Paw Talk - Pet Forums banner

Help Help!!

1447 Views 9 Replies 3 Participants Last post by  sararera59
HELP HELP!!! I really really want to get a rat and have been doing tons of research but the one thing I still have a question about is food. I see plenty of people making their own food from grains etc.. But I am just a college student and don't have the time or money to get each of those individual grains and such. I read one place that I could buy nutro natural choice lite chicken dry dog food and add things. This seems the best option for me but what do I need to add? Is there a way to make a mix from breakfast cereals that you buy at the store? I am so confused I need a good menu to follow. I want to give my rats the proper love and nutrition, please help
1 - 10 of 10 Posts
Most people use a lab block diet as the staple food for their rats and then supplement it with fresh fruits and veggies. Harlan Teklad makes a variety of lab blocks or you can use Oxbow lab blocks or in a pinch, Mazuri brand lab blocks that some pet stores sell if it is too hard to get a hold of Harlan Teklad, but many online rat supply and food places sell them by the pound.

However, you may want to rethink getting rats right now. And yes, you would definitely need to adopt at least 2 rats because single rats do not do well. They absolutely need the company of at least another rat or they can become depressed and lethargic and it can even cause health problems.

Also, if you do not have a good supply of extra cash funds on hand or enough time to devote to a pair of rats, it would not be fair to them, as rats can go through a variety of health problems, such as respiratory problems that they are highly susceptible to.

You need to be able to afford and have the money for veterinary trips, medications and treatment if it becomes neccessary, a large cage, food, supplies, toys, bedding, etc, and at least a minimum of 1 to 2 hours a day interacting with your rats outside of their cage, and the room to be able to do so. So, rats take a lot of care, time and money.

If you do not have sufficient time and funds to ensure they have a safe, healthy and secure life with you, you might want to wait until down the road?

Not trying to discourage you, but I was hoping to give you a realistic picture of what you could be getting into. I love rats dearly and I have two of them myself, but they are not goldfish or hamsters. If you have more questions on any of this, the people on this forum are always glad to help with your research. :)
See less See more
  • Like
Reactions: 1
P.S. I should not have said rats are not "goldfish or hamsters" as that sounds like people do not have to care for other small animals like they would rats, and it came out wrong! :rolleyes:

ALL animals of course need love, attention and vet care when needed. And I have had gerbils for instance and I LOVE them, but rats tend to be even more emotionally needy and there ARE differences between caring for rats and other small pets. So no offense was intended to any hamster or fish people out there! :)

My bad!
I agree with what you are saying about the fiscal responsibility. I guess I should rephrase saying that I don't did it evonomical nor do I wish to peruse online to find the grains when I have no idea what I am looking for. If I could buy them at the grocery store I would but they are not available :(.

So you Are saying the lab blocks plus a daily serving of fruits and vegetables woul be fine? When would I give the fruits and veggies? At night during playtime?

Also you mentioned a cage. I got a cage it's called Luxury Rat Pet Home by all living things. It's dimensions are 28.5 L x 17.5 W x 31.5 H
In inches. Is this large enough for two male rats. I would prefer males because I feel that they would be a good starter.

Also what kind of toys do they like best? And how do I prevent injury from falling from the top story?
Hi Sararera!

Welcome, welcome! :D Yay! A new rat convert! Egggselent!

I know /exactly/ what you mean about the rat fever you're going through. It's terribly exciting getting your first rat and I only got my first in the last three years.

In my case, I fell in love when I saw a friend keeping a neurotic biting rat boy who they had in re-purposed glass herp tank. I was terrified of being bitten, so I decided, like you, to do tons of research to lower my chances of being bitten. I had no clue that they were keeping their poor rat in less than humane conditions; isolated with no rat companion, unhandled, in a glass unventilated tank, and on a commercial seed mix diet.

I am with Vlad in that no, I don't think you /shouldn't/ get a rat, but do continue to think through every angle. Rats are far and away the most expensive pet you can keep for their size in terms of money and time. You said time and money was an issue with you at the moment, so we wanted to help you think it through some more. Because their cage needs are much larger, their stimulation needs are much larger, and their health by and large pretty much stinks.

For a pair of same gender rats -yes you'll want to keep a minimum of two to address their extreme socialization needs-, for new rat start up cost and humane care over a 2 year expected life span, you will spend a minimum of $450 if they're healthy and you find ways to be frugal, and as much as $2250 if they're unhealthy and you don't luck out with finding cheap deals on care. I actually worked it out item by item. I've got it written up if you're interested, and can post it here.

I'm a testament for those two ranges. You can't anticipate what rat will be healthy and what rat won't. Especially if they come from a pet store. Even quality bred rats can be a work in progress. I have one rat I've spent $200 dollars on him over his life. He has never been sick or popped up a tumor once. And another rat who needed around $700 dollars before he finally succumbed at a young age to myco (extremely common lung disease in rats-every rat in the US carries myco, but some rats have genetically stronger immune systems and are able to fight it off for their life span).

I know we're throwing a lot of cautionary stuff at you but I've been a college student, so I know what it's like money wise and pet wise. I especially know how hard it is to avoid purchasing a pet you really, really want, even if it's in the animal's and your best interest. Heh- I bought a potbelly pig in college who, while I could pretty much afford him with my waitress job as long as he stayed healthy, had to give him away to a farm due to unexpected livestock zoning laws. So yeah, I had done a lot of research, but...

Many apartments and dorms have a strict no pet policy, and some even have a specific no RAT policy, because they are viewed as vermin. I've known several college students on the rat forums who had to rehome their rats in a panic because they had to move and the new place doesn't accept rats.

So yeah, we want you to have the best experience possible and not have to deal with the heartbreak of not anticipating what's needed and having to either rehome them or watch them succumb because you can't afford something they need.

That said...about your original question. Vlad is totally right, the cheapest and easiest way to get all of a rat's dietary needs met and have a stronger, healther rat than it might have been otherwise, is to purchase a quality lab block, and pair it up with a variety of veggies that you can pick up from your grocery store.

Quality lab block isn't often widely available at pet stores, but you can purchase it online easily enough.

The best nutritionally complete lab blocks available in the US are:

Harlan Tekklad--sold only to science labs, but can be purchased in smaller quantities through online rat rescue stores.

Mainly Rat Rescue Food Store:

It's available in different formulas, each geared to the nutritional needs of the different ages of your rats:
HT 2014--lower protein for overweight adult rats, or senior rats.
HT 2016--higher protein for adult healthy weight rats
HT 2018--very high protein for growing rats up to 7 months of age.
HT 8604--special formula for nursing mothers and baby rats up to 4 months of age.

Native Earth--This is Harlan Tekklad 2018 under a different name, and commercially available to the public. Petsmart/Petco carries this in some towns. You can also buy it in a 40 lb bags on Amazon. You can freeze whatever you won't use in 3 months, it won't lose nutritional value even buying bulk.
Three other brands you can get, but I know little about are:

Lab Diet


What I feed my rats?

It all comes from this site:
Daily diet. One serving is the size of one lab block be it fruit or veggie:

Daily Menu Suggestions

Daily Staple

  • Quality lab block 3-6 blocks per rat per day.

Daily Vegetable

(choose 3 for each day, 3-6 servings each) This doesn't mean you have to buy everything on the list. My rats have never had a bok choy in their life. Just select a variety of what works for you.


Bok Choy
Sweet potatoes (cooked!! raw can be toxic)
Corn (only feed once a week)

Daily Fruit
(choose 1 for each day)

Grape or raisin
Plum or prunes

Daily Protein or Legumes
(choose 1 for each day) If you are feeding them a higher protein lab block, feed less of this
Beans (cooked)
Liver (cooked, unseasoned)
Lean meats (cooked)
soy/almond/rice milk
tofu (cooked)
soy yogurt
TVP (textured vegatable protien)


Things to Feed in Moderation-

plain popped popcorn
Vitakraft yogurt drops
chicken or beef bones (cooked or boiled)
Kaytee chew biscuits
fruit Nutra*Puffs
veggie Nutra*Puffs
dried cornNylabones for chewing
Foods high in nitrates:
beets, celery, eggplant, lettuce, cucumber,
radishes, spinach, collards and turnip greens
soy products

Things To Never Feed-

carbonated/fizzy drinks
foods (in excess) that cause gas
Orange Peels/Orange Juice (for males) - Pieces of the orange "fruit" are okay after washing
raw dry beans/Peanuts (contain anti-nutrients that destroy Vit. A & digestion enzymes, causes red blood cell clumping
raw sweet potato
green bananas (inhibits digestion of starch)
green potato skin and eyes (contains a toxin)
wild insects
raw bulk tofu
moldy cheese
licorice (suspicions of neurological poisoning)
raw red cabbage (contains anti-nutrients that destroys thiamin)
raw artichokes (inhibits digestion of protein)
raw oysters/clams
See less See more
I agree with what you are saying about the fiscal responsibility. I guess I should rephrase saying that I don't did it evonomical nor do I wish to peruse online to find the grains when I have no idea what I am looking for. If I could buy them at the grocery store I would but they are not available :(.

So you Are saying the lab blocks plus a daily serving of fruits and vegetables woul be fine? When would I give the fruits and veggies? At night during playtime?

Also you mentioned a cage. I got a cage it's called Luxury Rat Pet Home by all living things. It's dimensions are 28.5 L x 17.5 W x 31.5 H
In inches. Is this large enough for two male rats. I would prefer males because I feel that they would be a good starter.

Also what kind of toys do they like best? And how do I prevent injury from falling from the top story?
Oop, you posted while I was posting. :)

Your cage looks like a good minimum size at first glance. My only concern is I can't tell how wide your bar spacing is. 1 inch spacing will work for full grown male rats only. 1/2 inch spacing will be needed for juvenile rats and female rats. You can also check the dimensions here if you haven't already:

Toys: Check out the dapper rat for cheap good toys:

Preventing falls: You can string hammocks and ropes all through the cage to block off the longest drop areas. That's what I do. But generally they're excellent at climbing.
Thank you to all this is very helpful!

I checked and my bar spacing is exactly half an inch.

Go to and look up luxury rat pet home (They won't let me post a link yet :( )

this is the cage but I am not using the exercise wheel because it is wire and I don't want injuries. Should I cover each level with fleece? I read that some rats like laying on the plastic but I feel like an option to curl up would be nice as well. Also, will the boys nest together or should I get multiple nesting boxes? SHould I put shredded paper towels in the nesting area because the rest will be fleece?

And I understand about the money mix up. Money isn't exactly an issue because i am setting away money each month for rat expenses and possible emergencies I just didn't want to waste my money trying out different foods that my rats won't like.

Also I am currently searching for a vet, any body have tips?

I just want everything to be perfect before I get my ratties

thanks again everyone
See less See more
Story seeker you put sprouts on your list, any but alfalfa are okay right? Your list is exactly what I needed
Yes, your cage looks like a good start. Probably the only draw back will be the ramps and levels. Of this style cage, people have complained that the levels and ramps get nasty and get chewed on. They may like laying on it, but it gets foul.

Rats will pee everywhere, and you'll get puddles on flat, smooth surfaces. Add to that the occasional poop bomb that gets turned to mush in the pee puddle and smooshed into the surface by ratty feet where it dries to a super glue makes clean up a pain.

So yeah, I would do is wrap the ramps with felt/flannel/fleece cloth, pinning it in place with the assorted sized bulldog clips like this:

I use these clips a lot. If your levels are 1 inch or less in thickness on the edges you can use the large bulldog clips to pin the felt down there too.

The fleece will help discourage chewing on the plastic, and absorb the pee so their little toes stay dry and the poop doesn't become a cement pancake.

According to the cage calculator you can house up to 4 rats with good use of space. Proper spacing depends on more than just pure space. Individual rat size and their temperaments play a role too. What that means to me, is that I wouldn't happily house more than two. Three if they're not that big and get along great, and four if I have no other choice, they get along great, and most of their time is spent out of their cage.

If you did want to use a wheel, these two are my favorite kinds, and are safe for rats:

Wodent Wheel:

Comfort Wheel: wheel 12.jpg

Silent Spinner Wheel:

The boys will probably spend a great deal of time in their hammocks. Mine use their huts for hording and nest building and hiding from monsters, but they prefer sleeping in the soft cozy hammocks. They also may occasonally get sick of each other. They love lots of hidey holes. I get a lot of ideas running around in Home Depot, that are going to be much cheaper than fancy made homes and boxes from the pet store. You can use 4 inch PVC pipe from the hardware store for example, or even just small boxes with an entrance tunnel cut into the side. A bit of caution for you though, if you make your own dens, make sure you have a few air holes added as well. I remember a story about an owner who used a lovely hand made jug as a den for her rat. The only opening as the large spout hole. It worked fine until one day her rat pulled a blanket into the jug and blocked off the spout hole with the blanket. The rat went to sleep and suffocated when her air ran out.

Poke around for rat cage ideas. The dapper rat has a bunch of suggestions. I've seen people use large plastic popcorn or ice cream buckets zip tied to the sides of the cage. They make a hole in the lid, add some shredded fleece bedding, and snap the lid on...again, don't forget the air holes all through.

I love getting bird cage accessories on sale. I've gotten wire shelves, ladders, chew toys, etc.

The shredded paper towel is a good idea. Another that I love is stringing up a roll of toilet tissue. They go nuts with the 'endless' supply of bedding and will cram every inch of it into their current favorite stash away.

Here's some pics of my cages to give you ideas:

(Below, note the wheel, and the random box added for a hidey place)

Older Cages:

Lessee...what's next...

Vets! That's going to be a fun one. Not every vet knows about rats. You will want one who is an exotics vet with specific experience with rats. 'Exotics' will mean a higher price tag, but that is one of the reasons rats are so expensive to own.

What I did was collect all the vets names within driving distance and asked them if they were experienced with working with pet rats. If they said no, I asked who they would highly recommend that was. I made sure I called all of them to get a better picture. I live in a medium sized city, so out of about 30 vets, I found 4 who were experienced rat doctors. Then I price checked. Ask for the cost of an office visit, and ask for the cost of a rat neuter. If they are reluctant to give you a cost, say you are just looking for a range to get a feel for what to expect and to give you a low end and a high end for each. Ask them how many rats they treat.

Some rat vets will be very cheap, some will price gouge you because they are 'exotics' and they can get away with it. The vet I go to regularly charged me $50 for a neuter and $30 for an office visit. He has done hundreds of rat surgeries, and he cuts me breaks because his favorite pet is a rat and it kills him that so few people care for them properly. He's been recommended by a couple of other vets and two rat owners I have become acquainted with. Another vet, who came highly recommended by the vet community, quoted me close to $400 for a neuter. His office visits are $65. He may be highly recommended, but I cannot afford him.

So, definitely shop around. If you can connect with other local rat owners find out who they use and why.

Expect a range of $50-150 for a neuter, and @30-60 for an office visit.


I've always heard alfalfa was indigestible by rats so I never bothered buying it. But, since you asked, I thought I'd double check and see if there is any real truth to it.

This is what Onesta Organics says about it, which basically seems to say that the celulose is indigestible, but there are other elements in it that are useable.:

My opinion based on reading that? I could feed it occasionally to them, but not make it a primary veggie source. :) Variety is the key.
See less See more
Thank you so much! I got recommended to a great vet today and set up an appointment

Your cages are awesome I to build mine up to that one day

I ended up with two rats earlier because someone else needed to rehouse theirs and I include clover sprouts in their veggies and they LOVE them, more than the nuts.

I am very excited
1 - 10 of 10 Posts
This is an older thread, you may not receive a response, and could be reviving an old thread. Please consider creating a new thread.