The 6 Best Foods for Pet Rats of 2022

Our favorite is Oxbow Essentials Adult Rat Food

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A white and brown rat on a white background

Kanashi / Unsplash

Rats are picky eaters with a penchant for protein-heavy foods. As a result, it’s important that you foster healthy and well-balanced eating habits in them at a formative age, making sure that they are not either malnourished or indulging in oversized fatty meals.

We analyzed the strengths and weaknesses of the major rat food brands on the market, ranging from hearty pellet diets to leaner seed mixes. Our favorite product was Oxbow Essentials Adult Rat Food, a nutritious and fortifying kibble that cuts out unhealthy ingredients while satisfying most rats’ omnivorous palates. Like Oxbow, the majority of our picks are uniform pellet options, which professionals generally consider the preferable form for rat diets.

Because all rats have different preferences, and there’s no one-size-fits-all option for the central staple in a rodent diet, we also recommend several high-quality alternatives to our favorite.

Here are the best rat foods.

Our Top Picks
01
of 06

Best Overall: Oxbow Essentials Adult Rat Food

5
Oxbow Essentials Adult Rat Food

Amazon

What We Like
  • Wide mix of ingredients

  • Hearty but healthy

  • Uniform kibble

  • Value for money

What We Don't Like
  • Can’t think of anything

Oxbow Essentials Adult Rat Food is a modest and well-balanced dry food option that suits the needs of most pet rats, remaining nutritious and hearty but lean on fat. Consisting of both animal and plant elements, the mix provides the range of ingredients that rats are predisposed to favor.

Unlike some of our other recommendations, Oxbow Essentials is formulated for adults, which means it has less fat to discourage obesity and a better balance of nutrients suitable to your fully grown pet rat. Its primary ingredient is brown rice, which is a healthy but energizing grain option, with salmon and soybeans also featured as protein sources. Other ingredients include oats, wheat, soy, and fish meal. The combination provides robust fiber and protein.

One major advantage of Oxbow Essentials Adult Rat Food is that its nutritional balance precludes the need for portion control. An adult rat with a healthy weight can be given unrestricted access to Oxbow food, particularly in combination with grass hay. The kibble is fully uniform to prevent rats from picking and choosing ingredients, thus guaranteeing a balanced meal at every meal time.

A major bonus perk with Oxbow’s product is its heavy prebiotic and antioxidant content, which helps fortify your beloved rat’s immune system.

Oxbow Essentials Adult Rat Food is available in 3-pound and 20-pound quantities.

Key Ingredients: Whole brown rice, oat groats, wheat bran, wheat, soybean meal, menhaden fish meal, calcium carbonate︱Size: 3 or 20 pounds︱Recommended Daily Serving: Unlimited

02
of 06

Best Budget: Kaytee Supreme Mouse And Rat Food

Kaytee Supreme Mouse And Rat Food

Amazon

What We Like
  • Low price tag

  • Natural ingredients

  • Rich in vitamins

What We Don't Like
  • Seed mixes not a good fit for some rats

  • Seed mixes require portion control

This pocketbook-friendly diet from Kaytee is one of the most popular seed mix diets on the market for rats. Consisting of all-natural seeds, grains, and pellets, it is higher in protein than most other mix options and fortified with extra minerals and vitamin content (vitamins A, B12, E, and D).

Since Kaytee’s Supreme Mouse & Rat Food is a seed mix rather than a uniform pellet, rat owners need to be a little more attuned to portion control. Rats often pick their favorites out of food mixes that combine multiple seeds, throwing off their balanced diet. The Kaytee mix is uniform enough that many rats will not sift through selectively and eat the proper balance of foods, but it is nevertheless worth keeping a close eye on your rat's feeding behavior when introducing a seed mix. Many rat owners find that mixed-ingredient foods are better reserved for snacks and treats rather than as dietary staples.

With its low price tag, organic content, and wide nutritional coverage, this is a great pick if you're looking for a seed mix.

Key Ingredients: Rolled corn, rolled oat groats, rolled barley, de-hulled soybean meal, sunflower, peanuts, etc.︱Size: 4 or 20 pounds︱Recommended Daily Serving: 3 to 4 tablespoons (for rats)

03
of 06

Best Organic: Supreme Petfoods Science Selective Rat Food

Supreme Petfoods Science Selective Rat Food

Amazon

What We Like
  • Natural ingredients

  • Promotes healthy skin

  • Positive cardiovascular effects

  • Rich in vitamins

What We Don't Like
  • Higher price tag than some comparable products

For another slightly higher-end all-natural option, try this diet from Supreme Petfoods. This veterinarian-favorite rat food promotes cardiovascular health and healthy skin. With 12 percent protein content, it’s not an overly heavy diet, mitigating the possibility of obesity and promoting a longer life span.

It also cuts out the saturated fatty acids that can result in heart problems and high cholesterol while remaining hearty with the beneficial ones. With its generous helping of fruit ingredients, it’s also rich in vitamins, helping make it an easy candidate for the most well-balanced organic option on the market.

Key Ingredients: Wheat, soybean meal, barley, oats, soya oil, dried apples, dried blackcurrants, wheat feed, limestone flour, salt, vitamin A 15,000 IU, vitamin D3 1,500 IU︱Size: 4.4 pounds︱Recommended Daily Serving: 1.6 to 2 tablespoons

04
of 06

Best for Young Rats: Oxbow Essentials Mouse Food/Young Rat Food

Oxbow Essentials Mouse Food/Young Rat Food

Amazon

What We Like
  • Supports the developmental needs of young rats

  • Uniform kibble

  • Rich in calcium and vitamins

What We Don't Like
  • Not designed for rats older than 6 months

Since Oxbow’s primary rat food options are geared toward more mature rats, they have a complementary pellet diet designed for rats under 6 months. The kibble is full of protein (18 percent) and stabilized calcium designed to support muscle and bone development. It is also rich in vitamins that build up their immune system and guarantee comprehensive good health.

Baby rat owners can feed their little ones as much of this uniform kibble as they need to feel nourished on a given day. The price tag is reasonable, and like Oxbow’s dry food options for older rats, it is a consumer and veterinarian favorite.

Key Ingredients: Ground corn, soybean meal, wheat middlings, soybean hulls, dried whey, cane molasses, soybean oil, sunflower meal, alfalfa meal, limestone, flax seed, etc.︱Size: 2.5 or 25 pounds︱Recommended Daily Serving: Unlimited

05
of 06

Best Pellets: Mazuri Vegetarian Rat and Mouse Diet

Mazuri Vegetarian Rat and Mouse Diet

Amazon

What We Like
  • Protein-rich

  • Good for dental health

  • Good value

What We Don't Like
  • High in fat and may cause obesity

Out of all the options we vetted, Mazuri’s popular pellet diet delivers the best bang for your buck for keeping your rat well-fed and energetic. Even though it is vegetable-based, it is one of the more protein-rich options for rat diets and therefore higher in fat. If your rat is at risk of obesity or eating this tasty product excessively, this may not be the best option.

However, for a product that goes a long way with small servings and a balanced kibble that will cover all the nutritional bases for most rats, Mazuri’s is the perfect investment. It doesn’t hurt that its shape is designed to support dental health or that its infusion of dried yucca schidigera is designed to reduce the odor of waste.

Key Ingredients: De-hulled soybean meal, ground corn, ground wheat, soybean oil, cane molasses, ground oats, dried beet pulp, etc.︱Size: 2 or 25 pounds︱Recommended Daily Serving: 3 to 5 grams

06
of 06

Best Specialized Diet: Nesom Distributing Teklad Adult Rat Food Diet

Nesom Distributing Teklad Adult Rat Food Diet

Amazon

What We Like
  • Eliminates potentially problematic ingredients

  • Works against obesity

  • Promotes long-term rodent health

What We Don't Like
  • May not suit the nutritional needs of all rats

Teklad rat diets were developed with lab rats in mind. The company’s scientific hyper-precision with the ingredients in their diets makes them a great option for rats with any special health needs. Each is carefully customized to the needs of rats of different ages, sizes, and health profiles.

Their popular 2014 diet is perfect for the majority of rats, with lower protein content than some go-to food options. The pellets are nutrient-rich and designed to give rats a long and healthy lifespan. Notably, the 2014 diet eliminates potential ingredients that can have unhealthy side effects, including fish, alfalfa, and soybean meal, as well as animal fat.

If you’re worried about your rat’s weight, potential cardiovascular issues, or potential disease generally, this Teklad diet is a tried-and-true option.

Key Ingredients: Wheat midds, wheat, corn, corn gluten meal, soy oil︱Size: 10 or 15 pounds︱Recommended Daily Serving: Not specified

Final Verdict

If your rat is a healthy adult (over the age of 6 months) and doesn’t require a carefully customized diet, it is hard to argue with Oxbow Essentials Adult Rat Food as the go-to choice for your rat’s principal food source. Outside of the appealingly diverse ingredients list and the uniform kibble presentation, this is also the only FDA-approved rat food on the market, which makes it hard to shy away from.

If you’re looking for a vegetarian and more wholly organic option, though, Supreme Petfoods Science Selective Rat Food is also an excellent buy. Worth the slightly higher price tag, its ingredients have a laundry list of positive effects on rats’ long-term health outside of providing a well-balanced meal.

What to Look for in Pet Rat Food

Ingredients

Rats are omnivores, and a balanced diet for your rat generally requires a blend of plant and animal based food sources. Rats tend to favor protein-heavy food sources, so to avoid obesity or other health issues, it’s important to be cognizant of what the sources of protein in your rat diet of choice are.

Complex carbohydrates are ideal because they are high in protein but low in fat. Since rats are prone to obesity, especially in the first year of their life, it is crucial to monitor their fat consumption. Sugars should generally be avoided, so if the rat food option you’re eyeing includes added sugar sources on the ingredient list, steer clear.

Specialized Diets

It’s important to be aware that, like most animals, rats have distinct dietary requirements at different stages of their lives. Rats’ other health idiosyncrasies, including obesity, may determine which diet option works best for them. While food sources like our favorite on the list—Oxbow Essentials Adult Rat Food—are excellent default options at the pet food store, you may want to switch to fully vegetarian, seed mix, or carefully customized Teklad diets if your rat is suffering from or at risk of disease.

Snacks and Treats

There are plenty of all-natural human snacks you can give to your rat. In fact, they are recommended by veterinarians to provide your furry friend with a fully balanced diet. Lots of online resources can be helpful when determining whether a specific morsel of human food is acceptable for your rat to nibble on, but veggies, fruits, and some types of nuts are particularly beneficial. (Beware sweet potatoes, Brussel sprouts, and mangoes, however!) It is important to make sure that the snacks and treats you give your rat complement the makeup of their proper meals, however—to avoid overloading them with protein or fat, especially.

Feeding

Rat diets specify a variety of serving sizes on the package. Be cognizant of your rat’s weight and potential problem areas health-wise; this can help you determine how to apportion their meals. It’s generally recommended to spread their daily serving size across morning and evening feedings.

FAQ
  • How much food should I feed my pet rat?

    All rats are different, and there are no specific guidelines for how much to feed them. Usually, the package of the food you choose will recommend portion size by taking the target age of the rat and the ingredient list into account; it depends on how high the protein and fat content is. Some experts recommend feeding them roughly 10 percent of their body weight within a given day—spread across two meals.

    Of course, this should be monitored if it seems to be leading to unhealthy weight gain or other side effects. If your rat seems to be picking through the diet you are feeding them, you should change their diet or make sure that they eat more to avoid malnourishment.

  • Is cat food or dog food good for pet rats?

    No, rats’ dietary requirements are specific, and cat and dog food usually are high in ingredients that are potentially hazardous for rats. This includes protein content that is far over the ideal percentage for rats. Wet food is significantly worse than dry food, being that it doesn’t contain any vitamins and minerals that are helpful for rats and is protein-heavy.

Why Trust The Spruce Pets?

Winston Cook-Wilson is a writer and editor based in New York City. His writing has appeared in The Guardian, The Ringer, Vice, Pitchfork, Spin, and elsewhere.

When judging which commonly available rat food options to include on this shortlist, we consulted several veterinarians who specialize in rodent care. We also cross-checked these opinions against a variety of expert primers on rat dietary habits and best practices. Among other things, this research allowed us to guarantee that none of the products on this list include any potentially harmful ingredients and that the picks here are based on medical and nutritional considerations as well as consumer preference.