Nuts – especially almonds – are the epitome of healthy snacking for us humans. Naturally, you may wonder if you can share this tasty treat with your mischief.
But are almonds safe to eat for rats? How many almonds should you feed your rat?
Almonds are not inherently bad for rats and can be fed to them. However, they are high in fat and should only be given in moderation. Raw and unflavored roasted almonds are both acceptable, almond butter should be avoided however as it can be a choking hazard.
To find out how many almonds are okay and how to best feed them, read on below!
Can You Feed Your Pet Rat Almonds?
Are Almonds Safe for Rats?
Almonds are packed full of nutrients. They are made up of about 21% protein, which is impressive, and about an equal amount of carbohydrates1. The main component, however, is healthy fats, which make up about 50% of a serving of almonds1.
Almonds boast substantial amounts of vitamin E, vitamin B, manganese, and magnesium. Vitamin E is a fat-soluble antioxidant which has been repeatedly linked to improved cognitive function and cardiovascular health and a lower cancer incidence2-5. A study on pancreatitis in rats showed significant improvement of the disease when the rats were treated with alpha-tocopherol, which is a type of vitamin E6.
The magnesium contained in almonds is needed for a plethora of processes in the body, and it can help to balance blood sugar levels and blood pressure7,8.
Another benefit of eating almonds is their antioxidant content. Antioxidants have been shown in countless studies to reduce inflammation and cancer development9. The antioxidants are mainly concentrated in the skin of the almond, making blanched almonds a suboptimal choice compared to almonds with their skin still intact10.
These are all very good reasons to feed almonds to your rats. The only consideration, however, is the high fat content. Since pet rats are prone to obesity – and obesity is one of the factors most strongly associated with a short lifespan in rats – it’s important not to overfeed them on calorie-dense snacks such as almonds.
How Many Almonds Can a Rat Eat?
To avoid fattening your rats, it’s best to reserve almonds as an occasional treat. Nuts should not be offered daily due to their high fat content. An almond per rat once per week is probably a good amount.
If your rats are already overweight, you may want to leave almonds off the menu until their weight has improved.
Can Rats Eat Roasted Almonds?
Yes, you can feed your rats roasted almonds. Roasting preserves the antioxidant content of almond skin very well, making this a good preparation method for nuts10.
Many roasted almond products contain salt and spices, though, and are not suitable for pet rats. When buying roasted almonds, make sure you find a product without any added ingredients.
Can Rats Eat Almonds in Their Shell?
As rodents, rats are champs at gnawing their way through hard things (your furniture can probably tell a story about that).
To satisfy their intrinsic need to chew, offering a whole almond inside its shell is perfect! Your rats will have a lot of fun trying to reach the prized treat inside.
Can Rats Eat Almond Butter?
In theory, almond butter without added sugars or salt is perfectly fine for rats to eat. However, the sticky texture makes nut butters a choking hazard.
If you want to feed your rats almond butter, you can offer them a very small amount to lick off your finger or spread it thinly onto a hard surface. This way, the risk of choking can be minimized, but unfortunately never completely eliminated.
Can Rats Eat Nuts?
Other nuts make great snacks for rats, too. Pecans, brazil nuts, walnuts, hazelnuts, chestnuts, and macadamia nuts all make great treats. Like almonds, they all contain many (healthy) fats, and should therefore be fed only occasionally and in small amounts.
What Nuts Can Rats Not Eat?
Basically all nuts that are edible for humans are safe for rats to eat, too. Peanuts (and therefore peanut butter) – which are not technically nuts, but a legume – are best avoided, as they can contain high levels of aflatoxins11.
To Sum Up
Almonds and other nuts are safe and healthy for rats to eat. As they are high in fat, they should be offered only as an occasional, special treat. Roasted almonds are fine, as long as there are no added spices or salt. Almond butter is a choking hazard and should be avoided.
1. U.S. Department of Agriculture. FoodData Central – Nuts, almonds. 2019. https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/170567/nutrients.
2. Knekt P, Reunanen A, Järvinen R, et al. Antioxidant vitamin intake and coronary mortality in a longitudinal population study. Am J Epidemiol 1994;139:1180-1189. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/8209876/.
3. Heinonen OP, Albanes D, Virtamo J, et al. Prostate cancer and supplementation with alpha-tocopherol and beta-carotene: incidence and mortality in a controlled trial. J Natl Cancer Inst 1998;90:440-446. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/9521168/.
4. Bostick RM, Potter JD, McKenzie DR, et al. Reduced risk of colon cancer with high intake of vitamin E: the Iowa Women’s Health Study. Cancer Res 1993;53:4230-4237. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/8364919/.
5. Morris MC, Evans DA, Bienias JL, et al. Vitamin E and cognitive decline in older persons. Arch Neurol 2002;59:1125-1132. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/12117360/.
6. Özgül H, Tatar C, Özer B, et al. Effects of alpha-tocopherol on acute pancreatitis in rat. Ulus Travma Acil Cerrahi Derg 2019;25:1-6. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30742296/.
7. Ryan MF. The role of magnesium in clinical biochemistry: an overview. Ann Clin Biochem 1991;28 ( Pt 1):19-26. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/2024929/.
8. Houston M. The role of nutrition and nutraceutical supplements in the treatment of hypertension. World journal of cardiology 2014;6:38-66. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/24575172
9. Neha K, Haider MR, Pathak A, et al. Medicinal prospects of antioxidants: A review. Eur J Med Chem 2019;178:687-704. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/31228811/.
10. Garrido I, Monagas M, Gómez-Cordovés C, et al. Polyphenols and antioxidant properties of almond skins: influence of industrial processing. J Food Sci 2008;73:C106-115. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/18298714/.
11. Norlia M, Jinap S, Nor-Khaizura MAR, et al. Aspergillus section Flavi and Aflatoxins: Occurrence, Detection, and Identification in Raw Peanuts and Peanut-Based Products Along the Supply Chain. Frontiers in microbiology 2019;10:2602-2602. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/31824445.
Nina has a degree from the Veterinary School in Zurich, with a special focus on microbiological research. Nina has a passion for sports, nutrition and the outdoors and she loves all pets, but rats have a special place in her heart. When she’s not working or reading and writing about all things related to pet health, she loves to travel and surf.
As a small animal veterinarian, Nina is your go-to expert on pet health and nutrition.