Feeding Your New Pet Rat
By Carol Weekes
Rats are very much like us. They savor good food. They can have a sweet tooth and be happy to snatch up a Twinkie before eating their vegetables, but like any of us, although the occasional sweet treat won’t hurt anyone, too much refined food will eventually lead to health problems.
Nutritionists universally will tell you that for anyone, but you rat person or human person, the best foods are whole foods: unrefined grains, seeds, nuts, fresh fruits and vegetables, and limited lean meats with more of an emphasis on cold water fish like salmon and mackerel, and lighter meat like chicken.
A rat’s main diet comes from a good rat block, such as that produced by companies like Harlan Teklad and Regal Rat by Oxbow, which keeps the protein to below 18% in order to keep your rat healthily lean while providing a balanced source of nutrients and supplements. You can accompany this with small amounts of daily fresh and/or steamed vegetables such as broccoli, carrot, kale, bok choy, among others. Provide fresh fruits, but don’t overdo it due to natural sugar contents of fruits. Fresh apple, blueberry, any berry, red grapes are some examples that rats love. If you provide a bit of banana, mash it down well with a fork so that it’s gooey enough to prevent choking (due to the sticky nature of banana).
If giving grains and rice, stick to brown and wild rice and grains such as barley, rye, whole oats, bulgar, oat bran, and wheat bran. You can cook these up in some light vegetable or chicken broth or a bit of miso for flavor and add bits of grated carrot, kale, green peas and even tiny bits of cooked chicken for a delightful ratty stew.
Occasional servings of hardboiled egg, light cottage cheese, probiotic yogurt go over well too.
It is best, like in any good diet, to avoid junk food. If you feel you’d like to give an occasional sweet treat, a small dab of frozen yogurt or sherbet can go over well. Although some leftovers from human meals can be a treat, keep health and content of the type of food in mind. Trans fat, saturated fats, excessive salt or sweet, white rice, breads, potatoes and such are not good and are best avoided. Never give your rattie carbonated drinks or alcohol. The first is because rats can’t burp the carbonation which can result in bloating and pain in their tummy, while the second is simply toxic and can damage inner organs.
Some foods that can cause choking problems due to their texture are breads, peanut butter, hard lentils and beans (which can also be toxic) – basically anything too sticky or hard that won’t break down and can lodge in the throat.
A quick glance at The Rat Fan Club’s site will provide you with a rundown of good foods, occasional foods, and foods to avoid in being able to provide your new furry family members the absolute best in nutrition while keeping the diet interesting and fulfilling.
Nothing will make your heart melt sooner than seeing your sweet rattie diving into a meal, grasping food in their tiny pink hands while nibbling with delight. Often my ratties, upon enjoying a meal, will pause briefly to stick their noses into the air as if to say ‘You hit the mark!’ before plunging into the dish for more. Always keep plenty of fresh water available and change water bottles each day for freshness. Glass bottles are better to use than plastic; ensure that the drinking appendage works and that water flows freely. On occasion, a small bowl of cold rice milk, soy milk, or coconut milk will be greatly appreciated.
A good diet provides one of the mainstays towards a healthy life. Enjoy good cooking and good eating with your new furry kids; it is time that can be shared and relished!