Versatile, tasty, and healthy – potatoes are a staple of our diet, and for good reason. It’s no wonder you may want to offer your pet rats some, as well.
But can you feed your rats potatoes? Should you offer them raw or cooked? And what about the peelings?
Potatoes are a perfectly healthy addition to your mischief’s diet. They are rather high in carbohydrates and should be fed in moderation if your rats are overweight. Potatoes are best offered cooked, as they can cause gastrointestinal upset in their raw form.
If you want to find out more about the nutritional value of potatoes for your rats, as well as how to prepare them, keep on reading below.
Can You Feed Potatoes to Your Pet Rat?
Are Potatoes Poisonous for Rats?
You may have heard that plants of the nightshade family, such as potatoes, can contain toxic compounds and cause health problems for certain people and pets.
While it’s true that potatoes contain small amounts of glycoalkaloids such as solanine, these are highly unlikely to cause any problems – for your rats as well as for you1.
In general, solanine concentration is highest in potato peels and sprouts2. Potato sprouts and the area around the “eye” where the new sprout grows out of a potato should not be fed to your pet rats, as they could cause stomach upset. Any green areas of the potato are best removed, as well.
If you follow these safety tips for preparations, you will not have any issues when feeding your pet rats potatoes.
Are Potatoes Good for Rats?
Now that we’ve established that potatoes are not toxic for pet rats, let’s have a look at whether they are actually good for them.
Potatoes contain around 80% water3. They have almost no fats and a negligible amount of protein3. The main macronutrient to be found in potatoes is carbohydrates.
The carb content of potatoes ranges from 60 to 80% of their dry weight, depending on the type of potato4. Potatoes have a high glycemic index, meaning that their consumption can raise blood sugar significantly5.
For diabetic and overweight rats, you should limit the amount of potato that you offer due to this reason.
Research shows that cooling potatoes after cooking them can lower the glycemic index by as much as 25%6.
Potatoes also boast a decent amount of fiber, which promotes gut health7. The resistant starch in potatoes may help offset their high glycemic index a little by stabilizing blood sugar levels8.
There are several minerals and vitamins to be found in potatoes, namely potassium, vitamin C and B6, and folate3. Potassium is concentrated in the skin of the potato and promotes heart health9. Vitamin C contents are lower in cooked potatoes, but leaving the skin on can reduce the loss of this precious vitamin that benefits skin health as well as the immune system4,10.
Potatoes also contain some polyphenols, which have antioxidant properties – the highest content of these can be found in the varieties with red or purple skin and flesh11.
All in all, these are several good reasons to offer your mischief potatoes as a part of their fresh food diet. As they are rather in high carbohydrates, make sure to complement the menu with vegetables that are lower in calories.
Do Rats Eat Raw Potatoes?
As rats are not very picky eaters, they would probably also consume potatoes raw, if offered. However, raw potatoes tend to be hard to digest and may cause gastrointestinal upset.
While in their raw form potatoes have a higher content of resistant starch and vitamin C than when cooked, they also contain anti-nutrients that can interfere with their proper digestion. Cooking potatoes significantly reduces the amount of lectin and other anti-nutrients in them12,13.
Glycoalkaloids, the toxic compounds that can be found especially in green or sprouted potatoes, are also lower in cooked potatoes than in raw ones14.
All this to say: don’t feed your rats raw potatoes. Instead, opt for boiled potatoes – ideally boiling them in their skin – with no added salt or fat.
If you usually discard potato skins, you may wonder if you can feed them to your rats instead. Raw potato peelings are not good for rats, for the same reasons that we don’t recommend feeding your mischief raw potatoes in general.
Cooked potato skins, however, can be offered to your rats with no adverse effects. If the potatoes have been fried, though, it’s best not to offer the fried potato skin to your rats, as too much fat can cause digestive problems and lead to obesity.
Can Rats Eat French Fries?
While there’s no doubt that French fries are incredibly tasty, they’re unfortunately not a suitable food for your pet rats.
Due to their high fat and salt content, they can be harmful to your mischief’s health and lead to obesity, which is already a huge problem in rats that live in captivity.
What Foods Can Rats Not Eat?
Just like potatoes, not all vegetables should be offered raw. Sweet potatoes, artichokes and beans should also only ever be fed cooked. Often, you’ll find cabbage listed as a food that shouldn’t be offered raw, too – but it’s fine in small amounts. Too much raw cabbage can cause gas and bloating, though.
Some other human foods are also best avoided for rats. These include products that contain onion, chocolate and coffee, as they may be toxic to rats. Anything with lots of salt, sugar, or spices is generally not good for your pet rats, either.
Fruit is fine, but only in moderation due to its high sugar content. The pips and stones should always be removed before offering fruit. For male rats, citrus fruits and mangoes are best avoided due to kidney issues that they may cause.
When in doubt, always research any new food before offering it to your rats. We have compiled tons of articles on which foods are suitable for your mischief.
To Sum Up
Potatoes are perfectly fine for rats to eat but should only be offered cooked. Cooked potato skins are also okay, but refrain from feeding raw peelings.
If your rats are already overweight, limit the amount of potato offered and make sure to supplement with plenty of low-carb vegetables.
1. Schrenk D, Bignami M, Bodin L, et al. Risk assessment of glycoalkaloids in feed and food, in particular in potatoes and potato-derived products. Efsa j 2020;18:e06222. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/32788943/.
2. Deng Y, He M, Feng F, et al. The distribution and changes of glycoalkaloids in potato tubers under different storage time based on MALDI-TOF mass spectrometry imaging. Talanta 2021;221:121453. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/33076076/.
3. U.S. Department of Agriculture. FoodData Central – Potatoes, white, flesh and skin, raw. 2019. https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/170028/nutrients.
4. Robertson TM, Alzaabi AZ, Robertson MD, et al. Starchy Carbohydrates in a Healthy Diet: The Role of the Humble Potato. Nutrients 2018;10. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6267054/.
5. Atkinson FS, Brand-Miller JC, Foster-Powell K, et al. International tables of glycemic index and glycemic load values 2021: a systematic review. Am J Clin Nutr 2021;114:1625-1632. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/34258626/.
6. Udagawa E, Matsuda H, Tanaka M, et al. The Effect of Heat-acid Treatment on the Formation of Resistant Starch and the Estimated Glycemic Index in Potatoes. J Appl Glycosci (1999) 2017;64:75-80. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/34354499/.
7. Anderson JW, Baird P, Davis Jr RH, et al. Health benefits of dietary fiber. Nutrition Reviews 2009;67:188-205. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1753-4887.2009.00189.x.
8. Maziarz MP, Preisendanz S, Juma S, et al. Resistant starch lowers postprandial glucose and leptin in overweight adults consuming a moderate-to-high-fat diet: a randomized-controlled trial. Nutr J 2017;16:14. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5320660/.
13. Huang DY, Swanson BG, Ryan CA. Stability of Proteinase Inhibitors in Potato Tubers During Cooking. Journal of Food Science 1981;46:287-290. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1365-2621.1981.tb14583.x.
14. Lachman J, Hamouz K, Musilová J, et al. Effect of peeling and three cooking methods on the content of selected phytochemicals in potato tubers with various colour of flesh. Food Chem 2013;138:1189-1197. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/23411230/.
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.