It’s important for rats to have a well-rounded diet full of variety. Achieving a decent variety can sometimes be difficult to accomplish on a budget, so you might be tempted to use something that you already have around the house, like cat food.
Pet rats can eat cat food occasionally. Cat food is typically high in protein because that’s the kind of diet they need. Rats, on the other hand, need very little protein. You can use cat food as a special treat, but don’t let it become a staple of your rat’s diet.
Let’s take a look at why cat food isn’t always recommended by rat keepers, as well as what a proper diet looks like.
When Is It Okay to Feed a Rat Some Cat Food?
Macronutrients – protein, fat, and carbs – are an important factor to balance in your diet, and it’s just as important in your rat’s diet, too. Rats are prone to becoming obese, so you should be sure to limit how much fat and protein they consume.
Rats are omnivores, so they can eat both meat and plants. Cats, however, are carnivores that depend on protein from meat to live a healthy life. Rats need a carb-based diet, but cats only need up to 2% of their diet to be carbs. Any more than that is unhealthy for them.
So, cat food should never be a staple of your rat’s diet because it doesn’t provide the right nutrients for them.
This doesn’t mean you have to avoid it altogether, however. Rats benefit from a diverse diet. Feeding them different foods is a great way to enrich their lives to make eating more entertaining for them.
Reasons you can feed your rat some cat food include:
- An occasional treat for enrichment
- To help an underweight rat gain weight
- If rats are bored with their typical food
Rats don’t usually like to try new foods, but they can also sometimes get bored if you always feed them the same thing. Offering them a little bit of cat food might pique their interest.
If you want to feed your rats some cat food, whether it’s out of necessity, convenience, or curiosity, give them no more than a teaspoon per week. Try to limit the feeding to just once a week, so they don’t get used to it. Rats typically don’t like to try new foods, so if they get hooked on something they shouldn’t regularly have, they might refuse to eat other food you offer them.
Dry vs. Wet Cat Food
If you choose to treat your rat to some cat food, you can use either dry or wet food. Whatever you have on hand will work.
Dry food might be easier to mix with the rat pellets or lab blocks that you already feed your rat. Dry cat food tends to be a little higher in carbs, especially if it’s a cheaper brand that relies on fillers. In terms of the rat diet, dry food might be a little better for your rat to eat.
Your pet rat will greatly benefit from receiving one or two wet meals each week. It allows you to provide more nutrients to your rat, which is especially helpful if your young or ill rat needs some extra protein.
Wet cat food might be a great choice if you’re seeking to bulk up your rat. Wet cat food is typically made from animal-based proteins since cats can’t digest plant-based proteins too well. Meat has more essential amino acids than plants do, so meat is typically a better source of protein.
If you want to give your rat a treat, both wet and dry food will be fine as long as you keep the portions small and consider why you’re feeding it to them.
What Does a Proper Rat Diet Look Like?
You need to have a thorough understanding of what a proper rat diet looks like so you can give your rats treats without causing health concerns. Cat food should only be used as a treat or dietary supplement. If your rat has already had enough protein for the week, it wouldn’t be wise to offer them some more.
A rat’s diet should contain fruit, vegetables, grains, protein, and fat. Lab blocks or rat pellets are a great way to provide nutrients to your rat. These should be supplemented with fresh foods so your rat can receive all of the nutrients they need.
If your rat is reluctant to try new foods, try hiding a small piece with its usual foods and gradually start feeding the food to it more often.
This video is a great overview of what kind of foods should be fed to a rat:
Focus on Carbs
Carbs are the most important part of a rat’s diet. To make sure they receive enough carbs each week, you should predominately feed them rat pellets or a lab block. Oxbow Essentials Adult Rat Food is commonly recommended by rat keepers because it’s nutritionally balanced and offers a healthy mix of macronutrients that are appropriate for rats.
You can offer your rat supplemental foods in addition to rat pellets. Offer your pet some grains each day like oats, rice, crackers. Whole-grain is typically the best option. Always cook rice and pasta before feeding it to your rat.
Feed Vegetables Each Day
Vegetables and leafy greens should be given to your rat each day because they’re full of essential vitamins and minerals. Lettuce, kale, zucchini, broccoli, squash, and much more are great options to feed to your rat.
Feed them small quantities each day and give them a wide variety of foods for enrichment.
1-3 Days a Week
Fats, proteins, and fruit are all necessary components of a rat’s diet, but they should be fed in smaller quantities just a few times each week.
Foods you can feed to your rat to provide fat include:
- Nuts (including pecans, pistachios, etc.)
- Peanut butter
- Seeds (including sunflower, pumpkin, etc.)
Small quantities of these foods are key. It’s important to feed small amounts of peanut butter to your rat because it can be too thick for them to swallow sometimes. You can add water to thin it out or apply a thin layer on a cracker.
Proteins you can offer to your rat include:
- Cottage cheese
Cat food can also be used as a supplement in small amounts, but remember that many rat keepers don’t recommend it for health purposes. Moderation is important when it comes to feeding your rat any amount of protein.
Fruits you can feed to your rat include:
Some rat keepers advise against feeding your rats citrus and mangos because they contain something called d-limonene, which is known to cause cancer in rats. However, only large quantities of this chemical have caused cancer, and it’s impossible to feed your rat enough food to reach those quantities of the chemical.
Your rat’s health is important, so you should provide all of the necessary nutrients to it. Cat food can be fed to a rat as an occasional treat or supplement. Cat food is high in protein, so it shouldn’t become a habit to feed it to your rat. You can feed your rat both wet and dry cat food. Dry food will most likely contain more carbs than wet food, but both will have protein levels that are significantly higher than what a rat should consume.