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Hello, I've posted a few times in this forum before and got some good advice so, naturally, I'm here with my biggest question! I'm about to own rats for the first time after years of wanting to, but I live in a country where they aren't popular pets so the only rodent food available in stores is that really terrible generic sunflower&corn seed mix. I used to feed my hamsters Oxbow when I lived in Canada but unfortunately that isn't an option here, and ordering online is just too unreliable at the moment (not to mention shipping to Ukraine costs heaps and takes a very long time). Since I feed my dog a raw homemade diet, I figure why not do it for the rats too? It'll certainly be better than the pet shop rubbish, although I know it does take quite a lot of work.

I've found some diets via googling but I'm not sure if there's one that's "best" or more highly regarded by experienced rat owners? One thing I did notice in a couple is that there's a lot of cereals and stuff that I can't get here (also a few other things I've never even heard of or seen in stores). That adds some difficulty to this but I'm determined to see it through and make the most nutritionally-sound diet that I can, preferably without having to travel to the ends of the earth to find the ingredients ahah. Any help is appreciated!
 

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Can you find the dog food Solid Gold Holistique Blendz? It makes a good rat food and it's easier to find than Oxbow.
 

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I would do a search on this site for isamurat. She has a lot of posts on diet and rat requirements, as well as a some very nice lists of food she uses in her mixes.

I like the solid gold as well and use it in my mix, no idea if it's available where you are however. As far as dog, rabbit and other than rat foods-you may be able to find something that will work at least as a base for your rats. You will just have to learn to read the labels and find the good ones.
 

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You might also want to message cagedbirdsinging as she sells a mix for her rats and she might be able to help you out.
 

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Isamurat should be able to help, she really knows her food! If you can, get your hands on a copy of the 'scuttling gourmet'. It's a book about nutrition for rats, and would be a good resource for someone looking to make their own food.
 

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i do feed homemade and have since 2007 in varying forms. i genuinely think its the best way to feed rats.

In terms of the best guidelines to follow i don't think you can beat a Shunamite style mix. check out the link to my site in my sig strip. I've got a breakdown of a more up to date version than is on this forum.

The first step is to source a base. This should be minimally processed grains or a commercial pet food that had a good range of Good grains in it (some muesli style rabbit mixes, horse and pigmy goat mixes make fair to good rat food bases over here. It may also be worth looking at rat rations Europe and wether they ship over there, save you some effort. The other tricky thing is finding a good protien and suitable vitamin suppliments
 

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Discussion Starter #7 (Edited)
Can you find the dog food Solid Gold Holistique Blendz? It makes a good rat food and it's easier to find than Oxbow.
The only decent dog food brand here is Acana, unfortunately. And it's pretty expensive- the smallest bag is over 500 hryvnia which is nearly $50, yikes.

Does anyone know how good the Versele Laga Rat Nature Food is? I've found it in stock at a little tiny pet store in the city that I'd never even noticed before because it was tucked away quite well! Here are the ingredients and the such: http://www.versele-laga.eu/NUTRI/Nutrition/Pages/Products/index.jsp?ran=20644&pro=20723&fam=224&ani=5339&rac=0

Rat Rations does not ship to Ukraine as of the last time I checked (a week or two ago). Isamurat, I'm looking through your site now, very helpful! :) The Versele Laga food seems to have protein that's too high at 17.5%. Is this a deal breaker?
 

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Not a deal breaker for young rats who need a slightly higher level of protein however the fat content is pretty high compared to say Regal Rat (4%) and ingredients aren't the best. As someone who is originally from the Ukraine, I understand how difficult it is to find something decent for rats so may not be a terrible option if mixed with higher quality ingredients as part of a home made mix.
 

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Personally I don't buy a specific for for my rats. They eat what I have to eat. Kale GMO Free bread cereal apple pieces or bananas etc... More manageable for myself, I find it less worrisome and time efficient.
 

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The versa laga is too high in protien and fat. if it's your only option then i would mix it about 60:40 with a mixture of grains and cereals. something like

3 scoops barley
3 scoops brown rice
1 scoop millet
1 scoop popping corn
1 scoop puffed rice
1/2 scoop cornflakes
1/2 scoop shredded wheat broken up

that will dilute things and make the mix a fair bit better
 

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Discussion Starter #11 (Edited)
The versa laga is too high in protien and fat. if it's your only option then i would mix it about 60:40 with a mixture of grains and cereals. something like

3 scoops barley
3 scoops brown rice
1 scoop millet
1 scoop popping corn
1 scoop puffed rice
1/2 scoop cornflakes
1/2 scoop shredded wheat broken up

that will dilute things and make the mix a fair bit better
I checked out cagedbirdsinging's shop as Zabora suggested higher up in this thread, and one of her formulas is composed of said ingredients;

barley (pearled, rolled), rice, millet, buckwheat,​
flax seed, sesame seed, pumpkin seed, cashew nuts, hemp seed.​
Could this be used as a staple diet in itself without adding the Versa Laga mix? All these ingredients are easy for me to find and don't contain any brand name products that might be tricky to find the proper equivalent of over here. I know it'll need to be completed with some fresh foods though. It almost seems a bit too easy compared to the other diets I've seen around, so I feel like extra ingredients might be needed?
 

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i do feed homemade and have since 2007 in varying forms. i genuinely think its the best way to feed rats.

In terms of the best guidelines to follow i don't think you can beat a Shunamite style mix. check out the link to my site in my sig strip. I've got a breakdown of a more up to date version than is on this forum.

The first step is to source a base. This should be minimally processed grains or a commercial pet food that had a good range of Good grains in it (some muesli style rabbit mixes, horse and pigmy goat mixes make fair to good rat food bases over here. It may also be worth looking at rat rations Europe and wether they ship over there, save you some effort. The other tricky thing is finding a good protien and suitable vitamin suppliments
Sorry for the hijack, OP--but I hope my question here yields some good info for you, as well.

Isamurat, I just read the info on your site--thanks, very interesting.

I've done some reading on various sites, re: home mixes, and have come to my own sort of customized diet, as I haven't been completely happy with anything I've found commercially available.

The thing that popped out at me, from your info, is the need for supplementation--and I'm wondering if I've overlooked something in my planning.

What I'm feeding my girls is very close to the Shunamite deal you speak of--with some important exceptions.

I have done quite a bit of research on the toxic ingredients in so many pet foods (and people foods). I won't feed them mass-market commercial human cereals, due to the sugars and preservatives, etc.

I avoid preservatives, sulfites, nitrates, nitrates, ethoxyquin in particular (uses in MANY fish products), and the toxic Vitamin K, known as "Menadione Sodium Bisulfite."

The only Menadione exposure my girls are getting is from a small ration of Oxbow Regal Rat in their mix. I've also written to Oxbow, asking them to remove this from their product, haven't gotten any feedback yet. Anyone interested, read the MSDS on Menadione--it's banned for human food use, for daggone good reason.

So, I have a bit of Regal Rat, a high quality dog kibble, and then this base grain/legume/seed mix:

Wild and brown rice
Barley
Wheat Berries
Steel Cut Oats
Spelt
Roasted (Unsalted) Soy Nuts
Raw Pumpkin Seeds
Unsalted Sunflower Seeds
Red Lentils
Green Split Peas
Uncooked Veggie Pasta
Flax Seeds


I do equal parts of the above, excepting half portions of the seeds. All are organic, from the health food store.

In addition, they each get a very small portion of egg or meat (fish or chicken) a couple times a week, plus some wet food and fresh food daily--organic baby foods and fresh veggies, small amounts of fruit.

Okay, hope I haven't forgotten anything--but do you think I still need to supplement, based on all that?

I wish I were independently wealthy--I'd hire a chemist/nutritionist to analyze my mix and "grade" it for me!
 

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The big thing with suppliments is if you feed a mix with mostly grains (which at the end of the day is probably the healthiest for them) you will struggle to meet their need for certain nutrients even if you feed regular veg and odd bits of other stuff. The main weaknesses you find in this kind of diet are vitamin d (the biggest pain in the bum), copper and calcium. This is much tougher in young rats whose requirements are higher for all these things.

You can feed fresh foods to meet this requirement but it's a balancing act. liver is great for copper but not to often as it's high in vit a (something that rats can od on) fish and cod liver oil are great for vit d (but can also be high in vit a though you can get some with that extracted) and bones and egg shells are brill for calcium (but without vit d calcium is useless). i tend to do a mixture, regular foods plus a back up suppliment or two. i am quite careful with this as in the early days of the uk takimg up straight based mixes (a term for mixes made with minimally processed grains) several of us (including me) had a vitamin d deficiency in our rats. Using some enriched foods in your mix also helps compensate for this, is why i use some enriched rabbit food, dog kibble and breakfast cereals in mine. They help mop up the gaps so to speak.

In terms of getting the balance right, i do probably have a spreadsheet somewhere you can use to enter qtys and select common ingredients or enter your own to get approx nutritional make up of your mix. Ley me know your email and i will send it across. i used this in the early days but want to give a warning to it. You can't accurately get vits and minerals from it due to the variations in grains etc dependant on where they are grown. Those mixes that garuntees stuff do it by enriching (or spraying vits on). You can only get the macro nutrients mostly right. It's also only going to give you a starting point. My rats were fine on the spreadsheet mixes i made (once I'd sussed the vit d stuff). They looked fine did ok at shows, we're generally in good shape, but they never shone in terms of condition. Now they do, i build my mix now on guidelines for a healthy balanced mix but use a mixture of gut feel and trial and error based on my rats physical condition. This took me from what i class as an acceptable standard to the point where I'm genuinely proud of my guys condition. i couldn't achieve that just looking at numbers, rats are more than a strict set of guidelines generated from lab rats abd feeding then we'll 2 is as much art as science. i believed when i was starting out that you couldn't learn the art you had to soley rely on the science and numbers bit but I've got the knack now and actualy it wasn't nearly as bad as i thought lol.

Ratpax, looking at your mix you probably do need occasional extras, even if it's just bones and liver plus a bit of vit d,, especially if you have rats under 4 months. You probably won't notice much on adults but you might on babies. i would to play it safe.

rusalka: in terms of a mix of barley (pearled, rolled), rice, millet, buckwheat, flax seed, sesame seed, pumpkin seed, cashew nuts, hemp seed. You'd need to get the fresh food alongside it right abd the proportions of the rest right, you wouldn't want as many seeds as grains and barley and rice should be highest. i would feed that alongside regular fresh veg and probably one or twice weekly protien (eggs, fish, chicken etc). You would need to watch the suppliments though as none of that is enriched. You could also look for dried shrimps or a good quality dog kibble to reduce the fresh protien requirements (i don't like relying entirely on soya, it's a good protien but you tend to do better with different kinds as it makes up for Weaknesses). If also add some good quality low sugar breakfast cereals again to help add a few vits and also to support any older rats on it. entirely whole grain bases tend to hit then harder hsving your mix around 15 to 20% more processed grains helps keep condition better as they age and the body becomes less good at getting the most out of grains

apologise for the information dump. To much to say lol
 

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The big thing with suppliments is if you feed a mix with mostly grains (which at the end of the day is probably the healthiest for them) you will struggle to meet their need for certain nutrients even if you feed regular veg and odd bits of other stuff. The main weaknesses you find in this kind of diet are vitamin d (the biggest pain in the bum), copper and calcium. This is much tougher in young rats whose requirements are higher for all these things.

You can feed fresh foods to meet this requirement but it's a balancing act. liver is great for copper but not to often as it's high in vit a (something that rats can od on) fish and cod liver oil are great for vit d (but can also be high in vit a though you can get some with that extracted) and bones and egg shells are brill for calcium (but without vit d calcium is useless). i tend to do a mixture, regular foods plus a back up suppliment or two. i am quite careful with this as in the early days of the uk takimg up straight based mixes (a term for mixes made with minimally processed grains) several of us (including me) had a vitamin d deficiency in our rats. Using some enriched foods in your mix also helps compensate for this, is why i use some enriched rabbit food, dog kibble and breakfast cereals in mine. They help mop up the gaps so to speak.

In terms of getting the balance right, i do probably have a spreadsheet somewhere you can use to enter qtys and select common ingredients or enter your own to get approx nutritional make up of your mix. Ley me know your email and i will send it across. i used this in the early days but want to give a warning to it. You can't accurately get vits and minerals from it due to the variations in grains etc dependant on where they are grown. Those mixes that garuntees stuff do it by enriching (or spraying vits on). You can only get the macro nutrients mostly right. It's also only going to give you a starting point. My rats were fine on the spreadsheet mixes i made (once I'd sussed the vit d stuff). They looked fine did ok at shows, we're generally in good shape, but they never shone in terms of condition. Now they do, i build my mix now on guidelines for a healthy balanced mix but use a mixture of gut feel and trial and error based on my rats physical condition. This took me from what i class as an acceptable standard to the point where I'm genuinely proud of my guys condition. i couldn't achieve that just looking at numbers, rats are more than a strict set of guidelines generated from lab rats abd feeding then we'll 2 is as much art as science. i believed when i was starting out that you couldn't learn the art you had to soley rely on the science and numbers bit but I've got the knack now and actualy it wasn't nearly as bad as i thought lol.

Ratpax, looking at your mix you probably do need occasional extras, even if it's just bones and liver plus a bit of vit d,, especially if you have rats under 4 months. You probably won't notice much on adults but you might on babies. i would to play it safe.

rusalka: in terms of a mix of barley (pearled, rolled), rice, millet, buckwheat, flax seed, sesame seed, pumpkin seed, cashew nuts, hemp seed. You'd need to get the fresh food alongside it right abd the proportions of the rest right, you wouldn't want as many seeds as grains and barley and rice should be highest. i would feed that alongside regular fresh veg and probably one or twice weekly protien (eggs, fish, chicken etc). You would need to watch the suppliments though as none of that is enriched. You could also look for dried shrimps or a good quality dog kibble to reduce the fresh protien requirements (i don't like relying entirely on soya, it's a good protien but you tend to do better with different kinds as it makes up for Weaknesses). If also add some good quality low sugar breakfast cereals again to help add a few vits and also to support any older rats on it. entirely whole grain bases tend to hit then harder hsving your mix around 15 to 20% more processed grains helps keep condition better as they age and the body becomes less good at getting the most out of grains

apologise for the information dump. To much to say lol
LOL, never apologize for "information dump"! It's much appreciated.

Will PM you my email address, really appreciate it.

As to the age of my girls, yep, very young--the two rehomed girls are maybe four to five months--newest girl (just successfully integrated them into the big cage, yay!) is only about eight weeks.

They do get some sunshine most days, but as a human who ended up with a severe Vitamin D deficiency, ick, it really makes you feel terrible and not function very well. I can add some chicken bones--I home cook for my elderly cat and it will be very easy to do this, from his stuff. Do you give them raw or cooked? Or baked? I slow-cook his chicken stock and the bones are pretty softened by the end of that long cooking time.

A note about rat condition--I'm a longtime dog show/trial and horse person (Dressage) so I hope I've developed a good eye for condition, as well, and I'm pretty happy with how my girls look--but I'm inexperienced and of course they all came to me in terrible shape, so they were bound to improve some, regardless. I'll do some more looking around at pics of well-kept ratties, to compare.

The new girl was up for adoption at Petco--had been bought and returned, and was ill and injured from being dropped from a height. Three of her littermates (presumably, same bin) are still there, and she is fully TWICE their size, and her coat has a glossy sheen (they all appeared to be standard coat) while theirs are dull :(


She's growing so fast it's hard to judge what her eventual body condition will be, but so far she looks pretty good to me.
 

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I suspect wild rats do get some vit d from sunlight through there tails and ears but probably not much being nocturnal. Theres a fair amount in sea food like shrimps and the like which can help,a nd some in eggs too. With youngsters i would probably grab a human vit suppliment if you dont have any animal ones easily available. About 1/10 of a human tablet/dose works for rats per day. You dont need to give it daily, just give them say 5 days worth once a week or 2-3 days twice a week (they will be getting other bits and bobs of vit d from there diet), the body is designed to deal with lumps of nutrients over a week or so, just not long term deficincys. I believe there is such thing as vit d drops in the US if thats where your based (which would be seriously brilliant if it got to here, far easier to get in than crushed tablet)

In rats a Vit D deficiency tends to show itself first in the tail (the tails an amazing source of info, in fact i will chuck you across a copy of my rather epic article on rat condition for my rat club mag, its not finished yet but covers pretty much everything to look for). When i saw it in mine they had square edged tails which refused to fill out when i upped first protien, then good fats, then overal calories. Then one of my guys fell from a decent height (but not worse than i've seen several times before without injury) and broke both his front teeth. The vit d deficincy had meant his teeth were fragile from lack of being able to use his calcium efficiently. At roughly the same time several other british folk saw similar problems in young rats (a number of teeth issues and some lack of thriving and filling out), we figured it out together. Unfortunatly vit d deficiency as a kid goes on to have long term impacts (which you probably know about) that generation lived about 3-4 months less than normal in those lines and had hind leg degeneration earlier on. So its a pretty nasty one to get wrong and live with afterwards, you know you've let them down.
 

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I suspect wild rats do get some vit d from sunlight through there tails and ears but probably not much being nocturnal. Theres a fair amount in sea food like shrimps and the like which can help,a nd some in eggs too. With youngsters i would probably grab a human vit suppliment if you dont have any animal ones easily available. About 1/10 of a human tablet/dose works for rats per day. You dont need to give it daily, just give them say 5 days worth once a week or 2-3 days twice a week (they will be getting other bits and bobs of vit d from there diet), the body is designed to deal with lumps of nutrients over a week or so, just not long term deficincys. I believe there is such thing as vit d drops in the US if thats where your based (which would be seriously brilliant if it got to here, far easier to get in than crushed tablet)

In rats a Vit D deficiency tends to show itself first in the tail (the tails an amazing source of info, in fact i will chuck you across a copy of my rather epic article on rat condition for my rat club mag, its not finished yet but covers pretty much everything to look for). When i saw it in mine they had square edged tails which refused to fill out when i upped first protien, then good fats, then overal calories. Then one of my guys fell from a decent height (but not worse than i've seen several times before without injury) and broke both his front teeth. The vit d deficincy had meant his teeth were fragile from lack of being able to use his calcium efficiently. At roughly the same time several other british folk saw similar problems in young rats (a number of teeth issues and some lack of thriving and filling out), we figured it out together. Unfortunatly vit d deficiency as a kid goes on to have long term impacts (which you probably know about) that generation lived about 3-4 months less than normal in those lines and had hind leg degeneration earlier on. So its a pretty nasty one to get wrong and live with afterwards, you know you've let them down.
Wow, very interesting. Can't wait to go look at my rats' tails now.
 

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Discussion Starter #17
I'll definitely look into getting some good quality, non-sugary cereal, and if I'm lucky I'll be able to locate a good dog kibble around here. Vitamin D deficiency sounds awful- deficiencies in general are my biggest worry whenever starting a new animal on a homemade diet. I'll poke around on the internet a bit and do some more reading, but I feel like I've got a good starting place now because of all the info here, thank you! :)
 
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