What’s the Best Diet for Pet Rats?

Rats have survived for millions of years partially due to their flexible diets. They can pretty much survive on anything that could be even loosely considered food. Still, if you keep a pet rat, you’ll want to feed him a higher quality diet than what his homeless brethren might be subsisting on.

Commercial Food

Commercial food is necessary for your rat’s health because it is balanced for his needs specifically. There are plenty of varieties of ready-made pellets for your rat kiddo. The packaging will include instructions on the daily serving size depending on the rat’s weight. This is a completely acceptable option for feeding your rat. Pellets do not spoil like fresh food and won’t cause bacterial breeding grounds inside the cage. The rat food companies provide different diets for pregnant, nursing, or very young rats, as their needs differ. Be sure to pick the correct product based on your rat’s specific needs.

Homemade or Fresh Food

In addition to the ready-made pellets, rats love to eat fruits and vegetables. Many are suitable including ripe bananas (not the peel), apples, melons, broccoli, green cabbage, and raw corn. The fruits and vegetables should be cut up into small pieces. Don’t feed more than a tablespoon a day; these should be considered supplements to the pellets. Cereals, grains, nuts, and legumes are okay, but they tend to be too high in calories for the rat’s little body. Furthermore, too much fiber can cause bloating and diarrhea. Rats are prone to obesity as scientists had discovered when they were using them in experiments.

The general rule of thumb for giving your rat human food is if you shouldn’t eat it, then your rat shouldn’t either. Additionally, you and your rat can’t eat many of the same foods in a raw state. For example, potatoes, sweet potatoes, beans, and meat should always be cooked before your rat enjoys them. Foods that your rat should not eat include (but are not limited to) avocado, mango, nut butters, dried fruit, and seaweed. Keep it simple – stick to the common fruits and veggies sold in a supermarket and stay away from exotic types.

Tips for Feeding Your Rat

Don’t give junk food to your rat. They love to eat unhealthy foods and they may refuse to eat the healthy treats or the lab blocks if they get the taste for sweets and french fries.

It may be tempting to feed your rat the same food your cat or dog eats, but rats do have different nutritional needs. If you want to maximize the length and quality of your rat’s life, feed the lab pellets or blocks as its main source of food and only supplement with fresh human-grade food sparingly.

There are commercial rat foods that are unhealthy too so it is best to stick with the lab blocks. Some pre-packaged rat foods have cheap ingredients that can cause damage to their bodies.

Rats should not eat a lot of meat or protein-rich foods. Excess protein can cause unsightly skin conditions. You don’t need to feed them any meat at all – the lab blocks provide the bulk of their nutrients. Fresh fruits and veggies in moderation are the preferred choice of treats for a rat.

By Gabrielle Allemeier


RSPCA: What Should I Feed My Pet Rat?

About the Author
Gabrielle Allemeier volunteers her free time as an animal rescuer and foster pet parent. As an animal lover, she enjoys sharing the knowledge she has gained from her experience with a variety of animals. Along with being an animal lover, Gabrielle is a globetrotter. She lives in Los Angeles, California with her terrier, Thisbe.