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What Do Rats Eat? Wild vs. Pet Rat Diet & Healthy Foods

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Rats eat almost anything. They are omnivores, meaning a healthy diet includes fruits, vegetables, and meat. They commonly eat insects, carrion, and foraged foods, as they don’t hunt for meat. Toxic foods for rats include onions, chocolate, or uncooked beans.

Are you curious about what your pet rat can eat? Or maybe you have a rat infestation in the house and want to know what they thrive on?

Rats are omnivores and eat almost anything, whether pet or wild. They consume a combination of meat, insects, fruits, and vegetables. 

Wild rats that can’t find food can even eat their feces or each other.

But that doesn’t mean they can eat anything. Some foods are toxic, which you should know about if you have a pet rat.

In this article, you will find out what rats eat, whether cat food or dog food is good for pet rats, what foods are toxic to them, and more.

What Do Rats Eat?

Rats are omnivores and eat almost anything they can find. They most often eat insects, carrion meat, vegetables, and fruits, but do also eat seeds. They rarely hunt animals for food.

Rats are omnivorous animals, meaning they have a diet based on the following:

  • Fruits
  • Vegetables
  • Cereals
  • Seeds
  • Animal protein (meat, carcasses, insects)

They also consume garbage and household waste.

Rats consume 10% of their body weight per day on average. Adult male rats can reach 800 grams, and a female 500g if they are well fed. This means they respectively eat 80g and 50g of food per day.

Rats’ diet depends primarily on the environment they live in:

  • Rats living in forests and plains eat more vegetables and have a more vegetarian diet.
  • Rats living in the city consume more human waste, including meat and meat by-products.
  • Rats that live in abandoned buildings feed mainly on insects and trash.

Related: Do Rats Eat Roaches? (Why It Happens)

what can rats eat

Can Rats Eat Anything?

No, rats can not eat anything, but they can eat almost anything, including dirt and other rats. Rats are true scavengers, eating whatever they can find. Some foods are toxic to them, though they can consume most foods.[2] 

Some rats, when there is not much food around, will eat the following items:

  • Dirt
  • Soap
  • Leather
  • Candy
  • Feces
  • Snails
  • Other animals, including other rats.

If you keep rats as pets, you should know that some foods are not safe for consumption and can cause poisoning, illness, and even death.

Do Rats Eat Meat?

Yes, rats eat meat. They love meat, organs, and bones, but typically don’t kill animals themselves. Wild rats rely on carrion meat (meat from the carcasses of dead animals) they encounter while foraging. Other rats even consume rotten fish, poultry, and other meats.

While they usually don’t hunt animals to eat meat, they will do so when they experience a lack of food. They hunt mice, other rats, or other small animals.

Too much animal protein can lead to kidney and skin problems or obesity in male rats.

Do Rats Eat Meat

Do Rats Eat Fruits?

Yes, rats do like fruits and can eat most of them. 

Among the safe fruits for rats are:

  • Apples
  • Pears
  • Apricots
  • Peaches
  • Nectarines
  • Bananas
  • Strawberries
  • Blueberries
  • Blackberries
  • Raspberries
  • Cranberries
  • Grapes
  • Kiwi
  • Oranges (only female rats)[3]
  • Clementines (only female rats)
  • Grapefruit (only female rats)
  • Watermelons
  • Cantaloupe
  • Honeydew
  • Pomegranates
Do Rats Eat Fruits

Do Rats Eat Veggies?

Yes, rats love veggies but not as much as fruits. They prefer the sweetness of fruits to stale vegetables.

Rats eat the following vegetables:

  • Arugula
  • Asparagus
  • Broccoli
  • Cauliflower
  • Butternut squash (only cooked)
  • Carrots
  • Ripe tomatoes
  • Potatoes (not green and cooked)
  • Celery
  • Corn (avoid dried corn – it can contain fungi)[4]
  • Cucumber
  • Peas
  • Green beans
  • Lentils
  • Black beans and kidney beans should always be cooked.
  • Lettuce
  • Peppers
  • Mushrooms
  • Zucchini

What Do Pet Rats Eat?

Pet rats should mainly eat special dry food (pellets or rat blocks). Their diet can be supplemented with vegetables, fruits, and meat. Some foods are contraindicated or forbidden for pet rats as they can make them sick. Cooked food should also be avoided.

Pet rats, like wild rats, can eat just about anything. But if you want to take care of them properly, you need to know that they have some dietary restrictions.

Pet rats should mainly consume special pellets or blocks produced. You can find them in almost any pet store. 

Rat pellets contain all the necessary nutrients rats need:

  • Animal protein
  • Fruits
  • Vegetables
  • Seeds
  • Grains

Many of these pellets or blocks are additionally enriched with vitamins and minerals.

Pet rats can live healthy lives solely on these special pellets and blocks, as long as they are high-quality. 

If you want to spoil your pet or feed it a more complete and balanced diet, you can supplement its diet with fruits, vegetables, seeds, or meat.

What Do Pet Rats Eat

What Human Food Can Rats Eat?

Rats can eat almost any human food, with a few exceptions. They should not consume chocolate, onions, garlic, or alcohol. Female rats can eat some foods that males can’t, such as citrus fruits.

Being omnivores, rats can consume almost any food made for humans.

If you keep pet rats, you can give them the following humans foods:

  • Fruits
  • Vegetables
  • Seeds and nuts
  • Meat and eggs
  • Dairy products

Avoid cooked food because it contains spices and foods that are toxic to rats. 

Vets and breeders do not recommend some foods to male rats as they can make them sick.

Always provide pet rats with fresh water.

What Human Food Can Rats Eat

Safe Food for Rats

Rats can safely eat a wide variety of fruits, vegetables, and meat. A few exceptions are chocolate, garlic, sweet potatoes, blue cheese, or onions. 

Some are toxic and can cause death, while others can lead to gastrointestinal problems.

Rats can also consume moderate amounts of sweets, seeds, or nuts.

Related: Safe Fruits and Vegetables for Rats

Toxic Foods for Rats

While rats can eat almost anything, there are a few exceptions for pet rats. These are toxic or contraindicated foods:

  • Alcohol
  • Blue cheese
  • Chocolate
  • Avocado – stone and skin
  • Garlic
  • Green bananas
  • Insects – some can contain internal parasites or bacteria
  • Licorice
  • Mango
  • Onions (including green onions and chives)
  • Raw artichokes
  • Raw peanuts
  • Raw red cabbage
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Raw sweet potato
  • Rhubarb
  • Seaweed
  • Spoiled food
  • Sticky foods (peanut butter or candy) and dried fruits – rats can choke on them.

As for wild rats, some people try to get rid of them by feeding them raw onions. Onions and garlic contain sulfur. When ingested, it destroys red blood cells and leads to anemia.[5]

These two foods can also cause gastrointestinal problems in rats. 

Rats and mice cannot vomit. The anatomy of their digestive tract does not allow this. Therefore, the toxins from onions accumulate in the body and cause the rat’s death.

Related article: Can Rats Eat Onions?

Toxic Foods for Rats

What Else Can You Feed Pet Rats?

In addition to their basic diet, fruits, vegetables, and meat, pet rats can also eat treats, dog food, cat food, and hamster food.

If you happen to run out of special rat food, you can also feed them dog food, cat food, or hamster food, but only for a short time. 

While pet food for other animals can help prevent starvation in pet rats, they don’t contain the nutrients rats need. Rats should only have these if there’s nothing else available.

In addition to these foods, provide your pet rat with fresh fruits and vegetables every day. You can also spoil your pet rat from time to time with a treat.

Treats for Rats

You can buy your pet rat treats from the pet store or you can make them yourself. Rats’ favorite treats include small pieces of fruits, vegetables, and meat (especially bones).

You can also offer your pet small amounts of dairy products (yogurt, sour cream, or cheese). Too much dairy can lead to gastrointestinal problems, so use it sparingly.

Offer treats in small quantities, so your pet rat does not become obese. Never replace your basic pet rat food with treats, as they do not provide a complete diet.

FAQs

What Are Rats’ Favorite Food?

Sweet food is rats’ favorite. They love to eat fruits and berries. Do not give your rats too many fruits as they are high in sugar and can lead to obesity. Rats should also have a balanced diet, being omnivores. So, feeding them only fruits is not a good option, even if they love them.

What Can Pet Rats Eat?

Pet rats are omnivores and can eat a variety of foods. They can eat most fruits, vegetables, seeds, nuts, and meat. Avoid feeding your pet rats with cooked food or onions, garlic, chocolate, too much dairy, and other foods that are not recommended or toxic.

What Do House Rats Eat?

House rats usually thrive on trash and food scraps. They can also eat from your pet’s food if you store it outside or in places they can get to it. Avoid letting out food scraps and secure your trash can. If you keep your pets’ food outside, put it in glass or metal containers with a lid.

Can Rats Eat Dog Food?

Yes, rats can eat dog food. It should never replace your pet rat’s staple food because it is low in essential nutrients. For this reason, your rat can get sick from the deficiencies of minerals and vitamins in the body.

Can Rats Eat Cat Food?

Yes, rats can also eat cat food. Cat food usually has a lot of protein because cats are mandatory carnivores. In the absence of other foods, it is ok to feed your pet 1-2 times with cat food. Avoid feeding high-protein diets to male rats. They can develop kidney problems (especially cancer) from too much animal protein.

Can Rats Eat Hamster Food?

Yes, rats can eat hamster food. You can keep a pet rat on hamster food but you should definitely add fresh fruits and vegetables and meat (mice do not eat meat). Hamster food has a nutritional value that is not suited for rats.

About Iulia Mihai (DVM)

Dr. Iulia is a certified veterinarian with more than 10 years of experience in the field. With extensive knowledge of diet, care, and medication, she helps Misfit Animals provide readers with accurate knowledge on technical topics.

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