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Can Pet Rats Get the Flu? Viruses & Diseases.


When you have the flu, you’re supposed to stay away from friends and family, so you don’t get them sick. But, what about your pet rats? You have to clean their cages and feed them even though you’re sick, but should you stay away from them, too?

Pet rats cannot get the flu, but they can contract other illnesses from you and other animals. To keep your rat safe, you should minimize contact with your rat while you’re sick. Make sure your rat doesn’t interact with other animals or wild rats, so they don’t contract an illness from them.

Rats have been known to carry several different viruses and other illnesses, even if they’re kept as household pets. Keep reading to learn about which illnesses pet rats can carry, and which ones can be transmitted between you and them.

Rat’s Can’t Catch the Flu, but Some Pets Can

It’s important to note that some pets can catch the flu from you if you have it. There aren’t any reports that say rats can catch the flu, but dogs, cats, and ferrets can.

It’s very rare for a dog or cat to catch the flu. Unfortunately, your pet might not recover if they do catch it. In 2009, a cat became ill with the flu and survived, but a ferret that caught it did not survive. It’s also stated that humans have transmitted the N1H1 flu specifically to turkeys and pigs. 

Again, there isn’t any evidence that a rat has been infected with any strand of the flu, but several animals have received the flu from humans on rare occasions. So, it’s best to remain cautious and stay distanced if you do get sick.

Can Humans Get Infected by Their Pet Rat?

Wild rats, often known as the brown rat or common rat, are known to carry many diseases. Some of them can’t be transmitted to humans, but some of them can. The domesticated version of this rat, the fancy rat, is also capable of carrying these same diseases.

Rats are capable of carrying diseases without showing symptoms. In fact, many animals are capable of carrying diseases that don’t harm them, but they can transfer these diseases to humans.

You can get sick because of your rat. This doesn’t mean you should fear them, however. You can also get sick from dogs and other humans, but most people interact with dogs and humans every day. The most important thing is to stay informed and understand how you can get sick from your rat.

There are two different ways a person can contract an illness from a rat:

  • Direct contact: This can be caused by a rat bite or from eating or drinking food and water that was contaminated with rat feces.
  • Indirect contact: This can be from an insect that bites a rat and then bites you. Or, a rat can come into contact with an animal, that animal is turned into food, and then you eat the contaminated food.

The best way to stay safe is to think about how you have the potential to be infected by your rat. Do you like to cuddle your rat? If your rat bites you while you’re handling it, you could possibly become sick.

You can also become sick by inhaling germs while cleaning their feces out of their habitat. Always wear protective gloves when you clean their habitat. You might also want to wear a mask to avoid breathing in harmful contaminants.

Diseases Pet Rats Can Carry

It’s important for the health of both you and your rat that you know what diseases they can carry so you can keep them safe and prevent yourself from getting sick. Illnesses that can be transferred from animals to humans are called zoonoses

Here are a few of the diseases they can carry.


  • Leptospira. L. icterohaemorrhagia: In humans, this will cause Weil’s disease. The symptoms will first appear to be the flu, but might also have liver and kidney failure.
  • Pasteurella: In 1992, it was stated that this was the most common disease transmitted after getting bit by a pet. Rat bites can transmit the disease. Humans will experience pneumonia.
  • Rat-bite fever: Humans can get this illness by getting scratched or bitten by a rat or by consuming food and water that’s contaminated by feces. Flu-like symptoms will appear but might become more severe than the flu. Antibiotics typically cure this disease.


  • Hantavirus: Rats are reservoirs with this virus, meaning that they carry it without having any effects from it themselves. Humans, however, will experience headaches and backaches, fever, and renal failure. This is a well-known virus that was first brought to the western world during the Korean War.
  • Lymphocytic choriomeningitis: This disease is transmitted by inhaling airborne particles from rat feces or saliva or by eating contaminated food. Humans will have flu-like symptoms and can even lead to paralysis. It’s easy for this to be misdiagnosed in the beginning.

How to Tell if Your Rat Is Sick

Your rat might not be able to catch the flu, but it can still contract a range of diseases that will cause them to get sick and show symptoms. 

What does it look like when a rat is sick? It’s possible that your rat will sneeze and suffer congestion just like you can, but there are other symptoms that might seem strange that are good indicators that they are sick.

These symptoms may include:

  • Breathing faster or harder
  • Constantly scratching itself
  • Hair loss
  • Increased red stains around the eyes and nose
  • Less active
  • Not eating as much as usual
  • Not grooming itself like normal
  • Sneezing or an unusually runny nose

Make sure you know the familiar behavior of your rat so you can identify unusual behavior. You should spend plenty of time observing your pet so you can make sure it stays happy and healthy.

How to Treat a Sick Rat

If your rat has a mild illness, you don’t have to separate it from the others. Its roommates will offer it much-needed comfort while it’s sick. If your rat is severely sick, however, separate it into a temporary habitat like an aquarium that you will see often. Place a heating pad underneath one side of the tank to provide some warmth, but don’t put the heating pad inside the tank.

Rats will lose weight while they’re sick, so you should offer your rat its favorite foods that are high in fat to help maintain weight. Foods such as avocados, bananas, eggs, or pasta are great options. Sometimes sick rats don’t want to eat, so you will have to hand-feed them with a syringe. You will also have to provide water and medication to your rat with a syringe, as well.

Always take your rat to the vet if they show signs of illness. The veterinarian will be able to provide medication and care instructions suited for your rat and the kind of illness they’re battling. Remember that some illnesses can be transmitted to humans, so be extra careful when handling your rat until the veterinarian is able to determine which illness your rat has.


Rats can’t get the flu, but they can get other illnesses from other animals or even from you. Conversely, if your rat gets sick, you can contract their illness from them. If you or your rat are sick, consult a veterinarian about how to care for your rat until all signs of illness have gone away.


Can Pet Rats Fly on Planes? Which Airlines Allow It?


Maybe you’re going on an extended vacation and want to bring your pet rat with you. Or, maybe you’re delivering a rat to a friend that wanted it. People travel with dogs and cats, but do they ever travel with rats?

Unfortunately, you might have difficulty finding an airline that will allow you to travel with a rat. Airlines are tightening the rules about what kind of pets can be brought on an airplane. The best thing to do is call the airline and ask someone if you can bring your rat before you book your flight.

Continue reading to learn more about which airlines might allow rats and why airlines are getting a little more strict about furry companions on flights.

Why Can’t I Bring My Pet Rat on a Plane?

In 1996, you could take two rats with you on a plane with Delta Airlines for $50 per animal. In 2004, Delta updated their policies so rats couldn’t be brought as a carry-on; instead, they could only be checked in as baggage and be transported with the suitcases.

Now, Delta will not accept rodents as emotional support animals because they claim they cause safety and public health concerns. It’s not specifically stated on their pet information page about whether or not they will allow rats at all, so you will have to call to find out.

What changed?

In 2019, Consumer Reports published an article saying that a Delta passenger was bitten by an emotional support dog. This led to the airline creating stricter rules, and they even banned some dog breeds that have a reputation of being harmful, like pit bulls.

This wasn’t the only reason they changed their policies. Many people were taking advantage of the emotional support animal rules and claimed that their snake, pig, and even a peacock was their emotional support animal.

Animal restrictions are getting even tighter. In January 2020, The New York Times reported that the Department of Transportation is proposing to ban all emotional support animals except dogs as carry-ons. You can find this proposal here. The purpose of it is to make it more difficult to falsely claim an animal as an emotional support animal.

This doesn’t necessarily mean you can’t bring your rats, however. Each airline has its own rules. Just because you can’t claim your rat as emotional support doesn’t mean you can’t bring it at all.

Which Airlines Allow Rats?

Most of the airline websites don’t specifically state that you can’t bring a rat as carry-on or as cargo. However, most of the websites only specifically refer to cats and dogs. This creates an assumption that only cats and dogs are allowed. 

The grey area that’s created means you will have to call the airline and ask someone if you can bring your rat with you. If your rat is healthy, you have medical records of shots, and its travel cage meets the requirements they have listed for cats and dogs, you might be able to bring your rat.

List of Airlines

Here is a summary of the allowed pets that popular airlines have listed on their websites.

Air Europa

The animals allowed in the cabin include: 

  • Dogs
  • Cats
  • Some birds
  • Fish
  • Turtles
  • Hamsters
  • Guinea pigs
  • Small rabbits

Animals that are allowed in the cargo hold include:

  • Amphibians
  • Insects
  • Reptiles (except aquarium turtles)
  • Rodents (except those allowed in carry-on)
  • Ferrets
  • Some dogs

The maximum number of animals in one container is 3, although there are exceptions to the rule.

Alaska Air

The animals allowed in the cabin include:

  • Dogs
  • Cats
  • Rabbits
  • Household birds

The animals allowed in the cargo hold include:

  • Dogs
  • Cats
  • Ferrets
  • Guinea pigs
  • Hamsters
  • Household birds
  • Pot-bellied pigs
  • Some reptiles
  • Rabbits
  • Tropical fish

The website states that you might be allowed to bring other pets if they get approved.

American Airlines

You can only bring cats and dogs with you as carry-on or in the cargo hold.


You are only allowed to bring household birds, cats, and small dogs with you. They can be brought as a carry-on if they fit under the seat in front of you.

The Delta Cargo site says they allow any species of living animal except primates. Do note that you must check in your animals separately, and you’re not guaranteed to have them in the cargo of the same flight you’re on.


Rats are never accepted on the plane along with these other animals:

  • Amphibians
  • Beavers
  • Ferrets
  • Insects
  • Large birds
  • Reptiles
  • Rodents (mice and squirrels)
  • Spiders

Hawaiian Airlines

Only cats and dogs are permitted in the cabin. Household birds can go in the cargo hold. Other animals aren’t specifically mentioned.

Japan Airlines

Animals permitted for transport include:

  • Dogs (except French bulldogs and bulldogs)
  • Cats
  • Small birds
  • Hamsters
  • Rabbits
  • Other small animals

Goldfish, insects, and turtles are also allowed as long as they won’t bother other passengers.

Pet crates for dogs, cats, and rodents are available to rent.


Small dogs and cats are allowed to travel. Other animals are not mentioned.


Only small cats and dogs that have been vaccinated are permitted to travel. 


Only small, domesticated animals are allowed to fly. They will only allow the following:

  • Cats
  • Dogs
  • Household birds
  • Rabbits


In-cabin pets that are allowed are small domesticated cats and dogs. 

PetSafe is their cargo hold system they use for animals that can’t fit under the seat in the cabin. It only mentions cats and dogs, so other animals might not be accepted.


This airline travels to multiple international destinations and has varying rules about which pets are allowed in which countries. Dogs and cats are accepted on most international flights, but some countries will not permit them.

The website says they will allow small pets in both the cabin and cargo hold, but animals other than cats and dogs might not be allowed or will have special requirements depending on the country you are going to enter. 

Because this airline does not specifically state if they allow rats, you will need to call and ask if they will allow you to bring a rat on your flight.

Always Call When You Plan Your Trip

As you can see, many websites aren’t too clear about which pets they will or will not allow. Other airlines, like Alaska Air, might approve your pet rat if it meets their health and safety requirements.

Make sure you will be able to keep your rat in a kennel or cage that gives them plenty of room to move around freely but will be able to fit underneath the seats in the cabin if that’s how you want to travel. Be sure your rat is healthy and has the necessary vaccines. If your rat’s health and vaccines are up to date and meet all the requirements the airline has for other pets, you might have a better chance of getting your rat on the plane.

The Department of Transportation and many airlines are seeking stricter guidelines to keep each passenger safe. Unfortunately, since the rules have been abused before, they might see only allowing cats and dogs as the easiest option.


Airlines have become more strict about animals allowed on flights because people have abused the system, which resulted in other passengers getting injured. Many airlines might not allow your pet rat to fly, but there are some options available. Speaking to someone on the phone might be productive in getting your pet rat onto the plane.


Can Pet Rats Eat Mango? D-Limonene

Pet rats have specific dietary needs that need to be followed to keep them healthy throughout their lives. Feeding them proper quantities of healthy food can actually help extend their lifespan.

Pet rats can eat mango. Feeding mango to your pet rat generally isn’t recommended, but it is doable. Mangoes contain a chemical called d-limonene that can cause cancer in male rats. However, a rat’s body can filter out the toxins in 48 hours. So, it’s nearly impossible for your rat to eat enough d-limonene to be harmed.

There are conflicting interpretations about the study that showed the chemical d-limonene to cause cancer in male rats. Continue reading to learn more about this chemical and why many people say you shouldn’t feed mangoes and other fruits with this chemical to your pet rats.

What Is D-Limonene?

You might get conflicting answers if you ask several people if it’s okay to feed mango to rats. This is why you need to have an understanding of what d-limonene is and why it’s said to be harmful to rats. You can make your own judgment call and decide what is best for your pet.

Limonene is something you might come into contact with every day. It’s the main ingredient of the oil that’s found in citrus peels. There are two different types of isomers

  • D-isomer: used in citrus fragrances, food flavoring, and in cleaning products
  • L-isomer: used in mint oils and has more of a pine scent

The d-isomer is the more common one since it’s used commercially in products.

What Contains D-Limonene?

Citrus fruits, including oranges, lemons, limes, and grapefruits. If you juice these fruits, the d-limonene can enter the juice while it’s being pressed. This is why many rat keepers will say not to let your rats drink orange juice.

D-limonene is also naturally found in black pepper, mango, nutmeg, cumin, and dill seeds.

Since d-limonene is often used as an additive in food, any foods that are flavored with citrus or mango or contain pieces of these fruits will contain the chemical, as well as anything seasoned with black pepper or nutmeg. 

There are also non-edible products that contain d-limonene. Unleaded gasoline, copy machine toner, and air fresheners contain this chemical, too. If you spray an air freshener near your rat habitat, consider temporarily covering it or spraying it on the far side of the room. 

Why Is D-Limonene Considered to Be Dangerous?

Male rats have a protein that’s created in their kidneys called alpha-2u-globulin. This protein is unique to the male rats; female rats and mice of either sex don’t produce this protein. 

D-limonene can bind with alpha-2u-globulin and other chemicals and cause a build-up in the kidney. This build-up eventually develops into cancer. The build-up is caused by large quantities of d-limonene and can’t be achieved through diet. This will be discussed further in the next section.

The study people get their information from reports that they gave different groups of rats and mice various amounts of d-limonene five days a week for two years. The male rats who were given high doses developed lesions in their kidneys, but the females did not. 

Because male rats can develop cancer, rat keepers advise against feeding your rat mangoes, citrus, and anything else that might contain the limonene. Female rats weren’t affected in the study, but rat keepers like to stay on the safe side and avoid feeding all of their rats these foods.

Why Do Some Say That D-Limonene Isn’t Dangerous?

There are some rat keepers that say it’s okay to feed your rat citrus and mango. Why would they say that if it’s been proven to cause cancer? They argue that the results of the study have been misinterpreted

It’s actually quite possible that the results have been misunderstood. The amount of d-limonene a rat would have to consume for it to be considered carcinogenic is 204 mg. For comparison, a 6-ounce glass of orange juice contains about 5 mg of d-limonene. That’s a lot of orange juice for a rat, and it’s nowhere near close to the carcinogenic amount.

A whole mango contains about 10 mg of d-limonene. It’s still too small to be dangerous, and you most likely won’t feed an entire mango to your rat, so they’ll receive even smaller amounts of the chemical in a single serving.

But what about if a rat consumes d-limonene over time? Another study found that 800 mg of d-limonene is removed from the body after 48 hours. That’s four times as much as the carcinogenic amount that will be removed within two days. 

Studies Are Exaggerated

It’s important to note that the studies that have been referenced are highly exaggerated for the sake of learning how rats react to a chemical. Since small amounts of d-limonene don’t harm rats and are filtered out in two days, researchers can’t really use small amounts to determine the long-term effects of the chemical.

In the first study that was referenced earlier, dosages of d-limonene were 150, 300, 600, 1,200, or 2,400 mg per dose, per day. A rat would have to eat about 15 mangoes to consume 150 mg of d-limonene, and this is still below the carcinogenic amount.

If a rat were to consume 150 mg of the chemical through mangoes, it would have to eat nothing but mangoes over a span of a couple of weeks. Fifteen mangoes is a lot for a little rat, and they should be eating a well-rounded diet that provides a wide variety of fruits, vegetables, and grains, and protein.

Should I Feed My Rat Mango?

The small amounts of d-limonene in mangoes aren’t necessarily enough to worry about. But, if it makes you nervous, don’t feed it to your rat. Keep in mind that it’s only a potential problem in male rats, so your female rats will be safe.

If you’re unsure about if you want to feed your rat some mango, consider the other factors. A good diet for your rat will have a balance of vegetables, fruits, grains, fats, and proteins. Fruits should only be fed 2 or 3 times a week to your rat as a supplement.

Fiber is important to help remove waste from the body. A whole mango has 2.6 g of fiber. If you let your rat snack on some mango, it will be a source of fiber, although not much. You don’t want to give your rat too much fiber, though, because it could cause them to have diarrhea. 

So, should you feed your rats mango? It’s ultimately up to you. D-limonene can harm rats, but it was great quantities that caused the harm. You most likely won’t be able to reach that level of the chemical yourself with the small amounts of food you give to your rat. 

They also might cause your rat to consume too much fiber if you let them eat too much. If you feel you aren’t worried about feeding your rat some mango, then it will be fine to do. Just remember the potential risks as you would with any other food you feed them.


Mangoes can be fed to rats, but be aware that excessive amounts of a chemical called d-limonene can cause cancer in male rats. You most likely won’t be able to feed your rat enough mango to cause this to happen, however, because its body removes the toxins within 48 hours. You can choose to avoid feeding your rat mangoes if you have any concern about the possibility of them developing cancer.


Can Pet Rats Eat Tuna? Safe Food.

Your pet rat’s diet is important to monitor. Just like cats and dogs, pet rats need specific nutrients that are provided through a healthy diet. There are some foods you should avoid giving rats, however, because they can cause rats to choke or get sick.

Pet rats can eat tuna, but you should only feed them tuna occasionally. Tuna contains high amounts of mercury, which is harmful to rats in large quantities. Rats need diets that are low in fat and protein, so tuna should only be an occasional treat.

This article will discuss proper diets and foods that are safe and aren’t safe to feed pet rats.

What Kind of Nutrients Do Rats Need?

Rats are omnivores, which means they eat both plants and meat. Omnivores require a variety of foods to receive the necessary nutrients. You can’t live on bread alone or vegetables alone, and neither can your pet rats.

To be healthy, your rat needs to eat:

  • Vegetables
  • Fruits
  • Seeds and nuts
  • Grains
  • Proteins

Not all categories need to be fed frequently to your pet rat. In fact, protein, fruit, and fats should only be fed to your rat a few times each week. Finding an appropriate balance for your rat is key. But first, you need to understand what kind of balance they need.

The food you feed to your pet rat should be 16% protein and 4-5% fat. This diet should be mostly fruits, vegetables, and lab blocks. The Oxbow Essentials Adult Rat Food is recommended for adult rats because the mix is low in fat and is a good balance of nutrients for most rats.

You should only feed your rat seeds, grains, and proteins occasionally. Try to avoid feeding your rat seed and grain mixes because these tend to have a lot of sugar and fat in them. Plus, rats sometimes pick out the pieces they like the best, which might result in missing out on key nutrients.

A well-rounded diet will not only keep your rat healthy, but it will keep them entertained, too. Let your rat try new foods that are safe for them so they can get their nutrients in various ways. 

Do I Have to Feed My Rat Lab Blocks?

You don’t have to rely on lab blocks as the main source of food for your rat. However, it’s a guaranteed way to make sure you’re providing the right nutrients to your rat. Supplementing lab blocks with fruits, vegetables, and occasional pieces of meat or seeds is a great way to keep your friend healthy.

You can definitely create your own diet for your rat, of course. Remember that rats like to single out their favorite foods, so be sure that they’re eating all the foods you give them. Use plenty of variety in a homemade diet. 

If you have any doubts about whether or not your rat is receiving the right nutrients, you can always give your rat some lab block to munch on.

What Foods Can I Feed My Rat?

You probably associate rats with food since they always seem to be found in kitchens. Rats can eat pretty much anything because they don’t have a gag reflex. But, this doesn’t mean that they should eat anything that’s put in front of them.

You should only feed safe foods to your pet rat, so they don’t get choked or sick from eating something harmful. As a general guideline, if it’s healthy for you, it’s probably healthy for your rat in smaller quantities.

Here are the types of food you can feed to your rat.


There are plenty of different vegetables you can feed your pet rat. Most vegetables should be cooked before you feed them. In most cases, cooking the vegetables first will make it easier for your rat to eat and absorb the nutrients. Some vegetables, like mushrooms and sweet potatoes, shouldn’t be fed to rats raw, so cooking them will make them safe to eat.

Some vegetables you can feed your pet includes, but isn’t limited to:

  • Avocados (small portions)
  • Broccoli
  • Carrots
  • Cauliflower
  • Corn
  • Green beans
  • Green peppers (not spicy)
  • Kale
  • Lettuce
  • Mushrooms (cook it first)
  • Peas
  • Potatoes
  • Squash
  • Sweet potatoes (must be cooked)


Most fruits are safe for your rats to eat. There are a few exceptions that seem to be harmful to rats. Mangoes and orange peels are harmful to male rats but might be okay for female rats. It’s better to avoid these fruits altogether instead of taking chances.

Make sure all the fruits are ripe when you serve them. Green bananas can cause digestion issues in rats.

Some safe fruits to feed your rats include:

  • Apples
  • Apricots
  • Bananas (not green)
  • Berries
  • Cantaloupe
  • Cherries
  • Dried fruits (bananas, cranberries)
  • Grapes
  • Melons
  • Papaya
  • Peaches
  • Pears
  • Plums
  • Strawberries
  • Watermelon

Never feed seeds to rats because they’re toxic to them.

Seeds, Nuts, and Grains

Seeds and nuts should only be fed to your rat in small amounts a few times a week. They’re high in fat, which rats don’t need to eat a lot of. It might be best to use them as a special treat for your rat rather than as a staple of their diet if they receive fat from other sources of food.

If you do feed your rats seeds and nuts, make sure they don’t have shells and aren’t salted or seasoned.

Nuts and seeds that are safe include:

  • Brazil nuts
  • Pecans
  • Pistachios
  • Pumpkin seeds
  • Sunflower seeds

Grains, on the other hand, can be fed daily to your rat in small quantities. Rats need plenty of carbs, which are found in grains.

Safe grains include:

  • Brown rice (cooked)
  • Barley
  • Oats
  • Whole-grains (cooked pasta, crackers)


Meats are a great source of protein for your rats, but you can also provide protein in the form of eggs and cottage cheese. Remember that rats only need their diet to be 16% protein, so you should only feed them meat a few times each week.

Great protein sources include:

  • Beans (cooked)
  • Beef
  • Chicken
  • Crickets
  • Eggs (hard-boiled might be best)
  • Mealworms
  • Salmon
  • Tuna

Chicken is the best meat to give rats because it’s healthier, but you can also feed them beef and fish.

Fish, including tuna, is relatively safe to feed rats, but you should only feed them these items sparingly. Tuna contains high mercury levels, which can be harmful to rats and humans in large quantities. It’s best to feed your rat tuna and other fish occasionally as a special treat.

What Foods Should I Never Feed My Rat?

There are some foods that you should never feed to your rat because they’re unhealthy or toxic. Be sure to avoid these foods. Take your pet rat to the vet if they accidentally ate something they shouldn’t.

Toxic Foods

  • Blue cheese
  • Green bananas
  • Green potato skins
  • Potato eyes
  • Raw legumes

Harmful Foods

  • Alcoholic beverages
  • Carbonated beverages
  • Chocolate
  • Oranges
  • Raw onion
  • Raw sweet potato
  • Wild insects


Pet rats need healthy diets so they can live long and happy lives. Lab blocks, fruits, and vegetables are the best way to make sure your rat is receiving all of the necessary nutrients. Remember that rats need a diet that is high in carbs and low in fat and protein. 

If you choose to create your own diet for your rat, make sure you know the macro and vitamin content of the foods so you can make sure that you’re not feeding your rat too many proteins or fats. 

Rats enjoy special treats, so be sure to give them one every now and then.


Can Pet Rats Eat Asparagus? Safe Vegetable

Part of the joy of owning a pet rat is sharing the odd snack with them, but some treats can be toxic. Understanding the fine line between what is and what is not acceptable to feed your pet rat can be tricky. While most vegetables are safe for rats, a few aren’t, and you may have wondered where asparagus falls on that spectrum.

Pet rats can eat asparagus. Asparagus can be a nutritious and tasty treat for pet rats, though it should be given in moderation. And while asparagus can add a very distinct odor to your rat’s urine, it remains a fantastic source of antioxidants and can improve overall digestive health.

In this article, we’ll take a closer look at what rats eat, what they shouldn’t eat, and the benefits of feeding your pet rat some asparagus now and again. Remember, variety and moderation are key.

What Do Rats Eat?

Rats eat pretty much anything and everything that can eat. Because they have teeth that continuously grow, they need hard materials like wood to gnaw on to stay healthy. And, because many rats live in urban areas, the typical rat tends to subsist on human garbage and food scraps.

But wild rats that live in rural areas tend to enjoy a more varied and nutritious diet. They munch on bird eggs, wild grains, seeds, and even go after small birds. While many may believe that rats are vegetable-loving herbivores, they’re anything-goes omnivores.

Wild Rats

Wild rats eat whatever is available, so their diet often depends on their environment. Still, there are a few types of foods that they tend to favor over others, such as:

  • Fruit
  • Leafy Plants
  • Snails
  • Carrion
  • Seeds

But when you compare a wild rat’s diet with that of a pet rat’s, you’ll quickly find that pet rats are living a life of luxury. Rather than spending most of their day searching for decent food, they get to lounge in their habitats or with their owners, and their store-bought meals are anything but boring.

Pet Rats

Pet rats are fortunate to have access to high-quality store-bought foods. These new pet foods have come a long way, and they typically consist of at least a dozen nutritious ingredients, like:

  • Dried Apples
  • Kale
  • Oats
  • Raisins
  • Peas
  • Corn

Dried liver, cooked beans, and sunflower seeds are also popular components of store-bought pet food. This variety of ingredients ensures that your rat has a balanced source of vitamins and minerals from a wide range of sources.

One of the most important things about a rat’s diet is that it requires variety, and moderation goes hand-in-hand with this concept.

Occasional Variety

Store-bought foods are designed for optimal nutrition, so adding snacks here and there aren’t necessary. It’s important to remember that feeding your rat the same treat every day can be disastrous, mainly if you feed them a large quantity of the same food.

Not only can they quickly become obese, but they could also overdose on a particular nutrient, leading to several organ damages or worse. Every snack, even the healthiest ones, should be given in moderation and as part of a wide variety of treats.

You should also stay familiar with which foods and ingredients are unsafe and toxic to rats. That way, snacktime always goes smoothly.

What Should You Avoid Feeding to a Pet Rat?

While most fruits, vegetables, and whole grains are perfectly safe for pet rats, some are hazardous. It can be tricky to tell the difference between an acceptable snack and a bad one. For example, raw Brussel sprouts can be toxic, but broccoli is just fine.

You rat should never nibble on:

  • Citrus
  • Chocolate
  • Soda
  • Mangos
  • Raw Onions

All of the above contain at least one chemical that has been proven to be harmful to rats. So, while it may be tempting to share that piece of chocolate or that slice of mango, just say no.


When it comes to rats, sugar can be far more addictive and destructive than cocaine. That means that every sugary snack is a rung in a ladder of sugar addiction that could quickly spiral out of control. While this might seem like a joke, it’s not. 

Extremely addicted rats may avoid all other food sources that aren’t sweet, favoring sugary snacks over everything else. And because pet rats are already naturally prone to obesity, adding sugar to the mix can only make things worse, even leading to diabetes.

There’s also some evidence that sugar may make rats less intelligent. A nutrient-poor, sugar-rich diet affects the brain functioning in rats, making it more difficult for them to make simple connections or solve puzzles.


While a nice cup of coffee can do wonders during a sluggish workday, it doesn’t do much to improve the life of a pet rat. While there is some evidence that caffeine may help improve a rat’s long-term memory, it can also cause rapid heartbeat and induce anxiety.

Part of being a responsible and caring pet owner is making life for your furry friend as comfortable and pleasant as possible. To do that, you should avoid giving your rat caffeine.


Citrus might be sweet, tangy, bitter, and delicious, but it can be toxic to rats. That’s because citrus fruits contain a chemical called d-limonene, a chemical that may cause kidney tumors. While d-limonene is reasonably safe for humans, especially at low levels, it has a destructive effect on male rats.

Because the effects of this substance are still under study, it’s better to avoid giving your pet rats any citrus, ever. After all, better safe than sorry, especially when it comes to beloved, bewhiskered family members.

Can Pet Rats Safely Eat Asparagus?

Yes, pet rats can safely eat asparagus. In fact, asparagus is one of the best choices you can make when trying to pick a snack for your rat. That’s because asparagus has quite a few beneficial, positive qualities.

Benefits of Giving Asparagus to Your Rat

Rats are often used in laboratory testing because their biology is reasonably similar to that of a human. As such, many of the same benefits that humans enjoy from eating specific fruits and vegetables are also enjoyed by rats.

But because rats are far smaller, their bodies are more sensitive to large amounts of vitamins and minerals. Therefore, while a nice nutritious bit of asparagus is okay every once and awhile, it shouldn’t turn into a daily habit.

Still, some of the benefits of eating asparagus include:

  • Improved cardiovascular health
  • Improved bone health and strength
  • Improved digestion
  • Excellent source of folate

If you have several rats and plan to breed one or more, you may want to consider incorporating asparagus into the diet of your female rats. Asparagus contains a large amount of folate, an essential vitamin for developing babies. However, even pregnant rats should only consume asparagus in moderation.


Pet rats can safely eat asparagus, but it should be an occasional or rare snack. Asparagus isn’t toxic, unlike other types of vegetables, but it does contain a considerable amount of folate. Any nutrient, even typically beneficial ones, can be toxic when administered in large amounts.

In particular, all pet owners should avoid giving their rats things that contain refined sugar, chocolate, and d-limonene. This includes candy bars, soda, or a sour slice of lemon.  Asparagus can help soothe tummies, make the bones more durable, and improve heart health, but it can also be dangerous in massive quantities.

Just remember, a little goes a long way when it comes to giving asparagus to your pet rat.