Will Rats Eat Other Rats? Science, Facts, Tips


If you want your pet to have a healthy diet, you probably already know that specially prepared food for rats must make up the bulk of their diets. Rats require certain vitamins, minerals and fiber to function correctly and maintain good health. Much like us humans! But if this doesn’t happen, is there any truth in what you might have heard that rats eat other rats?

Rats are opportunistic, and will occasionally eat other rats if they find them dead. Rats that are not domesticated and fed a correct diet will pretty much eat anything and everything, and that can include the bodies of their own kind.

This of course might sound quite shocking to many people. So in this post I’m going to really dig deeper into all the reasons why a rat may (very occasionally) eat another rat in certain circumstances. I’ve come up with all the most important facts about this grizzly topic, and also several top tips to avoid this from ever happening with your pets.

Do rats eat dead rats? Two rats in a cage with a close-up of their faces

Rats are Opportunistic in Their Natural Environment 

There are two reasons for this, rats are opportunistic and will eat whatever is at hand. If food is abundant, they would probably give their friend a miss. They eat dead mates because the smell of death will bring in other animals that prey upon them. [Source]

This might sound shocking to us, but it is a mechanism of survival for smaller prey. 

Out there in the wild, rats are one of the smallest and easier prey to get hold of for most predators, both medium-sized and large. So, because of this, rats have an inbuilt intelligence to avoid being eaten. 

If you have an infestation of rats, the pest control company will warn you about getting rid of dead rats’ bodies for this reason. 

So, With This in Mind, How Do We Feed Our Pet Rats?

Domesticated rats are not the same as regular rats that can infest a home, for example. Pet rats become our beloved pets and have a long history with humans, which makes them quite easy to bond with. They are very lovable and sociable too. 

With that in mind, as a pet rat owner, you will want to feed them the correct food to stop them from turning on one another. 

The bulk of any rodent’s diet should be specialty foods that you purchase either online or at your local pet store. Don’t be tempted to give a rat mice food, for example,  as a lot of those pre-prepared foods contains alfalfa and rats cannot digest alfalfa at all.

Rats food contains everything a rat needs and comes in various forms, the usual pellet muesli or big blocks which they can nibble on. Some prefer the block type of food because the ingredients are more evenly distributed, but mostly you will find out what your rats most prefer. 

You can prepare your own rat food or rat muesli, but there is a certain level of responsibility required to ensure that everything in your muesli covers your pet rat’s needs. 

Rats are omnivores, so this means they will eat both plant and animal products. A little boiled egg is very enjoyable to a rat. You have to be careful to not overfeed your rat, as obesity can be an issue for them. 

Always ensure that your rat has adequate fresh water. This compliments a good diet and ensures they are well hydrated. 

Rats enjoy fruit, vegetables, seeds, grains and pretty much anything in addition to their commercially bought feed, but again this should be in small amounts as you do not want your rat to be overweight. [Source]

One way to combat this is to make their cage, or enclosure, easy enough for them to exercise in, and you can also hide their food about the cage so that they have to work for their food a bit more. This keeps them fit, but make sure you throw away old food that they didn’t find. Just as you would hate stinky old food, so will your pet!

Encourage Your Rat to Exercise 

When purchasing your rats home, try and go as big and spacious as your home, and budget will allow. 

If your home is small, you can purchase homes that have different levels now, these include stairs to enable them to walk to each level, both going up and down. Not only is this mentally stimulating, but it is also a fair amount of exercise for your rat! The number of levels you have is pretty much unlimited. 

Even if you go wider because you have the room, you can ensure that there is another floor at least for your pet to run up and downstairs. 

Do rats eat other rats? Two rats in a cage

Fun Things to Add to Their Cage to Occupy Them

There are all sorts of things you can add to the cage to encourage exercise, and to keep their mind off food all the time. Ladders, plastic tubing, They also enjoy swings, tree branches and all sorts of climbing apparatus.  Some of these you can make yourself by searching on the internet. There are plenty of ideas and inspirations. Your pet rat will certainly love you for it. 

One idea is a hammock. It is so easy to make, and your rat will surprise you with his agility when he jumps across the cage to get into the hammock. It is also a great cuddle ground for shared cages, as well as a sleeping space for your pet. 

By providing an individual space, it does mean your rats will stand a better chance of getting on with one another. You certainly don’t want to provide an environment where there’s some sort of clash.

Some people still use the exercise wheel with good effect. Your rat can get a great run on this apparatus, just make sure it does not have gaps or ‘rungs’. This can cause an issue if your pet rat’s tail gets stuck in it. 

Rats Love Their Human Owners and Their Rat Friends

It might shock you to hear that pet rats adore spending time with their owners, so much so that they will even learn tricks for treats! When placing your cage, make sure it is in a moderately busy area, rather than high traffic, or quiet areas. Some owners place the cage at eye level to interact with them more often. Rats need stimulation, we cannot stress that enough, and the more they get, the happier they are. 

They also enjoy other rats, so if you cannot spend that much time with your pet, then do them a favor and get them a mate. This way they will spend time grooming one another, cuddling together and playing. If a pet rats companion dies, he will mourn that rat and miss it. This is how much they bond with humans and other rats. 

If you want more, get more! People normally buy rats in twos, this prevents territorial fighting. 

Summary 

If you are concerned that your pet rat will eat other rats, it is highly unlikely to happen in a domestic setting. Out in the wilds for none domesticated rats, this happens frequently. Although it sounds bizarre to us humans, it is a mechanism for survival. Rats are prey to larger animals, so if another animal smells a dead rat, they will come along and get that carcass. Rats are very smart and know that the way to avoid this is to get rid of the body. 

When rats are hungry, they will eat anything, and that can include weird objects like curtains, skirting boards, which they also use to file their teeth, any types of foods that fall on the floor, and their dead friends if they are starving. 

Many animals and rodents do this, it is not that unusual!

Domesticated rats won’t do this because generally they are fed well. They enjoy a diet of rat pellets and some snacks of fruit and vegetables thrown in. It is tempting to overfeed your rats, so the best way to avoid this is to break the feed into morning and evening only, then ensure that they get plenty of exercises. You won’t be doing your pet any favors if you overfeed them. 

There are various ways to sneak in exercise for your pet rats. Plus, rats love to exercise!

You can ensure their cage is interesting and fun. Filled with things to crawl into, climb up and swing on! Throw in some chew toys too, for healthy teeth and extra stimulation. Rats need psychological stimulation as well, and with a few extra friends, their day can really improve. They sound as though they could teach humans a thing or two about good health and psychological happiness!

Barry Gray

Barry is a freelance writer from Scotland. He has written about pets for over a decade, and his work has been turned into a range of ebooks, courses, and material for diplomas. Barry is passionate about all animals, but particularly dogs, fish, rabbits, birds and spiders. You can find out more about Barry at https://mercurypets.com/our-writers/

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