Rats are low-maintenance pets who love eating all sorts of foods. Unfortunately, there are many foods out there that rats like eating, but have harmful effects for them. A responsible owner always researches what foods are suitable for rats before feeding their lovely little rodents.
You might’ve noticed that one food pet rats love eating is boiled eggs. But are the eggshells good for pet rats? Yes, eggshells are good for pet rats. Eggshells provide a wonderful source of calcium, which their diet generally lacks. Now, we don’t want the little rodents to receive an excessive amount of calcium, but if you give eggshells once or twice a month, then it’s all good.
The problem lies in rats liking or disliking the eggshells. Most rats, when given a hard-boiled egg, peel the shell off and go straight to the egg whites and yolk. If you give them eggshells, they usually just eat the eggshell membrane and don’t bother with the shells themselves. It’s, of course, hard to nibble on the calcium crystal-like structure of an eggshell. Definitely try it, and if your rat seems to enjoy it, great! If it doesn’t, there are substitutes available that give them good amounts of calcium.
Do rats need calcium?
Rats do need calcium, just like other animals. In fact, a good source of calcium is really important for growing rats. Rat blocks made especially for younger rats, contain a greater quantity of calcium, and if you’re feeding them a homemade diet, you should include it too.
The calcium source of a newborn rat is their mother’s milk. As rats grow up and are older than the nursing age, they start eating what you provide, and a responsible owner should always provide all nutrients to a rat, including proteins, fats, sugar, minerals, vitamins, and calcium.
Calcium is also important for older rats. Since rats are mammals, they are pretty similar to humans in anatomical and physiological aspects. Like us, their bones grow weak. Having a fine supply of calcium, like eggshells, helps them stay fit.
Additionally, pregnant rats could also be given eggshells for calcium since they are going to bear 7-13 children. It keeps their bones strong and gives them strength. Rats who are pregnant multiple (2-3) times in their lifespan also need an ample supply of calcium for proper nourishment.
Dangers of Eggshells
Eggshells may be good for pet rats, but they’re not as safe as one would assume. There’s a couple of dangers of feeding your rats eggshells. Some of them are:
Eggshells are composed of calcium carbonate (CaCO3) crystals, which are solid masses bound together. The shell has pores in it, but they are so minute that they can’t help even rats nibble. So it’s common sense that if a rat was to eat eggshells, it would break a tiny piece and swallow it.
The shells are meant to protect eggs, and because of that, they’re naturally very hard. Rats will have a lot of trouble trying to chew the eggshell, and they’ll probably just break it into a couple of bits or swallow it whole. This presents a possible choking hazard. Since pet rats aren’t used to eating everything, they aren’t used to swallowing hard food like eggshells and may end up choking.
When giving pet rats eggshells, be present, and make sure they don’t choke. If they’re choking, help them vomit by petting on the back.
Wounds and Cuts
When eggshells are left in an area where rats play, they will not only consider them food but a toy. Rats have good fun peeling hard-boiled eggs, smashing their shells, and using them to play how we play with balls.
And while it’s a great nutrition-packed meal and they have plenty of enjoyment playing with eggshells, the little bits and pieces can actually cause scratches on their feet. Sometimes, the edge of an eggshell piece pierces through their skin and causes sharp pain. Other times, the scratch may be a bit deeper and cause blood to flow out. When this happens, the chances of a bacterial infection also increase. Not only is it physically painful, but it’s also bad for the rat’s health.
So what can you do to prevent this?
The best solution is to feed eggshells in front of you. Feeding outside the cage is a good choice. Let the rats have a couple of bites during their playtime. Check the feet of rats and their fur for any remaining eggshell pieces. If nothing’s there, put rats back inside their cage and clean the floor or surface where you fed them. Avoid feeding in the cage as cleaning afterward can be more difficult.
Eggshells are 97% calcium, and their membrane contains a huge amount as well. Your rat doesn’t need to eat a whole or even half of an eggshell. It needs a normal-sized amount once or twice a month. If you feed your rat eggshells too often, it’ll end up with an efficiency of calcium, which is never a good thing.
Having too much calcium in a rat’s blood can lead to kidney issues (which are already pretty common in rats), slower blood flow to the heart, and can mess with their cognitive functions. Just make sure to feed the rat eggshells (or other calcium sources) once or twice a month. Growing rats can have a bit more, maybe a small piece once a week.
Like we mentioned before, eggshells are mainly composed of calcium. They don’t contain protein, fat, or other nutrients. Therefore, if you feed the rat eggshells, make sure to feed them their normal diet (a rat needs meals only twice a day to maintain its health).
Remember, eggshells are not supplements for a pet rat’s natural diet. If you feed them rat blocks, continue to do so. Don’t consider feeding eggshells a whole meal.
On the other hand, if you’re giving a hard-boiled egg, it is a whole meal, and rats don’t need to be fed again for a while. Although, don’t give rats hard-boiled eggs too often as they contain a large quantity of fat, which can lead to your rat being overweight. Overweight rats have decreased activity and a higher risk of organ failure.
Last but not least, eggshells can cause digestion issues in some rats. Eggshells may not suit every rat, especially those with poor digestion. They take a while to digest, and they have plenty of calcium, so it’s a natural response.
Digestion issues because of eggshells aren’t too serious. The most that’ll happen is your rat will have difficulty egesting. If a rat throws up or has trouble egesting after eating eggshells, don’t feed it again. Go for some other source of calcium. Other troubles include a messed up bathroom schedule or loss of appetite for a while, but these aren’t solid reasons to not give rats eggshells.
What are some alternative sources of calcium for rats?
If your rat responds negatively towards eggshells, whether by not eating it or getting sick from it, you can go for other sources of calcium. These include:
Rats can have tiny amounts of semi-skimmed milk as a nutritious drink. Semi-skimmed milk is better for them as it has a fine amount of fat and a better flavor. You can also give them skimmed milk if you just want to provide calcium. Avoid full-cream options. Don’t give them milk daily.
You can also give rats yogurt as a source of calcium, although yogurt has many calories, so don’t feed it too often.
Properly washed chicken bones from areas like ribs or wings also serve as a calcium source. Make sure the bones are clean before giving them. Boil them for a couple of minutes, so they’re easier to chew.