When we first got rats I did not know anything about their species nutritional requirements at all. So, when it came to feeding them, we simply decided to share what we had had been eating for almost 10 years – a raw plant based diet. For the rats, this mean feeding them a good variety of seasonal food that included fruit, leafy and wild greens, vegetables, some soaked / sprouted grains, legumes and a dry mix of wholegrains, seeds, berries and nuts.
The rats seemed to really enjoy the food I was feeding them and they all seemed very healthy and great into lovely normal sized rats. They rarely needed to visit a vet.
As I began to learn more about rat nutrition, I started to add in a few things like live mealworms and some fish. They never really seemed very good after eating these foods and every time they ate live worms or insects, their behavior would involve some carpet singing or biting! They also became much more 'wild'. This led me to conclude that since they were domesticated rats living in a domestic situation as pet rats, live meat or even dried meat was not really necessary, providing their nutritional requirements were being met. When we did not feed meat, they were always much more peaceful, affectionate and contented little ratties. And so, their diet became mainly raw vegan. Neither my partner nor myself had taken dairy for a long time for health reasons and so that was also excluded from their diet.
Today, all our rats enjoy a variety of food in season as we feel that this allows for a good variation of nutrients throughout the year eg root vegetables and pumpkin in the winter and more fruit and greens in the summer months. Of course, there are always individual needs to consider too. Each rat is unique as I'm sure you already know!
Of course, I'm always learning and I guess that will never stop (thankfully!). As rat carers, we're all constantly wanting the best for our rats and providing them a healthy diet is at the top of our lists. Diet is also never a static thing. It's constantly evolving as our rats needs change from day to day, season to season and during cycles of growth, reproduction, through pregnancy and aging.
I'm not advocating that you never feed meat or fish to your rats if that is what you want to do. I'm simply saying that their nutritional needs can be met on a vegan diet if good care is taken and I hope to be able to help rat carers on that path if they so choose it.
Then, there are the health and ethical considerations that may support the tendency towards feeding vegan style. There are also been dietary studies (involving rats / mice) that indicate a calorie-restricted diet can help improve health and increase longevity.
Calorie restriction naturally occurs when on a raw vegan diet without effort. This can help to avoid obesity that is often associated with mammary lumps in females.
I'm sure our rats could be living much longer with less disease and limbs etc. I do not have enough data as of yet within my own groups, but I do know a woman in Australia who has rats living to be around 4 years or more who are fed a high-raw vegan diet. She has rats with fewer tumors and health problems and they all seem healthy and well developed. Of course, there can be genetic factors involved too. It would be good to have more people feeding their rats a vegan diet so that we can collect the data in years to come. If you are interested in collecting data on feeding a vegan diet to your rats, please contact me.
There is also so much to consider these days when it comes to how to feed ourselves and our pets the agricultural industry has been connected to the advance in global warming and water shortages. And then there are our polluted seas where our fish come from. Part of why I choose to be vegan myself is due to environmental considerations.
Just take a look at these statistics: –
* It takes about 300 gallons of water per day to produce food for a vegan, and more than 4,000 gallons of water per day to produce food for a meat-eater.
* You save more water by not eating a pound of beef than you do by not showering for an entire year.
* Food for a vegan can be produced on only 1/6 of an acre of land, while it takes 3 1/4 acres of land to produce food for a meat-eater.
* Vegans and vegetarians save more than 100 animals a year per person.
-Statistics borrowed from http://www.goveg.com .
Another reason why people choose to be vegan or to feed a vegan diet to their pets is down to how people feel about the life and treatment of animals reared for food.
My personal diet choices reflect my feeling for the right to life for other animals.
I do not want to consume products / food that has involved the hazardous suffering of another animal to feed either my pets or myself.
The reasoning behind me feeding my rats a vegan diet is this. If I can provide a nutritionally complete vegan diet for my rats that promotes health, longevity and well being, and causes no harm to animals in the process, then why would I choose otherwise?