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Can Rats Eat Popcorn? What You Need to Know

Nicole Cosgrove

If you have a pet rat, you might know that as omnivores, rats eat a variety of foods. There are lots of options when it comes to snack foods, but it can be hard to know which foods are good for your pet. When it comes to popcorn, we have good news: rats can eat plain popcorn (no butter, salt, sugar, seasonings). In this article, we will discuss this topic more in-depth, including what type of popcorn rats can have, what other foods rats eat, and what vitamins and minerals rats need in order to stay healthy.

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What Kind of Popcorn Can Rats Eat?

As long as the popcorn you offer your rat is plain, unsalted, and unbuttered popcorn, it should be perfectly healthy for your rat to eat. That means movie theater popcorn, kettle corn, or any other flavored popcorn is a no-go for your rat. Salt is not good for rats and can actually make them sick if they eat too much of it. You should also watch out to make sure that your rat’s popcorn pieces are not too large for it to easily eat.

Keep in mind that popcorn should not replace your rat’s primary diet and should be used as a snack only. While tasty for rats, popcorn does not offer very much in the way of nutrition. It’s best to mix up the types of snacks you give your rat for the greatest nutritional benefit. Keep reading to learn more about what rats eat other than popcorn!

pet rat eating mango
Image Credit: jarleeknes, Pixabay

What Do Rats Eat?

Non-urban rats in the wild eat mainly seeds, fruits, and plants. However, as you may know, the diet of urban rats looks very different and is based on whatever they can find. Urban rats tend to search human garbage to find food and will eat all kinds of things, from junk food to meat. Perhaps that’s why urban rats can be so much larger than other common rats; while common rats usually weigh between a third of a pound to a pound, urban rats can weigh up to 2 pounds!

Pet rats should eat food that is specifically formulated for rodents to ensure that they are getting the nutrients they need to stay healthy. Formulated rat food usually comes in pellet or block form. Make sure the food you select is for rats, not hamsters or gerbils. Diets made for other small rodents are not usually suitable for rats as each animal has different nutritional requirements.

If you prefer, you can search for rat food recipes online and feed your pet rat homemade rat food, but you should be prepared to give your rat plenty of supplements to make sure it is getting what it needs. In addition to a nutritionally rich main diet, offer your rat a variety of nutritious snacks such as vegetables, fruits, or grains. Since rat teeth grow continuously, they need something to gnaw on to help control the growth. Offering hard treats such as dog biscuits every once in a while can help keep their teeth under control.

Mouse eating mixed nuts
Image Credit: Nature_Blossom, Pixabay

What Vitamins and Minerals Do Rats Need?

Like humans, rats need specific vitamins and minerals in order for their bodies to properly function. In general, their nutritional needs are similar to those of humans, with notable exceptions. Below, we have outlined some of the most important vitamins that rats need in order to stay healthy, as well as some treats that can help your pet get more of these vitamins in their diet.

Calcium

Rats need plenty of calcium to support healthy bones and growth. Rats with calcium deficiency are at risk for developing osteoporosis, leg paralysis, internal bleeding, and may even have stunted growth. Some of the best calcium-rich foods to give your rats include plain yogurt, beans, and some seeds such as chia seeds. Despite what popular culture has led you to believe, cheese isn’t necessarily a great snack for rats. While okay as an occasional treat, cheese is high in fat and shouldn’t play a large part in your rat’s diet. If you do decide to feed cheese to your rat, stick to hard cheeses, as soft cheese can be too chewy for rats.

rat eating cheese
Image Credit: Maliutina Anna, Shutterstock

Manganese

Manganese is involved in bone development in rats. A manganese deficiency can result in skeletal problems, stunted growth, and birth defects. Healthy snacks that have manganese include brown rice, chickpeas, whole wheat bread, spinach, and pineapple.

Vitamin K

Vitamin K has a large role in blood clotting, and a vitamin K deficiency in rats can result in blood loss from minor injuries and even spontaneous internal bleeding. To help your rat get more vitamin K, feed it plenty of leafy greens such as swiss chard, kale, and mustard greens. Broccoli, brussels sprouts, chicken, and green beans are also sources of vitamin K.

Rat eating cabbage
_Image Credit: Iuliia Ryba, Shutterstock

Vitamin B12

Vitamin B12 plays an important role in the production of red blood cells in your rat. Dairy products, meat, fish, eggs, and fortified cereals are good sources of vitamin B12.

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Conclusion

At the end of the day, rats can eat popcorn, but there are other, more nutritious treats you can offer your pet. If you do feed popcorn to your rat, make sure it does not have any additives that can be harmful or cause unnecessary weight gain like salt and butter.


Featured Image Credit: Piqsels

Nicole Cosgrove

Nicole is the proud mom of Baby, a Burmese cat and Rosa, a New Zealand Huntaway. A Canadian expat, Nicole now lives on a lush forest property with her Kiwi husband in New Zealand. She has a strong love for all animals of all shapes and sizes (and particularly loves a good interspecies friendship) and wants to share her animal knowledge and other experts' knowledge with pet lovers across the globe.