the mixes sold for rats are not adequate for their requirements. Some mixes sold for rats contain ingredients that they can’t or won’t eat. Some mixes sold for rats contain ingredients that might be harmful to them (poor quality ingredients, preservatives and artificial colours).
Variety in the diet will promote better appetite and growth. Therefore rat nuggets or pellets are not recommended as a total replacement for a grain mix. Any grain mix will be enhanced by adding suitable foods (such as dried vegetables, seeds, whole grains, and low sugar human cereals).
Feeding a good diet is not about ‘good’ and ‘bad’ foods, it’s about applying the same principles to everything you feed.
These principles are
- maintain variety
- don’t over or under feed
- choose low fat (less than 5%)
- choose moderate protein
- choose high carbohydrate.
Q: How much should I feed my rats.
A: This varies between rats due to differences in gender, age, health, activity levels, environmental temperature amongst other factors. Give them the amount they will clear entirely (including any less desirable feed) in around 20 hours if they are adults and in 24 hours if they are kittens.
This is a rough guideline and the only way to determine if your rats are being fed the right amount of food is by observing them over time. They should maintain a good weight for size, not being either plump or skinny - and good fitness. Remember that rats rarely eat alfalfa/grass pellets and you get these pellets in loads of rat/rabbit mixes, so you will need to throw them out. Other than that (and empty seed husks) there should be no waste, so do check that your rats aren't stashing lots of food around the cage. This will be obvious when you come to clean out. Having a lean period every day when food isn't freely available (rather than being fed ad lib) has been shown to help increase longevity.
Q: How do you feed curly kale?
A: Curly kale can be fed raw, lightly cooked or straight from the freezer (wilted). It can be fed most days if desired and is an excellent source of many micronutrients. However, variety is the spice of life and broccoli, pak choi, fresh dandelions, spring greens and clover leaves all make great alternatives.
Q: What are yoggies?
A: This is an affectionate term for yoghurt, milk or chocolate drops, often used as treats for rats. Some types have high levels of sugar and/or fat. If you choose a suitable brand and don't over do it then they are something your rats can enjoy.
Q: Are rat nuggets/pellets/blocks any good?
A: Some animals (like rabbits) thrive on pellets but most rats prefer a wide and varied diet. Rats are natural scavengers, eating an omniverous diet often composed of a huge variety of foods. The best way to prevent selective feeding in rats is not to feed nuggets, but to increase the variety of food available and reduce the amount of food given overall.
Nuggets and pellets can be a useful addition to a varied diet and can make up part of a good quality grain mix. Probably the most suitable readily available rat nuggets are the Science Selective brand.
Q: How much fresh food should I feed each day?
A: A rat's diet can be made up entirely of fresh food so long as it is well thought out in order to meet their nutritional requirements. Sometimes this is necessary because of illness or injury that makes eating a hard grain mix too difficult. Most people prefer to feed a proportion of fresh food, with the major part of the diet being a good quality grain mix. 10-20% of the overall diet is often recommended, though kittens should have more like 50%
Q: My elderly rat has been poorly and has lost quite a lot of weight. What can I feed him to help him recover?
A: Elderly rats often have a degree of kidney disease and have special dietary needs. The following are useful feeds to use where kidney disease is a problem but you need to build the rat up:
- ‘Porridge’ made with soya milk (not baby formula) and couscous - you can add Nutrical or Ferretvite to this.
- Naturediet Lite formula.
- Shredded wheat or puffed rice in soya milk (don’t substitute cereals).
- Live (bio) yoghurt, preferably soya.
- Human baby foods – these can be ‘souped-up’ by adding Nutrical or Ferretvite, adding coconut milk or making the powdered varieties up with soya milk.
- Mashed or sliced avocado.
- A little fresh or lightly cooked broccoli, kale and carrot. Cooking will make digestion a little easier.
- Human complete nutrition drinks (Complan, Build Up).
- Coconut milk (tinned) can be mixed into all sorts of other foods.
- Processed grain products like noodles, white rice and couscous (choose these in preference to pasta).
A: There is no one food that is essential to rats, and as opportunistic omnivores they will eat just about anything (though clearly some diets will be healthier than others). What is important when feeding rats is to stick to the principles: high carb (high whole grain), moderate protein, low fat, fresh vegetables where possible and make sure copper, calcium and vitamin D have been added in sufficient quantity (this can be in a commercial feed or supplemented). Many, many mixes will provide great nutrition for rats and if you want to make up your own this is easy to achieve with a little understanding and advice.
Q: I like the reasoning behind why many people make up their own mix, but I just don't have the time or resources to do this. Is there any way I can buy a ready made "from scratch" mix?
A: Yes there are a few options. Some people who keep a lot of rats (and make or buy their mix in large quantities) are willing to sell smaller volumes of feed to local people. You could ask on the forum whether there is anyone in your area who is able to do this. There are also rat clubs around the UK who may be able to organise for you to buy mixed feed at a show. You can contact the club secretary, or show organiser to ask about this. Perhaps the easiest way to get ready mixed food though, is to buy it online. Rat Rations sells a number of complete mixes via their website. Do remember that any "from scratch" mix is likely to need supplemented as unlike commercial mixes they don't have vitamins and minerals already added.