There is not much basic information out there about what to feed your rats. I have heard and seen people suggest feed varying from rat blocks, mixed bird seed, and cheap dog food.  The truth is that there are a lot of different opinions on what food to feed your rat.  Here is some basic rat nutrition information to help you get an educated start.

Here are the quick answers, I will go into depth later in this article for more “why” information.

  1. Only buy rat food for your rat.
  2. Do not feed “seed mix” type foods. Buy rat block or pellet.
  3. Supplement these block mixes with daily treats, safe leftover human foods, and a supplemental food mix
  4. Fresh clean water from a bottle with no additives provided daily.
  5. Provide enough block for a rat to always have access to food.

First, I’ve heard many people say that cheap dog food or other animal feeds are fine for rats for long periods of time. These foods may be considered “fine” but you are looking at a food that is not balanced nutritionally for a rat. I find that dog food bred rats tend to have greasier and  thinner hair, less shine in their eyes and in general are stinkier than rats that are fed a good food made for rats. You may be able to find things with similar ingredients but the balance of vitamins and minerals is just off.

Second, seed mix type foods are what I consider any mix of foods that has block or pellets and seeds and other foods in the bag. Typically the block in these foods is not balanced, the only way for a rat to have a balanced food long term from these is if it eats every bit of food in the proportions they are in the bag.

Third, block mixes are great, but I feel like they are a wonderful base for a healthy and full diet. Rats are a lot like people. They love and thrive on variety of food. I frequently give my rats left overs when all the ingredients are rats safe. I also have a supplement “mix” that is given to them twice a week with their rat block.

Fourth, many people want to add vitamins or minerals to their water. It is really not necessary and can also make your rats a little nervous about their water and keep them from drinking the amount they need. Rats need constant access to water. Like people they can only live a very short period of time without water.

Fifth, rats are nibblers. They naturally must eat almost constantly. Keep enough rat block for them to constantly nibble and any supplemental foods should be eaten fairly quickly, leaving them to eat mostly block most of the day.

Ideally your food and supplements should get the rat’s food at somewhere around 10-15% protein for non breeding adults. The protein should be in the range of 14-22% for breeding adults or young, growing rats. Okay, I know, to most of us I just said “blah blah blah.” Okay, so most commercial rat foods are on the high end of protein for pet rats and about the right spot for breeders. What does this mean to you? Look at the bag of food you have and help that determine what foods will go into your supplements. If your bag is high in protein you don’t want to be giving constant protein in the supplemental foods.

For Supplemental Foods check out my other nutrition articles.