How to Feed a Pet Rat

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Feeding a rat can be very fun. Rats will eat almost anything. However, you must be a responsible owner and supply your rat with a healthy diet. Your rat has the same nutritional needs that you do: protein, carbohydrates, vitamins, minerals and a small amount of fat. Rats can follow the same "food pyramid" eating guide that humans do. Here are some tips on how to feed your pet rat.

Things You'll Need

  • Rat food purchased from pet store
  • Nutritious foods from your kitchen or pantry
  • Plastic or metal food dish (jar lids work well)
  • Go to your local pet store and purchase rat food. Look for a bag that specifically mentions rats on the label. For instance, it could be labeled: "for rats, mice and other small mammals." Read the nutritional information on the back of the bag. A good rat food will have less than 5 percent fat, about 20 percent protein, about 7 percent crude fiber and no more than 12 percent moisture content. Rat food pellets will be much larger than rabbit or guinea pig pellets, at least half an inch in diameter and more than half an inch long. They are sometimes called "blocks" or "lab blocks."

  • Give your rat two to three of these large food blocks per day. You do not need any special dish for the food blocks. Very likely, the rat will see the food coming and will rush over to grab the blocks. It may eat some on the spot, then carry off the remaining food to a storage area inside its house. Always provide your rat with a house.

  • If you can't find a good rat food at a pet store, you can still provide your rat with a well-balanced diet simply by using foods you have around the house. The best carbohydrates for your rat are whole grains: brown rice, oats, high-quality whole wheat bread, or low-sugar, low-fat breakfast cereals such as Cheerios or bran flakes. Good sources of protein and fat include egg, fish, chicken, low-fat dog kibbles, nuts, seeds, and cheese. Vitamins and minerals can be supplied with vegetables and fruits. Remember, corn is not a vegetable--it is a carbohydrate like bread or rice.

  • Use a small plastic or metal dish for the fresh food. Remove and wash the dish each day.

  • Wash any fruits or vegetable before giving them to your rat. Small animals can be sensitive to preservative sprays that may have been applied to the produce to keep them fresh.

  • Offer your rat a wide variety of fruits and vegetables so that it will get a variety of vitamins and minerals. Remember how small your rat is and give small portions, especially when offering fresh green vegetables. Too many greens all at one time can cause diarrhea.

  • Give fresh foods in small quantities. If your rat has leftovers, it will instinctively store them away. Rats don't understand that food spoils, and it might try to eat leftovers that have gone bad. Only give the amount of fresh food that your rat will eat in one day.

  • Offer your rat special treats from time to time. Just like you, rats love special treats. Treats can be yummy as well as healthy. Try these options: a peanut, an almond, a piece of popcorn, a small piece of pretzel, a raisin or other dried fruit, a small dab of peanut butter, a piece of graham cracker, a piece of low-sugar breakfast cereal, a tiny piece of bacon or a kibble of dog or cat food. Do not give your rat candy.

  • Pay attention to the body weight of your rat. If it begins to look or feel too skinny, increase the amount of food blocks and carbohydrates (grains and cereals). If your rat begins looking too fat, decrease the food supply slightly, starting with anything that is high in sugar or fat. Don't put your rat on a crash diet--just decrease the supply slightly each day until the rat's weight is back to normal. If your rat continues to gain or lose weight not matter how much food is in the cage, seek medical advice from a vet who specializes in small animals.

Tips & Warnings

  • Wash any fruits and vegetables before giving them to your rat.
  • Remember how small your rat is and give tiny portions. A small crumb of scrambled egg will seem huge to your rat.
  • Too many fresh greens (such as lettuce or cucumber) all at one time can cause diarrhea. Give other types of food along with the greens.
  • Do not purchase bags of food that contain lots of seeds (which are high in fat). A high-fat diet can make your rat more susceptible to tumors and other diseases.
  • Do not feed candy or chocolate to your rat.

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