Can Rats Eat Kale Leaves & Stems? Is it Safe Raw or Cooked?

Kale is the superfood of our generation. In smoothies, as oven-baked kale chips, or just raw in salad – it seems like it’s everywhere. If you’re a kale enthusiast yourself, you may be wondering if you can feed it to your rats, as well.

Is kale safe for pet rats to eat? Should you offer it raw or cooked? And what about the stem?

Overall, kale is a perfectly healthy food to offer your mischief. Like other leafy greens, it’s quite rich in certain micronutrients and boasts many health benefits. In fact, kale is one of the most nutrient-dense foods on the planet.

Let’s have a look at how to prepare kale for your pet rats, and all the health benefits it offers them.

Can You Feed Your Pet Rat Kale?

Is Kale Safe for Rats?

What does kale contain, exactly? Like most vegetables, it’s mainly made up of water, at around 89.6%1. It also contains carbohydrates but is overall a very low-calorie food.

Kale is also quite high in fiber. Nutritional fiber is beneficial for gut health as it helps to regulate digestions and serves as “food” for healthy bacteria in the gastrointestinal tract2.

Bunch of Kale

When we look at the micronutrients, here’s where kale really shines. Kale contains incredible amounts of vitamin A, vitamin K, and vitamin C.

Vitamin A is essential for many biological processes such as cell growth and differentiation, immune function, reproduction, and vision – and it has been shown to protect against certain types of cancer3.

Vitamin K is needed for blood clotting and bone health4; and vitamin C is essential to the function of the immune system as well as connective tissue health5. Kale also boasts good amounts of calcium, manganese, copper, potassium, and magnesium1.

Like other leafy greens, kale is a fantastic source of antioxidants like quercetin and kaempferol6. Both of these compounds have been shown to decrease inflammatory processes, reduce the risk and symptoms of chronic diseases, and help combat cancer, among other things7-10.

The reason that antioxidants get such a good rap is that they can offset the cellular damage that occurs during aging and inflammation and that is caused mainly by reactive oxygen species (ROS)11. The higher in antioxidants your rats’ diet is, the better.

For overweight rats, kale makes a great snack, as it offers tons of nutrients but has very few calories. The consumption of foods with a low energy density such as kale has been shown to aid weight loss12.

These are plenty of good reasons to feed your rats kale regularly. Let’s have a look at which type of kale to offer, and how to prepare it.

Can Rats Have Curly Kale?

Different Types of Kale

The different types of kale available – Tuscan kale, curly kale, Russian red kale, and others – don’t differ significantly in their nutrient or calorie content.

They are all perfectly fine for rats to eat, so whichever one is available to you will do nicely.

Can Rats Eat Kale Stems?

There is nothing inherently bad about the stems of kale. However, they tend to be quite fibrous and tough, and your rats may shun them when offered in their raw form.

If you feed your mischief cooked kale, absolutely include the stems! They are very nutritious, too.

Is Raw or Cooked Kale Better?

Cooking kale can cut down on its bitterness and make it more palatable to your rats. However, cooking kale greatly reduce its nutrient contents (especially antioxidant and mineral contents)13.

The cooking method that preserves most nutrients is steaming, so if you want to offer your rats cooked kale, this is the way to go13. However, you’ll probably find that they will also eat their kale raw.

When feeding raw kale, be mindful of pesticides. Conventionally grown kale usually has a lot of pesticide residues14, so wash it thoroughly or soak it in a mixture of water and baking soda. Organic is always the better option if it’s available.

Raw Chopped Kale
Image by Pexels from Pixabay

Which Leafy Greens Can Rats Eat?

Leafy greens are not just healthy for humans, but for rats, too. Apart from kale, you can offer your mischief Swiss chard, rocket, and even spinach.

While you may have heard that spinach is not good for your rats’ kidney health, it’s usually fine in moderation.

What Vegetables Can Rats Not Eat?

Most vegetables are perfectly healthy for rats. It’s always a good idea to offer a wide selection of different vegetables (and some fruit) to your pet rats, as this will increase the variety of nutrients that they receive.

Pet Rat Eating Vegetables

Some vegetables should only be fed cooked, though. These include beans, artichokes, potatoes, and sweet potatoes. Many sources will tell your that raw cabbage is bad for rats, but it’s perfectly fine in moderation. Large amounts of raw cabbage can cause bloating and digestive issues, though.

If your rats have any chronic health issues such as kidney disease, discuss with your veterinarian which foods should be removed from their diet or only offered occasionally.

To Sum Up

Kale is a superfood for rats, too! It’s packed with vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. Rats will usually eat raw kale, but you can offer it cooked, too. However, the cooking processes will remove some of the healthy nutrients. You can offer kale frequently, as it’s very low in calories.


1. U.S. Department of Agriculture. FoodData Central – Kale, raw. 2019.

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