Pet rats are whimsical little bundles of joy. It’s a real surprise that these wonderful animals are not as popular a choice for a pet as they ought to be. Pet rats are clean, affectionate, and very intelligent creatures, and they’re not very hard to look after. However, you need to make sure the foods and liquids you’re giving them are safe for their consumption.
So, do pet rats drink milk? The short answer is, they do. But a lot of rats are known to get digestive upsets following the intake of animal milk. While soy milk or almond milk is definitely safe for your pet rat, something like cow milk needs to be seriously considered.
But there are still a lot of other factors to consider here. Animal milk, at some amount, is definitely safe for pet rats. So how much is safe? And do you need to give milk to your rats at all? These are some of the questions that we will be diving into in this article. We will also be analyzing the natural diet of a rat in trying to determine why rats may or may not need milk. Read on!
Will pet rats drink milk?
We will start by phrasing the main question a bit differently. Will your pet rat actually drink milk if served? The answer is, absolutely yes! While it is unnatural for any animal to consume milk beyond a young age, like other pets such as dogs or cats, pet rats love drinking milk.
Like most animals, rats start off their lives dependent on their mother’s milk. At a younger age, when they are incapable of taking in solid food and also rapidly growing, milk is the only option. It is easy to take in, and the lactose is rich in nutrition. But like most animals, rats wean off their pups after a certain age and shift their diets to solid food. And as they head into adulthood, rats lose their ability to digest lactose. This is true for all animals, even humans (at varying degrees).
While it is unnatural for rats to run into milk in the world, living amongst humans has its perks. Humans like to drink milk way into adulthood, and rats (both pet and feral) have been sharing this habit of ours when possible. But a lot of rats cannot digest milk.
If you’re looking to give your pet rat milk properly, this article might help: Can Pet Rats Drink Out of a Bowl?
Is it safe for rats to drink milk?
While pet rats love drinking milk, beyond a certain amount, it may not necessarily be a healthy choice for them. A little bit of milk every now and then as a treat will not hurt your pet rat. But if you’re handing them a saucerful of milk every evening, that’s when things can start getting problematic. Like humans, adult pet rats have a varying degree of lactose intolerance, that is, an inability to digest the lactose in milk. And in most cases, when a rat drinks too much milk, you can expect diarrhea and/or an upset stomach.
It is true that, like other pets, rats also need a healthy amount of calcium intake to sustain their health and their bones. And as humans, we know milk as the best and most readily available source of calcium. So we might be inclined to regularly add milk to their diet. But this is a big No-No!
Recent studies have argued that milk isn’t necessarily as healthy or necessary for the human diet as we’ve been led to believe they are. That isn’t to say they are harmful to someone who isn’t lactose intolerant. It’s safe to enjoy them. They just won’t make you any healthier. But when it comes to pet rats, you need to be more mindful of this fact. These animals had domesticated from brown rats just 200 years ago. Before that, the consumption of milk into adulthood was totally unnatural for these animals. And so they are more lactose intolerant than we are.
What about plant milk?
Plant-based milk like soy milk or almond milk can be a great alternative for your pet rats. Not only are they healthier compared to animal milk, but your rats will also enjoy them a lot. The nuts and seeds that go into producing plant-milk are part of a rat’s natural and preferred diet.
There’s still one concern here. While plant milk lacks the lactose that causes problems like stomach upsets, they are a lot higher in calories compared with animal milk. So, if you’re frequently treating your pet rat to plant milk, it can lead to problems of obesity.
There is one thing you should take away from this discussion. If you want to treat your rats to some milk, give them plant milk. But regardless of what milk you give them, curb the amount. Your rats do not, I repeat, DO NOT need milk in their diet. It is okay sometimes as a treat. But for the most part, it is wiser to stick to solid food.
What about calcium?
But all this still leaves us with an important question. What about the calcium needs of your pet rat? If milk isn’t necessarily safe for a rat, what can you feed it to make sure it gets all the calcium it needs.
There are a few great choices you should consider. Broccoli can be a great source of calcium. You can feed them to your rats, either boiled or raw. They will absolutely love it. Another great option is chicken bones. Rats are biological omnivores, so they will love chewing on some bones every now and then. You can also add finely crushed eggshells to your rat’s meal every now and then. Just make sure the crushed shells aren’t too large so that your rat chokes on them.
What does an ideal pet rat diet consist of?
So far, we have looked into whether or not rats drink milk and if it is okay for them. As we near the end of the article, it makes sense to consider what an ideal pet rat diet consists of.
Pet rats were domesticated from brown rats around 200 years ago. Brown rats are biologically omnivores, so their diet consists of a mix of vegetarian and non-vegetarian food.
While it isn’t necessary to feed non-vegetarian food to your rats (remember, they’re omnivores, not carnivores), they do need to get all the essential nutrients. Ideally, a pet rat’s diet will consist of plenty of grains and seeds. This also emulates a huge chunk of the brown rat’s natural diet.
Fast-growing pups can be fed puppy milk. This will actually be beneficial to them. But after they’ve matured (at around 6 months), it is no longer a good food source.
Pets rats do drink milk. In fact, they love it. But this does not necessarily mean that you should give it to them regularly. Rats, like most mammals, become lactose intolerant when they become adults. So, it is incredibly difficult for rats to digest milk.
Plant-based milk, such as soy milk or almond milk, could be a better alternative. But they are still way too high in calories, and while your pet rat might enjoy them, you should curb the amount.
Rats don’t need milk in their diet. A lot of people assume that the calcium in the milk will be beneficial for their rats. But that’s not true. Instead, you should consider other sources of calcium like chicken bones, eggshells & broccoli.