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While many people consider rats adorable pets, others regard them as destructive pests. Owners of pet rats face unique challenges in feeding their pets as rat food is oftentimes only available in specialized stores not readily reachable. In such a case, dog food becomes a convenient substitute, but is it suitable for rats?
Most rodents relish dog food. Rats are omnivores and can eat almost every food. However, dog food alone can’t meet all the dietary needs of a rat as dog food is highly proteinous, while rats need a low-protein diet. There are safe foods that can provide for those extra dietary needs of your rat.
In this article, we will answer your questions on what to feed your pet rats and what is unsafe for them. We’ll also deal with how to keep undomesticated rodents out of your house, including how rats can be dangerous to you, signs of a rat infestation in your home, and how to get rid of unwanted rats in your home.
Table of Contents
Rats are opportunistic omnivores that can eat a wide variety of foods offered to them. They generally need a diet that’s about 75-80% carbohydrates, with a protein content of between 12-20%, and fats content of around 4-6%.
A basic rat feeding guide should constitute a mixture of fruits and vegetables, and have this supplemented with quality rat pellets or cubes.
Rats need a diet with essential amino acids, fatty acids, vitamins, and minerals as they are unable to produce these on their own.
However, high protein content in rats can cause itching, scabs, hair loss, stroke, tumors, and excessive weight loss or gain.
- Feeding your rats on a balanced diet is possible by feeding them on commercial pellets specifically made for rats. These pellets are customized to meet the dietary needs of rats.
- Occasionally, supplement the commercial pellets with small quantities of vegetables, fruits, seeds, grains, or cooked eggs within their daily food ration. To avoid obesity, feed the rats either on these foods or on the pellets, but not both in a single meal.
Some fruits and vegetables that are most recommended for rats are apples, ripe banana, pears, melons, carrots, stone fruits, broccoli, cabbage (except red cabbage), parsley, endive, celery, berries, and small quantities of fresh corn.
- Ensure you constantly provide fresh, clean drinking water as rats are highly intolerant to dehydration and will fall ill when water is inadequate. Check to ensure a steady supply of clean water. Maintain high levels of hygiene to prevent contamination of the water by cleaning the watering vessels regularly. Avail multiple drinking points to avoid unnecessary competition among the rats.
- Observe a routine of feeding the rats in the morning and evening in tandem with their feeding behavior. Rats mostly feed at dawn and dusk while drinking is mainly reserved for the night. Remove uneaten food and regulate food quantity until you arrive at an amount of food that they’ll eat and finish.
- Let the rats enjoy their food by carrying food by handling it and moving to wherever they may wish within the cage. Allow them to exercise their natural foraging behavior.
- Be gradual when introducing new foods to minimize resistance as rats are wary of new food.
- You might notice a disgusting habit of rats eating their own feces. This is inherent and absolutely normal to ensure they fully exploit all the nutrients and minerals in the food to keep healthy.
Although this list isn’t exhaustive, it offers a framework on what foods not to feed rats.
- Orange juice
- Green bananas (impedes starch-digesting enzyme)
- Avocado skin and pit
- Blue cheese
- Mangoes and citrus fruits (can damage kidneys)
- Green potato skin
- Raw sweet potato
- Fluorinated or chlorinated water
- Uncooked beans
- Licorice (is thought to cause neurological poisoning in rats)
- Raw brussels sprouts
- Poppy seeds
- Raw red cabbage
- Raw peanuts
- Dried corn
- Raw artichokes
Avoid foods that are very sugary or have high-fat content (i.e., dairy products). Although rats enjoy these foods, they can cause obesity in rats if consumed in large quantities. Restrict these foods to special treats for your pet.
Are you still in a predicament wondering whether you should continue feeding your rat with dog food? The dilemma you are facing is real and so are many others in the same swamp.
You know that dogs and rats have different dietary requirements. Rats need a higher percentage of carbohydrates in their diets relative to dogs, whereas dogs have a higher protein requirement. This means feeding rats exclusively on dog food will deprive them of certain nutrients for proper growth and development.
You can also find yourself in a catch-22 situation where you want to purchase rat food for your pet, but it’s retailed by a specialized stockist who’s far away. This makes fast, convenient access difficult and the added logistical costs of delivery make it expensive.
The most feasible solution would be to get dog food that is safe for your rat. Check dog food with low protein content (that is, protein content not exceeding 18%). Then supplement this with the other safe food that is available for your rat. This will ensure your rat is adequately and consistently nourished.
Since rats can eat your dog food, it’s important that you know how to keep wild rats out of your house as they are a potential threat even to your pet rats. You’ll need to use a poison-free strategy to keep your pets safe as you protect your house from unintended intruders.
When undomesticated rats invade your house, they can prove to be destructive as they’re not controlled. They can be problematic in these ways:
- Damage to property. Rodents are omnivores that feed on almost everything, including books and important papers.
- Disease vectors. They can carry dangerous disease-causing organisms that can cause diseases like hantavirus, plague, typhus, rabies, and even bacterial food poisoning. You are predisposed to the hantavirus disease if you serendipitously inhale dust that has an infected rat’s dried urine.
- Food contamination. They can contaminate your food and water, and your food preparation area
- Risks of electrical fires as they can chew electrical wires’ insulations.
Rats and other similar rodents creep in stealthily, mostly under the cover of darkness and can go unnoticed for a while as they wreak havoc in your home. Luckily, they will unknowingly leave hints behind that can serve as an early alert.
- Small black droppings (feces) can be spotted in places where unwashed utensils with food remains are kept, or where you store food containers.
- Signs of chewed holes in bags that contain dry foods, or in pet food bags.
- Presence of gnaw marks in possible entry points such as near holes on your floor. The rodents vigorously rub against the inlets and gnaw at them to force an entry point.
- Check for the existence of shredded paper or tiny wood chippings in concealed areas, for example, behind cabinets.
- Your pets may manifest alert behavior, possibly notifying you of an uninvited intruder in the form of a rodent. Dogs and cats can be particularly sensitive during such incidences.
- Unexplained nibbling noises on the floors or walls in the dead of night when it’s dark and silent.
- Block all entry points by inspecting your walls and foundations for cracks and effectively sealing them.
- Seal dry foods such as flour, sugar, and cereals in metal or plastic containers as rodents have menacingly sharp teeth that can penetrate through materials such as cartons and paper.
- Seal your pet food since rats can eat dog food, and will, in fact, eat it if it’s within reach. Sealing dog food in an air-tight storage container perfectly secures it from rodents.
- Seal garbage bins. Uncovered garbage bins are an insurmountable temptation to rodents and an irresistible invitation letter. Place the sealed bins above the ground.
- Keep your garden plantings some distance from the house, as this will deny rodents a natural shelter near you.
- Keep bird feeders far from the house. The grainy content that constitutes most bird feeds is a relish for rodents. Keep the bird feeders away from the house to avoid inadvertently inviting rodents to your premises.
- Maintain cleanliness of floors, kitchen countertops, and outside the house. The tiny food crumbs left on your kitchen floor can be a cause for celebration among rats.
- Biological control by adopting a prey such as a cat that will hunt down invading rodents.
- Close all outside doors, especially at night or during the fall, when rodents are searching for a warm place to shelter before winter.
Rats are opportunistic omnivores capable of eating almost every food, including dog food. However, dog food, which is high in protein content, cannot meet all the dietary requirements of rats that need a diet rich in carbohydrates.
This can be supplemented with safe rat foods that cover for the nutritional deficiencies in dog food. You have gone through a rat feeding guide taking note of safe and unsafe foods for rats, and their feeding habits.
Lastly, we dealt with rats as potential pests that can be harmful to your pets and home, how to tell if your home is being infested and how you can make your house more rodent-proof against wild rats that can wander into your home and wreak havoc.
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- Center for Disease Control: Hantavirus
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- Ratclub: Ratcare diet.
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