So you've done your homework, you've purchased a nice roomy cage and some accessories for your new adopted rat(s) – now what are you going to feed them? Rats are not terribly particular, but they do love their sweets and they are prone to obesity, so you want to make sure you are feeding them healthy foods in the right proportions.
The bulk of your rattie’s diet is going to be composed of large food pellets (sometimes called lab blocks). Your rat should have a small bowl of these pellets daily, supplemented with a small amount of fresh produce. Obviously rats that are pregnant or are nursing will need some extra calories. Your rat should always have access to some pellets and some fresh water. But if you are finding that s/he is stashing the leftovers around her cage, then you are obviously overfeeding her!
Your rat only needs about a tablespoon a day of fresh produce. Some examples of healthy produce that you can feed your rat are kale, spinach, fresh herbs, carrots, potatoes, and mushrooms. Fruits such as strawberries and red grapes are fine to give in small amounts as treats. Again, your rat will hide any leftovers, and you will then spend your time looking for the spoiled produce hidden in her cage, so offer these items in strict moderation.
A hard treat such as one of the hard dog biscuits (Rottie Biscotti) from Animal Snackers given once a week will keep your rat’s teeth in good working order. You can also give your rat a small bit of a branch from a fruit-bearing tree to gnaw on.
Your rats will appreciate being fed at night, since they are most active at night. Be sure to place the food bowls in a part of the cage that is far away from your rat’s bathroom area.
What kind of a bowl are you using? You will want a couple of small bowls – one for the pellets and one for fresh produce (otherwise the moisture from the fresh produce is going to make the dry pellets soggy and nasty). Small bowls take up less cage space. If you get a small bowl that holds only about as much dry pellets as you need to feed, you will avoid being tempted to overfeed. Ceramic dishes are less easily overturned and are chew-resistant. The plastic bowls are easily scratched, and bacteria can breed in those scratches. Clean the bowls with soap and water during your weekly cage cleaning.
Robyn's Nest Rescue in Miamisburg has a selection of lovely domestic rats available for adoption right now! Visit RNR and see Good Boy and his clan (and check out their photos in the slideshow, in the meantime).
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