Did you know that peanut butter is often used in rat traps? This fact alone implies that rats love to eat peanut butter.
But is it safe to feed your pet rat peanut butter? How much peanut butter can a rat eat?
The short answer is that there are several concerns with feeding your rats peanut butter. Apart from being a choking hazard, peanut butter is also not healthy for rats due to the likely presence of fungal toxins. Peanut butter is therefore best avoided as a treat for your pet rats.
If you want to find out more about the effects of peanut butter on your rat, read right on!
Can You Feed Peanut Butter to Your Pet Rat?
Does Peanut Butter Kill Rats?
The main concern with peanut butter is its stickiness. Due to its texture, offering your rat peanut butter could result in choking.
This risk can be minimized by spreading peanut butter very thinly on a cracker or offering just a tiny bit on your finger to lick off slowly. But there is always a remaining risk and peanut butter is therefore better avoided.
Even if fed in a safe manner, peanut butter is not very healthy for your rats.
Commercially available peanut butter is often full of sugar and salt, both of which are not good for your mischief1. If you absolutely insist on feeding your rats peanut butter, choose an organic brand with zero added salts or sugar. Even then, there is some evidence to suggest that ground peanuts can have deleterious effects on your rat’s health.
Peanut and peanut products naturally contain mycotoxins. These are toxins produced by mold that grow in the peanut. Many peanut butters have high levels of aflatoxins specifically, which are toxins produced by Aspergillus fungi2.
Aflatoxins can cause liver failure and have neurotoxic effects3,4. They’ve also been linked to the development of cancer5. While humans need to eat substantial amounts of peanut products for toxicity to become relevant, much smaller amounts can cause harm to rats.
It’s therefore best to avoid feeding your rats peanut products altogether.
How Much Peanut Butter Can a Rat Eat?
As we’ve discussed, peanut products are not good for rats, both in terms of nutrition and because of toxins present in them. If you do insist on feeding peanut butter to your rats, only offer very small amounts.
Make sure to spread the peanut butter out thinly or have your rat lick tiny amounts off your finger to minimize the risk of choking. Note that the choking risk can’t be completely eliminated, so it’s best to avoid feeding peanut butter altogether.
Unfortunately, rats usually love peanut butter, both crunchy and creamy. This is probably due to the high sugar and fat contents. Still, for all the reasons listed above, peanut butter is not a suitable food for pet rats.
Can Rats Eat Almond Butter?
Almonds and almond butter can sometimes contain aflatoxins, too, but their levels are usually much lower than those in peanut butter6. If you want to feed your rats a nut butter, almond is definitely the better choice.
However, the risk of choking on the thick texture still applies, so it’s not a completely safe food to offer your mischief. If you want to feed your rats almond butter, choose an organic brand with no added sugars or salt.
Can Rats Eat Honey?
Honey is also rather sticky but tends to dissolve much faster than peanut butter when in contact with saliva. While not completely safe, the choking hazard is probably rather low. However, honey is basically pure sugar.
Sugar is very addictive to rats – even more so than cocaine, as an interesting study has shown7. Since obesity is a big problem in pet rats and has a negative impact on their life expectancy, sweet foods such as honey shouldn’t be a part of your mischief’s diet.
The only exception would be if this was the only way to get a rat to take a needed medicine.
Can Rats Eat Nutella?
The choking risks apply to Nutella, too, as it tends to be sticky. If watered down, that risk could probably be mitigated. But Nutella is still not a suitable choice of treat for rats. It’s high in sugar and fat and also contains chocolate (which is not good for rats).
For all these reasons, it’s best to avoid feeding your rats Nutella. Again, I’d make an exception if this was the only way to mask the taste of a medicine that your rat needs to take.
What Can You Not Feed Rats?
As we’ve seen, anything with a lot of sugar should really be avoided. Many processed foods contain a lot of salt, which isn’t ideal for rats either. Steer clear of anything with chocolate and caffeine in it, too.
Keep in mind that this is not a complete list of unsafe foods. Whenever you want to feed your rat a new food, it’s a good idea to research it first. Not everything that is safe for human consumption is also good for your mischief.
To Sum Up
Peanut butter can contain fungal toxins which are potentially harmful for rats. More importantly, its stickiness makes peanut butter a choking hazard for rats. It’s therefore best to avoid feeding it altogether. A much better choice of treat for rats would fruit, such as berries. Have a look at our articles on blueberries and strawberries, for example.
1. U.S. Department of Agriculture. FoodData Central – Peanut Butter. 2020. https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/1100559/nutrients.
2. Norlia M, Jinap S, Nor-Khaizura MAR, et al. Aspergillus section Flavi and Aflatoxins: Occurrence, Detection, and Identification in Raw Peanuts and Peanut-Based Products Along the Supply Chain. Frontiers in microbiology 2019;10:2602-2602. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/31824445.
3. Hanigan HM, Laishes BA. Toxicity of aflatoxin B1 in rat and mouse hepatocytes in vivo and in vitro. Toxicology 1984;30:185-193. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/6424269/.
4. Ikegwuonu FI. The neurotoxicity of aflatoxin B1 in the rat. Toxicology 1983;28:247-259. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/6138886/.
5. Wogan GN, Paglialunga S, Newberne PM. Carcinogenic effects of low dietary levels of aflatoxin B1 in rats. Food Cosmet Toxicol 1974;12:681-685. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/4375655/.
6. Kanik T, Kabak B. Aflatoxins in almonds: Monitoring and exposure assessment. Journal of Food Safety 2019;39:e12646. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/jfs.12646.
7. 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.
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.