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Providing right nutrition for your pet rats

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Rats are intelligent, highly social pets who are very rewarding to look after. They form close bonds with their carers, they are fiercely independent and also loyal to their companions. Rats have a life span of two years, rather shorter than most pets, so it is important to provide them with the right nutrition that they require.

Do’s and Dont’s

Feeding them with pellets for rabbits, guinea pigs, hamsters etc can turn out counterproductive as they will not provide rats the nutrition they need. It is necessary to feed rats the food designed for rats. Since rats are omnivores, it is always good to feed them with variety. Give them supplements of fruits, vegetables and eggs as part of their diet. It is important to give them these as part of their daily diet and not as extra because rats are prone to develop obesity.

Avoid harmful foods such as onion, citrus fruits, walnuts, rhubarb, grapes, raisins and chocolate. Also avoid sugars and high-fat foods such as dairy. Rats like sweet and fatty food, but it can cause health problems if they eat too much of it, so only use these as treats and rewards during training.

What and when?

Rats are to be fed at dusk and dawn, and they drink mostly during the night. It is also important to remove uneaten food from their bowls. It is encouraged to feed rats in ceramic bowls because this allows them to carry food and handle or eat it wherever they want. It’s a good idea to encourage natural foraging behaviour, as rats enjoy holding and manipulating food in their paws.

This might be shocking, but rats need to eat fresh faeces. It is their natural behaviour that helps them absorb all the nutrients and minerals they need to stay healthy. Stopping this could cause nutritional deficiencies and health problems.

It is also necessary to keep your rats hydrated. So it is important to provide them a continuous supply of clean water. It also recommended to give them water in bottles rather than bowls to avoid contamination. Also, if you have several rats at pets, it is better to give them several bottles so that all your rats can drink at the same time, as this means they won’t be competing for water and means they will still have water if one of the bottles gets blocked.

Check their water bottles morning and evening and refill them twice a day to ensure they’re never thirsty. Clean them regularly to stop algae and bacteria build-up and check them every day for blockages and leaks.

Their optimum diet should consist of:

• Rat nuggets sold commercially. They offer your rat the ideal mix of nutrients. Rats are quick to put on weight, so be careful to follow the feeding instructions on the packet and weigh their food every day to avoid overfeeding them. Rat nuggets are available at pet stores.

• Fresh fruit and veggies in small portions. This is a list of fruits and vegetables that rats will eat.

• Occasional goodies such as peas, lentils, beans, peas, chickpeas, mealworms, eggs, and little pieces of lean meat.

Rats in the wild would spend a lot of time looking for food. For your rats, you may mimic this natural behaviour. It’s a fantastic method to keep kids engaged and prevent boredom.

Instead of feeding from the dish, scatter their rat nuggets about their cage and play area. They will have a great time smelling their meals. It is also a great idea to try if you have a rat who guards their food bowl jealously and won’t allow your other rats share equally in the food.

In paper bags, cardboard tubes, or boxes, stow away sweets or fresh fruit and vegetables. Your rats will have a lot of fun figuring out how to access their food.

Article contributed by Jyothsna Nelloolichalil, International Petfood, UK



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