This article is from the WSSF 2015 AFRMA Rat & Mouse Tales news-magazine.
By Karen Robbins
Lara Kordsiemon Vitale, Facebook
QI’m a newer rat owner to two females these last 6 months. Can anyone suggest a homemade food recipe for them. They refuse to eat any lab blocks and of course being from a pet store, were eating a seed-based diet. I currently made them a
homemade diet of puffed wheat, rice, oats, Total cereal,
pasta, and they get fresh fruits and veggies.
But I want to know if there is a really
healthy diet out there for them that you can
point me in the right direction!
AThe different brands of lab blocks vary in the ingredients, quality, and nutrition and many people find a lot of pet shop brands are not liked very well by their animals. Have you tried a high-quality lab-grade version such as Teklad or Mazuri? We have found that the Teklad is well-liked by rats and mice (I’ve seen rats grab up these blocks and eat them without hesitation when they have only seen a seed diet and mice that have never been fed blocks eat them without any problem). One key to switching from a seed diet to lab blocks is to take away all the seeds and only give a small amount once or twice a week as a treat (sprinkle in the cage as enrichment). The cereals make a nice treat but won’t have everything they need or too much of some things, where a good lab block has all the items in the correct amount necessary for a rat. The blocks should be the main part of the diet with cereals/fresh foods/healthy table scraps/etc., given as treats.
You can read more on the
Nutrient Requirements of Rats on
our web site. We also have other articles related to feeding:
Diet & Tumors in Rats
What is the Best Rat Food?; Rat Won’t Take Treats
Scabs...Diet or ???
What to Feed
Pet Rats & Mice
Choosing Your New Pet Rats
The book Nutrient Requirements of Laboratory Animals, Fourth Revised Edition, 1995, is available online and tells what and how much a rat needs of each nutrient.
We sell the Teklad 8604 lab blocks that is for all stages of a rats’s life,
and we have a
Rat Seed/Treat Mix recipe online
that you can make yourself. There are many other
there put together by various people with various ingredients that
you can either buy from them or make your own based on their
To make your own rat diet, you can read Debbie Ducommun’s
Homemade Rat Diet. However, this can be expensive and time consuming for people with more
than a couple rats and some find it hard to get their rats to eat some
of the items. There are other homemade diets people have used
that you can find online—Shunamite/The Scuttling Gourmet by
Alison Campbell in the U.K., Suebee, etc. If lab blocks are not
available in your area, then a mix of seeds/grains and dog food is
an alternate along with the other fresh items.
Just remember that with any
mix, the rats will pick out all the
tasty things they like first and a lot of times leave the rest so are
not getting a balanced diet.
Rats will eat just about anything but it is up to us to feed them a healthy diet. Giving the wrong diet or an unbalanced diet, too many snacks or unhealthy snacks, can lead to obesity which causes joint and organ problems, can cause tumors, have a poor coat, and lead to a shortened lifespan.
For some healthy treats that also make good enrichment devices, rats enjoy nuts in the shell (hazelnut, walnut, pecan, almond, brazil nut), and the nuts with the harder shell such as hazelnut and brazil nut give the rats something to do and is good for their teeth but should only be given as a special treat, not every day.
Another treat rats like are cooked soup bones, rib bones (after you have eaten the meat off of them), turkey bones (again after you have eaten the meat off), antlers, etc., and it takes them a while to chew them up. Rats gnaw the bones so there is no fear of them getting splinters like you would if a dog were eating them. They also get calcium and other nutrients from these bones.
Alicia Dunstan, Facebook
QIs Harlan Teklad brand 8604 formula the best rodent block for mice? Where and how can you buy it?
AEach breeder has their own recommendation on what they find is the best food that works well with their animals. For all of my mice (breeders and non-breeders, and rats), the Harlan Teklad 8604 is the one I like the best and all the animals like it—they are in good weight, have great coats, and do well raising their litters. And this is what I recommend to those who get mice (and rats) from me.
AFRMA sells small bags of the 8604 on the web site that is mailed to you (you get approximately 10 pounds in the order). Harlan Teklad makes other formulas that other breeders use that have less protein/more fat and there are other lab-quality brands (Mazuri—which can be found in some pet shops, Purina, Zeigler) that you can read more about in the article from the AFRMA WSSF 2011 newsletter.
From our Files
QI found your address in a book on mice titled Mice, A complete pet owner’s manual written by Horst Bielfeld. Reading this book was very helpful to me, but it also left me a lot of unanswered questions. Is it true that if you feed a rat bread or any other food with starch in it that it will make the rat’s stomach swell and make it very sick? Also, why should you only feed a rat once a day, and as soon as it is done remove the food from its cage?
ANot sure why this is said about removing the food. Rats (and mice) need to have their main staple food (a quality laboratory block) on hand at all times. They aren’t like dogs that only need to be fed once or twice a day. Using lab block feeder baskets will keep the food up off the floor of the cage so they can’t stash it in the corner and pee and poop on it.
With fresh foods/leftovers given as treats, don’t give more than snack-size portions otherwise if there are any left after a few hours, especially wet foods, those should be removed so they don’t spoil.
Regarding your question on bread and starch, no these items will not make the stomach swell. Whole grain bread is a good treat for rats and they enjoy bits of crust from toast and pizza.
Treats should only be healthy items and even though they will eat just about anything, keep candy, sugar items, and fried foods out of their diet. Also, too much fruit can cause diarrhea. Remember to keep treats to small pieces.