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    If you want your rat to live a long, healthy life, a nutritious diet is of the utmost importance.  Sadly, most of the foods available in pet stores and sold specifically for rats are not very healthy or appropriate for rats at all!  Cheap and convenient as it might be to pick up a seed mix from the local discount store, taking the extra initiative to seek out the best diet for your rats will be worth it in the long run!  Healthy diets keep rats fit and prevent obesity, lessen the chance of certain cancers, and help to increase your rats lifespan.

    Rats are omnivores with a fast metabolism and taste for variety.  Rats should always have fresh food available to them, which can be accomplished by feeding several small meals a day, or keeping food in a "hopper" that allows the animal to extract food as it is needed, while keeping the remaining food fresh and clean.  Avoid feeding large quantities at once as your rats will likely "stash" the food they can't finish.  It is very common for rat owners to discover these stores of uneaten food when cage cleaning day comes.  This can be unhealthy for your rats because stashed food can become spoiled, stale or molded.  Try and feed your rats just enough that they will finish their food just in time for the next meal, and check "stash spots" before filling up the bowl.  Wash out your rats food dish with a mild soap or dish detergent at least once a week.

    Fresh water is another very important component of your rats health.  Rats must have water available at all times in a properly functioning water bottle.  Once daily, rinse and refill the bottle, weekly, wash out the bottle with mild soap and rinse it very well before refilling it with cold water.  Always be sure the gravity function is working and that rats can easily get water when they need it.  I don't suggest the use of water bowls, as rats routinely tip and spill them, creating a messy and unhealthy environment for the rats.  If your tap water is safe for you to drink, it is likely also safe for your rats.  Otherwise, use bottled spring water for your rats to drink.  Do not use purified, distilled, or R.O. water as a routine water source.

    "Variety is the spice of life."  This idiom may well have been written for rats.  Most rat owners will agree that food is one of a rat's top pleasures in life.  Rats may be able to get all the proper nutrition from eating a high quality lab block, but they will not get the mental stimulation and enjoyment that comes from eating a varied diet.  Rats need to eat a balanced diet from the different food groups just like humans do.  I use organic foods as much as possible, especially when it come to the fruits and vegetables.  A diverse diet seems to help keep my rats both healthy and satisfied, and they never seem to get bored of mealtimes!  Freshness is always very important.  With dry food like lab blocks, be sure to never buy more than will be used within 6 months time, and during that time keep it stored in an airtight container.
    So what do the FHR rats eat, and what do I suggest that you feed your ratties?  Well, we feed Harlan lab blocks as a base diet.  We use the Harlan Teklad 2018 block (also labeled as the Native Earth block.)  We suggest using the Harlan Teklad 2014 block for overweight rats.  The block is about 50% of the daily diet.  The rest is provided through daily feedings of organic vegetables and leafy greens (many grown by us in our organic garden.)  We also supplement their diet with organic fruits, healthy home cooked table food, nuts, seeds and grains.  Older, younger, or pregnant animals are supplemented with extra protein from organic yogurt and free range eggs.  We feed our rats a vegetarian diet.

Healthy and Complete Staple Rat Diets

    Lab blocks are considered to be the easiest way to provide a healthy, safe, and complete diet for your rats.  They can be fed as a complete diet, or preferably as a base diet to be supplemented with fresh foods.  These brands are considered to be the ones that are high quality and appropriate for rats.  Do not be fooled by cheap, low quality blocks sold at most chain stores, they are normally no better than seed mixes.
Harlan Teklad and Native Earth
 Click here for Ingredients and Nutritional Analysis  
Harlan makes many different formulas of rat food, so it is easy to find exactly what you need for your rat.  Harlan Global Teklad comes in many different protein levels for different ages and needs of your rats.   Native Earth is another name for the #2018 Harlan lab block.  The 18% formulas are good for most rats but the lower protein formula is only good for older, full grown rats or overweight rats.    Harlan is rarely readily available in stores but you may be able to have the store owner order what you need for you.  Harlan can be purchased through Mainely Rat Rescue and you not only get the healthiest rat diet but you support the rescue effort!!  http://www.mainelyratrescue.org/store2/  Native Earth blocks can be ordered from petfooddirect.com and Amazon.  Smaller sizes of Harlan are available through theratshop.com and thecraftyrat.com.  Also, try contacting your local rat rescue about purchasing your rat food.  Many carry Harlan and when you buy it from them you also support their rescue!
 Due to changes in the ingredients of some other brands, Harlan is the only brand we are using right now.  I know there are other healthy options when it comes to diet, so do thorough research and choose what you feel is the most healthy option.

Links to Valuable Information On Rat Diets

http://www.pxrats.com/ratfood.html <---  Excellent, updated acrticle
by Pheonix Gate Rattery

http://www.ratfanclub.org/diet.html  <--- "Rat Health Food" by Debbie the RatLady

http://www.ratsrule.com/diet.html  <---  The Suebees Rat Diet

Foods that are Dangerous for Rats

    Rats have dietary needs and desires that are quite similar to humans.  As a general rule, if foods are healthy and safe for you to eat, then they are also good for your rats.  There are, however, a few foods which should always be avoided in the rat diet.  

raw, bulk tofu
Bulk tofu can contain dangerous bacteria.  Packaged tofu from the grocery store is fine for rats and a healthy source of protein.
dry, raw beans or peanuts
These contain antinutrients that cause red blood cell clumping.  Cooked beans and roasted peanuts are both safe and enjoyed by rats, and contain healthy protein and fiber.
raw onion
Can cause anemia and upset stomach.  A small amount of cooked onion is fine.
Suspected of containing a neurotoxin.
green bananas
Inhibit starch digestion; ripe bananas are fine to feed to your rats.
raw sweet potato
Contains cyanide forming compounds.  Cooked sweet potatoes are enjoyed by rats and contain vitamins, minerals, and fiber.
blue cheese
Can contain toxic mold.
green potato skin or eyes
Contains a toxin.  Cooked potatoes are safe.
wild insects 
Could carry disease or parasites.
orange juice
Forbidden for male rats only, it contains an ingredient that could cause kidney cancer.
raw red cabbage or brussel sprouts
Contains an antinutrient that destroys thiamin.
raw artichokes
Inhibit protein digestion.
carbonated beverages
Can cause digestive upsets.  Rats cannot burp.
dried corn
Can contain fungal contaminates that cause liver cancer in rats.  Small amounts of fresh, frozen, canned and cooked corn are all safe and healthy.