People often ask me what I feed my rats. They live around 3-4 years on the diet I feed them these days, which exceeds the average of 2 years by quite a bit. They also seem to get fewer tumours than others. So, what’s the secret? Nothing specific, and nothing too secretive… A wholefood vegan diet is basically it! I think there are 3 major contributing factors to improved rat health. I feed my ratkids more organic fresh fruit and vegetables, primarily human-grade food, and nothing high in hormones, carcinogens, animal protein, or fat (ie. no animal products!). & yes, I looked up rat nutriment requirements, and this meets them easily. Exceeds them, even. Copper, zinc, B12, protein – it’s all there. DON’T PANIC! Enjoy. My rats do!
Every day my rats get a “salad” consisting of vegetables and fruit, organic or fresh from the garden where possible. This is their major food source. Many people feed their rats primarily on grains. Full-grown rats do not need as much protein as growing rats (under 6 months of age). Excess protein in a diet contributes to tumour growth. So you don’t want that. ALL plant food contains protein, but as rats require more protein that humans, a rat shouldn’t be fed on fruit and veg alone, but a rat fed on fresh produce with some grains and beans on the side does perfectly fine. Better than fine, even. My rats are sprightly and healthy, with shiny coats. Our vet is impressed with their longevity and health.
ANYWAY. Enough ramble. There is no comprehensive rat food on the market. If you want a healthy rat, you have share your own food with them, not buy them processed crap. So… The happy rat diet? Here it is.
Fresh Food Requirements – per rat:
(Raw unless otherwise specified.)
(Organic produce is best, if affordable. Always clean, washed (very well if not organic!), and fresh – never old or funky food!)
* 1 serve per day: a floret or two of broccoli, a leaf or two of kale, or a leaf or two bok choy (vary it from day to day)
* Each week: heaping teaspoon of: cooked beans
Note: beans preferably include: soybeans, chickpeas, navy beans (canned or cooked) – these beans are highest in copper and other good things for rats
* 3 serves per week: 1 heaping teaspoon of cooked sweet potato, or a third to half a carrot.
Note: sweet potato MUST be cooked. Raw sweet potato can be toxic. Cooked sweet potato is preferred of the two.
* 2 serves per day (vary it from day to day):
+ berries, 1-3
+ sprouts, tablespoon
+ banana, chunk/cube
+ tomato, wedge
+ grapes or raisins (purple are better), 2-3
+ parsley, 1-2 sprigs
+ melon, 1-2 cubes
+ pineapple, 1-2 cubes
+ plum, half
+ yellow squash, half
+ green peas, tablespoon
+ apple, quarter or wedge
+ carrot, cube-ish chunks
OTHER OK FOODS
in case you are out of the best ones:
+ corn, quarter of a cob
Cereal & Grain Mix
1-2 tablespoons of mix per day.
Mix Recipe – mix together (SEE UPDATE AT BOTTOM OF POST):
* 1 box of parrot/large bird/wild bird seed, that does not contain shell grit. (Shell grit can damage rat digestive tracts! Say no to shell grit!). Typically these contain a good mix of sunflower seeds, wheat, barley, other grains/seeds/etc. (Note that “rodent” or rat/mouse mixes usually contain a bunch of stuff that rats won’t even eat, like grass pellets and lucerne.)
* 1 tablespoon of flax seeds or flax meal or walnuts
* 3 tablespoon oats
* 3 tablespoon puffed millet
* 6 tablespoon puffed brown rice
* 1 tablespoon pumpkin seeds/pepitas
* 1 tablespoon sunflower seeds
* 1 tablespoon sesame seeds
* 1 tablespoon cashews
* 2 tablespoons of Lotus nutritional yeast flakes
* 2 slices crumbled several-grain whole-wheat (or gluten-free-wholegrain) bread (the bread I make is ideal!)
Important! Note: Don’t add the bread to the grain mix – it will go mouldy. Add a few little bread pieces when you’re serving the grains each day. Or keep bread bits broken up and in the freezer, and add those to the bowl each day – if you don’t eat bread crusts/the end bits of the loaf, use them!
Note: Everything on this list can be found in the supermarket, except for nutritional yeast flakes, which are found in health shops. Lotus is the best brand. (Keep in mind nutritional yeast is NOT THE SAME as brewers yeast or other yeasts.) Nutritional yeast contains essential B vitamins.
Note: the seeds – pumpkin seeds/pepitas, cashews, and sesame – are essential for zinc and copper and whatnot… Yes, cashews are seeds! Also, flax and walnuts are excellent sources of omega oils.
Treats! Very Important!
Share your food with your rats! If you share your food with your rats, you can meet many of the veg/fruit requirements above pretty easily. But note that raw food contains more vitamins and antioxidants – raw is much better for rats!
Ideal foods for sharing include:
* Scrambled tofu
* Baked beans
* Lentil & vegetable stews or soups
* Soy milk shakes
* Soy fruity yogurt
* Breakfast porridge or cereal with soymilk
* Whatever fruit you’re eating
Foods rats should NEVER eat
* Dairy – besides NOT VEGAN! and it not being good for humans for many of the same reasons… Rats are lactose intolerant. The saturated animal fats & proteins are not good and contribute to disease and obesity. It leeches calcium from bones. Cow growth hormones are not good for rats. Dairy requires 4 stomachs to digest properly – cows have 4 stomachs, rats don’t. Casein protein increases the incidence of tumours… Shall I go on?
* Raw sweet potato – moulds that grow in sweet potato skins are toxic to rats.
* Orange peel and orange juice – particularly for males, the orange oils cause kidney problems.
* Carbonated beverages – rats can’t burp!
* Raw dry beans, raw peanuts, green bananas, green potato skin – for the same reason you shouldn’t! Moulds, indigestability and toxicity.
* Any highly processed foods or fried foods – junk food is junk. Throw it out now!
Note that you should adjust the quantity of food according to the size and age of your rat, and according to how much they eat. eg. A small rat would need less food overall, and a young growing rat may require up to 3 tablespoons of grain a day. If you have a rat that needs to lose weight, less grain and more fresh produce is the answer! An ill rat or a rat with tumours should get more kale – kale is a super food! Berries and broccoli are also very good for improving health. Never leave uneaten fresh food sitting in the cage for more than 24 hours.
As for cat food and dog food? Try Veganpet! My two cats love it. It’s human-grade food as well, which is more important than many people realise – if it’s not safe for you to eat, then don’t feed it to your family members, be they human or otherwise!
UPDATE! Oct 29, 2008:
Having adopted a mostly-raw diet, so have my rats and mice. Their grain mix now contains oat groats instead of rolled oats and puffed grains – and in a far smaller quantity. It also now contains a large amount of buckwheat groats (soaked and dehydrated), a greater variety of raw chopped mixed nuts and seeds, and smaller amounts of chopped dried figs and goji berries. Ever since we introduced this food, their coats have improved out of sight! They were already quite good, but now they look younger and shinier!
Our mix definitely DOESN’T CONTAIN ANY PREMIX “PETFOOD” from the supermarket – if you want a grain mix, choose a muesli mix with a lot of variety of grains in it. “Petfood grade” rat and mouse food is often treated with pesticides to kill small insects and moths that hatch out of the grains. This is not in the best interests of your rats and/or mice!
We have also increased the amount of greens in their diet – greens are a high nutrient, high protein, high-in-everything-good food. They LOVE kale! Broccoli, broccolini, spinach, and various collard greens are quite popular, too. They seem to prefer these to fruit. They also quite like avocado… as per usual… and as do I! They also usually get leftovers (or a bit put aside) of my dinner… and usually a bit of breakfast, too.