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Can Rats Eat Chocolate? What You Need to Know!

Kristin Hitchcock

Many pets are allergic to chocolate – including dogs, cats, and birds. However, rats do not fall into this category.

Chocolate is toxic to other pets because it contains theobromine and caffeine. However, rats have higher tolerances to these substances. Therefore, chocolate is not directly toxic to these animals.

However, that doesn’t mean that rats can eat as much chocolate as they want. It is very sugary and fattening.

Like all animals, obese rats are prone to a variety of health problems. Rats that are incredibly overweight likely won’t live to their entire lifespan. Plus, obese rats often can’t fully enjoy life, given that their physical constraints stop them from running around and playing like they are meant to.

To keep your rat healthy, you should avoid chocolate. If he accidentally nibbles on a piece, though, there is no reason to rush to the vet.

There is little reason to give your rat any chocolate. There are few nutrients in it that rats can’t get from healthier foods.

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Is Dark Chocolate Okay for Rats?

There are several types of chocolate out there. When it comes to pets, dark chocolate is usually the most dangerous – as it contains the most caffeine and theobromine. Milk chocolate is dark chocolate that has been “watered down” with milk and sugar, and therefore, it contains fewer of these other ingredients.

However, when it comes to rats, this logic doesn’t hold. They aren’t allergic to theobromine or caffeine. Dark chocolate is actually the best chocolate for them, as it typically contains less added sugar and fat than other types of chocolate. Sugar and fat are the main reasons you don’t want to feed your rat chocolate. Therefore, dark chocolate would be better than sugary chocolate, like white chocolate or milk chocolate.

There are a few components of dark chocolate that make it a healthier choice. It contains flavonoids, which may help prevent damage from oxidative stress.

Of course, none of these benefits outweigh the downsides of giving your rat chocolate – obesity and malnutrition. Chocolate should not make up a regular part of your rat’s diet. However, if you do decide to offer it as a treat, choose dark chocolate.

two fancy rats
Image Credit: Colin Seddon, Shutterstock

Chocolate and Theophylline

Chocolate contains a small amount of theophylline. There is a minimal amount in each gram, so this chemical typically isn’t something you have to be worried about.

However, this is the exact derivative that is used in standard medication for rats. Theophylline is usually prescribed to rats with breathing issues, as it may help with respiration. Rats with respiratory problems are often given this medication.

The amounts used for therapeutic purposes are typically relatively high. To get this same amount from chocolate, your rat would have to eat a lot.

The effects of theophylline on a rat without respiratory problems likely wouldn’t be severe. You don’t want them overdosing on it, of course. But that would be nearly impossible to do off of chocolate alone.

They’d have to eat more than they are physically capable of eating.

Therefore, the warnings about theophylline are not remarkably accurate. While it technically can cause issues, it would take a lot of chocolate for anything negative to happen.

Chocolates
Image Credit: Security, Pixabay

How Much Chocolate Cat Rats Eat?

Preferably none. Rats shouldn’t be provided with such a sugary snack. If they eat them regularly, they will quickly gain too much weight. As you might imagine, obesity can be a severe problem for rats.

Obesity in rats leads to all sorts of medical issues – such as heart conditions and joint issues. Many of these illnesses are similar to what obesity causes in people and other animals.

Technically, rats can eat quite a bit of chocolate in one sitting and be fine.

However, issues lie with long-term consumption. Eating chocolate one or two times won’t hurt your rat – even if they eat quite a bit during that time. You don’t want it to be part of their regular diet, though.

If you decide to give your rat chocolate for one reason or another, we recommend only a pea-sized amount at a time. It isn’t that more will cause toxicity or similar health problems. You don’t want the chocolate edging out other vital nutrients.

Chocolate isn’t part of a well-balanced diet. Therefore, we recommend avoiding it where possible.

two rats_LankaP, Shutterstock
Image Credit: LankaP, Shutterstock

How Often Can Rats Have Chocolate?

Long-term consumption of chocolate can be a problem for rats. While these rats typically don’t have a problem with short-term consumption, the long-term effects of eating such a sugary treat can be a problem.

Lots of sugar can lead to obesity – and all the health problems that come with that. Obesity causes a variety of problems in rats, similar to other species.

Even being a little overweight can negatively affect your rat’s overall lifespan. A healthy rat is not overweight.

Plus, the calories from chocolate are mainly empty. In other words, they don’t have nutrients behind them to back them up. The empty calories could edge out other vital nutrients.

Once or twice likely won’t hurt your rat. However, if they’re eating chocolate regularly, they could end up with malnutrition, as they wouldn’t be getting the nutrients they need.

Therefore, we don’t recommend giving your rat chocolate often in the least. If you decide to give it to your rat, try to stick to it once or twice per year. This isn’t a weekly treat – it just isn’t healthy enough.

rats in cage_sipa_Pixabay
Image Credit: sipa, Pixabay

Can Rats Have M&Ms?

M&Ms are milk chocolate – for the most part. They also include other ingredients, but the chocolate is what we’re primarily concerned about here.

Milk chocolate has extra sugar in it compared to dark chocolate. Therefore, it tends to be less healthy for rats. It doesn’t include as much of the good things (like flavonoids) but more of the bad things (like sugar).

If you’re considering giving your rat chocolate, we wouldn’t recommend giving them M&Ms.

Rats that accidentally sneak an M&M or two will likely be fine. There is nothing toxic in M&Ms that will cause immediate and life-threatening problems in rats.

However, excess sugar can cause obesity over time. It only takes a few extra calories for rats to become overweight, and chocolate provides plenty of them.

Therefore, while rats can technically have M&Ms, we don’t recommend it. Choose a healthier snack for your rat.

finger pointing rats
Image Credit: Alena Sharuk, Shutterstock

Will Dark Chocolate Kill Rats?

Rats aren’t as sensitive to the theobromine and caffeine in chocolate as other pets – like dogs and birds. However, it is technically toxic to them as well – they’d need to eat a massive amount for it to matter.

For reference, caffeine is also technically toxic to humans. If we overeat it, it can cause similar problems. But ordinary people generally don’t eat enough chocolate for the caffeine content to matter.

When was the last time you heard of someone overdosing on chocolate? It just doesn’t happen!

Rats are the same way. Technically, they could be harmed by the caffeine content, but it would take more chocolate than most rats could eat. You’d have to inject the rat with caffeine for it to matter.

With that said, coffee isn’t the best option for rats. Excess sugar and milk can cause your rat to gain weight, leading to obesity. Like most animals, obese rats are likely not going to be very healthy. Their lifespan will be decreased, and they will be at a higher risk of many different health problems.

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Conclusion

Unlike other animals, rats aren’t sensitive to the ingredients in chocolate. It isn’t toxic to them like it is to cats and dogs.

Therefore, if your rat sneaks some chocolate, they will likely be fine. They’d have to eat an impossible amount of chocolate for acute, life-threatening symptoms to crop up. There are no reports of a rat overeating chocolate – though it is theoretically possible.

Rats are likely to get an upset stomach and vomit before they eat enough chocolate to get toxicities of any sort.

However, we still don’t recommend giving chocolate to your rat. It is high in both sugar and milk. These add extra calories that your rat doesn’t need without the nutrients to back it up. In other words, they’re empty calories.

Your rat would be much better off spending their calories on nutritious fruits and veggies instead. Just like people shouldn’t eat tons of chocolate, our rats shouldn’t either.

Rats that eat chocolate for months will likely gain weight and could become obese. Obesity can cause all sorts of problems and will likely shorten your lifespan.

Rats can eat chocolate. It won’t kill them – but that doesn’t mean that they should eat it.


Featured Image Credit: anncapictures, Pixabay

Kristin Hitchcock

Kristin is passionate about helping pet parents create a fulfilling life with their pets by informing them on the latest scientific research and helping them choose the best products for their pets. She currently resides in Tennessee with four dogs, three cats, two fish, and a lizard, though she has dreams of owning chickens one-day!