Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Rat Basic Diet: The Food Pyramid

Basically, rats also follow the same food pyramid like humans do.

The most cherished moments with my rats will always be the greatest gift that I would never take for granted. You love them, they easily love you back. It’s simple and unconditional. 

The rat diet

Rats are not picky eaters. Like their human companions, however, they are also inclined to crave for foods that are not necessarily good for them. What flavors excite rats? As sweet as their personalities can be, they also have a sweet tooth. It induces euphoria, according to studies. However, in the food pyramid, sugar should only be included sparingly in the diet of rats. Be wary too of overfeeding. Take note that: "These findings confirm… over-consumption of highly pleasurable food triggers addiction... driving the development of compulsive eating… therefore underlie obesity..." [1]

The essential food groups

Rats need to have a balanced diet; but unlike their wild counterparts, they fully rely on us to give them their daily ration.
  • Proteins. These are the building blocks of our bodies; they help to grow and repair damaged tissues. Proteins vary according to the food source (eg. Meat, vegetable/plant sources, eggs and milk). Although higher protein intake may be required by pregnant does and growing pups, too much protein in the diet causes itchiness and hair loss in rats.
  • Carbohydrates. The bulk of your rats’ diet should consist of carbohydrates, which come from grains and grain-based foods such as pasta. Carbs are essential for growth and energy; but excess is stored as fat. Recommended interval for food intake is from 3-4 hours. 
  • Fats. Packed with lots of energy, this is essential for healthy functioning (eg omega3 fatty acid). Only a low amount of fat is required in the rat’s diet. Excessive amounts can cause serious health problems. Please also take note that rats cannot process animal fat. DO NOT FEED ANIMAL FAT TO RATS! 
  • Vitamins and minerals. Rats can manufacture their own supply of vitamin C, which is essential for healing. However, their diet can be supplemented with leafy green vegetables or vitamin supplements. 
  • Fiber. Although not necessary for healthy functioning, a healthy supply of fiber is needed by rats suffering from diabetes. 

Local diet (Philippines)

For those living in the Philippines, the best source of feeds for rats are the poultry feeds stores. They carry alot of products such as grains, seeds, dog food/biscuits, vitamins, etc.

For me, majority of their diet consists of chicken pellets (made of grains). Please do not feed them rabbit pellets because they are made of high fibers (e.g. leaves). I then supplement their diet with some dog biscuits as treat as it already contains a little fat, some proteins as well as vitamins and minerals. You can also add some other grains such as oat groat and barley. But it's best if you only buy 1 kilogram at a time because I noticed that they easily get infested with bugs.

For pregnant and nursing mothers, I give them black sunflower seeds because it is a rich source of Vitamin E, fats and protein. Take note that seeds contain high amount of fats and protein, and should only be fed to nursing mothers or does.

A Balanced Diet

Majority of their diet should consists of grains and carbohydrates, while the rest of the food groups are treats only. That's the basic rule. Carbohydrates and starches should compose 95% of a rat's diet. This group of food includes rice, grains, cereals and pasta.

This is rat heaven!!
95% of their diet should look like this (or similar).

The next group is the ‘fruits and vegetables’. They supply the daily vitamin and mineral requirements of rats. This group includes the B vitamin complex to maintain cellular growth and function. Others are calcium, manganese, vitamin D among others. Avoid citrus fruits in the diet because they are very toxic to male rats as they contain d-limonene.

Fruits & vegetables as treats, but not as the main course.

The third group, 'proteins', should be given only in conservative amounts: meat, fish, and egg, dairy. Excess causes health problems, itching, and obesity. Dog and cat food (canned meat) is not for rats. Nursing rats could be fed with these.


Finally, ‘oils, fats, and sweets’ should be given on rare occasions. These foods should be avoided as much as possible and includes nuts, seeds, chocolate, oily foods, animal fat.

Sweets are a big NO-NO!
Resist the urge to feed sweets!!
Photo courtesy of The Dapper Rat


A balanced diet is the key to a healthy rat; a moderate calorie intake is the key to longevity in a rat. Carbohydrates should compose 95% of their diet so all you have to worry about are the grains. That means, the rest (e.g. meat, fats, sugar, vegetables) should be given as light treats only.

If you want to make them fat, try steamed sweet potato. It contains mostly carbohydrates and is very effective compared to canned dog/cat food.

Further Reading
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