At Rattie Ratbags HQ, you’ll often find one of the human residents standing at the open fridge holding a food item while shouting, “Alexa, can rats eat this?” We’re forever googling whether a food is safe for rats.
It can be confusing to work out what you can and can’t give your rat as an extra treat, and there’s a lot of conflicting information on the internet. Some of this is due to different websites including ‘of no nutritional value’ in the same category as ‘unsafe’, and sometimes can be down to food preservation in different countries. How a food is prepared can make a difference too.
Unsafe Food For Rats
As a general rule of thumb, if you can eat it, your rat can probably eat it too, with a few exceptions. Common sense applies here too; there are many foods that are listed as ‘unsafe’ for rats, but that would have to be eaten in massive quantities before it actually caused your rat any harm.
There are some things that shouldn’t be offered to a rat, however.
Dried/Uncooked Beans: There are a few exceptions, but most dried beans are unsuitable for rats. Some can be toxic, whereas others can interfere with digestion, due to high levels of antinutrients when dried.
Liquorice: A small amount is okay, but in large quantities, liquorice is linked to neurological issues in rats.
Blue Cheese: The moulds in blue cheese are often toxic to rats.
Citrus: Male rats cannot have citrus, as a build-up of D-Limonene in the body interacts badly with the rat’s kidneys and can lead to cancer. Citrus is perfectly safe for females.
Use your common sense and don’t feed your rat anything out of date, gone off, or not yet ripe. If it would make you ill to eat it, it won’t be good for your rat either. Be sensible and don’t offer things like fizzy drinks, caffeine, sugary human treats or alcohol. You’d be surprised how many owners have to be told this.
Some vegetables, such as potato, should only be fed cooked, so always double-check if in doubt.
Be careful with thick, claggy foods, like peanut butter or mashed potato, as it could become stuck in the rat’s throat. Mix in a little water to loosen the consistency before you feed.
Unsafe Rat Food Myths
Some foods are marked as unsafe for rats but are actually fine in moderation.
Corn: In America, dried corn is unsafe for rats due to the drying process. In the UK, however, corn is dried differently and is actually totally safe for rats to eat.
Chocolate: Cats and dogs don’t tolerate chocolate well, and it’s often assumed the same is true of rats. Actually, while it certainly shouldn’t be fed often or in large amounts, rats tolerate chocolate well. A tiny piece of very dark chocolate can in fact be useful for a rat to ease symptoms of a URI.
Dried Rice: This myth seems to come from the myth that dried rice makes pigeons explode. Dried rice is perfectly fine for rats to eat, and is a common ingredient in many rat mixes. Rice is a kidney kind grain for rats, and they’ll enjoy eating it.