Although rats can and do eat almost everything, not all the foods we eat are safe for them. A small number of foods are toxic, while plenty of others can cause health problems. If your diet is a fairly healthy one, you can probably share a little of your meals with your pets with a few key exceptions.
Contrary to popular belief, carbonated drinks are not lethal to rodents. If your rat steals a little of your soda -- very possible because rats love sweet things and are clever when it comes to taking things they aren’t supposed to -- there is no need to rush him to the vet. Nevertheless, soda and other sweetened drinks are not something you should give your rat, primarily because the sugar, caffeine and other additives are exceedingly unhealthy. The same goes for alcohol, which could be lethal in large quantities, but is more likely to just make your rat ill and contribute to an obesity problem.
Only a small number of human foods are toxic to rats. Top of the list is blue cheese, which could kill your pet. Others are licorice, poppy seeds and bitter almonds. Green potatoes are toxic to most animals, including you, and rats are just as vulnerable. The same goes for rhubarb leaves, and for rats, the stems are also hazardous.
According to the Rat and Mouse Club of America, rats are sensitive to the fungi that grow on grains, especially corn, and peanuts. Should rats consume a lot of the chemicals produced by these fungi, they're likely to develop tumors. Citrus fruits and fruit juice, including oranges, grapefruits and lemons, can trigger kidney problems in male rats, although they are fine for females. Very sticky foods such as peanut butter are dangerous for a different reason; they can clog a rat’s jaws and even choke him.
Chocolate is potentially deadly to some pets, notably dogs. It isn’t toxic to rats, but it is fattening. You might think that a fat rat looks cute, but obesity means he’ll be uncomfortable, could suffer from painful health problems and will probably die early. For the same reason, don’t give your pets other foods high in sugar or fat, such as chips, candy, fast food, rich cakes and so on, except perhaps very rarely as a special treat -- perhaps once or twice a year, not every week.
Judith Willson has been writing since 2009, specializing in environmental and scientific topics. She has written content for school websites and worked for a Glasgow newspaper. Willson has a Master of Arts in English from the University of Aberdeen, Scotland.