What Do Rats Eat? What's Good And Bad For Them To Have

by Marissa Prizio
What Do Rats Eat? What's Good And Bad For Them To Have


When getting a pet rat, you'll want to consider what pet food they'll eat. Although these small omnivores aren't notorious for being picky eaters, proper nutrition can keep your pet rat happy and healthy. Rats are like many other mammals in this regard, meaning they rely on a wide range of food groups for proper nutrition and vitamin intake. With an optimal diet and enough exercise, you can increase your pet rat's lifespan.

In this article, you'll learn what rats eat, along with the best and worst options for their diet.

Food for Pet Rats

Good Foods Bad Foods
Fruits Walnuts
Apples, bananas, blueberries, cherries, grapes, raspberries, strawberries, pears Raw beans and peanuts
Vegetables Chocolate
Broccoli, carrots, peas, spinach, bell peppers, pumpkin, sweet potato (cooked), cabbage (except red cabbage), cucumbers Raisins
Grains Grapes
Brown rice, barley, oats, whole wheat pasta, whole grain bread Citrus fruits
Protein Rhubarb
Cooked lean meats, eggs, mealworms, tofu, cooked fish (in moderation) Licorice
Raw potatoes or potatoes with green skin
Raw sweet potatoes
Avocado (especially the pit and skin)
Dairy products (especially soft cheeses, milk, or products including mold)
Onion and garlic
Carbonated drinks

Understanding Your Rat's Nutritional Needs

A basic understanding of what rats like to eat will help you optimize your rat's diet. The proper nutrients and vitamins prevent it from developing diseases, while the right combination of protein content and fiber will keep them strong. However, other foods high in fats or salts can harm your rat's health.

Rat on a table of fruits and vegetables


When feeding your pet rat, you should ensure they get the right macronutrients for basic functioning, energy, and health. Rats typically benefit from diets high in fiber and protein but very low in fats or salts.

Vitamins and Minerals

Rats will appreciate some extra vitamins and minerals in their diet. They'll benefit significantly from Vitamin B and D for neurological functioning and calcium for strong bones and teeth.

Types of Food for Pet Rats

Commercial Rat Food

To fulfill your pet rat's macronutrient needs, their intake should mainly consist of rat pellets found in most pet stores. This handy food source will take care of the most crucial macronutrients. They contain protein, fiber, fat, minerals, and vitamins. Look for pellets that have as little as 4% to 5% percent fat and over 16% protein. Rat pellets should make up to 90% of your rat's diet.

Fresh Fruit and Vegetables

With rat pellets being the primary food source of what rats can eat, you'll still want to supplement your rat's diet with fresh fruits, vegetables, and even certain seeds. For example, vitamin B is especially helpful for neurological functioning and aging in rats. Consider giving them broccoli or leafy greens to replenish their vitamin stores abundantly. Additional fruit and vegetables should only comprise about 10% of your rat's diet. You can also feed your rats carrots, peas, apples, strawberries, bell peppers, and cabbage.

Occasional Treats and Supplements

Once a week, you might want to give your rat a treat. While they're not essential, treats for rats can provide mental stimulation and enrichment. If your rat is facing medical issues, extra supplements prescribed by a vet can set them on their way to wellness. Some of these treats and supplements may include:

  • Mealworms: This source of protein mimics the insects rats would naturally eat in the wild. Rat pellets have plenty of protein, so there's no need to give meal worms to your rat often. A couple of mealworms once or twice a week would be sufficient.
  • Yogurt drops: Yogurt drops are not necessarily nutritious, but rats seem to love them, especially when they're flavored.
  • Vitamin supplements: Your rat should be getting enough vitamins from its diet of rat pellets, fruits, and vegetables. While vitamins A, B, and D can be beneficial, talk to your vet first to see if your rat needs them.

Treats like the ones listed above should not be considered staples of a rat's diet. Instead, they should receive their macronutrient, vitamin, and mineral intake from commercial rat pellets, fruits, and vegetables.


Feeding Guidelines

After collecting the right food item for their pet rat, owners must consider daily food allowance, portion sizes, feeding frequency, and any potential health issues that will imply a necessary diet change. Rats need 60 calories daily, about 15-20 grams of food. Likewise, you'll want to avoid overfeeding your rat by giving it too much food at once. Changes in health could also be due to the particular nutritional makeup of the diet.

Portion Sizes and Frequency

While portion sizes and frequency of eating are significant, rats will generally self-regulate their food intake. An adult rat eating about 20 grams of food daily will take 90% of this from rat pellets and another 10% from fruits and vegetables. Rats typically eat twice a day, once at dawn and then at dusk. You'll want to ensure they have access to food during these times. Ensure that your rat is active and gets enough exercise, which will help them regulate calorie consumption and stay healthy.

Monitoring Your Rat's Health

Although there are basic diet guidelines for pet rats, individual rats differ genetically, so their diet might need some fine-tuning. Monitor your rat's health and look for any abnormalities. For example, weak teeth might be indicative of a calcium deficiency. If you notice any differences, take your rat to the vet, and ask how to improve your rat's diet for optimal health.

Unsafe Foods for Pet Rats

While we might think of rats as animals that will opportunistically chow down on anything, there are certain things they need to avoid, such as foods with high sodium and salt. Some foods can be toxic for rats to eat. Even a tiny portion of this type of food can be highly toxic since rats are small, and it doesn't take a lot to affect their system.

These food items include:

  • Walnuts
  • Raw beans
  • Chocolate
  • Raisins
  • Grapes
  • Citrus fruits
  • Rhubarb
  • Licorice
  • Raw potatoes or potatoes with green skin
  • Avocado
  • Dairy products (especially soft cheeses, milk, or products including mold)
  • Mangos

What Do Wild Rats Eat?

There are a few critical differences in the diet of a wild rat versus a domesticated rat. However, this depends on their immediate environment. Rats are omnivores, meaning they'll eat meat, seeds, vegetables, and fruits. Although wild rats in rural areas will have a more vegetarian diet (seeds, vegetables, etc.), they'll also eat insects.

City rats, on the other hand, will frequently eat garbage or anything they can find. This is not optimal for your domesticated rat's health. Although different types of rats are opportunistic eaters and can tolerate a wide variety of food, this can negatively impact their lifespans. It's best to make rat pellets their primary source of calories throughout the day.

Rat eating a fruit

Ensure the Highest Quality Rat Care

At least 90% of your domesticated rat's diet should consist of pellets, while the other 10% should be fresh fruits, seeds, and vegetables. Typically, an adult rat eats between 15-20 grams of food through two feeding sessions a day. However, certain foods such as grapes, mangoes, and citrus fruits can be unhealthy and toxic to rats, so they should be avoided.

When choosing the best food for rat care, look at the Quality Cage website. You'll find food that will keep your rat healthy and happy, as well as a wide range of pet rat accessories, toys, rat cages, puzzles, and other rat supplies.


What is a rat's favorite food?

A rat's favorite food can be different depending on the individual rat. However, they tend to prefer berries, fresh fruit, and seeds.


What are three things that rats eat?

Pet rats usually have a diet of rat pellets, fresh fruit, and fresh vegetables.


What does a rat hate?

Rats don't like peppermint. In fact, people will often use peppermint as a rodent repellent.


Have Questions About Rat Products?

Email us at cages@qualitycage.com

Author: Marissa Prizio
Marissa is a graduate of the University of New Hampshire with a degree in Bio Medical Pre-Veterinary Medicine. During her education, she enjoyed classes that ranged from scientific research to storytelling. Now, she blend those skills with her work experience in animal care to create written educational content for pet owners.

Leave a comment

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.