Rats are magicians when it comes to food; put just about anything in front of them, and they can make it disappear. This doesn’t mean, however, that every food a rat will eat is necessarily good for him. Fortunately, the list of fruits and vegetables rats can eat is long, so pet rat owners have a variety of healthy options to supplement a rat’s diet.
Pass the Fruit Salad
Rats, much like people, love sugary treats, and sweet fruits are no exception. Berries are especially a hit with rats. Be aware that red berries can turn a rat’s stool red, which can resemble blood. Other fruits to feed pet rats include pears, watermelon, cantaloupe, kiwi, peaches, plums and grapes.
The Vital Veggies
Most rats love a variety of vegetables, including broccoli, corn, squash, carrots, greens, asparagus, cauliflower, cucumber, peas and parsnip. These vegetables can provide a rat’s diet with a range of crucial minerals, but it’s important not to go overboard with these as large amounts of roughage can cause diarrhea. Iceberg lettuce, while not out-and-out harmful, is thought to cause loose stools, so many rat owners avoid feeding rats this vegetable or feed it in extreme moderation.
A Word of Caution
Unlike humans, rats can’t vomit, which means that once they ingest something it must pass through their digestive system -- even if it is harmful. Take extra care not to feed pet rats fruits and vegetables that could be poisonous or cause gastrointestinal distress. Fruits and vegetables to avoid feeding rats include raw sweet potatoes, cabbage, Brussels sprouts and artichokes, although these are fine if cooked; green, unripe bananas and potatoes; rhubarb; avocado skin; and dried corn. These foods either promote disease growth or can make rats feel extremely ill. Male rats should not be fed citrus fruits, mango or papaya. Although the data are somewhat inconclusive, there is evidence to suggest that compounds in these foods promote cancer growth in male rats.
Putting It All Together
Moderation is the keyword when it comes to fruits and vegetables. A rat’s diet should mainly comprise quality lab blocks, which fulfill rats’ protein intake requirement -- protein should be 16 to 18 percent of their diet. Fruits and vegetables can supplement this diet anywhere from three times per week to daily, as long as large quantities are not offered since rats don’t stop eating once they’re full, leading to weight gain. One tablespoon of fruits or vegetables is a sufficient serving.
Melissa Harr is a writer and knitting pattern designer with a range of publication credits. Her latest work includes blogging for Smudge Yarns, judging fiction for Ink & Insights 2015 and creating patterns for I Like Knitting magazine. Harr holds a Bachelor of Arts in English from the University of Illinois at Chicago and a CELTA.