When you think of rats, it’s hard not to picture Templeton from “Charlotte’s Web” dashing through the fair, eating every piece of garbage he comes across, and exulting in the pleasure of it all. While rats might not break out in song and dance in excitement over food, they do enjoy eating a wide variety of foods.
Their omnivorous nature means they can eat and digest many different foods. Potatoes are on the list of foods that rats can eat safely. Cooked, unseasoned, peeled potatoes are considered safe for pet rats.
Keep reading to learn more about rats and potatoes, as well as some other foods your rat can and cannot eat.
What Parts of the Potato Are Safe for Rats to Eat?
Rats aren’t picky and will happily eat any parts of a potato you feed them. They can eat the flesh and skin safely. The most important thing to keep in mind is how you’ll be preparing the potatoes. For your pet’s safety, rats should not be fed raw potatoes, as these may be infected with an organism known as Fusarium solani. This is a naturally-occurring fungus found in soil all over the world. It has been known to cause respiratory issues in several pets, including rats1, and it causes “dry rot” in crops. Although a “normal” looking potato is likely risk free, it may contain trace amounts of the fungus, so it’s best to avoid feeding it to your pet.
Unripe potatoes, new shoots, and the mature leaves of the plant are also considered toxic for rats, as they contain high levels of a compound known as solanine. This is a natural pesticide that protects the plant and has experimentally been shown to be toxic in rats raising litters of pups2.
The amount of solanine in a ripe potato is considerably less than what’s found in other parts of the plant. In addition, it is further reduced by cooking (which is how potatoes should be prepared for your pet). Cooking potatoes also eliminates the risk of Fusarium solani.
How Should You Prepare Potatoes for Rats?
Rats should only be offered cooked potatoes. These should be unseasoned and can be prepared by either boiling or steaming them. The potatoes can be offered in manageable portions, and they can be mashed. However, the potato mash should not contain added ingredients, such as cream or milk.
Are Potatoes Beneficial for Rats?
Yes, there are health benefits to feeding potatoes to your rats. In experimental studies, rats that were fed a diet based on steamed potatoes for a period of 3 weeks showed significant improvement in antioxidant production, blood lipid profile, and cholesterol levels in their liver. They also had other noticeable effects compared to the control group3.
In benefits of potatoes can be summarized as follows:
What Other Fresh Produce Can You Feed Rats?
The majority of your rat’s diet should come from pellets specifically made for rats. Fruit and vegetables should be given to your rat regularly as well. While potatoes are certainly a healthy choice, your rat needs a varied diet to stay healthy. Giving your pet rat different foods can also act as an enrichment activity, especially when you hide it and allow them to sniff it out. Some favorite vegetable and fruit treats include:
What Foods Should You Not Feed Rats?
There are some foods you should never feed rats. These include:
Do note that this list isn’t exhaustive, and not all the foods are toxic. However, they are not recommended when factoring in your pet’s long-term health.
Some of the foods on this list may seem surprising. After all, rats love cheese! However, adult rats are generally lactose intolerant. Many cheeses also contain naturally occurring molds that are harmful to pet rats.
The good news is that it’s perfectly fine to feed your pet rats cooked, unseasoned potatoes. They will benefit from a variety of fresh fruits and veggies as well. However, it’s important to always check to make sure it’s safe to feed new foods to your rat to ensure your pet’s health. With that in mind, it’s best to consult your exotic veterinarian when it comes to incorporating different foods into your pet’s diet.
- Related Read: Can Cats Eat Sweet Potato?