You’ll want to put the food in a bowl to keep it clean and out of the litter. Some will be eaten, some hidden, but usually some stays in the bowl. Please note that these suggestions are for adult rats that are not breeding. Pregnant or nursing females and growing pups need more than any of these can give alone.
If you choose to feed your rats a commercially prepared block-type food, you can be pretty sure they are getting what they need. They can’t pick out their favorite parts so you’ll know they are getting all they are supposed to. You should still give them some fresh fruits, vegetables, pasta, etc. occasionally for variety. As for blocks as a staple, I use LabDiet 5001 or Mazuri (both made by Purina), but I plan on trying Harlan Teklad very soon. Some of the other brands contain preservatives I prefer not to give to my rats. Try to give them just what they need each day so they do not become overweight and so that the food doesn’t get soggy in the cage.
Some say that their rats won’t eat block food, but I don’t buy that. Blocks are available to all of my rats and they do eat them along with their other foods. Rats, like humans, would rather eat the really yummy, sweet and fatty foods that are not good for them. If they are only offered blocks and other foods that are good for them, they have to eat them. If I am given a choice of french fries or brussels sprouts, of course, I am going to choose the fries. I will not be healthy on that diet (and will probably get fat), but that’s what I’d choose. If I am just given the brussels sprouts, I’ll eat them and be much healthier for it. Keep this in mind when you choose what you will feed your rats.
There are lots of mixes to choose from for your rats. I do not recommend seed mixes, though, because they tend to be high in fat and the rats pick out what they want and leave the rest. They are, therefore, not getting all of the nutrients they need. I have also found that some of the mixes on the market contain more of those preservatives that our rats shouldn’t get in their food. You can put together your own mix for your rats. I use a mix (along with the block food which is about one third of their diet) which was adapted from Marwin’s diet. Keep in mind that I mix large quantities at once.
My mix consists of:
- Nutro Natural Lite and/or Diamond Lite dog food-35-50 pounds
- Zupreem parrot food-one pound
- Dry instant oatmeal-large cannister-about 42 oz. to 50 lbs. of dog food
- Black oil sunflower seeds-about four cups
For variety, add:
- Uncooked pasta (1-2 pounds) and/or at least two bags of puffed wheat or rice cereal (no added sugar) or Cheerios or something equally as healthful.
- You can freeze unused portions until you need it, and the rats love this mix and thrive on it. Be careful to give just what they need or they could get plump pretty quick.
I supplement my rat’s diet with fresh fruits and vegetables, rice, pasta, or whatever is handy and good for them. It doesn’t have to be given every day, but be sure they get plenty of fresh foods. Go easy on things like lettuce (all water-diarrhea), undercooked eggs (salmonella), nuts (too much fat), chocolate (not good for any of us), etc. Do not give your rats, especially the males, too much protein. Fresh oranges, given occasionally, are believed to help protect females from cancer. Just use common sense when deciding what to feed because they’ll eat whatever you give them.
There are other homemade rodent diets out there. Just be careful what you give them and be sure it is something you are willing to take the time to prepare and that it is not too high in sugar, salt, fat or protein.
Rats love treats! Treats are very helpful when training your rats and fun for any time. If you start to give them treats around the same time each day, they will come to expect them. When I come home from work, around 7:30 in the morning, my rats are crazy waiting for their treats. As treats, my rats like puffed wheat or rice (with no added sugar), Cheerios, grapes, sunflower seeds, etc. I try to keep it healthy, but they have had the occasional french fry or cookie piece as a treat. There are also rodent treats that you can get at the pet store like yogurt drops or other colorful, fruity-smelling treats (for birds or rodents).
Your rats should have fresh, clean water available to them at all times. If you put it in a bowl, it will get dirty fast and will probably be knocked over in the cage. Instead, use a water bottle with a stainless steel tube (with the ball in it). This keeps the water clean and out of the bottom of the cage. Check the bottles daily to be sure they are full and not clogged or cracked. They must stay airtight to work.