Feeding a mischief of pet rats can be a lot of fun. It’s always a delight to watch rats explore a new food. If you own fancy rats, you’re probably always on the lookout for safe treats to feed them.
So, you may be wondering if cherries are a safe food for rats? How much of the fruit can rats have, and do you need to remove the pit before feeding cherry?
Cherries are safe for rats to eat and can be a good occasional treat for them. Sweet foods such as cherries should not make up the bulk of your rats’ fresh food diet – in fact, they should just be fed occasionally and in small amounts.
In this article, we’ll cover how much cherry your rats are allowed, and how to feed it to them in a safe manner.
Can You Feed Your Pet Rat Cherries?
Are Cherries Safe for Rats?
What’s in a cherry, anyway? Like most fruits, they mainly consists of water (82%)1. They also contain a little bit of protein and negligible amounts of fat1.
The main macronutrient group found in cherries is carbohydrates, mainly in the form of sugar1.
Some dietary fiber can be found in cherries, which is important for a healthy gut flora and may reduce the risk of colorectal cancer2.
Cherries contain good amounts of vitamin C, an important vitamin for the skin and connective tissues, as well as for the immune system3. They also boast decent amounts of potassium – dietary potassium may help reduce the risk of hypertension4.
The cherry gets it vibrant red color from the antioxidant anthocyanin. Antioxidants help offset the damage caused by free radicals inside the body’s cells.
Dietary consumption of antioxidants has been linked to countless health benefits such as reduced inflammation, lower rates of chronic diseases and cancer, improved cardiovascular and brain health, and improved function of the immune system4-8.
The more sour the cherry, the higher its antioxidant content9. Another healthy compound found in cherries is melatonin, which has been linked to decreased cancer rates, especially hormonally-dependent forms of cancer10.
So, while they do contain a lot of sugar, there are definite health benefits to be had from eating cherries. This does not just apply to humans, but also to your ratty friends.
Usually, rats prefer sweeter cherries; however, the sour varieties are a slightly healthier choice. Let’s have a look at how often to feed cherries.
Can Rats Have too Many Cherries?
Generally, fruit should not make up a large portion of your rats’ diet. Fruit tends to be high in sugar and can therefore lead to obesity.
Rats will always choice high-sugar foods over other food choices – sugar has an even more powerful addictive effect on the rat’s brain than cocaine does11.
One cherry (or other fruit) per rat every other day is certainly not an issue, though. It’s always important to accompany fruit and other treats by a large and varied choice of vegetable foods.
Also, don’t get scared if you notice that consuming cherries stains your rat’s poop a reddish color. This is completely normal. Staining could also be an issue in the cage, depending on the materials you use (e.g. cloth).
Cherry pits, along with most fruit pips and stones, contain cyanide. Cyanide is a powerful toxin for humans and rats alike12.
If you’re now thinking: Oh God, I’ve swallowed a cherry pit before – don’t worry. For us humans, one or two cherry pits don’t pose a problem, mainly because we swallow them whole and therefore the cyanide does not get released.
Your rats, on the other hand, may chew fruit pits. It’ absolutely crucial to always remove pits before feeding cherry and other fruit to your rats.
If you can’t be bothered to remove the pits yourself, you can buy frozen cherries without pips – which brings us to the next topic.
Can Rats Have Frozen Cherries?
Frozen cherries are a great alternative to the fresh fruit, especially when cherries are not in season where you live.
Frozen cherries also tend to be less expensive. You can either thaw the cherries before serving them or offer frozen cherries to your rats to help them cool off on a hot day.
Can Rats Have Cherry Jam?
The process of making jam involves adding a lot of sugar to the fruit. Therefore, both store-bought and homemade cherry jam are not a good choice of food for your rats. Best save the jam for yourself!
What Fruit Can’t Rats Eat?
There are many fruits that you can share with your mischief. Some are not good for male rats specifically, though. The reason is d-limonene, a protein that can cause kidney damage in male rats only. So, if you have bucks in your mischief, it’s safer to avoid all citrus fruits and their juices, and mango.
As we’ve seen, fruit pips and stones tend to be toxic, so it’s crucial that you remove them before feeding them to your rats. The same is true for avocado pits and skins – as avocados are fruits, not vegetables.
Even when feeding safe fruits, remember to keep the amounts you offer low. Look at fruit as a treat, not a dietary staple for your rats. This will help prevent obesity, which is one of the most important factors in setting up your ratty friends to live a long and healthy life.
To Sum Up
Cherries are safe for rats to eat and offer many health benefits. They are high in sugar, though, and should only be offered in small amounts as an occasional treat. One cherry per rat every other day is fine. Remember to remove the pit before feeding cherries, as it contains cyanide and is toxic when chewed.
1. U.S. Department of Agriculture. FoodData Central – Cherry, sweet, raw. 2019. https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/171719/nutrients.
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9. Ferretti G, Bacchetti T, Belleggia A, et al. Cherry antioxidants: from farm to table. Molecules (Basel, Switzerland) 2010;15:6993-7005. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/20944519.
10. Talib WH, Alsayed AR, Abuawad A, et al. Melatonin in Cancer Treatment: Current Knowledge and Future Opportunities. Molecules (Basel, Switzerland) 2021;26:2506. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/33923028.
11. 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.
12. 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/.
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.