An apple a day keeps the doctor away – we´ve all learnt that from an early age.
But does the same hold true for your pet rats? Can rats eat apples, and if so, how many?
Apples are perfectly safe for your rats. Since they contain quite a bit of fruit sugar, apples should be fed in moderation. The seeds of the apple should be avoided since they can be toxic to your pet rat.
Today, we’ll talk about how to prepare apples for your rats, and how much apple to feed them.
Can You Feed Your Pet Rat Apples?
Are Apples Safe for Rats?
Apples are made up of around 85% water, and very little protein and fat. They contain a substantial amount of carbohydrates (sugars) and fibers.
Their high fiber content makes them good for the gut – nutritional fiber has been linked to a healthy gut microbiome and good digestive function1. Fibers also cause a sense of satiety, so that less food is consumed overall2.
Even though they contain a lot of sugar, apples have a low glycemic index, which means that eating them does not raise blood sugar excessively3.
Furthermore, apples are a decent source of vitamin C and potassium4. Like most other fruit and veg, apples boast a ton of antioxidants, including quercetin, catechin, and chlorogenic acid.
Quercetin – with its quirky name – has been shown to have anti-inflammatory properties in mice studies5, as well as a protective effect against cancer6. Catechins improve brain and muscle function in rodents7,8.
Overall, a review paper on the health benefits of apples sums it up quite nicely: “In the laboratory, apples have been found to have very strong antioxidant activity, inhibit cancer cell proliferation, decrease lipid oxidation, and lower cholesterol”9.
That doesn’t just sound really good, it is! And it summarizes all the good reasons to feed apples to your pet rats.
How Much Apple Can You Give a Rat?
Even though their glycemic index isn’t very high, apples still contain quite a bit of sugar. They should therefore be offered in moderation – ideally as a treat, once or twice per week. A thin slice of apple per rat is more than enough.
When rats consume a lot of fresh fruit such as apple, they can sometimes get diarrhea, so it’s best not to feed them too much.
Yes, slicing is a good way to offer apples to your rats. You can also cut them up into little cubes, to make them easier for a rat to hold on to.
Can Rats Eat Apple Skin?
The apple skin is where the good stuff (especially the fiber) is at!
There is no need to remove the skin before serving apples to your mischief. Whenever possible, offer organic apples.
If that’s not an option, make sure to wash the apples thoroughly before serving to remove pesticide residues. The best way to rid apples of pesticides is to soak them in a mixture of baking soda and water for a few minutes10.
Can Rats Eat Apple Seeds?
Apple seeds contain cyanide, which is toxic for rats and humans alike11. A human would need to consume many, many apple seeds for the toxicity to take effect, but rats with their lighter weight and faster metabolism are at a higher risk.
Cyanide toxicity can cause brain damage and death in affected rats, so avoid feeding your rats apple seeds altogether12.
Yes, rats can eat dried apples. It’s important to find dried apples without any added sugars if you want to feed them to your rats.
Dried fruit is far more calorie-dense than fresh fruit, so you should strictly limit the amount you feed your pet rats and reserve them as a special treat.
Whenever possible, fresh apples are a better alternative to their dried counterparts.
What Fruits Can Rats Eat?
You should avoid feeding your rats fruit pips and stones, as they are toxic to them. If you feed them avocado, remove the skin and pits. Bucks shouldn’t consume the skin of mango and citrus fruits, and the fruit itself only in moderation, if at all.
To Sum Up
Apples make a wonderful snack for your pet rats. They should be fed in moderation, and preferably fresh and organic. Steer clear of apple seeds, though, as they can be toxic for your rats.
1. Anderson JW, Baird P, Davis Jr RH, et al. Health benefits of dietary fiber. Nutrition Reviews 2009;67:188-205. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1753-4887.2009.00189.x.
2. Holt SH, Miller JC, Petocz P, et al. A satiety index of common foods. Eur J Clin Nutr 1995;49:675-690. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/7498104/.
3. Hanhineva K, Törrönen R, Bondia-Pons I, et al. Impact of dietary polyphenols on carbohydrate metabolism. Int J Mol Sci 2010;11:1365-1402. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/20480025/.
5. Stewart LK, Soileau JL, Ribnicky D, et al. Quercetin transiently increases energy expenditure but persistently decreases circulating markers of inflammation in C57BL/6J mice fed a high-fat diet. Metabolism 2008;57:S39-46. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/18555853/.
6. Murakami A, Ashida H, Terao J. Multitargeted cancer prevention by quercetin. Cancer Lett 2008;269:315-325. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/18467024/.
7. Chang CF, Cho S, Wang J. (-)-Epicatechin protects hemorrhagic brain via synergistic Nrf2 pathways. Ann Clin Transl Neurol 2014;1:258-271. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/24741667/.
8. Nogueira L, Ramirez-Sanchez I, Perkins GA, et al. (-)-Epicatechin enhances fatigue resistance and oxidative capacity in mouse muscle. The Journal of physiology 2011;589:4615-4631. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/21788351.
9. Boyer J, Liu RH. Apple phytochemicals and their health benefits. Nutrition journal 2004;3:5-5. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/15140261.
10. Yang T, Doherty J, Zhao B, et al. Effectiveness of Commercial and Homemade Washing Agents in Removing Pesticide Residues on and in Apples. Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry 2017;65:9744-9752. https://doi.org/10.1021/acs.jafc.7b03118.
11. Salkowski AA, Penney DG. Cyanide poisoning in animals and humans: a review. Vet Hum Toxicol 1994;36:455-466. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/7839575/.
12. Rose CL, Harris PN, Chen KK. Effect of cyanide poisoning on the central nervous system of rats and dogs. Proc Soc Exp Biol Med 1954;87:632-636. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/13237329/.
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.