A healthy diet for rats
Ensure your rats have a healthy diet
- Fresh/healthy/balanced diets meeting their nutritional needs; easily achieved by feeding balanced commercial pelleted diets especially for rats.
- Occasional variety. Consider supplementing diets with small amounts of fruit/vegetables/cooked egg/grains/seeds, given as part of their daily ration, not in addition or it could cause obesity/health problems. Rats are omnivores eating both plant and animal materials.
- Fresh clean drinking water continuously. Without water rats become seriously ill.
- Check water bottles morning and evening, refill twice daily; ensuring they’re never thirsty;
- Provide water bottles not bowls to avoid contamination - clean regularly to avoid algae/bacteria build-up;
- Check for blockages, ensure drinkers aren’t leaking;
- Make multiple drinkers available so all can drink simultaneously, avoiding competition, ensuring that should one become blocked they still have access to water.
- Rat food! Don’t feed food designed for rabbits/guinea pigs/hamsters/other herbivores - they won’t meet rats’ nutritional protein needs. Rats need essential amino acids/fatty acids/vitamins/minerals from their diet - they cannot produce these themselves.
- To avoid harmful foods (e.g. onion/citrus fruits/walnuts/rhubarb/grapes/raisins/chocolate).
- To avoid sugars/high-fat foods (i.e. dairy). Use only as treats/rewards during training. Rats like sweet/fatty food, which can cause obesity/other health problems if eaten in large amounts.
- Feeding twice daily - morning and evening. Remove uneaten food, change the amount so all is eaten, and they stay a healthy weight. Rats feed mainly at dawn/dusk, and drink mostly during the night.
- Food in open bowls - allows them to carry food and handle/eat it wherever they want. Check for uneaten food before re-filling bowls. Use ceramic rather than metal bowls to avoid ultrasound noise.
- New foods introduced gradually. Introduce new food to rats as a group so individuals don’t smell different, preventing aggression. Don’t change diets overnight. Rats can be cautious/fearful of new foods.
- Natural foraging behaviours (e.g. handling/manipulating food) encouraged. They enjoy holding/manipulating food in their paws. Foraging behaviour (pdf 181kb).
- To eat fresh faeces - it‘s natural behaviour helping them absorb all the nutrients/minerals they need to stay healthy. Stopping this could cause nutritional deficiencies/health problems.