• The Rat Retreat’s mission is to champion the rights of rats across the world through education, outreach, adoption, health research, and hospice. We seek to eliminate abuse and improper breeding; to assist with educated adoptions; to reduce disease leading to early death; to educate consumers and pet stores about proper handling and maintenance; and, to provide companionship and on-going care for abandoned and sick rats.

The Appetizing Dinner Fit for a Rat


Jordan Walker loves furry animals like pet rats. He devotes most of his time writing about animals in general at Coops And Cages and in pet blogs like this one. In here, he will be discussing about rat blocks in comparison to human food diet.

Rats are the bomb! Who says that Lassie is the only one who successfully made it to the big screen? If animals could be made into spies, rats would be more fitting for the role. Equipped with a sense of smell that can pinpoint the exact location of the best goodies in the house coupled with the stealth abilities of reconnaissance aircrafts, these are considered James Bond character materials. Babe the pig may have impressed viewers with its herding abilities but the Ratatouille showed how rats have a sense of taste when it comes to food and a voracious appetite at that. In here, the main rat character, Remy, was drawn into cooking food worthy of a prestigious restaurant. In comparison to the book Who Moved My Cheese written by Spencer Johnson, the main characters that included two rats only fed on cheese. In real life, there is also what is called rat blocks for pet rodents. Which of these are considered the best food for rats?

What Are Rat Blocks?









Rat blocks are just like cat or dog kibbles, only that these are pre-mixed according to rats’ nutritional needs. These are also called lab blocks because this is the common food staple of rats kept in laboratories. Why blocks? As its name implies, these usually take the shape of uniform small blocks. Consider rat blocks as feeds for chickens and birds. Unlike cats and dogs though, rats are only popular in laboratory research. That may be the reason why there is not much news circulating about rat blocks. However, manufacturing processes used in commercial rat pet food is similar to other types of dry pet foods, which are not considered generally safe.

How Dry Pet Foods are Made

Dry pet foods such as lab blocks are made through high heat baking. Although baking is thought to be a better option than frying, this may not be true when the food being cooked contains starch. This may be found in carbohydrate foods such as corn, an ingredient commonly used in most commercial pet foods. Baking starch in very high heat over boiling point creates a reaction that produces acrylamides, the same carcinogen that also present in cigarette smoke. Carcinogens such as acrylamides are one of the reasons why processed foods are not popular with medical health experts. Aside from the cooking process itself, there is also the question regarding the safety of the raw ingredients being used. For example, grains may have been exposed to harmful contaminants such as fungus, bacteria, and pesticides depending on how these were harvested or stored.

Taste at Par with Experts








For those who are wondering how foods are graded according to a rat’s view, they may be tasting these just like humans do. Now this might explain why unwelcome rats love to sneak into the goody basket every time homeowners are not around. Through evolution, these have come to survive feeding on a wide variety of food diets. Considered as omnivores, rats could eat the things that humans are willing to eat. In short, they too have been endowed with expensive taste and this is what makes rat blocks a poor choice for pet rats. Although claimed to be loaded with essential nutrients, their taste leaves nothing left to be desired even for the very tiny rat. There are some that do come in loose mixes. These are rat blocks that contain several colored or have different shapes, each of which is made up of a particular ingredient. Yes, these have the added benefit of a balanced meal. But rats would only usually end up eating their preferred ingredient, leaving the least favorite untouched.

Human Food Alternatives

Many rat pet owners are now coming up with their own rat pet food recipes. Why? Pets munch on these without any form of resistance. Just like if people were given a choice between being able to eat in a high class restaurant or just eat popcorn for dinner, expect that most would choose the former. This is what human foods offer that rat blocks can’t. Human foods are an assortment of everything that satisfies sweet, sour, bitter, meaty and spicy cravings.

What types of foods can be added to a rat’s diet? Excess food are often given to pets such as rats. The rule of thumb is, what’s considered unhealthy for humans is also considered unhealthy for pets. For rats, it is okay to give them some table scraps provided that these can be classified as healthy options. For example, meat should be lean, fruits should not be spoiled, and pits are removed from fruits. Aside from this, one may also need to consider some of the foods that are specifically not recommended for rat consumption. Such foods would include the likes of cabbage, green potatoes, carbonated drinks and chocolates.

Rat Blocks vs. Human Food

From a rat’s standpoint, human food will always be the better option. From an expert’s point of view, lab blocks may be the only way that pet rats will get their needed dose of daily nutrients. But judging how processed foods are frowned upon for human consumption, then this may not be doing pet rats anything good. As mentioned earlier, rat pet food are just like cat and dog kibbles. So far, these have been very popular until recent product recalls were imposed due to food contamination. Aside from these, there are claims that their nutritional values will never compare to natural foods such as those consumed by people.

Final Thoughts

In the wild, rats are just ordinary rodents trying to survive in the world. They eat human scraps found in garbage bins, sometimes even living a not-so-decent life, stealing food from someone else. For the lucky few that are being raised by human companions, rate care would include pet owners taking into consideration what will be included in their diet. The picky eaters will most probably get a red strawberry while the can-eat-anything rats might be served with rat blocks.

Author: Jordan Walker


Jordan is the lead content curator for Coops And Cages as well as a couple of other pet related blogs. His passion for animals is only matched by his love for ‘attempting’ to play the guitar. If you would like to catch him, you can via Google+ or Twitter: @CoopsAndCages





Darcy – The “Bad” Rat

Darcy was a good “bad” rat. She was one of my first rats. My husband brought her home with her sister Fiona in what looked like a little Chinese takeout box. He got them from the pet store (before we knew anything about rats). Darcy was the only solid black rat so he chose her, and Fiona was one of many hoodies, but he thought she was especially cute.

We set up their cage, and they hid in their little log cabin for about the first week. We began trying to socialize them by taking them out of the cage several times a day, setting up a little area on the carpet barricaded with cardboard boxes, and letting them run around on the floor. They would come sniff us occasionally but mostly didn’t want to be held, touched or petted.

Darcy loved to sleep in the top corner of her cage.


Darcy loved to bite – she pretty much lived to bite – and she bit everything. She bit the cage, she bit our fingers and toes, she bit our ears, she bit my husbands eyelid pretty bad this one time, she chewed the carpet, the baseboard, one of our newer rats Rita (down the road), and also her log cabin. We found out quickly to not stick our hands into the cage or through the cage bars.

Don’t do this!


We eventually decided that we didn’t want Darcy and Fiona to be confined to a cage. We let them free range in our front room. We rat-proofed the room the best we could. They still had cage access with their litter box inside (and they used it religiously). One day we couldn’t find Darcy anywhere. We called her, we shook their treat container, we looked everywhere as well. We finally found her in the top drawer of an island. She had jumped back and forth between the stools then crawled around into the drawer. Darcy was fast asleep. This “island” or hutch quickly became the rats’ hutch.

Darcy snout in her hutch.

Darcy taught Fiona how to climb up the stools to get into the drawer.


After several moves and several dedicated “rat rooms”, we had to learn how to really rat proof. Darcy was the master at finding any weakness in our rat proofing and she loved to chew so we had to be vigilant in repairs and modifying our rat proofing ideas. Fiona didn’t ever try to do anything bad, but Darcy’s mission in life was to find something to chew on that she wasn’t supposed to.

Darcy – looking like she is up to no good. Feigned innocence perfected with her hand sweetly placed on the drawer.


We adopted a third rat, Rita, and tried to introduce Rita to Darcy and Fiona. Darcy was a bully. She was an aggressive rat, the leader of the pack, and Rita was very used to being independent and in charge of herself. Introductions took 6 months and the farthest we got was having Rita in the rat room with Darcy and Fiona for a couple of hours at a time while supervised. We wanted Rita to have daily interaction with other rats (and we hoped for full integration), but that didn’t happen. Rita didn’t really care for other rats as she had been a lone rat at a veterinary assistant college for their training. Rita was content to see Darcy and Fiona once a day, spend the rest of her time with us, and then retreat to her large custom built cage.

Rita, Darcy and Fiona – their one photo together where they are “getting along”.


We thought the rats were going to be a nice inexpensive college pet. Boy were we wrong! In the beginning, soon after we had brought Darcy and Fiona home from the pet store, we heard them squeaking. We initially thought, how cute! They are squeaking! But no, they were sneezing. Rats don’t just squeak for fun. We had to google that one. They weren’t just sneezing, they were sneezing more than they were breathing. We looked up a vet and made an appointment – this was just 3 days after we brought them home. The vet said that they had bad pneumonia. Fiona was worse off than Darcy and Fiona was losing weight rapidly. She got down to 65 grams and we had to start force-feeding her to get her liquids and food. Darcy was still eating but was quite sick. We called the pet store to see if they would pay for the vet bills as they had obviously had gotten this illness from the store. They asked me – are they pets or food? I was appalled. I told them they were my pets. She replied that we could bring them back and exchange them for new rats, or we could let them stay at the store while their store vet took care of them…. yeah right.

Darcy’s 1st Birthday – enjoying a small chicken nugget (free-range/organic).

Darcy and Fiona’s 1st birthday.


Later on, Darcy was having a lot of porphyrin discharge coming from her right eye, and she would squint it often. We took her to the vet – tried multiple eye drops/ointments – but nothing helped. The vet arranged for an eye specialist surgeon to come and perform surgery with her to see if perhaps her eyelashes were growing towards the eyelid causing irritation. Instead, they found that she had lots of porphyrin dried and caked onto her eyeball. They did a thorough cleaning (Darcy was under anesthesia of course). She suspected that Darcy’s eye duct was either clogged or not working correctly but because it is so small that type of a surgery would be impossible on a rat. She suggested continuing to use eye drops for moisture. Neither my vet nor the eye specialist had seen this type of thing in a rat before and had consulted with quite a few other vets online for suggestions – but no one had any.

You can see Darcy’s eye in this photo. Notice how much different the right eye looks than the left.


Then one day, I went in the rat room and noticed that Darcy had a bubble of skin sticking out of her female parts. This happened in the night – we rounded her up with Fiona (so she wouldn’t be scared) and took her in to the emergency vet. They said they would need to do surgery but were not equipped at that vet to perform rat surgery (this wasn’t our normal vet). We took Darcy in the next morning to our vet. They performed an x-ray and found a large abdominal tumor that basically went from mid abdomen clear down to the base of her tail. It was interweaved with her internal organs and was causing the prolapse. I had to leave my school clinical early so I could see Darcy for a few minutes before we had to put her to sleep. We didn’t want her to be in any pain and since this tumor was inoperable we felt it would only be selfish to prolong her life.

Saying goodbyes to Darcy at the vet.

Darcy – who finally liked to be held.

Darcy and Fiona – hanging out one more time.

We were so devastated. Darcy was only 1.5 years old. By this point, Darcy liked to be held. She ran super fast and held her butt up in the air – we called her the Darcy race car. She was always nice to Fiona. She loved us and we loved her. We lost her last May 2013. RIP Darcy Rat – we love you – see you soon.

This is where we start the hike to get to Darcy’s burial site. It is gorgeous up there – she and Rita are both buried here in the Utah mountains.


Darcy telling Mr. Mouse a secret.



My Rat is Choking

If your rat is choking, it can be a scary experience for both of you. A rat who is choking may look like they are gagging. They will open their mouth wide, have ears pulled back against their head and will have drooling as well.

The key is making sure your rat is breathing. If the rat does not appear to be breathing or is having extreme difficulty doing so, please take them to your vet! If they are breathing okay, let them continue with the gagging/drooling. This is how they dislodge the item best. Just comfort them the best you can, stay calm, and monitor for difficulty breathing or any other changes.

It may take up to 6 hours to clear the object. If the rat has not cleared it by then, it is advised to take them to the vet because this may be something the rat cannot fix on their own.

A method you can use which Debbie Ducommun calls “The Fling” may help dislodge the item if the rat is really struggling. This technique should be performed very carefully and should NOT be used on a rat who is breathing:

“Hold your rat firmly around the neck with one hand, and by the base of the tail with the other to hold her securely. Make sure there are no objects within an arm’s length. Lift the rat overhead and bring her down in a rapid arc, so that at the end of the path she’s tail up and head down. This can be repeated three to four times, then give the rat a rest, check her breathing, and see if anything is visible in the mouth. This is extremely effective in dislodging objects in the throat. However, do NOT use this procedure if your rat can breathe, or you might make it worse.”

Peanut butter, dried noodles, bread and nuts are items I have heard to cause choking more often in rats and should be avoided or given with caution.

Video of Choking Rat



Irene – Eating way too many cheerios at one time!

Ask the Rescue – Save Them All

Do you ever find yourself feeling down or depressed that you cannot save them all? Do you ever think, “what about the ones I failed”? How do you get past that?

It is hard not being able to save them all. We honestly try to avoid looking at Craigslist or classified ads because it is too sad when we cannot help the rats there. When we are not in a position to be able to take in a rat personally at our rescue, we share and post as much as we can to find someone who can help the rat.

I personally don’t think of it as “the rats I have failed”. If I thought of it that way I would be too depressed to continue working in animal rescue. I try to focus rather on the rats we have saved and the rats we will save.

It is also a good idea to set limits for your rescue. Our rescue at one point had too many rats that we could financially take care of. We were in a very tough spot. You do have to say no sometimes. Know how many rats/animals your rescue can take care of, and don’t go above that number.

First Day Without Bear

Bear was the first person I thought about when I woke up. It was raining outside. I was raining inside. I watched some of my Bear movies before I could get out of bed.

As I left the room I thought to take one of the huge pile of Bear’s things with me. I’ll slowly clean out the room of memories. I took his ramp. I put it outside next to his grave in case he comes out and wants to get back in.

The last night I spent with Bear, I heard a frog croaking outside of the window. I had never heard one here before. I mentioned it to Bear, “That sounds like a frog.” Yesterday after I had buried him and come inside I I heard a frog croaking out on the porch where he was buried. I went out to find it but it quit.


I thought about fixing pancakes for breakfast. Bear wasn’t crazy about pancakes. I think that it was hard for him to eat solid food near the end, or anything that might sit on his stomach for a while. He seem to like thin fruity food the best. So I fixed a smoothie, his favorite. Here is Bear’s smoothie recipe:

  • Half of a frozen banana
  • 1 cup of frozen blueberries
  • 1 cup of chocolate soy milk
  • Half a small container of brown cow cream top plain yogurt
  • A dash of cinnamon

I had wanted to try cloves but was afraid Bear wouldn’t like them. So this morning I added cloves. It was pretty good though not nearly as good as if I had gotten to share it with Bear.

I was preparing the medicine for the last four rats. I looked at the space for Bear’s medicine and knew that the volunteers this weekend will offer to clean out things that belong to him. I would have to say no. I want everything left the way it was, for me to clean out little by little. I don’t want anyone else to touch what was his.

As I run my bath, I remember the second stage of Bear’s being here. Once I knew that he would not bite me, I allowed him to free range in the bathroom while I was taking baths. He was wild and crazy with his running and hopping all over the place in and out of the cabinets, into his mini swimming pool, in and out of his tunnel and then he would make the trip to the bathtub.

He would climb up the steps to the big garden tub and walk around the edges as I held my breath waiting for him to fall. He only fell in 1 time and I quickly caught him before his head went underwater. He didn’t seem afraid of the water, neither did he want to swim. He liked to walk across my legs from 1 side of the bathtub to the other and occasionally he would sit on my legs and put his hand in the water… I guess watching the waves he made. Then he was off and exploring some more .


It wasn’t long after he was here and his tumor started growing that his bathtub endeavors slowly diminished. A few weeks ago he visited the bathroom again for the first time in at least a month and walked over to the bathtub, head raised, maybe remembering… Maybe reminding me of our fun.

I listen to Pandora while I did laundry and other chores. Half the songs that I heard reminded me of Bear and made me cry. I’d start out singing along then burst into tears, with abrupt changes of mood.

I had a haircut that afternoon and immediately pulled out a picture of Bear and talked about what happened to him. Luckily the stylist also liked rats.

As I had my haircut I have lots of time to think and remember stories and good memories about Bear. One thing I thought about was how I used to always say, when I came in the back door,  “Bear Bear, I’m home.” I thought how that will be the first words I say when I reach heaven, “Bear Bear, I’m home.”