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My rats are fed a grain-based dry mix supplemented with fresh veg and the occasional wet meal. They usually get the dry mix once a day, in the evening after returning to the cage after freeranging (as this tends to be when they're the most active) although sometimes they will also get a smaller portion in the morning. The mix is scattered in the base among the cardboard substrate and hidden all around the cage. They will spend a long time digging and sniffing around to find everything, and they always eat all of it - usually in just a few hours, so they automatically get quite long lean period with no food. Sometimes some of their mix is stuffed in small paper bags that can be found and (noisily) ripped apart during the night. With regards to amounts, I largely feed by how they look and feel but tend to always err on the side of "too little" rather than "too much".

I mix their dry mix myself and store it in 37-litre plastic food bin. I love mixing their food and see exactly what goes into it, and the way it comes out looking subtly colourful and appealing. It also smells really fresh and lovely. I started out feeding a basic Shunamite-style mix, then moved onto an entirely straights-based mix, and since the latter half of 2012 I combine my own straights-based mix with parts rabbit feed base (chiefly Harrison's Banana Brunch), pigeon feed, and mixed flakes.

The 'home made' part of their mix consists of most of the following ingredients: barley flakes, buckwheat, flaked maize, flaked peas, groats, millet flakes, paddy rice, lentils, split peas, pearl barley, spelt/millet pasta, egg noodles, rice flakes, puffed rice, dari, cornflakes, flaked soya, broken ryvitas, dried fruit (cranberries, hawthorn berries, currants, rosehip), dried mixed veg (including beetroot, peppers, tomato), dried carrot, herb mix and roughage, dandelion root, whole fish, shrimp, dog food (James Wellbeloved senior fish or Burns chicken and brown rice), Denes wholegrain mixer, seeds (fennel, perilla, hemp, milkthistle, celery, etc).

I get the ingredients from a couple of local independent health food shops, Holland & Barrett and Sainsburys. I also order online from the excellent RatRations. I tend to use as many ingredients as I have, as they enjoy variety so much and it's more interesting for them to have a range of tastes and textures. That means a mix is likely to include, for example, rice in several forms (flakes, grains, puffed). They don't get many treats but when they do it's usually seeds like milkthistle, sunflower or hemp, or a piece of dry pasta. Their favourite commercial treats are Pointer Puppy's linseed biscuits, Organic Pet's mint and herb "Minis Plus", as well as Denes wholegrain mixer - they get a Denes each every morning for breakfast, and I also take the opportunity to quickly look over them and make sure everyone is well and accounted for before going to work. It's so lovely to get downstairs in the morning and be greeted by a whole bunch of little happy hungry noses!

The fresh veg they get is most often a combination of kale, carrot or broccoli. A couple of times a week I might mix it with a bit of flax oil or salmon oil. Sometimes they get chopped mushrooms, tomatos, squash, pak choi, etc, and occasionally fresh sweetcorn or peas, which are both a massive favourite with our rats but quite high in sugar. We like to grow herbs on the window sill so basil, mint, tarragon or thyme is also often mixed in with the veg, and I sometimes go foraging for things like dandelion, wild garlic, wood sorrel, primrose, blackberry leaves, and various branches for their cages.

I give them the vitamin supplement "Daily Essentials 1" (usually referred to as Dr Squiggles - or rat crack!) every 1-2 weeks or so and sprinkles of seaweed powder and garlic powder at roughly the same interval. They get Calcivet or DailyRat3 once or twice a week, if I remember. They occasionally get natural yogurt or small portions of wet food, like spagetti with olive oil and peas, boiled diced potatoes with a bit of tuna, couscous and tomato sauce, etc. I'm really quite anal about not giving them anything with too much added salt or sugar though. Applaws kitten foods are also excellent quality and well liked.

They are real little pleasure-pigs and love pretty much all food. Most of our rescues have started out picky and haven't wanted to know about most veg at all but they will eventually go just as keen on everything as the others. A similar story with herbs, as they can initially be very wary of new foods in general and seem puzzled over why mint makes the others go ballistic. I usually just offer it to new people a few times a week when the others get theirs, and eventually they'll start to nibble it and take a small bite before dropping it for someone else to hoover up. A while later they'll be just as crazy for it as the rest are, so persistence generally pays off when introducing new flavours.

And here are some food-related photos:

If, for some reason, you would like to see more photos of my rats eating various things - go to the Media page :-)


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