Carrots aren’t only for bunnies, that’s for sure. The crunchy, colorful vegetable is known to be healthy to us humans.
But can you feed your rats carrots? Should you feed your rats raw or cooked carrots?
Raw or cooked, carrots are perfectly healthy for rats and should be part of their fresh-food diet. In fact carrots, which are packed full of nutrients and are a great source of insoluble fiber, offer many health benefits to your mischief.
To find out about the potential health benefits of feeding carrots to your rats, and whether carrot tops are safe, too, read on below.
Rats & Carrots
Are Carrots Safe for Rats?
Carrots consist mainly of water. The remaining 10% is mostly carbohydrates and, of course, fiber1. While they contain carbs, carrots still have a low glycemic index, so they don’t raise blood sugar excessively and are fine to eat for diabetic people and rats2.
The soluble fiber in carrots is a good source of food for the “friendly” bacteria in the gut3. The insoluble fiber can help reduce the risk of constipation4.
The list of good things about carrots does not stop at the macronutrient level, though. Carrots also boast a ton of vitamins, the best known being vitamin A (or, more accurately, its precursor beta carotene)5. They are also packed with potassium, biotin, vitamin K1, and vitamin B64.
Some other interesting compounds in carrots include lutein, lycopene, anthocyanins, and polyacetylenes.
Lutein is an antioxidant that is found in yellow and orange carrots and promotes eye health6. Lycopene has been linked to improved cardiovascular health and a reduction in tumor occurrence7. Also protective against cancer are the polyacetylenes that are plentiful in carrots4.
Studies performed on rats showed that feeding them a carrot-rich diet had a protective effect on liver and kidney cells that were exposed to toxic agents8,9. Another rat study found that carrots helped stabilize cholesterol levels10.
All these are wonderful reasons to feed carrots to your rats!
Carrots should be a staple in your mischief’s diet. They can be fed regularly, without any negative effects. The only thing you might notice is that if you feed a lot of fresh vegetables, your rats might get diarrhea. However, carrots are really good at regulating your rat’s droppings, so this shouldn’t pose a big problem.
Can Rats Eat Raw Carrots?
Carrots can be offered both raw and cooked. In humans, the vitamin A precursors (beta carotenes) are more easily available to the digestive tract if the carrots are cooked – but it’s unclear whether this applies to rats, too11.
There is no reason not to feed carrots raw, as it also satisfies your rats’ need to gnaw. Add in some celery for your pet rats and you have a healthy veggie combo.
Carrots can be high in pesticide residues, so buying them organic is best whenever possible12. If you feed organic carrots to your rats, there is no need to peel them first. Washing them thoroughly is generally enough.
Non-organic carrots should always be peeled and washed, as the pesticide residues tend to accumulate in the peel13.
Are Carrot Tops Good for Rats?
While we often discard them in our cooking, carrot tops are actually very nutritious. They’re perfectly safe to eat for both humans and rats alike, and your rats might even prefer the greens over the carrot itself.
All you need to do to prepare carrot greens is wash them thoroughly and cut them into small pieces. Try not to feed too many carrot tops at a time, as they could cause diarrhea when consumed in large amounts.
What Vegetables are Poisonous to Rats?
Not all vegetables can be fed to rats. You should avoid giving your mischief raw potatoes (especially green ones), raw artichokes, and raw beans. When cooked, these vegetables are perfectly safe, though!
There is some evidence that feeding raw sweet potato can be toxic, as well. Contrary to popular belief, raw cabbage is fine for rats – just don’t overdo it, or it’ll give them a tummy ache.
Other vegetables, such as spinach which is rich in oxalates, may cause issues when given in excess. Lettuce is not particularly nutrient dense so although safe to feed, it does not add much nutritional value.
Onions should be avoided completely when feeding rats due to the toxic compound N-propyl disulphide.
Before feeding your rats any new foods, do some quick research on whether it is safe and what amounts can be fed. Some foods may be good for your rat, but only in moderation, such as fruits that are high in sugar.
To Sum Up
Carrots are a fantastic choice of food for your rats and should be a staple in their diet. Both raw and cooked works – and even the carrot tops can be fed to your rats.
1. US Department of Agriculture. FoodData Central. Carrots. 2019. https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/746764/nutrients.
2. Rizkalla SW, Bellisle F, Slama G. Health benefits of low glycaemic index foods, such as pulses, in diabetic patients and healthy individuals. Br J Nutr 2002;88 Suppl 3:S255-262. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/12498625/.
3. Slavin J. Fiber and prebiotics: mechanisms and health benefits. Nutrients 2013;5:1417-1435. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/23609775
4. Sharma KD, Karki S, Thakur NS, et al. Chemical composition, functional properties and processing of carrot-a review. Journal of food science and technology 2012;49:22-32. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/23572822
5. Tanumihardjo SA. Vitamin A: biomarkers of nutrition for development. The American journal of clinical nutrition 2011;94:658S-665S. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/21715511
6. Rodriguez-Concepcion M, Stange C. Biosynthesis of carotenoids in carrot: an underground story comes to light. Arch Biochem Biophys 2013;539:110-116. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/23876238/.
7. Heber D, Lu QY. Overview of mechanisms of action of lycopene. Exp Biol Med (Maywood) 2002;227:920-923. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/12424335/.
8. Sodimbaku V, Pujari L, Mullangi R, et al. Carrot (Daucus carota L.): Nephroprotective against gentamicin-induced nephrotoxicity in rats. Indian J Pharmacol 2016;48:122-127. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/27127313/.
9. Ebeid HM, Gibriel AA, Al-Sayed HM, et al. Hepatoprotective and antioxidant effects of wheat, carrot, and mango as nutraceutical agents against CCl4-induced hepatocellular toxicity. J Am Coll Nutr 2015;34:228-231. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25648457/.
10. Nicolle C, Cardinault N, Aprikian O, et al. Effect of carrot intake on cholesterol metabolism and on antioxidant status in cholesterol-fed rat. Eur J Nutr 2003;42:254-261. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/14569406/.
11. Livny O, Reifen R, Levy I, et al. Beta-carotene bioavailability from differently processed carrot meals in human ileostomy volunteers. Eur J Nutr 2003;42:338-345. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/14673607/.
12. Horská T, Kocourek F, Stará J, et al. Evaluation of Pesticide Residue Dynamics in Lettuce, Onion, Leek, Carrot and Parsley. Foods 2020;9. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/32466205/.
13. Waliszewski SM, Carvajal O, Gómez-Arroyo S, et al. DDT and HCH isomer levels in soils, carrot root and carrot leaf samples. Bull Environ Contam Toxicol 2008;81:343-347. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/18626561/.
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.