Did you know that tomatoes are not a vegetable, but technically a berry1? Whereas strawberries are not berries at all? Regardless of these confusing facts, you’ll probably find tomatoes quite tasty and want to share them with your mischief.
But can you feed your rats tomatoes? How should you prepare tomatoes for your rats?
Tomatoes are a healthy addition to your rat’s diet. You can offer them sliced or feed whole or halved cherry tomatoes. Too much tomato can cause diarrhea in rats, so it shouldn’t make up too large a portion of their diet.
To find out how to prepare tomato for your rats, keep on reading!
Rats & Tomatoes
Are Tomatoes Safe for Rats?
Tomatoes consist of 95% water. The rest of them is mainly carbohydrates and fiber2. It’s not necessarily the macronutrients that make them interesting, though. They also contain substantial amounts of vitamins, mainly vitamin C and vitamin K3.
Other interesting components of tomatoes include lycopenes, beta carotene, chlorogenic acid, and naringin.
Lycopenes are lipophilic antioxidants. A review that looked at the positive effect of lycopenes and tomato consumption linked them to lower mortality and better cardiovascular and metabolic health4.
Beta carotenes are vitamin A precursors, meaning that mammals use them to produce vitamin A5. Chlorogenic acid and naringin have been shown to boost cardiovascular health6,7. Apart from this, naringin also appears to help with diabetes, neurodegenerative disorders, osteoporosis, and it has been shown to reduce the development of cancer7.
All this to say: Tomatoes are healthy! They make a wonderful addition to your rat’s diet. Most rats tend to like tomatoes, as they act on the umami taste buds8. Some rats might reject them; or avoid parts of them like the pulp, seed, or skin.
As tomatoes contain lots of water and fiber, they may cause diarrhea when consumed in large amounts.
How Much Tomato Can a Rat Eat?
Tomatoes can be offered as part of your rat’s daily diet. For an adult rat, half a cherry tomato or a slice of a larger tomato a day is plenty. If you have small cherry tomatoes, you can offer each rat a whole tomato – this will keep them entertained for longer, as they figure out how to break the skin.
Some resources recommend removing the pulp and seeds of tomatoes before feeding them to rats, as they are thought to be choking hazards. I have never known this to be a problem, though, as rats are smart eaters! If you want to be extra careful, you can remove the seeds of larger tomatoes.
Don’t forget to wash tomatoes before feeding them, as should be customary for all produce. Tomatoes are listed as high in pesticide residues9, so go with organic whenever possible.
Absolutely. Cherry tomatoes are a lot of fun to feed your rats – you can offer them whole and watch them play with them and figure out how to best eat them. Some rats will spend ages removing the skin before digging in.
Just like cherry tomatoes, grape tomatoes are safe for your rats to eat. You can offer halves of grape tomatoes. If they are on the smaller side, whole grape tomatoes work just fine, too.
Can Rats Eat Tomato Sauce?
Store-bought tomato sauce tends to contain lots of salt and – sometimes – sugar, as well as other spices. Due to this, it’s not an ideal food for rats.
If you make your own tomato sauce without salt or sugar, you can offer some to your rats. However, rats will probably prefer fresh tomatoes, as they offer a more interesting texture and eating experience.
Can Rats Eat Basil?
Tomato and basil go hand in hand. The best tomato salads are seasoned with basil, after all! So, you may wonder if you can offer some basil alongside the tomatoes for your rats? The answer is absolutely, yes! Basil is safe for your rats, and they generally enjoy the flavor of basil leaves.
What Vegetables Can Rats Not Eat?
Not all vegetables are safe for rats to eat. You should not feed your rats raw potatoes (especially green ones), raw artichokes, or raw beans. These foods are perfectly fine when cooked, though! To be on the safe side, raw sweet potatoes should avoided, as well. Some resources will tell you not to feed raw cabbage to rats, but it’s usually fine in moderation. Too much can cause bloating and diarrhea, though.
Whenever you want to feed a new food to your rats, take a couple of minutes to research any potential harmful effects. The first time your feed them something new, only offer small amounts, gradually increasing over time.
To Sum Up
Tomatoes are a great food for rats, and completely safe. You can offer slices of tomato. Cherry and grape tomatoes can be offered whole or halved. It’s generally not necessary to remove the pulp and seeds, but if you want to be extra cautious, you can do so when feeding large tomatoes.
1. Encyclopedia of Life. Garden tomato. Solanum lycopersicum L. Retrieved 2021. https://eol.org/pages/392557.
2. U.S. Department of Agriculture. FoodData Central – Tomato. 2021. https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/1999634/nutrients.
3. Abdullah M, Jamil RT, Attia FN. Vitamin C (Ascorbic Acid). StatPearls. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing
Copyright © 2022, StatPearls Publishing LLC., 2022.
4. Li N, Wu X, Zhuang W, et al. Tomato and lycopene and multiple health outcomes: Umbrella review. Food Chem 2021;343:128396. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/33131949/.
5. Shete V, Quadro L. Mammalian metabolism of β-carotene: gaps in knowledge. Nutrients 2013;5:4849-4868. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/24288025/.
6. Watanabe T, Arai Y, Mitsui Y, et al. The blood pressure-lowering effect and safety of chlorogenic acid from green coffee bean extract in essential hypertension. Clin Exp Hypertens 2006;28:439-449. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/16820341/.
7. Bharti S, Rani N, Krishnamurthy B, et al. Preclinical evidence for the pharmacological actions of naringin: a review. Planta Med 2014;80:437-451. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/24710903/.
8. Servant G, Frerot E. Pharmacology of the Umami Taste Receptor. Handb Exp Pharmacol 2021. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/33580387/.
9. EWG. Dirty Dozen – EWG’s 2021 Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce. 2021. https://www.ewg.org/foodnews/dirty-dozen.php.
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.