Nutrition is the basis for maintaining good health in your rat, and a good base diet that contains essential nutrients, vitamins and minerals, along with a variety of fruits, nuts, and vegetables will do just that.
Rats are omnivorous requiring both plant and animal food sources in their diets (much like humans), and specially formulated diets help to meet those nutritional requirements.
If you intend to use this type of base for your rats diet try to stick with a mix that is higher in soy than corn and that contains essential fatty acids. Do check your rats bowl to be sure that food is actually being consumed. Do not top off dishes if it appears that there is a small amount of food left as it may be only seed shells. Doing so may result in starvation.
Again as with any of the prepackaged mix diets, or lab blocks, when making up the diet yourself be sure to offer fresh fruits and veggies at the very least three times a week.
When feeding your rat give only what can be consumed within a 24 hour period, in that way you can be sure of maintaining freshness and be aware of how much your rat eats. Rats do like to hide their stash so you might want to investigate their favorite hang outs to make sure they are eating the amount you are placing in their dishes.
Your rat likes to get treats as much as you like to give them. As much as we all want to stick with the healthiest of treats, most of us are guilty of giving them the occasional unhealthy snack. Moderation and common sense are the keys. The healthiest treats are the fruit and vegetables. Note: On the subject of fruit, there has been some discussion regarding oranges causing cancer in male rats. It is the consuming of very large amounts over a long period of time of d-limonene in orange rind and commercial orange juice that they are referring to. The actual meat of the orange is not a problem and can be given to both female and male rats.
A few examples of treats that rats may enjoy in moderation are: plain popped popcorn, chicken or beef bones (cooked or boiled), chew biscuits or small dog milk bones, Nutra*Puffs, and Nylabones for chewing.
In general rats may for the most part be offered many of the foods you eat; however, there are a few exceptions. Drinks that are carbonated or foods (in excess) that could cause gas should be avoided. Rats have a flap in the stomach that prevents them from being able to vomit up contents into the esophagus. For this reason rats are also not able to burp, so giving carbonated beverages could potentially cause discomfort (besides being unhealthy) for your rat. Even though gassy foods do not necessarily cause burping, and although rats do pass flatus, those types of food could have the potential to cause your rat to feel a bit uncomfortable.For a further listing of foods to be avoided visit http://ratfanclub.org/diet.html.
An important note to mention here is that since rats do not vomit, veterinarians (for most surgical procedures) do not require that you withhold food or water prior to surgery. An exception to this may be when surgery involves the gut or abdomen, and even then withholding food or water should be of short duration due to their rapid rate of metabolism.
Providing your rat with two food dishes will help to keep their dry and moist foods separate. Its a good idea to use dishes of stoneware or crock or those that can attach to the cage so your rat doesnt shred the dish or end up dumping the food all over the cage floor.
In summary, healthy nutrition and an adequate supply of fresh food and water on a daily basis is essential to a rats overall health and safety. Not providing an adequate daily nutritious diet that keeps your rat slim and trim as well as providing water on a daily basis can result in starvation (as seen in the figure example below), illnesses, or even death.
For Estimated Nutrient Requirements for Maintenance, Growth, and Reproduction of Rats visit, http://books.nap.edu/books/0309051266/html/13.html#pagetop
Fig 2a Virginia Simpsons Rat Diet Recipe
Fig 2b Lou Duxs Rat Diet and Recipes
Fig 2c Melissa Pandajis Rat Mix
Phoenix Gate RatteryPet Rat Nutrition and Diet Guidehttp://www.pxrats.com/ratfood.html
Susan Crandalls Rat Diet http://www.rmca.org/Articles/recipes1.htm
SueBee Rat Diet http://www.ratsrule.com/diet.html
For prepackaged diets, treats, and water bottles see:
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Care Guide: Diet