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Can Rats Eat Dog Food?

by Lucy

Rats are underrated pets, and they make for such great companions! However, caring for a pet rat can become quite complicated when you try to figure out a healthy, balanced diet for them. If you are new to parenting a rat, it can be confusing. There is quite a bit they can’t eat!

Some rat owners turn to dog food to bulk up their rat’s diet or use it as a quick-fix if they have run out of their normal rat food.

Can rats eat dog food? Pet rats can eat and even digest dog food, but it does not provide enough nutritional variation for them, especially when included in their diet over a long period of time. High-fat dog foods, or vitamin-rich dog foods, can cause health issues in rats as well.

As a pet rat owner, you need to be conscious of the food you feed your rat, to ensure they have a balanced diet, without giving them any foods that might harm them in the long run!

What Do Rats Eat?

The general diet of rats does vary greatly, depending on where the rat lives and whether it is wild or domesticated. Rats who live in the wild far from humans tend to lean towards a vegetarian diet, whereas rats who live in city centers tend to eat more meat.

Keeping a rat as a pet, you are able to give them a superior diet, and their nutritional intake will depend on what food you offer to them. All the better brands of rat foods are specifically designed to fulfill the dietary needs of rats, and provide a balanced amount of nutrients.

Instead of feeding your rat old pellet-shaped foods, you can now purchase a mix of ingredients such as seeds, dehydrated veggies, dried fruits, nuts, and whole grains (this is our favorite mix). Rat food is actually fairly similar to premium bird feed.

Variety is always good, and you should offer your rat a treat every now and then, and they can actually benefit from these treats, as they stimulate their appetite and keeps them interested in their food!

It is important to remember that a treat is just that – it should be only given occasionally. Many owners like to use dog pellets as treats, but this isn’t healthy in the long run. Obesity is a common problem with domesticated rats, and dog foods can be high-fat.

What Does Dog Food Contain?

While pet rats can eat dog food, it isn’t necessarily a healthy food choice for them. Dog food has obviously been created to satisfy the nutritional needs of dogs, without rats in mind, and because of this, it can be too high-fat and protein-dense for rats.

There isn’t one specific nutritional make-up of dog food, as it varies between the different brands. Certain dog foods are made only for older dogs, some for puppies, and there are dog foods designed to treat certain conditions such as digestive sensitivity or dry skin.

Other than these special ingredients, most dog foods contain the following ingredients:

  • Dehydrated meats
  • Grains
  • Vitamins

Some dog foods even contain animal products, which provides dogs with additional protein. This blend is highly beneficial to dogs, it really is not suited for rats.

Rats cannot process the same amount of protein, fat, vitamins, and minerals that a dog can, and it can be quite dangerous to feed dog food to your rat.

With a high amount of fat contained in dog food, rats can become obese if fed dog food too often, which leads to certain health problems. Dog food also contains a high dose of vitamins, and if fed these vitamins too often and overloaded with them, rats can get sick.

The inclusion of dehydrated meat and other animal products would usually be fine, but if you have kept your rat on a vegetarian diet, they might not be used to the inclusion of meat in their diet.

This might also lead to too much protein and fat, which just does not digest well in a rat’s stomach.

Dog Food IngredientSafe/UnsafeReason
Dehydrated MeatUnsafeWhile safe in small quantities, when consumed often, dehydrated meat will give the rat too much animal fat and protein.
GrainsSafeGrains are safe for rats to consume, and form a large part of their diet, but once again they need to be fed in moderation.
VitaminsUnsafe in high quantitiesVitamins are always great, but there is too high a concentration of vitamins in dog food, and the overload of vitamins will make your rat sick.

Do Rats Like Dog Food?

Rats love dog food. They will pretty much eat any type of food you feed them if it smells good enough, and the rich, meaty smell of dog food will probably be a hit.

This makes it an ideal treat for your rat, but once again the nutritional value just isn’t good enough for rats.

While it might be great finding a treat such as a dog food that your rat absolutely loves, you really need to be cautious of what you feed them, and ensure that the treats you give your rat are suited to their diet.

Many dog owners battle to protect their dog food against wild rats and need to keep the food stored safely away in a plastic container, just to keep the rats away. This should give you some indication of how much rats love dog food!

What Should You Not Feed Your Rat?

Other than avoiding feeding your rat dog food often, there are some other food items that you should not feed to your rats.

Some food items should be avoided as they can be addictive to rats, and others can be very toxic. Green potato skins, for example, can be poisonous to rats, much like they are for humans. Unripe and rotten foods can also be dangerous to feed your rat.

In order to give your rat a good, healthy, and balanced diet, you should avoid feeding them the following:

  • Food or drinks that contain sugar, especially those that contain processed sugar
  • Foods or drinks that contain caffeine
  • Food or drinks with d-limonene, such as citrus fruits

As rats are so small, anything they eat has a massive impact on their bodies, which is why a substance such as sugar can be so addictive to them, and they might end up refusing to eat sugar-free or low-sugar food.

Other than being very addictive, sugar can lead to obesity in rats. Rats are known to become addicted, and even biologically dependent on sugar, and can even go through withdrawals if they are kept away from sugar.  You really should avoid feeding any type of sugar to your rats.

Caffeine might encourage better long term memory in rats, but it can also give them heightened anxiety, and it can hinder brain development in younger rats. It is best to avoid feeding your rat caffeine, as it can cause heart palpitations as well and just put them under undue stress.

Rats might love citrus as a snack, but it can actually be harmful to male rats. Citrus contains a chemical called d-limonene, and this might induce kidney disorders and cancerous tumors in rats. It does not seem to affect female rats the same, but rather avoid it altogether.

There are many types of foods you should avoid for your rat. The above should be avoided outright, and occasional treats of dog food should also fall away. Being so small, it only takes a small amount of the wrong food to make your rat sick, and it just isn’t fair to put them through that.

Related Questions

What foods do rats like the most?

Rats love fruits and berries, and in the wild, rats consume fruits and berries every opportunity they get. Certain fruits and berries are perfectly fine to include in your rat’s regular diet, and they will be so happy to munch away on these healthy items!

Raspberries, blackberries, pears, and apples are great fruits to feed to your rat.

What is the average lifespan of a rat?

The average lifespan of a rat depends on what rat it is. Brown rats live up to 2 years, whereas black rats can only live up to around 12 months. How long your rat lives will depend on how well it is looked after as well.

What foods can kill rats?

There are some foods that are incredibly toxic to rats. Some of the most toxic foods are blue cheese, licorice, poppy seeds, bitter almonds, and green potatoes. Not many people know that green potatoes are toxic to most animals, including humans.

Always research new food you are wanting to feed your rat!

Feeding Your Rat Dog Food

It is best to just avoid feeding dog food to your rat. Small portions as a treat now and then might be fine, but the high-fat content, protein content, and high dose of vitamins can be bad for your rat’s little body, and can lead to health problems if they consume too much dog food!

It is best to stick to a healthy diet of rat food for your rats and to give them some fresh fruit, seeds, and nuts as treats.

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