Fresh food is an excellent addition to a rat’s diet, and you can offer many types of food to your rats on a daily basis. When looking through your kitchen cupboards for items to give your rats, you may find yourself asking – which nuts are safe for rats to eat? Today’s article is here to help you decide.
So, Is It Safe for Rats to Eat Nuts?
Nuts are generally rich in healthy fat, along with protein, fiber, B group vitamins (not B12), vitamin E, and numerous minerals. Rats love them, and they make a healthy snack, but because of the high-fat level, they should be offered in small “treat” amounts. The exception is the sweet chestnut, which is low in fat and a great choice for rats.
Nuts are the nutrient-rich fruit of a variety of plants that grow their fruit in an inedible shell. They generally contain large amounts of fat, and this stored energy is needed for the germination of the new plant. These are largely healthy fats such as monounsaturated, polyunsaturated, and omega 3 fatty acids.
Although the fats in nuts are “good” fats, they still make up at least 50% of most nuts and up to 80% in the case of macadamias and pecans. Rats are known to suffer from health issues when fed a high-fat diet – regardless of what type of fat they eat. This is because they are particularly sensitive to high-calorie diets that lead to rapid growth and obesity, both of which shorten lifespan.
Nuts provide excellent nutritional benefits, such as boosting dietary zinc and selenium, minerals that are needed for a healthy immune system, and many other processes in the rat’s body. They also contain good amounts of minerals like copper, which can sometimes be low in a straight grain-based rat food mix.
Weighing all the benefits and cautions against each other, we would suggest that nuts are an excellent food for rats, but that they should only be fed in small amounts regularly. Depending on the size of the nut, this could be one small nut down to an eighth of a large nut like a Brazil. So, which nuts can rats eat?
Can Rats Eat Brazil Nuts?
Brazil nuts are one of the largest nuts and are the richest food source of selenium. Selenium is a mineral that is essential for thyroid gland function and the health of the immune system. It’s also a powerful antioxidant.
Brazil nuts can be fed to your rats raw and unsalted. They are large nuts, and a sixth to an eighth of a nut is sufficient if you feed them regularly. As well as selenium, they contain good amounts of vitamin E, thiamine, copper, zinc, calcium, and iron.
Can Rats Eat Almonds?
Almonds contain a wealth of vitamin E, B group vitamins, copper, zinc, iron, and calcium, making an excellent healthy treat. As well as supporting immune system health, they are great for your rats’ skin and coat condition because of the high levels of vitamin E.
These medium-sized nuts are a good starter nut to feed in their shells as the shells are easy for your rat to breach. Almonds can be fed raw, toasted, flaked or chopped and around half a nut per rat.
Can Rats Eat Cashew Nuts?
The cashew is another medium-sized nut which readily divides into two halves. It boasts excellent mineral content, including iron, copper, zinc, and selenium. Like all nuts, cashews are rich in omega 6 fats, protein, phytochemicals, and antioxidants.
Cashews are thought to help protect against cancer, anemia, and infection. Because they are high in phosphorus, you’ll need to limit them if your rat is elderly or has signs of kidney issues. Otherwise, feed around half a nut per rat a couple of times a week – alternating with other nuts.
Can Rats Eat Pistachios?
Pistachios are full of B vitamins, fiber, protein (21%), minerals, antioxidants, and healthy fats. They have less fat than pecans, macadamia nuts, pine nuts, and Brazils and are high in fiber, so can be a healthy choice.
They are easy to source in their shells, which can add extra enrichment for your rats, and are small enough to be fed whole. Feed one nut per rat a couple of times a week – just avoid the salted varieties.
Can Rats Eat Pecans?
Pecans have a high-fat content – but these are healthy fats – mostly monounsaturated – and after walnuts, contain the highest concentration (in a nut) of omega 3. They are a useful dietary addition, especially when you are trying to maintain weight in an older or sick rat. Pecans also have excellent levels of fiber, B vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals.
If you want to help your rats by supporting gut, cardiovascular, and immune system health, feeding pecans is one route to achieving this. The healthy oils also promote skin and coat health, may reduce cancer risks, and even slow the rate of aging. Pecans are sold as halved nuts, and you can half these again to create a sensible rattie portion.
Can Rats Eat Walnuts?
The walnut’s claim to fame is the highest antioxidant level of all nuts. They also contain loads of omega 3 (ALA) – even more than hemp seeds (as a non-nutty comparison)! This makes them excellent for heart health. Like all nuts, they contain B vitamins, minerals (great copper levels), and phytochemicals – including polyphenols and melatonin.
Walnuts can help to reduce inflammation, improve gut health, and support fertility in male rats. The gnarly shells are hard for rats to break into, which can provide hours of gnawing fun and enrichment. You can feed regularly, offering a quarter of a nut to each rat.
Can Rats Eat Hazelnuts?
If you want a rat-sized nut to feed regularly inside the shell, hazelnuts are what you are looking for. They are easy nuts to crack and can easily be hidden inside foraging toys for extra impact. The nuts are a great source of B vitamins and minerals – including copper.
Like most nuts, the health benefits include supportive effects on the gut, immune system, skin, coat, and cardiovascular system. You can give up to one nut per rat, preferably in its shell as an enriching treat a couple of times a week.
Can Rats Eat Sweet Chestnuts?
Sweet chestnuts are out of sync with most nuts as they are low in fat and high in complex carbohydrates. This is well suited to a rat’s dietary requirements. They still contain some omega 3 and 6 fats, great vitamin C levels, and minerals like manganese, iron, and copper.
They can help to keep your rats’ skin and coats healthy, while also supporting the immune system and cardiovascular health. Rats can eat fresh roasted sweet chestnuts freely, and the tinned or vacuum-packed varieties are also good to offer.
Can Rats Eat Peanuts?
Peanuts are not nuts, but rather legumes (like peas and beans) as they grow in seed pods from leguminous plants rather than trees. We’ve included them here because, as humans, we tend to lump them in with the other nuts.
You might see raw peanuts included on lists of forbidden foods for rats. There is no real substance to this. Many animals, including humans and rats, can eat raw peanuts without impacting their health.
However, these small nuts contain lectin and phytates, which reduces the amount of minerals that can be absorbed from food. So long as the diet is rich in nutrients (and you’re not feeding loads of peanuts, this is unlikely to be a problem.
On the plus side, they are rich in fiber, antioxidants, and minerals. Feed in the red skin wherever possible as this is rich in nutrients, giving up to one nut per rat once or twice a week.
Can Rats Eat Pine Nuts?
Pine nuts are the smallest of nuts and a perfect size for rats to enjoy one or two as a treat. They are a great source of antioxidants, vitamin K, iron, zinc, and copper, amongst other vitamins and minerals. They do tend to be a bit pricier than many other nuts.
The pine nuts we tend to eat are only one of 29 species around the world. These nutrient-packed nuts would likely be eaten by rats in the wild, in areas of pine forestation.
Can Rats Eat Macadamia Nuts?
There aren’t any nuts that are edible to humans that rats can’t eat – but being one of the highest fat nuts (76% of the nut is fat), macadamias should probably be limited in the rat’s diet. However, the fats in these nuts are monounsaturated and great for health.
Macadamias are also an excellent source of thiamine, manganese, iron, and fiber amongst other nutrients. About a quarter of a nut is sufficient for a rattie treat.
Can Rats Eat Roasted And Salted Nuts?
Roasting at high temperatures reduces some of the nutrient benefits of nuts. Most roasted nuts also have unhealthy oils added before the cooking process. For these reasons alone, it is generally much better to feed your rats raw nuts.
Many nuts sold for human consumption are also flavored with salt and other coatings such as chili, pepper, or barbeque flavoring. All of these should be avoided when feeding your rats their daily nuts because the plain raw nuts have greater health benefits. However, the occasional salted nut is not going to do any harm!
Can Rats Eat Nuts In Shells?
The hard shell of the nut is inedible to rats, just as it is to us. However, rats are experts at gnawing – and gnawing is a great stress relieving and self-calming activity for them. The act of breaking into a nut through its outer shell is also a natural rat behavior and, therefore, enriching.
Giving whole nuts in their shells would be too much ‘nut per rat’ if you gave them one each, every day – but offering shell-on nuts is certainly an activity you can provide regularly.
The easiest nuts for rats to crack open are pecans, hazelnuts, and almonds. Harder varieties include walnuts and Brazils. Always let your rats become experts at opening the easier nuts before offering the harder varieties. Otherwise, they may not persist with the task, and the nuts go to waste.
How Often Can My Rats Eat Nuts?
The reason the sections above recommend the individual nuts only being fed a couple of times a week is NOT that feeding nuts every day is too much. In fact, a small portion of nuts each day is a useful and healthy addition to a good rat diet. But variety is also important as different nuts have different benefits and nutritional strengths.
We would suggest choosing 3 or 4 types of nuts and alternating between them – feeding only one type each day. Our top five would be:
- Walnuts (omega 3)
- Brazils (selenium)
- Almonds (vitamin E)
- Pecans (excellent mix of healthy fat)
- Pistachios (high fiber and small enough to be offered frequently in the shell)
Sweet chestnuts (NOT horse chestnuts/ ‘conkers’ which are poisonous) can, because of their unique nutritional profile, be fed as extra to other nuts and regularly as part of a mixed diet.
Nuts are super little packages of nutrient-dense food, with proven health benefits. We suggest they are fed in small amounts- daily- as a healthy addition to your rats’ diet. Rats tend to enjoy them, and you can feed them both in and out of their shells.