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What Do Rats Eat?

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Most people are not particularly fond of rats.   These mammals belong to the order Rodentia and are often considered as pests because they can cause a lot of property damage due to their gnawing. They can also be quite dangerous since they carry and spread diseases.


But not everyone despises these animals.  In some countries, the rat is considered a dietary staple.  Some species of rats are also kept as pets since they can be quite friendly and interesting.  


What Do Rats Eat?

Rats are omnivores. They can eat both plant and animal matter.  


Some species of rats will choose meat over plant foods if they can get it.  Other species such as the Sulawesi white-tailed rat prefer vegetarian foods. 


 The diet of wild rats, non-urban rats, and pet rats differ quite a lot based on the food they can find.  Here is a quick look at some of the most common food sources that rats love to eat;


Fruits, Veggies And Other Plants

Natural wild rats are especially likely to be vegetarian but all rats can and will eat plant matter. 

Rats can eat almost any type of plant.  


They love to eat all sorts of fruits including oranges, apples, pears, bananas, and peaches.  They typically avoid sour fruits like lemon unless they are extremely hungry.


Rats also enjoy eating any veggies and the seeds of these veggies.  They will eat pumpkin, green beans, cabbage, lettuce, and other leafy greens. 


These mammals also enjoy eating various other plant types.  They will eat the seeds, leaves, soft stems, and roots of just about any non-toxic plants.  They do however avoid certain spicy herbs and plants such as lavender, catnip, alliums, and a few others.  


Seeds And Grains

Rats will also eat just about any grains they can find.   Their teeth are surprisingly strong for their size and can easily chew through tough hard corn.  Rats will eat any seeds and grains they can get their paws on including teff, lupini beans, beans, buckwheat, corn, oats, wheat, rice, and nuts.



In towns and cities, rats often seek out human homes so they can scavenge for food morsels they find in the garbage.  Garbage cans are a good source for lots of food scraps that these rodents love to eat. 

Rats are fairly resistant to spoiled food and can eat foods long after they seem off.  


Sadly, these spoiled foods can also result in diseases in these animals that can spread amongst rats and even to humans. 


Meat and Insects

Rats can also eat meat and insects.  It is especially common for city or town rats to start eating meat.  They will eat just about any type of meat they can find including fish, chicken, and beef.  


Rats also enjoy catching and eating certain insects.  They will eat all sorts of insects such as mealworms, grasshoppers, crickets, wax worms, earthworms, and many other types.  These foods are quite rich in protein and are very good for their bodies. 


Pet and Human Food

Rats will eat any food that humans or other pets and even livestock eat.  They often inhabit homes and farms just so they can get access to the foods of animals and humans.


Rats can eat just about any type of table scraps you offer them including cooked or dried foods. 


They will eat all sorts of pet foods such as bird seed mixes, chicken pellets, dog kibble, cat food, and even wet cat or dog food.


Diet Variations

Rats sometimes chew on non-food objects and they will consume some of the materials they gnaw at. Most of their gnawing is however to keep their teeth short and they also gnaw some items for nesting materials. 


It is not uncommon at all for rats to chew up plastic, electric cables, and just about any other item in their search for food.  


What Do Rats Eat As Pets?

Rats do make rather charming pets.  They are remarkably clever and can be taught several tricks.  When these pets are well raised, they can be as tame as any other given house pet.  They are also very easy to keep because they are so easy to feed.  


The most important thing to remember when you are feeding your pet rat is to offer it enough nutrients. The best way to ensure that your rat gets sufficient nutrients is by offering it a diet that includes lots of healthy foods.  


Here is a quick look at the best foods to offer pet rats.


Store-Bought Foods

Pet stores and many grocery stores sell rodent foods.  There are quite a few different types of rodent feeds available such as the following;


Pellets – Pellet fees are usually made of a variety of ingredients.  Lots of pet owners offer their rats these foods but there are some concerns with pellet feeds.  One of the biggest concerns is that these foods don’t offer sufficient nutrients.  You do need to offer your pet additional treats such as fruits, vegetables, and seeds to ensure that all your rat’s dietary needs are met.  


If you cannot find a rat-specific pellet feed, you can also consider buying a mouse feed.  These feeds have the same basic low calorie, low-fat content as rat feed and are a good substitute.  


It is however important to steer clear of hamster, gerbil, and other rodent foods.  These have a different nutritional balance and can contain alfalfa (a food that is not healthy for rats).  


Mixed seed feeds – There are lots of mixed seed feeds sold in stores.  These are a very good diet for your pet if your rat eats all food contained in the mixes.  If not, then it might be better to offer your rat block or pellet feeds since these are specifically designed to meet a rat’s nutritional needs.


Fresh foods

Rats benefit a lot from consuming a variety of foods.  It is important to offer your rat fresh foods to keep it from becoming ill and to ensure that your rat won’t become a carrier of diseases.  


Rats, like humans, also enjoy tasting different types of foods and treats.  It is great fun to see what type of foods they favor but it is also important to keep your rat’s food offerings limited to prevent it from becoming obese or to prevent diarrhea when your rat consumes too much of a certain food.


Here is a quick look at the best fresh food to offer your pet rat;


Fruits – You can offer a variety of fresh fruits such as apples, cherries, grapes, strawberries, melon, plumbs, and many others.  


Vegetables – Your rat will love healthy treats such as broccoli, leafy greens, carrots, kale, parsley, squash, potatoes, or cooked sweet potatoes.


Cooked liver – Liver is a good source of iron and protein.  Offer your rat a little bit of cooked liver to keep his energy levels high.


Cooked lean meats – If you want to offer your rat meat then you should offer it cooked and only focus on lean meats such as fish or chicken with no skin.  Too much fat is not healthy for their digestive system at all.


Pasta – You can treat your pet rat to some whole wheat pasta.  They can eat it cooked but you can also offer it raw so they can nibble down those teeth.


Bread – Bread is also a healthy treat for your rat.  Brown or whole-grain bread is especially healthy for these furry friends.


Cooked beans – Cooked beans such as soy, pinto beans, cranberry beans, and others can be a good meal to offer your rat.  


Yogurt – You can also offer your pet rat some plain, low-fat yogurt.  Yogurt with live or active cultures is ideal for your pet rat.  


Brown rice – Cooked brown rice is another good meal to offer your pet rat.  You can also offer white rice but brown is much healthier.


Breakfast cereals – Breakfast cereals contain lots of grains.  It is important to only offer unsweetened cereals to pet rats since too much sugar can result in long term medical conditions.


Dog biscuits – You can also treat your rat with small dog biscuits.  These biscuits usually contain lots of healthy nutrients to keep your rat healthy.


Insects – Insects such as grasshoppers, crickets, and mealworms can also be a good treat for your pet.  Many of these insects are sold at pet stores so you can get them quite easily.


Leftovers – You can also feed your pet leftovers from your plate.  When you do offer them leftovers try to avoid foods with lots of fat and sugar.  It is also best to offer only small portions of leftovers to your rat.


How To Feed Rats?

Rats are very easy to feed since they are so eager to eat.  Their diverse diet also makes it easy to feed.  


But because these animals are so happy to over-indulge in unhealthy food it is important to monitor your pet rat’s food consumption to ensure that it gets enough nutrients or to ensure that it doesn’t over-eat on one specific food type.  


The best way to feed your pet rat is by offering it food once or twice per day.  Your rat should also have permanent access to freshwater.  


If you are feeding your rat pellet feeds then you can offer additional treats such as insects, fruits, and veggies once per day.  


Rats that are kept on a mixed feed or that are offered food scraps throughout the day should be offered a variety of food types each day to ensure that all of their nutritional needs are met.


All spoilable foods should be removed from your rat’s cage after 24 hours.  For cooked meats, it is best to remove leftover meats after every meal. 


How Much Do Rats Eat?

Rats cannot live without access to water. Your rat’s cage should also have a continuous supply of fresh water.  


These animals eat about 10% of their body weight every day.  If you are offering dry foods, your rat should get 12 – 20g of dry mix per day. 

You can also offer a few healthy fruits or veggies to your rat’s cage every day.  If you are offering a lot of fresh foods that contain carbohydrates and protein, you can reduce the amount of dry mix you offer your rats.


A good way to figure out how much food your rat need is by offering it 17g of feed.  By the end of the day, you can check the cage to see if all food is absorbed.  If there is a lot of leftover food, you can reduce the amount you offer to 12g.  If there is nothing left, you should increase the amount of food you offer.  


You can also check the condition of your rat to see if it is getting enough food.  If your rat starts to look visibly plump, you should reduce its food a little bit.  If the rat looks underweight, you can offer it more treats.


What Do Baby Rats Eat?

Baby rats are called kittens or pups.  For the first 6 weeks of a kitten’s life, it relies on its mother’s milk for survival. Orphaned rats can also be successfully raised on suitable alternative milk.  


They will start to sample foods from as young as 3 weeks on and will gradually increase their food intake until they are weaned at 6 – 8 weeks.  


Rat pups need to be fed two to three times per day when they are young. When they are honed at 6 – 8 weeks, they only need food twice per day.  From 10 weeks on, you can reduce feeding to once per day.   


Rat pups can eat the same basic foods as adult rats.  They do however consume much less food when they are still small.   


What Are Rats Favorite Food?

Different species of rats show a preference for different food types.  In general, most rat species love foods like bacon, chocolate, dried fruits, gumdrops, nuts, peanut butter, and others.  If you want to treat your rat then it is probably best to offer one of the healthier types such as nuts instead of chocolate that contains lots of sugar.  


What Kind of Food Will Kill a Rat?

Some human foods are toxic to rats.  The most damaging human food is blue cheese which can kill your rat.  Licorice, poppy seeds, bitter almonds are also damaging to their digestive system.  Green potatoes, rhubarb leaves, and alfalfa are also toxic to their bodies and can kill them. 


You should also avoid offering certain foods that contain unhealthy ingredients such as sugar and caffeine.  


What Do Rats Hate?

Rats have a highly developed sense of smell.  Because of their sharp sense of smell, they tend to avoid strong fragrant products such as peppermint oil, castor oil, and citronella oil.  They hate these smells and usually stay away from food sources that remotely simulate these smells.  

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