Can rats eat hay, and what about alfalfa? And if they can, should they? Many animals such as guinea pigs, rabbits, and gerbils eat it as a large part of their diet, but what about rats? Is this food safe for them to eat or can it cause problems?
Those are all great questions and without a doubt, these are things that you need an answer to if you’re considering feeding your furry friends these things. After all, having a healthy and happy rat all starts with giving them the proper food!
In today’s article, I’m going to go over everything you need to know about feeding hay to your pet rat. I will discuss whether they can eat it, whether they should eat it, and if they shouldn’t, what they should eat instead. Let’s begin!
The short answer to the question at hand is this: Opinions about giving hay to your rat are mixed: some say it’s safe, others say it’s deadly. Since rats can eat so many different kinds of food I suggest avoiding it just to be on the safe side. Also, it’s not a very good source of nutrition for them anyway, so they don’t miss out on anything if you do not give it to them. Instead, rats should eat a diet that consists of pellets, fruits, and vegetables in order to thrive.
Is hay bad for rats?
There are mixed opinions regarding hay among rat owners. Some people say it is deadly for your rat, while other people say it’s fine. The reason why people say it’s bad for them is that they do not have the enzymes in their digestive tract to successfully break down the tough fibers in the hay. As a result, this can cause blockage in the digestive tract leaving them unable to pass stool. According to the people who claim that it’s is bad for rats, this can result in death.
However, on the other end of the spectrum, there are people who claim that hay is not all that dangerous as some people perceive it to be. Those people claim that it is not dangerous and that it is simply a source of fiber and that while rats can’t digest it, it simply adds bulk to their stool the same way fiber does in humans.
Unfortunately, there are no studies available on this topic, so a definitive answer can not be given. Most people, including me, prefer to be safe rather than sorry, and therefore do not feed it to their rat. Rats can eat so many different kinds of food that giving them something that’s not confirmed to be safe is often not worth the risk. On top of that, hay does not contain much in terms of nutrients, so they’re not missing out on anything by not eating it.
Do wild rats eat hay?
In the wild, rats do not eat hay. However, while they do not eat it in the wild, they do use it as bedding and to make nests. Rats are smart enough to know that it does not contain many nutrients, so if they encounter it they will not consume it.
Nevertheless, there are treats that are made for small animals that contain Timothy Hay. Your rat might be smart, but not smart enough to deduce that these treats contain hay in them. Therefore, they will eat those treats if you offer them. If you want to avoid giving hay to your rat, you should always read the ingredients list on any treat you give them to ensure that it does not contain hay.
What about alfalfa?
Alfalfa is a kind of hay. The same thinking applies to alfalfa as what applies to other kinds of hay: Some people say it’s dangerous, while others say it’s fine. Unfortunately, there are also no studies available on the topic of rats eating alfalfa.
However, since rats can eat so many kinds of food, I recommend not feeding them alfalfa. It’s not very nutritious and it’s not 100% confirmed to be safe so you’re better off feeding them other kinds of food.
What should rats eat instead?
Now that you know that hay is not a great choice, you might wonder what they should eat instead. Well, rats are omnivores and they can eat a large variety of different foods. In the wild, they eat pretty much anything they can get their tiny little paws on. However, in captivity, we can be a little more selective with what we feed our pets to ensure they get optimal nutrition.
The ideal diets for rats consist of 80% pellets and 20% fruits and vegetables. Also, you can give your rat an occasional piece of meat or egg as a treat.
Some fruits and veggies they can eat include:
- Bell Peppers
- Bok Choy
- Green peas
For a complete list of all the foods that you can safely feed your rat, I highly suggest you check out my rat nutrition guide. In this guide, I go over all the foods that are safe for your rat to eat. In addition, I cover all the foods that you should avoid and the ones that are poisonous to your rat.