American Fancy Rat & Mouse Association

This article is from the WSSF 2017 AFRMA Rat & Mouse Tales news-magazine.

Beginners’ Corner

Organic Rat Food; Looking For Organic Lab Mouse Diet

By Karen Robbins

Brown Mouse
Organic Rat Food

Sarah Smith, e-mail
Q I’m having a lot of trouble finding an organic rat block or any premixed rat food. Currently I feed organic fruits and vegetables and baby food and cereals on a daily basis. Truly, I’ve had the most luck and health this way rather than feeding rat pellets and regular fruits and vegetables with prior rats. If you could help me with this problem, I would love it. Thank you so much.

A I’ve never heard of any. To be 100% organic, you will have to make your own mix. Normally if you make your own mix, dog food is one of the ingredients used along with fresh items, grains, seeds, cereals, etc.

Feeding rats can be done either by using a lab block that has all the nutrients needed by rats in the amount they need, to making your own from one of the homemade mixes fanciers have come up with. With making your own mix you can control what is organic and non-GMO but you can run into too high or too low of a particular vitamin, mineral, or other item. It depends on your situation and what the rats are used for as a couple pets would be different than a breeder with many animals with pregnant and nursing moms, growing babies, etc.

One bit of history on the feeding of rats, in the early days of the laboratories in this country they had different homemade mixes they came up with. In the book Care and Breeding of Laboratory Animals, Edmond J. Farris, Editor, 1950, one mix used by The Wistar Institute in the early 1900s was as follows:

  • An ample supply of dog chow checkers always available
  • Milk supplied 4 times per week per individual rat; approximately 6 oz of evaporated milk diluted with equal portions of water is fed in individual dishes placed in the cages; female rats that have weaned a litter are not given milk until they have stopped lactating
  • Green vegetables made available twice weekly; several pieces of raw cubed carrots with green tops are offered, or such items as raw lettuce, spinach, or other greens
  • Raw pig’s liver in inch cubes fed twice weekly
  • Fresh, clean water for drinking is available to the rats at all times

With this diet, nothing was mentioned about using different grains or seeds along with the above, so it was dog food, milk, veggies, liver, and water.

In another Wistar colony, the following basic daily cooked diet was used (1 pail is 5 qt., 1 scoop=1 qt.):

  • ½ pail soybeans
  • ½ pail peas
  • 2 pails whole wheat
  • 1 scoop salt
  • 12 lb. fish
  • 1 scoop whole milk powder
  • 6 pails corn meal
  • 20 gal. boiling water

This mix was cooked in a 50-gal. steam cooker for about 1 hour or until the water boiled away and the food was fairly dry. It was spread on trays to cool. The food could also be put through a meat grinder to form macaroni-like strands. It was then placed on wire screens and dried in a hot room. This made a diet that was excellent for feeding over the weekend and kept indefinitely. They varied the diet 3 days per week to include other items such as bone meal, powdered eggs, meat, liver, kidneys, heart, or tomatoes and salmon in place of the fish. This amount was used to feed 900 to 1000 rats once daily (9 rats got a 1-quart scoop) with double portions on Saturday. They stored one-week’s worth of dry ingredients in metal containers in dry conditions and normally sterilized the food before use.

This sounds very similar to a lab block but with this one they don’t mention any fresh items being used.

Another diet devised in 1930 and used as a ready-mixed stock diet for the Cornell rat colony for 18 years was labeled as giving satisfactory results during growth and reproduction and considered adequate, was one of dry meal and flour:

  • 300 lb linseed oil meal
  • 200 lb ground malted barley
  • 440 lb wheat red dog flour
  • 300 lb dried skim milk
  • 300 lb oat four
  • 400 lb yellow corn meal
  • 20 lb steamed bone meal
  • 20 lb ground limestone
  • 20 lb salt
  • Extra vitamins A and D were supplied twice a week
  • No green feed or other supplements were fed

Feeding rats can be varied. Also, lab blocks come in many brands and formulas so if you’ve tried a pet shop brand and wasn’t satisfied, then try one of the high-quality lab brands (Teklad, Purina, Mazuri, etc.) as most owners and breeders found their rats like the high-quality ones best.

Looking For Organic Lab Mouse Diet

Prasanthi Kumchala, MS Lab Manager/Research Associate Dr. Garzon’s Lab, Columbus, OH
Q I am looking for organic mice food, let me know if you have any options.

A Sorry, but we don’t know of anyone making organic mouse food. Some pet owners will make their own mix of various seeds/grains/cereals, etc., with organic foods they buy in the grocery store. You should try Teklad or Purina to see if they could help you since they both do custom diets. *

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April 3, 2019