As it’s a staple of our modern-day diet, you probably cannot imagine life without bread. Since it’s such a convenient food, you may be wondering if you can share it with your pet rats.
Is bread safe for pet rats to eat? Can it cause choking? And which type is best?
While there is nothing inherently toxic about bread, it is a high-carb food with very little nutritional benefit. While it can serve as an occasional treat for your rats, it should not make up a significant portion of their diet.
To find out how to safely give your rats bread (and what type), keep reading below.
Can You Feed Bread to Your Pet Rat?
Can Rats Eat Bread?
Nutritionally speaking, bread is not exactly a great food source. It consists mainly of carbohydrates and is therefore fairly high in calories1.
Bread has a high glycaemic index, which means that its consumption will raise blood sugar significantly. This has been linked to a greater risk to overeating as well as to some metabolic diseases2-4.
You’ll find that bread has a moderate to low fiber content – whole wheat bread contains more fiber than white bread, though.
Bread does not boast any significant vitamin or mineral content, but is sometimes enriched with micronutrients such as iron.
As you’ll know, bread contains the protein gluten, to which some people may react negatively. However, rats as a species are not sensitive to gluten, so this should not cause any issues in your mischief5.
While bread is not toxic to your rats, it does not really offer many nutritional benefits but is still high in calories. It’s therefore not a good idea to make bread a staple of your mischief’s diet.
Your rats should be offered a high-quality rat pellet food, supplemented with a variety of fresh vegetables and a small amount of fresh fruit. Bread may be offered occasionally in small amounts, for example as a treat when teaching your rats new tricks.
Can Rats Choke on Bread?
The softer the bread, the more likely it is to pose a choking hazard. Rats do not frequently choke on foods, but it has been known to happen especially when eating hastily (e.g. when they are afraid that one of their ratty friends may steal the food from them).
When mixed with saliva, bread may form a sticky mass than can get stuck in your rat’s throat. To minimize the risk, it’s a good idea to offer very small pieces of bread with a hard crust. Avoid soft breads like toast or hamburger buns.
What Kind of Bread Can Rats Have?
As we’ve just seen, soft breads may lead to choking and are best avoided. In general, whole-wheat bread has the better nutritional profile than white bread, as it contains more fiber and protein.
Bread made from sprouted grains is the best option of all, as it also boasts a higher vitamin and micronutrient content6.
Just like us, rats tend to get a “high” from easily digestible foods that are high in carbohydrates7. Therefore, they tend to love bread, making it even more important to limit the amount available to them.
If rats are offered bread freely, they tend to overeat. In the long run, this can cause obesity, which is already a big issue for rats in captivity and will cause health problems and a shortened lifespan8.
What Foods are Toxic to Rats?
Rats love high-calorie foods like bread, but you should limit the amount of sugar in their diet very strictly. As too much salt is also a no, this means that most processed foods should not be on the menu for your mischief.
Toxic foods to rats include fruit pits and stones, chocolate, and caffeine. Some foods are only toxic when offered raw, such as beans, potatoes, and sweet potatoes. These vegetables are just fine when fed cooked.
If you have bucks in your mischief, steer clear of citrus fruits and mangoes (mainly the skin, but it’s safest to avoid these fruits altogether). These fruits contain a protein that can cause kidney damage specifically in male rats.
Some foods are fine in moderation but can cause diarrhea and digestive upset when offered in large amounts. This usually applies to foods with a high water content, like most fruits and vegetables.
To Sum Up
While bread is not toxic to rats, it does not offer many nutritional benefits. Since it’s high in calories, it can lead to overeating and obesity. Bread should only ever be offered as an occasional treat.
Whole wheat bread and sprouted bread have a better nutritional profile than white bread. Steer clear of soft white bread as it may pose a choking hazard.
1. U.S. Department of Agriculture. FoodData Central – Bread, wheat. 2019. https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/172686/nutrients.
2. Roberts SB. High-glycemic index foods, hunger, and obesity: is there a connection? Nutr Rev 2000;58:163-169. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/10885323.
3. AlEssa HB, Bhupathiraju SN, Malik VS, et al. Carbohydrate quality and quantity and risk of type 2 diabetes in US women. Am J Clin Nutr 2015;102:1543-1553. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26537938/, .
4. Feng R, Du S, Chen Y, et al. High carbohydrate intake from starchy foods is positively associated with metabolic disorders: a Cohort Study from a Chinese population. Sci Rep 2015;5:16919. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4652281/.
5. Marietta EV, Murray JA. Animal models to study gluten sensitivity. Semin Immunopathol 2012;34:497-511. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3410984/.
6. Chitra U, Singh U, Rao PV. Phytic acid, in vitro protein digestibility, dietary fiber, and minerals of pulses as influenced by processing methods. Plant Foods Hum Nutr 1996;49:307-316. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/8983057/, https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/11474896/.
7. Lenoir M, Serre F, Cantin L, et al. Intense sweetness surpasses cocaine reward. PloS one 2007;2:e698-e698. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/17668074.
8. Richardson A, Austad SN, Ikeno Y, et al. Significant life extension by ten percent dietary restriction. Ann N Y Acad Sci 2016;1363:11-17. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26695614/.
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.