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Pet Rats/Getting new rats! What to feed them, etc.

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Question
Hi,

I am having a hard time figuring out what to feed my rats when I get them.
I am getting 4 females, they will be around 5-6 weeks old.

Most of the premixed foods I have found around here have lots of corn & seeds which I was told was not good for rats.
I did find this food and was wondering if itís good.
Oxbow Essentials - Adult Rat Food
http://www.oxbowanimalhealth.com/products/type/detail?object=1547

I was also told that they should have more then just pellets.
Would this be a good diet:
~Mostly Oxbow Essentials
~Raw pasta noodles
~Cereals
~Some dried banana (not sweetened)
~Occasional fresh fruit/vegetable and baby food (2-4 times a week)

I also want to know what type of pasta, cereal, fruits/vegetables & baby food is good.
I was thinking:
~Plain cheerios & corn flakes for cereal.
~Fusilli, Rigatoni & macaroni for pasta noodles.
Also can rats eat the three color/vegetable noodles or only regular?
~Apple slice, strawberry, banana, broccoli, mini carrots, cucumber, lettuce, peas & corn on the cob for fruits/vegetables.
Should the corn on the cob be cooked or raw?
Are frozen or cooked vegetables also good or only fresh?
~Is baby food with meat good?
Should I also be putting some meat for them or would 1-2 times a week of meat baby food be good enough?

I also wondered if rats can have salt and (if yes) how much?
I eat these veggie straw things and would like to know if I can give them some. http://www.sensibleportions.com/#/bag_veggiestraws_lightlysalted

Also the Oxbow food says for rats over 4 months.
Since the rats I am getting are going to be around 5-6 weeks old when I get them can they also eat this?
If not, what should I feed them until they are 4 months?

Thanks,
Jessica

Answer
Dear Jessica,

Starting with four, very ambitious! Actually, I started with three.

I am glad you are researching rats before you get them. That is crucial. You  must get this book (Rats by Debbie Ducommon) and read it before the ratties arrive. I am giving you  the link to the author's site, which you should also read thoroughly (under Rat Info); so save the site's link (the Rat Fan Club). The book you must get is the middle one of the three, and since there is a new edition coming out, she is selling it here for only $5:

http://ratfanclub.org/books.html

Because the book was written a few years ago, there may be a few things that people know now that they didn't know then. For instance, I believe she may have written that is is ok to use an aquarium. It absolutely is not, and she feels this way now too.

You can also email her through the site. And for emergencies you can call her. She has saved my ratties several times.


If you are not flush financially and can't afford to bring the rats to the vet for every sniffle, buy the first one too:  Rat Health Care. You should also buy that one for your vet if they are not completely familiar with rats and are also open to suggestions. Many vets will be glad to have it. Of course you must have an "exotics" (or "pocket pets") vet; cat and dog vets simply don't have the knowledge. Find one now.

Actually you need one even if you do go to the vet-- so you know what to do for choking or other first aid.


Next: Join Debbie's Facebook page:

https://www.facebook.com/groups/121059647917190/

You can ask any question there. There are absolute beginners and extremely knowledgeable decades long rat owners.

This is her page on diet:

http://ratfanclub.org/diet.html

The main answer to your question is, yes the Oxbow is fine for adults. I use Regal Rat myself; my rats like it much better. Those "rat and mouse" mixed seed diets are absolutely NOT appropriate for rats, and it makes me steaming mad that they label it and sell it that way. My breeder has recommended and I use Native Earth, made by Harlan, for my babies. You can get it at Pet Food Direct. The bag is huge, but it is very inexpensive considering how big is. You can pay something like $5 for a 2lb bag of another food; or $20 for 40 pounds of this stuff. Of course there is shipping.

http://www.petfooddirect.com/Product/9093/Native-Earth-18-Percent-Protein-4018-R

Then no, not all of those starchy things you listed. Occasional treats are fine; but for the most part their blocks/chunks should be supplemented only with fresh vegetables and some fresh fruit. Frozen is as good as fresh in terms of nutrients. You may hear people talking about giving their rats "yogies." Of course rats love those sugar-based blobs of yogurt. But it is no better to give them to them often than to give a child a huge slice of cake every day. Basically you feed your rats like you feed your kids-- healthy except maybe an occasional snack. Not too much salt; very little sugar; and never, ever give them anything -- other than their blocks-- that you wouldn't eat or give your kids. Never "it is gross/ dirty/ I don't know if it is bad; but the rats will eat it." I always eat what I am preparing for the rats, and a couple of times it has saved me from giving them something that had turned a little that I didn't know. Besides, I feed them better than I feed myself!

What my rats love as treats are frozen peas and frozen corn. In the summer they can actually stay frozen. That is what I have used as training treats. They can also have a few sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, Cheerios, non-sweetened cereal, oats...

Any kind of pasta is fine - occasionally. Corn is good only cooked; raw it contains molds which are toxic. The same is true for peanuts. Only roasted. All of the fresh things you mention are fine. There is a list of what is not fine, both in the book and on her site. It includes things you wouldn't think of, such as raw red cabbage, so it is good to study it or keep the list on the fridge. They do not need meat. If you go all out and make Debbie's homemade mix and follow her complicated diet plan, she gives them oysters twice a week. They don't need that if they are eating a complete diet. They don't need meat at all-- and in fact, too much protein can cause skin problems. The amount of protein in the chunks is why you feed a different diet for babies and older. One thing she may not mention is no bread or bread-like foods. The bread swells in their mouths and they choke easily.  

Rats actually aren't crazy about salt. I find it interesting-- mice love salt and don't care for sugar. Rats are the other way around. My guys recognize the sound of a chips bag being opened (plain, unsalted corn chips like Tostitoes are a nice treat), so when I have a bag of pretzels they come running. When I offer them the pretzels, they look at me like "yeah, right, that's not what was in the bag. Stop trying to trick me and offer me some real food." Mice go nuts for pretzels.

If I have not answered all of your questions, you will find answers in the book and on Debbie's site. In fact, you can write to her here. I can't figure out why people write to me instead of her, considering my profile says that I call her for help. Her rating looks bad because of one person who misunderstood the ratings system. It is a pity.

Of course you can always write back to me. Just remember, I ask her when I can't answer!!!

ENJOY your new babies!! Rats are so awesome. As they say, anyone who gets a rat never goes back.

squeaks n giggles,

Natasha


PS I highly recommend a playpen for the babies. This is what I use (a double, so two people can sit inside comfortably with the rats):

http://grrreatwall.com/Rats___Mice.html

Check it out here:

Meet the Rodents 1:

https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?v=10150091824234803&set=vb.564919802&type=3&theater

Meet the Rodents 2

https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?v=10150253528884803&set=vb.564919802&type=3&theater


There will be a third and final installment soon too!  

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Natasha Millikan

Expertise

Consider me a sub, when no one else is available. NOTE YOU MUST NOT HAVE ONLY ONE RAT. JOIN MY FACEBOOK GROUP (because there are smarter people than me there!!): ***** https://www.facebook.com/groups/RatsandMiceareAwesome/. ***** Excellent sites: http://ratguide.com/ **** http://lilspazrats.wikispaces.com/ **** http://www.ratbehavior.org/rats.html **** http://www.ratfanclub.org/ **** http://www.sandyscrittercity.com/ **** http://www.ratwhisperer.net/ ****

Experience

I have had rats for 3-1/3 years and have researched them extensively. I am a mouse expert with 40 years' experience with mice. The two species are similar and yet also quite different.

Organizations
My Facebook group is Rats (and Mice) are Awesome. https://www.facebook.com/groups/RatsandMiceareAwesome/

Education/Credentials
I have a Bachelor's and two Master's degrees in Linguistics

Awards and Honors
I am honored that my rats love me!

Past/Present Clients
My Facebook group, Rats are Awesome, serves at the moment 5300 members, and, considering all the huge rescues, probably averages 5 rats per member. That means my clients are about 25,000 rats!!!

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