We purchased some very nice rat products from you last month. We are picking up our new rats...on Sunday. I have some questions about what to feed them. She feeds her rats blocks that she buys directly from the college there. Unfortunately, that will not be convenient for us, and we won't be needing such large amounts. Your website was very informative on feeding rats. I am looking at Nutro Lite dog food at 17% protein. Would this be acceptable with daily supplements of good people food? I have read lots of opinions on rat blocks on the Internet , and I am confused as to what the rats will actually eat. I would appreciate any advice you could give.
Lol, Hi Ann, I bet your head is spinning about all the lab block opinions. :>)
Here's how I feel about the subject.
Lab blocks are a complete nutritional resource for our pet rats. Some block are a better quality than others. Harlan Techlad are considered the highest quality blocks you can buy but are very hard for the average person to acquire, as you are discovering.
Purina makes some, Mazuri brand I believe it's called. I use to get those and didn't have a problem with them except they don't taste good to your pet.
Here's why my opinions differ on this then many others.
I specialize in pet rat behavior. Part of this process requires me to see the world through the viewpoint of the pet rat. I have found that food is a highly motivating force in our pets lives. They can taste all the foods flavors just like we can and love things that taste really good, just like we do.
What the medical and lab people haven't seemed to integrate yet is how to make something that is extremely healthy for our pets, to also be extremely tasty. They have done that for our dogs and cats though. They've realized that dogs like certain flavors and cats like certain flavors and they cater to those "psychological" needs as well as their health.
Because of this I've found pet rats actually like the taste of dog or cat food better than their lab blocks, so from a psychological perspective giving them a substitute food source that not only can meet their nutritional needs but caters to their psychological needs is what I feel is the overall best solution, or the best of both worlds perspective.
There are people on the Internet and forums who will state, "My rats love their lab blocks." And my reply is, sure if that is all they've ever had the opportunity to explore. But if given other opportunities, within a weeks time the lab blocks will be the last thing they will eat. The dog food will even be left in the corner if other people foods are offered that taste better.
I really believe ratties are just happier "mentally" if they get a variety of good tasting, healthy foods in their diets. Their "behavior" has convinced me of this by how they will literally fight over a good tasting nugget of food over the more bland choices. Tug of wars, pushing and shoving, squeaking, running and hiding with the treasured item all happens. Good tasting food makes them happy just like it makes us happy and they will do whatever it takes to get some, lol.
So in answer to your first question, yes, 18% protein is a good choice. I think if you were to buy a bag of Purina lab blocks and compare the values on the back you would find them very similar to other pet foods. What doesn't add up can be supplemented in healthy people foods being added.
Pet rats are supposed to be an "easy keeper" pet, meaning it shouldn't be a problem, or costly, to keep them happy and healthy.
Best Wishes to you!