Rat diet!

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):
BEST FOODS:
+ 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
+ celery
+ garlic
+ eggplant
+ onion
+ mustard
+ dates
+ prunes
+ ginger
+ cabbage
+ spinach

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. icon smile Rat diet!

pixel Rat diet!
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  • tuimeltje

    Oooh, very interesting. I don’t have rats at the moment, but I’d love to get some rescues some day and it’s always good to be informed.

  • Sam

    hey i currently have 4 lovely boys and i’ve been trying to figure out the best food for them i adopted them from a friend because one of them well hes a father times a bunch now and they couldnt keep them all but to tuimeltje if you still don’t have some rats and live or around toronto they are waving their adoption fees

  • http://www.onestaorganics.com Heidi

    Great blog! Our company was the first to produce certified organic whole food treats (all human grade) for rats and other ‘pocket pets’.
    We dehydrate to keep nutrients alive nad add zero chemicals or GMOs (unlike competitos).
    Best, Heidi

    • AnimalRightsNOW

      Just made an order!  :)   Thanks for putting a much-needed product on the market

  • Pingback: Cure everything! « Gluten-Free Vegan

  • Rayne

    Hey friend, someone sent me your blog and I am refreshing myself on rat nutrition for my two new babies =)
    I noticed that you encourage greens, aren’t a lot of greens going to upset their tummy?
    Can I ask you some questions? Do rats have any nutritional need for cholesteral, I can’t imgaine that they do…but does any animal? Do you believe rats to be naturally grainvores? What do I tell the people whose rats constantly die of cancer, are obese, riddled with tumors, who disregard a vegan diet because a “rat nutritionist” says they need meat?
    I’m so excited, there are farmers markets opening up near me, now I can get locally grown, in season, produce for a good price, and I don’t even need to refrigerate them (I hate the idea of doing so) as I can walk there every week =3
    Oh! Oh! some recomended reading to learn about rat diets and basic physiology?

  • http://veganza.com/ Renee

    A lot of greens will upset their tummy. I don’t feed my rats “a lot” so it’s not a problem.

    Rats don’t need cholesterol. Carnivores and necrovores can digest/process it, but I’m not sure if there’s a need for it actually… but then I don’t look into the diets of wild animals…

    Rats are not strictly granivores, no. They are primarily scavengers, and can eat just about anything and survive for a period of time. However if you want the best for your rat, long life and no disease, it’s handy to give them better than rubbish!

    Watching rats die of cancer, obesity, tumours, heart disease, etc is like watching what happens to humans eating a SAD (Standard American/Australian/etc Diet), but in fast-forward. You see the damage so much faster. Rats are quite similar to us in so many ways – we are both destructive animals who rearrange the natural environment when it suits us, and we can both live off garbage… for a while before it catches up with us, anyway. My rat Alice was starved as a baby, yet now is 2.5 years old and has never had a thing wrong with her. She’s not neutered, either. Most female rats would be riddled with tumours by now, yet she looks like she’s not over 1 year old. My last male rat lived until 4, no health problems until the last few weeks… THAT is what a good, plant-based diet brings: good health. The evidence is in the… evidence. The China Study by T Colin Campbell, for example. It even mentions rat diet studies in parts.

    There’s not much around about rat diets insofar as a good plant-based diet is concerned. As for physiology, The Rat Health Care Guide by Debbie Ducommun is good in that aspect. There is also a nutrient guide in there, but unfortunately it’s overly heavy on protein and animal products, like most bog standard, old-fashioned, medical-mumbo-jumbo type stuff!

  • Sharon

    We just recently bought our first set of rats, hairless. The one rat is wonderfully healthy while his brother is ill. The brother seems to have had a stroke pryor to us buying him but the worst is the really bulky foul smelling stools. I fear he either has an infection but most likely a result of the antibiotics the pet store gave him thinking he was sick when actually he may have had a stroke. I was wondering if you had any advice to making him feel better, food wise. I was also wondering if you have ever heard of rats having celiac disease?

  • http://veganza.com/ Renee

    Hairless rats are usually in-bred & develop health problems pretty early on in life. Just try feeding him more fresh food & see if he improves a bit. Vitamins help! If not, take him to the vet. He might need different antibiotics or something else entirely. If it’s a stroke, a vet would probably just give him a booster like steroids to strengthen him. Rats with weakened hearts don’t usually fair too well long-term. 600bpm resting heartrate needs some power, after all. I’ve not heard of rats being diagnosed with coeliac disease specifically, but I’ve heard of rats with wheat allergies.

  • http://www.rawlifestyle.co.uk/cgi-sys/suspendedpage.cgi Anabrese

    Hi, great blog, I also have rats and feed them a raw food diet. They’re very healthy and as I’m also raw it’s easy to feed them as they get what I’m making in the day. Thank you for sharing this info. I’m too saddened by rats that get disease and suffering that seems totally unnecessary.

    • http://veganza.com/ Renee

      My unneutered female rat had a rough, malnourished start to life, &now she’s over 2yo &looks not a day over 1! My last boy rattie lived until 4yo with no health problems along the way. Amazing how easily the tumour problem &other health problems can be overcome with a good mostly-raw vegan diet… Same goes for humans!

  • Anabrese

    Hi Renee, I was wondering what your thoughts are on B12 needs of rats? Do you think they should eat raw meat as they would in the wild?

    • http://veganza.com/ Renee

      Rats are scavengers in the wild, they don’t eat “raw meat” – they eat rotting matter, some of which may include animal remains. When a rat attacks & kills another animal, it’s over territory, not for food. While that is what meat-eating humans eat as well, since it’s not freshly killed (as Sea Shepherd Captain Paul Watson says equates humans to “necrovores” rather than omnivores – carrion feeders, such as crows). B12 comes from all rotting matter, whether soil, vegetable, fruit, or whatnot. In a sterile environment, humans don’t get B12 without supplementation. Statistics show B12 deficiency is more common in necrovore/omnivores these days than it is in vegetarians and vegans. As for rodents, no matter how many times a week or day you clean their cage, they do not live in a sterile environment. B12 from their gut ends up recycling in their environment. They don’t need supplementation at all. If rodents require B12, they consume their excrement, as is more common in rabbits. Rats, however, generally manage to avoid this, as their gut flora produces plentiful B12. It’s more common for mice to do this. So, to cut a long story short, rats do not need rotten meat any more than humans do. There’s no fresh/raw meat available in shops. Once blood stops pulsing through flesh, it’s not raw & it’s well on it’s way to becoming carrion. Rats don’t need it, & domestic cats shouldn’t eat non-fresh rotten meat, either. Mine don’t. There are better, less violent, less destructive, healthier options. Rats require higher protein than humans, but there is little else they need in addition. Most humans eat too much protein, so usually there’s no need to compensate anyway! There’s plenty of protein to be found in the extra grains most folks feed to rodents.

      Please refer to my FAQ for B12 discussion as well as further pet/companion animal diet information.

  • Bree

    Hi Renee, just wanted to say thank you for putting so much info on your site to do with raw diet and veganism. Also, the article on feeding your rats has been most helpful too. Thank you!

  • ruth

    Renee,

    I know you changed the grain mix around–can you tell me exactly what you put in now and the amounts–esp the seeds/nuts. Since you do mostly raw now do they get the sweet potato still?

    I have mostly fed this way as I thought the suebees mix was too high in salt/sugar and the HT blocks had terrible ingredients. My boys get a different grain mix every day–one day rolled oats, oat groats, rolled barley –the next rolled wheat, rolled spelt and toasted buckwheat groats. Plus they get fresh fruits and veggies everynight and a nut 2x per week.

    I am going to start sprouting grains and beans for them as well once my stuff gets here. I also feed Petguards organic vegetarian dog food but eventually I would like to just give all unprocessed food as much as possible. They also get a type of green mush every other night with flaxseed oil. My boys are now over 2. Some are overweight though. Would love to talk privately about this as I am a nutritionist and researching and learning this stuff is my passion. I used to be a raw foodist but TMJ put that to a hault seeing as I cant chew now with out every muscle in my neck tightening.

    Ruth

    • http://veganza.com/ Renee

      Hi Ruth,

      I’ll do another new post soon about what I put in the rat food mix now, since there seems to be some demand for an update!

      To reduce weight issues, I’d reduce the veg dogfood/grain mix overall & increase fresh fruit & veg.

  • Bree

    Hi Renee, my rats really love their fresh foods and smoothies. It’s hard to get them to eat their grain mix. Other rat owners recommend up to 80% dry mix food which I feel should be the other way round. What do you think?

  • http://veganza.com/ Renee

    I agree, Bree! Grain mix is good for a little extra protein hit that rodents need, but more fresh food is definitely better. Certainly improves their health & lifespan enormously in my experience.

  • http://www.flickr.com/photos/simplemoth Theresa

    This has been so helpful. I was not able to find anyone, even “vegan” rat owners, that could tell me anything about a healthy alternative diet for rats. I really don’t want to have to buy from Harlan Teklad.

    I do have a question, though. What do you use for bedding and litter? I’m told fleece is best for bedding (but it’s not vegan… even though it’s very sanitary and easy to clean) and I don’t see any options for their litter box that aren’t made by companies that are tied in some way to animal cruelty. Help!

    • http://veganza.com/ Renee

      Polar fleece is synthetic & vegan. I’ve seen many people use this as bedding successfully.

      I use primarily recycled newspaper pellets (with an awful name “Breeder’s Choice” – from Australian company Fibrecycle) for rats & usually recycled paper towels as bedding for mice.

  • Bree

    Hi Renee, what are your thoughts on ‘selective feeding’ regarding rats?

    • http://veganza.com/ Renee

      On “selective feeding” – I think there is such a thing as fussing too much! Plenty of fussing is more than enough for me… :)

  • Dorothy

    I just had a question about your measurements. Are they per rat? I have 14 so I’m just curious, hahaha.

  • Dorothy

    I’m sorry, I just reread that and I found the information I was looking for. You can ignore my last comment, haha.

  • Sammy

    Your blog is amazing Renee!
    I’ve been a vegan for a long time now, and was so happy to find an “easy” way to make a nutritious diet for rats without crossing any moral lines.
    I’m also very interested to see an update with more specific measurements of your new diet. On top of that, how did you evolve the new diet from the original? Did you notice certain symptoms that they were getting too many oats for example? Are there things that we should look for that could indicate how to adjust the diet more specifically?

    I’m planning to adopt some rats from the OSPCA, and so I assume they’ve been on a more processed diet. Should I wean them onto the new diet (like with dogs)?

    Thank you, keep up your amazing work!

  • Jen

    Wow, thanks so much for posting this! I’ve been vegan for a long time, and am a seasonal raw foodist ;) I had rats in the past, when I wasn’t vegan, and fed them normal pet shop rat food, and one of the girls went blind and developed something with her back feet that she couldn’t walk on, and the rest seemed to die relatively unhealthily :/ I’ve been looking for vegan rat food recipes, and this is really great. It’s great to hear your rats do so well on it. I can’t wait to get a few rats and treat them so well :) Thanks again.

  • Meech!

    Yay! After months of preparation, I have just adopted my first trio of mature boy rats, and I picked up every ingredient this afternoon and mixed it all in a big container. (^_^)

    The boys also got their pick from a vegetable plate – organic kale, purple grapes, and carrot. And everyone had some sprouted grain bread pieces (their favorite munchie so far).

    Believe it or not, the only thing I DID have trouble finding for the recipe was an appropriate bird mix – everything I saw had either shell grit, soy meal pellets, or basically the same mix of seeds already in your recipe. I found one that contained *some* original items, but it also included unshelled peanuts and dried HOT peppers! I tasted the peanut shells and peppers and they were SPIII-CY! I removed the peanuts and peppers and the rats still seem a little wary of the mix, although they’ve only been picking at it for a few hours now. If they reject it, I’ll make a new mix without the bird food.

    I’d like to ask you – if I could eliminate one thing from the recipe, it would be the bird mix – I’d rather hear what sorts of things are in the bird mix that you like, and I can just buy those ingredients separately.

    Thanks for a wonderful rat diet that follows my own heart and keeps them super-healthy!

    ~Meech

    • http://veganza.com/ Renee

      I have eliminated the bird seed mix! I need to update my rat food recipe… been a bit busy of late…

  • Meech!

    Ooh, I can’t wait… update update! *cheerleader* Take your time and THANK you!

  • Sammy

    Yeah, I can’t wait for an update ^.^

    I’ve finally adopted my two male rats, who are about a year old. They enjoy a lot of their new diet, but so far they won’t touch the kale and they’ll only eat the broccoli if it’s been cooked a little. I even tried flavouring the kale (I tried some soya sauce and after tried some maple syrup). Do you have any suggestions for getting the rats to eat their greens, or for good substitutes for the kale?

    Thanks again, so much for this posting Renee. It’s amazingly helpful!

    • http://veganza.com/ Renee

      A colesaw-ish mix of parsley & cabbage perhaps? (no dressing!)

  • Meech!

    Try this Sammy: boil a pot of water with a tiny bit of salt, and dip the kale leaf in for 5 seconds or so. This might make it more palatable to them? Mine love their kale, I swear it’s the favorite part of their “rat salad”. :)

  • Sammy

    -Thanks for your suggestions, I’ll continue trying them. For now I’ve managed to slip some brocolli bits into their sweet potato, but they still seem reluctant to eat their greens.
    -The rats do love their new oat and buckwheat groats, thanks for the update.
    -What do you mean by “1 box” of parrot seed.
    So the first question is: how much is 1 box?
    -I got a parrot mix that I think is reasonable and have figured out the composition by volume as:
    5 parts striped sunflower
    6 parts shelled corn
    6 parts safflower seeds
    4 parts oat groats
    2 parts pumpkin seeds
    with some mineral oil mixed in
    So the second question is: does this seem like a good mix?

  • Jera

    Hi. Thank you so much for the wonderful blog and the informational post on rats. We have two female rats and I am also gluten-free vegan. We eat very healthy, and we give our rats our food, so they eat healthy, too. We have only had them a little more than a year (they were adopted as babies), so we weren’t sure all the benefits I was sure they’d get from a vegan diet. Thanks for all your information. You a very good writer, and I never knew rats were lactose intolerant!
    Thanks so much I will keep reading your great blog!

  • http://www.relyingonjoy.com/ Nicole Roberts

    i can’t tell you how happy i am to learn that is is safe to feed my rats the same foods i eat as a raw vegan. i was feeding the harlen teckland pellets but now my poor 4 month old rat boys are all overweight! please do post soon on your new grain mix as i am so eager to get them on a good diet. what do you think about apple cider vinegar to help them lose weight? thank you! nicole

  • http://www.relyingonjoy.com/ Nicole Roberts

    i forgot to ask – my vet is very against giving broccoli (especially raw) to rats because of their inability to burp etc – is this just hogwash? thank you!

  • http://www.relyingonjoy.com/ Nicole Roberts

    sorry, i keep thinking of further things – i read on another site that cucumbers are only to be given in great moderation because of nitrates – do you agree? i eat a ton of cucumbers so they are a big favorite around here. also you mention yellow squash but not zucchini, is zucchini OK? thanks again, i will try not to post again!! ;-) nicole

  • Sherry

    My vet just recommended this diet for my rats and I am happy to say, I have been using it all along. I have very long lived rats and very few tumors. I rescue so I never know the age or past diet history, and I just contimue to feed this type of diet. I do give them orgaqnic brown rice with a bit of olive oil, sesame seeds, and green mush, or some green yeast and Misssing Link for birds, as well as selenium, and flax seeds. I also give them beans, lentils, and lots of organic salad and fruit. I currently have a rat, Juliette, who was raised on pizza and doritos. She has had 6 tumors removed, huge ones filled with pus, and she is still with me and eating a very high in antioxidants diet with lots of watermelon and other cleansing fruit. The doc is as amazed as I am. None of my babies have had tumors, and if I suspect a pregnancy, I do add yogurt for calcium and good flora to a mom’s diet and while nursing. I would go goat milk if you recommend it over cows yogurt. Great info. Thanks so much. We all want our ratties to live longer and this diet is a good start. Sherry

  • gootziecat

    A raw diet is the best possible diet for rats and humans alike.

    I am wondering what you give the rats to knaw on for keeping their teeth in check so they aren’t quite so destructive to other things in the cage.

  • Danielle

    Awesome info. I would love to try this for my rats. Just wondering – how does the price compare to lab blocks?

  • Motta

    This is great! I was already planning on feeding my rats this sort of diet before I got them and I’ve been doing a ton of research as to what they can and cannot eat. I actually found this when I wanted to know how Kale is for their diet it and found this in a google search. needless to say I printed the diet and it will now be what I follow for them. P.S. I rescued a couple of hairless girls from some people who didn’t seem to care about them much. One came with a limp and a terrible sneeze. I’ll be taking her to the vet tomorrow.

  • http://www.brettelliott.com/ Moira

    This is great information and very confirming of how I am endeavoring to feed my ratties.
    I have had rats for only a few months. I inherited them because they were unwanted and now I am in love with them.
    I have a question…
    They are female rats and I have been talking to experienced rat owners who tell me I should have them spayed because this greatly reduces hormone-related cancers such as mammary tumors and also reduces pyometra (uterine infection).
    It seems such a drastic step to take when they are healthy, happy little things. What is your experience and opinion….is it advisable to spay for this health reason? (They will not be with intact males).

    • http://veganza.com/ Renee

      I haven’t had any experience with spayed females. I had limited space at one time, & two boys who needed to live together who began fighting when they hit adolescence. They were both large & wanted to be dominant/alpha. For their own safety, I got them neutered, & they lived long happy lives, one of them died just at his 4th birthday. However, the longest-lived rat who I had on a mostly-raw vegan diet from day 1 (improved on from this post!), lived until almost 5, died of old age. She wasn’t spayed. Genetics do play a part, but environment can determine which genes are expressed. Diet will help. It is a drastic operation – all operations are drastic for small animals! I knew my vet very well & had enormous confidence in her ability. I’ve known people whose rats have died in surgery or post-op with other vets. Mammary tumours are very common. A good vet can remove these very successfully, and they won’t always grow back – a good vet, not all vets operate well on small animals and will leave tumour behind. These ops are stressful on old animals, too, who usually succumb to tumours moreso than the youngsters.

      If there’s no reason for the operation, I wouldn’t do it. If you suspect they come from an unhealthy environment previously, or tumours run rampant in the breeding line (if you know the history), then perhaps consider it. Otherwise, the best approach is probably prevention via non-surgical non-drastic methods… like a good diet! Let your food be your medicine, etc. :)

  • RioTDoll

    I just got babies and started feeding some of this to them, and to my older rats. The babies were originally fed lab blocks and the older ones preferred a seed mix to lab blocks, but all of them love the peas/carrots/soybean mix I’ve given them so far, and I’m trying out the sweet potato tomorrow. Thanks for this post!

  • Anabrese

    Renee, do you never feed meat to your rats? It’s always recommended for growing rats isn’t it? Having rats live to almost 5 is amazing!

    • http://veganza.com/ Renee

      No meat ever, that’s right! I’ve had rats grow up to 800g (>1lb) on an all-vegan diet, and live past 4 – before I was vegan, before my rats were vegan, they NEVER lived that long, no matter how “fussy” I was. It’s also recommended not to feed greens to rats generally, but mine eat ‘em, no problem… clearly! Beautiful, large, shiny-coated, happy vegan rats.

  • Ruth

    I have 2 lovely dumbo girls. I’m vegetarian but I had read that it wasn’t possible to feed rats on a vegitarian or vegan diet but I was a bit surprised at this statement. I’m pleased to hear that it is possible to have perfectly healthy vegan rats as i want to go vegan but feel it would be hypocritical of me to continue buying P@H rat muesli which contains meat ingredients. I think I am going to stop feeding the P@H mix and start feeding the vegan diet. I’ve got lots of the nuggets left though should i stop giving them these also? I love my babies and want to have them for as long as possible. One of my girls is a chewer and actually eats paper and cardboard I’m scared that this will harm her any advice about this would be helpfull. Also same girls wets all the time it’s not yellow like urine it’s clear and has no odour, any ideas? Thanks in advance.

    • http://veganza.com/ Renee

      Rats mark territory, particularly the dominant males or females, so there is little you can do about constant urinating besides spaying or neutering. Spaying and neutering can increase lifespan in rodents significantly, but any invasive operation on a small animal involving anesthesia has a higher risk than larger animals. An experienced vet specialising in rodents is essential to ensure well-being!

      Rats tend to chew, but not eat paper. Avoid papers and cardboard with ink. Some newspaper inks are toxic, some aren’t.

      I’m not familiar with the nuggets you mention, but I’m also not a fan of waste, so I’d gradually remove them from the diet, while introducing the replacement foods… If you feel strongly about not feeding it to them, you could compost them or bury them in the garden. There comes a point where you do have to throw away some items! I won’t donate old unusable non-vegan cookbooks that may encourage animal consumption, for example… they become compost, and eventually plants or food!

  • http://www.thenaturalrat.co.uk Anabrese

    That’s great Renee, my rats are raw vegan and doing very well too. Bless you.x

  • http://www.rawlifestyle.co.uk/cgi-sys/suspendedpage.cgi Anabrese

    Hi Renee, have you ever brought up kittens on all vegan diet? Conventionally, because they need a lot of protein at this stage, usually eggs or meat are fed.

    • http://veganza.com/ Renee

      The youngest cat I adopted who went straight on vegan food was 9 months old. He put on several kilograms over the next year, and grew into a very large cat! He’s now 5. Personally I’ve not had a kitten from its infancy, although other vegans have. Good quality vegan cat food is exceptionally high in protein and ought to be fine. There are vegan kitten foods becoming available as vegan catfood becomes more widely used.

    • Anabrese

      Oh, I meant rat kittens actually! lol

  • Kirsty

    This has been really interesting. I have 3 girls one who has had respiratory infections quiet frequently and also had to have an abscess removed after an ear infection. She is now 2 and has developed yet another ear infection she is still eating and drinking but is not as active as she use to be. Also one of the other girls that I adopted has started sneezing. I am keen to try this diet to see if there is any improvement but I am concerned about their teeth becoming overgrown if they do not have the nuggets to eat. I also wondered how long it takes to notice an improvement. Plus would it be possible to tell us what the exact make up of the grain mix is please.

    • http://veganza.com/ Renee

      The grain mix is a tropical bird seed mix that doesn’t contain shell grit. It contains many sunflower seeds… Unfortunately I have no rat companions at the moment and cannot be more specific! A mix of nuts and needs from the health store is also a good idea, if not better! Less pesticide use.

      My rats never had a problem with overgrown teeth in the slightest. Crunching on hard seeds was enough.

  • http://www.rathealth.co.uk Joolz

    That’s very interesting, thanks for sharing, I’m vegan myself now, and on the verge of trying a gluten free diet which is how I found this page. However – your rats diet *IS* deficient in vitamin B12, and vitamin D (all vegan diets are), so I’m curious about what you think in their diet contains B12? I take a Vit D and B12 supplement myself every few days, and when I have some – I mix a little of the B12 powder into a drop of the Vit D oil and let them lick it from my finger. I currently have 2 dumbo sisters, just over 2 years old and still looking young.

    • http://veganza.com/ Renee

      Vitamin B-12 is produced in the large intestine/colon of most animals. Humans don’t – ahem – ingest fecal matter… like some other animals do!

      I was not aware vitamin D was essential for rats. I’m not sure that it is. There is some vegan D2 present in sunflower seeds, fortified vegan margarine, and mushrooms.

      I do not have any rats at the moment, as my life is dominated by 2 cats and a toddler! My last rat companion lived just beyond 5 years, passed away peacefully in her sleep. That’s over double the lifespan of so many “domestic” rats! I feel blessed to have shared my veganism with them. :) <3

  • http://www.miceandratrights.webs.com MARR

    Hello, I’m from Mice and Rats Rights, and we’re doing a magazine, and so we are looking for articles :) Your rat diet article is one of our favorites, we were wondering if you would like to contribute your writing.
    You can check out the details at our website in the news section, thanks for your time!
    Sincerely,
    MARR

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/BBJZHWI34RATWC4ASF5T2ECHKU/ Steven

    While a Vegan diet can be healthy, I have to wonder since when have four stomachs been a caveat for digesting dairy? I was under the impression that cows have four stomachs to digest undigestable GRASS, not dairy. I mean, do cows really go around drinking milk? No. They eat grass and drink water.

    • http://veganza.com Renée MBM

      Yes, calves do go around drinking milk, generally… Last I checked, when they weren’t confined to veal crates because humans are taking their food…

  • Colton

    Hello,
    I just got my rat of 10 weeks; he is a dumbo siamese patchwork dwarf? If that makes sense. I got him from a ‘rat breeder’ just out of town. He is still quite young, so I am wondering if this diet is sufficiante in protein for his growing body. And if not, is there another diet you would recommend for him? I am currently looking for a food for him, and in the meantime feeding him, what I’m sure is not the best food for him.
    If you are able to reply as soon as possible, that would be great!
    Thank you so much in advance.

  • Jemima_tegan

    Thanks heaps for this post! I am vegan and got my ratties a couple of months ago – and this info has pretty much been my survival guide. They’re absolutely thriving on their wholefood vegan diet :)

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/Z4KU4CERGMW6LO3WVDWHUSXWJQ Kristin

      I’m so glad that I came across this page!  I did not know of a resource like this when I had my rat, Ginnie, and just randomly gave her fruits, vegetables, grain products, and Vegan cat nuggets, and when she passed away, I worried that it was something that I had done (actually, I worried that it was because I had given her a piece of pineapple, which has been rumored to be toxic–though, I see, here, that you recommend it).  I just took in two new babies, tonight, and am glad to have a comprehensive resource to help guide me with their care, rather than just guessing about what to give them.

      I’m wondering, do you know of a comprehensive Vegan diet for hamsters or Guinea Pigs?  I know that none of the commercial foods are veg, and might be taking in a hamster and/or a couple of Guinea Pigs, soon, and need to know what I can feed them.

    • http://veganza.com Renée MBM

      I asked my guinea pig rescuing friend, here’s her reply:

      Guinea pigs are total herbivores and require a vegan diet. They require good quality grass hay (Timothy hay, orchard hay etc) at all times. A good quality pellet, such as Oxbow Cavy Cuisine or Cavy Performance can be fed daily. Veggies should be fed in quantities of 1 cup per guinea pig. 

      For more detailed information check out http://www.guinealynx.info for the best available health and diet guides. And remember there are thousands of guinea pigs that end up in shelters and rescues in need of a good home. 

  • Holly Marple

    Thank you for the wonderful article and information! I plan to use this to help with my future rat’s diet. I suppose with one exception as I will have to respect that fact that rats are omnivores and will not keep their diet entirely vegetarian. But this really was very, very helpful!

  • Renee Arias

    Great info! (Great name too haha) I adopted two male rats, 7 weeks old. My friend rescued their mom from becoming snake food and was very surprised to find little babies in the cage one day! I’m researching as much as possible to give them the best life ever. Thanks! 

  • vera

    hello
    how do you know if this diet meets al the nutritional requirements?
    a diet based on grains, seeds and vegetables can be too low in calcium, copper and vitamine D.
    where do the rats get this from, and how do you know for sure that this diet contains all they need?

    i feed my rats a diet based on “the scuttling gourmet”. i also use supplements for calcium, vitamine D and copper.

    a more natural diet, without supplementation sound like the ideal rat food, but i’m a bit scared for deficiencies.

    • http://veganza.com Renée MBM

      This diet is a veganized version of a popular diet promoted by a rat nutrition expert – in the Rat Health Care pamphlet by Debbie Ducommun. It’s considered the gold standard, but in my experience it doesn’t get the longevity results that I’ve had after I switched to a vegan diet: at least 4-5 years with all rats on this diet, no exceptions, and no reoccurring tumours until the last month of life.

      Fruits are high in copper. Calcium is plentiful in many greens, legumes, and seeds. Rats, like all nocturnal animals, have adapted to a lower vitamin D intake as they do not get much from sunlight, however domestic rats are more likely to get some vitamin D from sunlight (mine spent a good deal of their time awake during the day with me, and were regularly exposed to sunlight), in addition to mushrooms and fungus – rats have an adaptation to absorb the majority of their D (D2 – ergo­cal­cif­erol) from fungus spores on grains. Vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol) is the most common ingredient in rat poisons – large amounts of D3 draws calcium out of the bones into the blood stream which ultimately causes cardiac failure – I would not recommend supplementing with this. Rats are more sensitive to high D intakes than a lot of animals. I wouldn’t worry about this! I think, like always with western vegans, it’s good to keep an eye on calcium intake, but the rest isn’t worth much concern.

      If you think it’s necessary, Deva Cal-Mag Plus may alleviate your concerns: it contains D2, copper, and calcium. I think it’s also worth noting that domestic rats living cushy, lazy lives won’t be nearly as stressed, and as a result their nutrient requirements will naturally be lower. Generally overnutrition – obesity! – is the more common concern with well-kept rats. A wholefood vegan diet tends to avoid that problem, being higher in fibre, a tad lower in calories. While rats are certainly much more omnivorous than humans, further along the spectrum towards the carnivore end of things, they are incredibly adaptable creatures, and do not have vastly different requirements to us.

      If you’ve read The China Study or any of Dr T Colin Campbell’s work, he often references (depressing) studies done on lab rats involving low protein, whole plant-food diets, and they all out-lived their omnivorous-fed higher protein counterparts and the control groups.

  • Emily

    Hi! I have a question.. If someone were to switch to this lovely diet, how would one go about doing so? I’m sure one day you couldn’t just start feeding them loads of vegetables and leafy greens right?

    Thanks! So happy I found a good vegan diet for rats! As I want to adopt some in the future :)