Alongside citrus fruits, mango is often featured on “do not feed to rats” lists. Then again, other resources say it’s fine to offer your pet rats some mango every now and then.
So, are mangos toxic to rats? Can both male and female rats eat mango?
Just like citrus fruits, mangos contain d-limonene. This compound has been linked to kidney tumors in male rats, but only when fed in high doses or over prolonged periods of time. For female rats, d-limonene does not cause any issues.
In this article, we’ve summarized the research on d-limonene and whether any amount of mango is safe to feed to your rats.
Can You Feed Mango to Your Pet Rat?
Is Mango Safe for Rats?
In general, mango is considered to be healthy snack, and for good reason. Mangos boast an array of healthy vitamins and minerals. They are an excellent source of vitamin C, which promotes cell repair and the proper functioning of the immune system1,2.
Mangos also contain copper and folate, both of which are especially important during pregnancy1,3-6. Other nutrients found in mangos include vitamin A, vitamin B6, vitamin E, niacin, potassium, and riboflavin1.
Mangos are full of healthy antioxidants such as mangiferin, catechins, kaempferol, anthocyanins, and others8-10.
These antioxidants help to counteract the damaging effect that reactive oxygen species (ROS) have on cells. Due to this, antioxidant intake has been linked to improved heart and brain health and lower rates of cancer and chronic diseases11-15.
All of this sounds great, doesn’t it?
So, what’s the problem with feeding your rats mango? Let’s take a look at the research on d-limonene, a compound that can be found in the skin and flesh of mangos16.
Can Male Rats Eat Mango?
The d-limonene that is found in mangos can only cause issues for male rats, not for females. The reason for this is that rat bucks produce a protein called alpha 2U-globulin.
This protein can bind to the d-limonene in mangos and citrus fruits and then accumulate in the kidneys of these rats. There, it causes the formation of so-called “hyaline droplets”, which represents the first stage of a specific type of kidney damage in the male rat.
Those kidney cells that have thus been damaged have a higher likelihood of turning into cancer cells at a later time, therefore causing kidney tumors17.
As does and dams do not produce any alpha 2U-globulin, this type of kidney damage can only occur in male rats. If you have a female-only mischief, you can feed them mango without having to worry.
But is mango really off limits for male rats?
The studies that looked at this type of kidney cancer all have one thing in common: they used high amounts of concentrated d-limonene, often over long periods of time17.
A pet rat would need to eat insane amounts of mango to reach these levels of d-limonene. It’s therefore unlikely that an occasional piece of mango will cause issues for your rats.
However, we don’t really have enough research available to be sure that smaller doses of d-limonene do not cause kidney tumors. So, it’s probably a safe bet to just eliminate mango from your buck’s diet altogether. There are so many other healthy alternatives, after all.
If your male rat has accidentally ingested a bit of mango, there’s no need to worry – in all likelihood, he will be just fine!
Are Rats Allowed Mango Peel?
Just like citrus fruits, the d-limonene in mangos is higher in the peel than in the fruit itself18. It’s therefore safest to not offer your bucks any mango peel.
Female rats can eat mango peel – but they’re probably unlikely to do so, as it’s not very appealing due to its tough texture.
Can Rats Eat Papaya?
Many sources claim that papaya also contains d-limonene in significant amounts; however, I cannot find any studies at present to back this claim. Small pieces of papaya occasionally are likely fine for both male and female rats.
If you want to be 100% on the safe side, avoid giving your bucks papaya.
What Fruits are Toxic to Rats?
Most fruits are perfectly fine for rats to eat. However, it’s important to keep in mind that fruits are generally high in sugar and should therefore only make up a small portion of your rats’ diet.
Safe options include: apples, pears, kiwi, apricots, melon and watermelon, cantaloupe and berries. Berries are an especially good choice as they are low in sugar but high in antioxidants.
Like mangos, citrus fruits (oranges, grapefruits, lemons, etc.) are best avoided for bucks due to the d-limonene content.
Before offering fruit, remove stones and pips, as these are generally toxic. The same goes for the pit and skin of avocado – which is also a fruit, and not a vegetable.
To Sum Up
Mangos boast many good qualities and healthy nutrients. However, they also contain d-limonene, a compound that has been linked to the development of kidney tumors in bucks.
Occasional small amounts of mango are unlikely to cause any harm; but to be on the safe side, it’s probably better to omit mango from your rats’ diet if there are bucks in your mischief.
For female rats, mango is perfectly fine to eat and makes a great, healthy treat.
1. U.S. Department of Agriculture. FoodData Central – Mango, raw. 2020. https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/1102670/nutrients.
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14. Knekt P, Reunanen A, Järvinen R, et al. Antioxidant vitamin intake and coronary mortality in a longitudinal population study. Am J Epidemiol 1994;139:1180-1189. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/8209876/.
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16. Pino JA, Mesa J, Muñoz Y, et al. Volatile components from mango (Mangifera indica L.) cultivars. J Agric Food Chem 2005;53:2213-2223. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/15769159/.
17. Hard GC, Whysner J. Risk assessment of d-limonene: an example of male rat-specific renal tumorigens. Crit Rev Toxicol 1994;24:231-254. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/7945892/.
18. IARC Working Group on the Evaluation of Carcinogenic Risks to Humans. Some Naturally Occurring Substances: Food Items and Constituents, Heterocyclic Aromatic Amines and Mycotoxins. d-LIMONENE. 1993. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK513608/.
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.