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Fat and thin

Posted: Sat Jan 28, 2017 6:50 pm
by Ratty arbuckle
I have 2 rats and one is really getting chubby and also bites and the other is normal weight I am worried that they are not eating equally and the fat one is over eating.

Advice please.


Re: Fat and thin

Posted: Sun Jan 29, 2017 7:51 am
by Caza66
Hi and welcome to the forum. First things is to make sure that they amount of food you are giving them is correct, between 10g - 12g per rat each day is adequate. (If they are under 10 weeks, they will need more protein). If you think the thin one is not getting enough you could try keeping the other one out of the food bowl whilst the other one eats. The other thing is to provide more exercise for them. Ropes and climbing in the cage will help, particularly if they have to stretch and reach for things (if you have a tall cage, make sure it is broken up with hammocks as catchers in case of falls). When you free range, giving them access to stairs is a good way of exercising.

Re: Fat and thin

Posted: Sun Jan 29, 2017 9:37 am
by cyber ratty
How old are they, and how long have you had them? Pet shops often mis-sex rats, is there a chance that you have a male and a female? If so, the female will be pregnant, hence the nipping and weight gain!

Re: Fat and thin

Posted: Sun Jan 29, 2017 5:24 pm
by Ratty arbuckle
They are 6 months old neither are pregnant. They are very active and have a large cage to play in I would like to get them out more but I think Juno is an evil genius and is plotting her escape. Today I took one out of the cage to give the thinner on a chance to eat.

How much is 10-12g food in handful terms as I don't weight their food.

Thanks for advice.


Re: Fat and thin

Posted: Mon Jan 30, 2017 8:23 am
by cyber ratty
About a tablespoon - not nearly as much as a handful. ;)

Re: Fat and thin

Posted: Mon Jan 30, 2017 9:28 am
by hjanders

Mary, please can I clarify your 10-12g of food per rat per day. That is presumably total food? We feed ours with homemade dried food mix in the morning and something fresh in the evening (usually meat or fish with some veg). Is the weight of fresh food equivalent to dried?


Re: Fat and thin

Posted: Mon Jan 30, 2017 10:09 am
by cyber ratty
The dry mix amount is considered to be all the food allowance, except for their fresh veg - so if feeding a fresh meal as well, you'd cut back on the dry mix. The amounts won't tally though, because fresh food has less nutritional content for its weight due to the water.

If a rat is eating 15g per day (10 - 12g would be for rats who are or have a tendency to be overweight), and you give a fresh meal, then I'd probably cut the dry mix in half. As with any diet, monitor how they do on it, and then increase or reduce amounts accordingly.

If you are feeding a fresh meal every night, it becomes more important to ensure that the meals are fully balanced as they are replacing the balanced mix.

Re: Fat and thin

Posted: Sun Feb 05, 2017 1:58 pm
by [cub]
I consider fresh food to be roughly equivalent to 1/6th its weight of dry food. So if I were to give a rat 12g of fresh food, I would consider that to be equivalent to 12/6 = 2g of dry food, and adjust their dry food quantity accordingly. (This is because: fresh food is generally about 85% water, so is 15% "actual" food; whereas dry food is generally about 10% water, so is 90% "actual" food; and 15% is 1/6 of 90%.)

How exactly you adjust depends on what the fresh food is however. Vegetables are generally less calorific to a rat than other foods, so if you're mostly giving vegetables I wouldn't adjust their dry food quantity too much, but I'd adjust more if you're giving them lots of cooked carbs, fish, meat, eggs, and the like. (I would also be wary of giving them too much meat/fish too often. Depending on what their dry mix is, this may lead to too high protein a diet for them.)

Back to the OP, the volume that 10-12g of food takes up varies a lot depending on the density of the food (e.g. whether it's big airy biscuits or lots of little dense seeds) but is definitely measured in spoons rather than handfuls unless your mix is very diffuse indeed. :lol: I do recommend getting a set of scales and keeping them near the rat cage: not only does it allow you to weigh the food (which is important if you're trying to control their weight) but it also allows you to weigh the rats, which is a great way to measure their progress, as well as providing an indicator of possible illness.

You could also try feeding them half their day's food in the morning and half in the evening, rather than all at once, if restricting their food doesn't help. I find that multiple meals helps thin rats to get their fair share of the food, rather than them eating a bit and wandering off and leaving the fat rats to hoover up everything else.

Re: Fat and thin

Posted: Sun Feb 05, 2017 4:26 pm
by hjanders
Brilliant Cub, thanks for the advice re the dry and fresh food. That makes loads of sense.

As a further question about fresh food, we tend to give our girls fresh food every evening. This always contains veg or salad bits (depending on what we are eating). Quite often we just defrost some mix frozen veg which they have 'raw'. We always put some kind of protein with this - meat or fish. This will also depend what we are eating. It is often raw (we keep 'ice cubes' of meat and fish in the freezer for when what we are having isn't appropriate and defrost as needed. 1 large ice cube or 2 small ice cubes for 6 rats). Occasionally they get cooked carbs in the evening but not much and not regularly. We don't tend to give them any diary products except for the very occasional treat (and the very occasional egg).

Are we giving them too much protein? And what are the consequences of this if so?

Re: Fat and thin

Posted: Thu Feb 09, 2017 10:52 am
by [cub]
hjanders wrote:Are we giving them too much protein? And what are the consequences of this if so?
It really depends on what their diet is like otherwise. If their dry food is balanced and forms the main part of their diet, then I'd say they're probably getting too much fresh meat/fish. If their dry food is low protein, lacking in legumes or animal proteins, or only forms a relatively small part of their diet with the rest being made up with fresh food, then I'd say that the fresh meat/fish they're getting is probably actually vital to their health. But assuming that your rats are fed like most – with a nutritionally balanced dry mix forming the main part of the diet, and regular fresh food playing an important but smaller role – then your rats almost certainly don't need that much meat/fish unless they're still quite young (under 12 weeks). I'd suggest halving the amount you give them, and see how they go.

The main problem with high protein diets in rats (as I understand it) is that it may accelerate the onset of kidney disease, and in rats that already have kidney disease it definitely increases the rate of deterioration. This is not a huge concern with younger rats, and indeed very young rats and breeding rats need higher protein diets for healthy growth and reproduction, but since a decline in kidney function is relatively common in older rats, particularly males, a lower-protein diet for non-breeding adults is generally recommended.

Re: Fat and thin

Posted: Thu Feb 09, 2017 2:15 pm
by hjanders
Thanks again cub :)

The dried food we use is a homemade mix which is relatively low protein I think. Up to now I have just guessed the proportions of each of the ingredients. I think maybe I need to be a bit more scientific?

We have 6 non breeding females - 3 are 12 months old and the younger 3 are now 4 months old. All are now approx 300g in weight, healthy and active.

My mix usually includes (in approx order of volume)
- Whole grains - wheat, rye, barley (I think! I am slightly confused as we live in Sweden and I go by the Swedish names!)
- Flakes - oats, rye, barley, wheat
- Soya flakes
- Uncooked small pasta pieces and rice
- Unsweetened cereals - rice puffs, wheat puffs, and wheat rings
- Mixed wild bird seeds
- Mixed dried vegetables and greens (a bought packet)
- Dried squashed peas and dried carrots
- Small amounts of 'favourites' - dried banana, dried coconut, the occasional peanut

How does that sound now with the amount of evening protein? And should I be weighing/measuring everything? Advice please :)

Re: Fat and thin

Posted: Thu Feb 09, 2017 8:20 pm
by [cub]
Some people just do it by eye, but I'm significantly less experienced than them so I weigh everything and have spreadsheets. :lol: Your mix looks balanced to me overall, but now that you've got some adults in the group, I would recommend reducing the amount of oats, wheat, and rye in it, increasing the amount of rice and barley, and adding maize (e.g. plain unpopped popcorn kernels) if you can. Oats and some varieties of wheat are relatively high in phosphorus, and rye is mid-high, which is fine for most people but taxing on those with kidney damage. So if your group includes older rats, it's sensible to move to a lower-phosphorus mix if possible. Rice, barley, and maize are all lower-phosphorus grains – as are some varieties/preparations of wheat, in particular more processed things like couscous, bulgur wheat, and Shreddies, so I suspect the wheat-based cereals you have can stay unaltered.

If you don't have it already, I highly recommend getting a copy of The Scuttling Gourmet, which has lots of information on rat nutrition, and a guide to making homemade mixes. Also, if you're not doing this already, you'll likely need to supplement the rats' diet with some vitamins and minerals, most notably copper, calcium, and vitamin D, all of which are exceptionally difficult to get enough of in a homemade dry mix. You can do this either with a commercial vitamin/mineral supplement (I personally recommend DailyRat3 from Rat Rations, but they're UK based so the shipping may or may not make this feasible for you), or by a careful choice of fresh foods. For calcium that would mean feeding them bones, for vitamin D tinned red salmon is quite efficient, for copper I think it's liver that's most efficient.