October 21, 2009
Rats are easy-to-please eaters, but don't provide a bottomless food bowl
How much is enough?
Commercial food: A small bowl of lab blocks (they look like pellets but are larger) once a day, supplemented by treats as described below, will be enough. Pregnant and nursing rats may need supplemental calories.
Treats: About one tablespoon of vegetables and fruits per day. For example, a small amount of greens plus a floret of broccoli, a slice of apple, or a strawberry (or an equivalent amount of other appropriate treats). Give treats in small quantities to reduce waste and decrease the amount of time you spend looking for spoiled produce in your rat's cage.
Hard treats: Hard treats like small dog biscuits or branches from fruit-bearing trees can be offered once a week to keep your rat's teeth in good condition.
Time to eat
Rats are nocturnal, meaning they're most active at night. This is a good time to feed them since they're likely to be awake and alert. Rats should have continual access to food and water, so don't skip meals. But if you notice stashes of food throughout the cage, there's a good chance you’re overfeeding your rat and should cut back on the portion size.
Serving it up
Selecting a food dish for your rat isn't complicated, but there are a few factors to keep in mind.
- Look for a small bowl. Larger bowls take up valuable cage space and may encourage you to feed too much.
- Provide a separate dish for fresh produce to prevent your rat's dry chow from becoming a soggy (and unappetizing) mess.
- Opt for a ceramic food dish rather than a plastic one. Ceramic dishes are sturdy, chew-resistant, and difficult to overturn. They're also durable and shouldn't need to be replaced unless they become cracked or chipped. Plastic bowls are easily scratched, and those scratches can be havens for bacteria.
- Place the food bowl in an area of the cage that's far away from your rat's bathroom area.
- Wash the bowl with soapy water and rinse and dry thoroughly during the weekly cage cleaning.