Mushrooms were long thought to be of little nutritional value. However, in recent years, many benefits to eating mushrooms have been discovered. There are tons of different types of edible mushrooms, and about 20 of these are commonly cultivated. If you love their umami flavor, you may have been tempted to share them with your pet rats.
But are mushrooms safe for rats to eat? Which types can they have and how should you prepare them?
In fact, most of the mushrooms that are safe to eat for humans are just fine for rats, too. Since there is little information about the many types of wild mushrooms for rats, it’s best to stick to cultivated mushrooms. Many of these can be offered raw as well as cooked.
We’ve summed up all the information on which types of mushrooms your mischief can eat – and how to prepare them – in the article below.
Can Rats Eat Mushrooms?
Are Mushrooms Safe for Rats to Eat?
First off, let’s have a look at what mushrooms consist of. Since there are so many different types of mushroom, we’ll stick to the most commonly eaten one: The white button mushroom. These are also known as Agaricus bisporus – which actually includes not only white button mushrooms, but also brown button and portobello mushrooms, which are all a different form of the same mushroom1.
White mushrooms consist of 92.4% water2. They contain a bit of protein and carbohydrates – both at roughly 3 grams per 100 grams – and a negligible amount of fats2. This makes white mushrooms a very low-calorie food. They also contain a bit of dietary fiber.
Despite being low in calories, these mushrooms boast quite a few nutrients. They are a good non-animal source of vitamin D2, which is crucial for calcium uptake and therefore for bone health, among other things3. White mushrooms also contain vitamin B12, selenium, phosphorus, and folate2.
Like vegetables, mushrooms are packed with antioxidants, including polyphenols, glutathione, ergothioneine, and ascorbic acid (vitamin C)4. These compounds have many beneficial effects, as they can combat the onset of cancer and chronic diseases as well as ageing processes in the body’s cells5.
Ergothioneine and beta glucan may also help to lower triglyceride and cholesterol levels after a meal, which in turn has been linked to improved cardiovascular health6,7.
So, contrary to popular belief, there are good reasons to eat mushrooms – not just for you, but also for your rats. As mushrooms are a known source of the umami taste8, your rats may just go crazy about them!
What Types of Mushrooms Can Rats Eat?
So, we’ve had an in-depth look at white mushrooms and the health benefits that their consumption can offer to your rats. Obviously, the same goes for brown button mushrooms and portobello mushrooms, as they are the same species as white button mushrooms.
But what about other mushrooms?
Commercially cultivated mushrooms that are safe for humans are just fine for rats, too. These include oyster mushrooms, shiitake mushrooms, wood ear mushrooms, and others.
On the other hand, very little is known about whether rats can safely consume the many different types of wild mushrooms. Presumably, those that humans can eat should be okay for your mischief, as well. Still, it’s a good idea to stick to cultivated mushrooms. Wild mushrooms also come with the potential for mix-ups in mushroom species, which can have dangerous consequences!
Now that you know which types of mushrooms you can offer to your rats, let’s talk about preparation methods. Most cultivated mushrooms can be consumed raw; however, they are more easily digestible when cooked.
White and brown button mushrooms can be offered raw without issues. Wild mushrooms should only ever be offered cooked – or preferably not at all, to be on the safe side. When cooking mushrooms for your rats, use a little bit of unsalted water to boil or steam them.
Can Rats Eat Sauteed Mushrooms?
While there is nothing inherently bad about sauteed mushrooms, the oil used for this preparation method is not ideal for a ratty diet.
It’s therefore best to stick to boiling or steaming mushrooms for your mischief.
What Foods Are Toxic to Rats?
Most fruits and vegetables are perfectly safe for your rats to eat. There are a few exceptions, however:
- Chocolate and coffee should be avoided due to toxic compounds.
- Some vegetables should only be fed cooked, such as artichokes, beans, potatoes, and sweet potatoes.
- Some fruits are best avoided if you have bucks in your mischief, as they could potentially cause kidney issues in male rats: Citrus fruits such as oranges and grapefruit, and mango.
- Fruit pips and stones should always be removed, as these are usually toxic.
- Avocado skins and stones should not be fed to your rats.
- Some sticky foods like peanut butter or soft cheeses could potentially pose a choking hazard.
Other foods are not necessarily dangerous for rats in the short term but can lead to obesity and health problems when fed regularly. Generally, anything containing sugar, oils, and salt is off the menu. Avoid processed foods and instead offer your rats a wide selection of fresh vegetables and a little bit of fruit to go with their rat pellet mix.
To Sum Up
Cultivated mushrooms that are safe for human consumption are perfectly fine for rats as well. In fact, they may also offer some health benefits, and they make a good low-calorie snack. White and brown button mushrooms may be offered raw or cooked. When in doubt, always cook other types of mushrooms before feeding them to your mischief.
1. Synonymy. Species Fungorum. https://web.archive.org/web/20110610071831/http://www.indexfungorum.org/Names/SynSpecies.asp?RecordID=531546.
2. U.S. Department of Agriculture. FoodData Central – Mushrooms, white, raw. 2019. https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/169251/nutrients.
3. Cardwell G, Bornman JF, James AP, et al. A Review of Mushrooms as a Potential Source of Dietary Vitamin D. Nutrients 2018;10. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30322118/.
5. Liguori I, Russo G, Curcio F, et al. Oxidative stress, aging, and diseases. Clin Interv Aging 2018;13:757-772. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29731617/.
6. Sima P, Vannucci L, Vetvicka V. β-glucans and cholesterol (Review). Int J Mol Med 2018;41:1799-1808. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5810204/.
7. Weigand-Heller AJ, Kris-Etherton PM, Beelman RB. The bioavailability of ergothioneine from mushrooms (Agaricus bisporus) and the acute effects on antioxidant capacity and biomarkers of inflammation. Prev Med 2012;54 Suppl:S75-78. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/22230474/.
8. Ole G. Umami: Unlocking the Secret of the Fifth Taste: Columbia University Press., 2014.
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.