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Pet Rats - What food and diet is best for ratties?

Feeding pet rats

Like people, rats are omnivores. They fare best on fresh wholesome foods: wholegrain (brown) rice, vegetables, grains (wheat, barley, oats, millet), wholemeal bread, etc. and some animal protein.

High protein puppy food is useful as a supplement to help build up young rats (up to 10-12 weeks), and normal to low protein dry dog food is a good component of a healthy diet.

Ideally, an adult rat should be fed some whole-grains, some vegetables, and some protein (lean meat scraps, dog food or mealworms) every day. This can be supplemented with a bowl of 'rodent mix' as a snack food.

Vegetarian Rat Diet

Pet rat eating eggs - eggs can be part of a rat's food and diet

Unfortunately, it impossible to formulate a vegetarian diet for rats which would fulfil all of their nutritional requirements. If you want your rats to thrive, they should have small amounts of animal protein. The simplest way of providing this is via a few dog biscuits.

Store Bought Mixes

The ready-made rat food mixes containing seeds and nuts are not recommended because they contain too many fats and oils, provide inadequate protein levels, and are not necessarily balanced.

Obesity is a common problem with pet rats and therefore, oil-rich and high-fat foods must be avoided. Healthy maintenance of your pet rats depends upon their diet containing foods with relatively high protein levels (But not too much protein! See: Pet Rats Health: Protein Itch). Seed/nut-based diets generally fail to meet this requirement.

Grain Mix

If you feed a grain mix, like Reggie Rat or a rabbit/hamster mix, give just a small amount at a time.

Most rats will pick out their favourite pieces first, but they will not get a balanced diet if they only eat their favourite part of the mix. Do not give any more food until all of the first lot has been eaten, except for the empty grain husks, and the pellets.

These pellets are made of alfalfa, and they mainly add bulk to the diet. Most rats would rather starve than eat them; don't worry, as they are not essential. It is better for rats to get their fibre from fresh fruit or veg anyway.

'Mono-diets' such as complete blocks of rodent food as a sole food make for a boring diet. It deprives your pet rats of the fun of rummaging through their food and eating the tastiest bits first. However, "complete foods" in the form of extruded pellets guarantee that rats are getting all of their vital nutrients, and as such can be an important part of a healthy mixed diet.

Dry food

Rats should always have access to dry food. Many people believe that rats can live on bird seed, and while they probably could, it's not very healthy. Seeds should not be the primary diet. It should be supplemented with or replaced by lab blocks and/or a quality low-protein dog food such as Nutro Natural Choice Lite or Innova Senior.

Vita-Vittles Mouse Rat Food - 2 Lbs

Vita-vittles mouse rat diet is a nutritious daily food it contains essential nutrients for the growth and maintenance of mice and rats. Contains wheat, cracked corn, sunflower seeds (dehulled), soybean meal, wheat middlings, dehydrated alfalfa meal, oat groats, milo, flaked wheat, calcium carbonate, corn gluten meal, flaked corn, dicalcium phosphate.

Typically, my dry food mix consists of:

Parrot seed
Dry pasta
Pet rat diet and food consist of dry food and grains
Puffed wheat
Brown rice
Dog biscuits
White rice
Dried legumes

Fresh food

Along with a constant supply of dry food, be sure to feed your pet rats fresh fruits and veggies, but NO oranges (it contains D-limonene) and not too much tomato. In summer, give cooling, juicy foods, and in winter, give warm foods such as cooked rice and vegetables.

Avoid citrus fruits and onions as these are far too acidic. All foods offered should either be hand fed or placed in an earthenware dish and removed within 24 hours if not eaten.

Rats should be given the same amount of food at the same time each day. I usually feed my rats later in the evening, because rats are most active at night, and that's when they eat the most. Rat "dinners" might consist of:

Bean sprouts
Snow peas
Boiled egg


For dessert, I always give my rats soy milk - either plain, or mixed with fruit, yoghurt, baby cereal, or Weet-Bix. Soy products are thought to help prevent tumours. Soy milk, tofu, soy beans, soy yoghurt, soy custard and miso are all soy foods that rats love. Soy milk is also high in protein, and helps to "fatten up" sick, old, or orphan rats.


Rats should always have access to clean water. Glass or plastic water bottles are best, and must be scrubbed out every few days and refilled. Bottles are better than bowls, because they keep the water free of food, litter and waste. Your pet rats may defecate, kick bedding into the water, or even tip the bowl, leaving the rats with no more clean water.


Pet rats enjoying a treat on top of their normal diet

Some foods are best given only occasionally - they are the equivalent of human "junk food". Yogurt drops are great treats but not too many (have a max of only 5 yogurt drops a day)! Dairy can cause upset rat stomachs, but rats love cheese, so a small amount every now and then is ok.

Rats also love chocolate. Although chocolate is toxic for dogs, it's not toxic for rats - but it's still not very healthy. Rats can get cavities in their back teeth, so avoid sugary foods. Boiled egg, sardines and oysters can be given with dinner, but don't overdo it.

Rat Yogurt Treat Drops

Treat for your small animals! Feed one to two drops as a supplement to your rat on a daily basis. Contains: Sugar, dried skimmed milk, yogurt powder, vegetable oil, wheat flour, vanilla flavor lecithin, vitamin C.

Peanut butter is another favourite, but rats can choke on it if they try to eat too much in one mouthful. Try smearing it thinly on bread, so that it isn't thick and sticky. Sheets of dried seaweed from the asian food section in the supermarket will also be gobbled up. Large chicken bones are great for rats - they spend time gnawing on them and trying to get the marrow out.

Anything green and juicy will impress a rat - try fresh mint leaves sprinkled over their dinner, or just as a treat during the day. Helps get rid of sardine or spaghetti breath!

The ultimate in ratty treats: avocado. Avocado is great for fattening up sick rats, and also excellent for disguising medications. Or, mash it up and spread over their dinner as a treat.

Beneficial food

  • Foods that help to prevent strokes: celery, prunes, parsley , oranges (no orange juice for males)
  • Foods with antibiotic properties: banana, prunes/plums, tea, eggplant, raspberries, onion, mustard
  • Food with some anti-virus properties: cranberries, prunes/plums, strawberries
  • Foods are good for arthritis: clove, dates, ginger

Feeding Vessels

Scatter-less Pet-Ware - Dome Dish

Scatter-less Dome Dishes feature a domed scatter-less design that helps prevent messy accidental food and water spills The Scatter-less Dome Dish is perfect for guinea pigs ferrets chinchillas pet rats and even birds!

Make sure any feeding vessels are gnaw-resistant and heavy enough to resist tipping over, should a heavy adult rat decide to sit on the edge. Large earthenware dishes or stainless steel ones are excellent for this purpose, being also very easy to keep clean.

Use separate dishes for dry food and wet foods such as fruits, vegetables, and dairy treats, and remove any uneaten wet food after a couple of hours to prevent decomposition and smells. last updated 1 Oct, 2017


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