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I am thinking of switching my rats to Harlan Teklad (16% protein) because my rats are over one year old. However, this lab block is vegetarian and I am wondering if protein that is not from an animal source is healthy for our beloved rats?
 

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I know a lot of people like it, and I've heard it can be a cheaper option if you have a lot of rats to feed. (We may switch since 13 rats can go through a 20lb bag of food pretty quick!) You can always add in meat based protiens as a supliment to make sure they are getting everything. A bit of chicken or egg once in a while. Mealworms are a good protien source to I've heard. It is specialy formulated for lab animals though so it's really consistent and from what I've heard is a solid diet nutrient wise.
 

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I use the 18% "native earth" a generic version of harlan teklad. I have had zero issues with keeping both males and females on it and my female's coats look great. My rats have also had no health issues to date, although that could be unrelated.

I buy it from petfooddirect when they have their "free shipping on $49 orders under 60lbs sale" and the bag costs $19 for 40lbs. I believe pet360 offers a 4 bag pack (with shipping included) also at a slightly higher cost of $24 a bag.

It's been a good food option for me and I will soon be doubling my number of rats... So won't be able to afford more expensive food. I usually divide up the bag when I get it and put it in ziploc bags. I have not frozen it yet, but now have access to a larger freezer, so may start doing that.

I'm sure you could add other protein sources to their diet, like boiled eggs, etc. But my rats have not shown any need for it (but again, I'm on the 18% formula).

If you don't mind me asking, where will you be ordering the HT from? I haven't found a source online that sells in the 40lb bags, which is why I use the higher protein percentage NE.
 

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Rats are adaptable omnivores a lot like people. They are not obligate carnivores so long as they are getting complete proteins -- which this block provides.
 

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So, I had something very detailed typed up but my computer decided that of course no one needed that helpful information.

Basically, Harlan's first 4 ingredients are actually only 2. Corn and wheat. There is a reason that these two almost never make it into homemade mixes that are properly balanced. Corn is extremely high in sugar and not very digestible. Wheat is simply a fibrous filler, with a high % of fat and an extremely high percentage of protein as well. However, it has fairly low ratings in most vitamins - the only ones it has any significant portion of are magnesium, B-6, and iron.

Plant-based proteins come with a lot of fat - which may sound weird as we normally associate fat with animal protein, but there are ways to limit it. Heck, wheat is 7% fat! You can get 93% lean ground beef just about anywhere. So, in that case, wheat has just as much fat as beef does.

Variety is key. Humans can't subsist eating only popcorn and cheerios, can they? And that's kind of what Harlan is like to me. Popcorn and cheerios with soy milk and vitamins sprayed on. Will it keep your ratties alive? Of course. And it's not a bad diet choice to do so. Certainly better than some of the junk out there.

However, with rats optimal health is the best. Which is why I always recommend regal rat or high quality, human-grade food.
 

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I have started to feed my rats both Oxbow Essentials Regal Rat and Harlan Teklad 2014. (I'd rather feed the 14% protein.) I can see that if you have a lot of rats that it would make sense to order larger bags. Since I generally only have 2-3 rats at a time, I order smaller bags to ensure freshness.

Good points you make, Pandorascaisse, about the first four ingredients in HT being really only two---corn and wheat! I also don't like that this diet is designed for lab rats since I'm against animal testing. Regarding it being a vegetarian diet, HT's website says "Absence of animal protein and fish meal minimizes the presence of nitrosamines." Despite these terrible points, I do think it is probably a pretty good diet since it was created expressly to keep lab rats in top form (----so they can be tested on without diet being a factor in the health problems for which they are testing.) :(
 

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I often wonder if labs are required to keep rats in PERFECT health for tests, or of average health. After all, especially if you are doing trials with medicines, if the rats are all in perfect health, it's not really simulating much of how humans actually live.

To be fair, I feel it's not that the lab blocks keep rats in optimal health, rather that lab blocks are designed so that rats in the test are all eating the same nutritional content so no one can say "well, maybe the X in the X you were feeding them messed with your results!".
 
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