I’m hoping that my TEK Artemis is currently pregnant by SGR Fortissimo, so I’ve been feeding her some extra high-fat, high-protein, nutrition-packed snacks to help her grow a batch of healthy pups. This will be my first home-bred litter as Rizzle Rat Rattery, so I asked some more experienced breeders what they feed their pregnant does. As it turns out, there’s a lot of individualization, but the common thread is that fat, protein, and overall calories should be increased during at least the third and final week of a rat’s pregnancy.
(Note: I’m providing this information for the use of responsible, reputable breeders and rescues or pet owners who find themselves dealing with unintended ratty pregnancies. I do not recommend that pet owners breed their rats, for a variety of reasons.)
Every pet needs and deserves a healthful basic diet, along with nutritious treats and snacks. During pregnancy, it’s more important than ever that the base diet meet a rat’s needs. I feed Harlan Teklad 2016 lab blocks to all my rats, as well as various “people food” goodies, including baby spinach leaves and hard-boiled eggs.
Other base diets that are suitable for rats include Mazuri lab blocks and a homemade mix called Suebee’s Mix. However, if you choose to use Suebee’s Mix, please mix it as recommended and add only fresh, cooked or raw meals. Substituting or adding/removing ingredients from the original recipe is not a good idea, as the original version was approved by a vet knowledgeable about rats. Some owners feed a whole foods diet or cook for their rats exclusively. These diets are quite complex, and I don’t recommend using them unless you are very passionate about your own nutrition and would enjoy learning a lot about rat nutrition.
When to Supplement
It is not necessary to give supplemental foods to pregnant rats until their third “trimester” (day 14 and on), but many people supplement pregnant rats throughout their gestational period. There are convincing arguments on both sides: One could argue that supplementing early ensures that plenty of nutrition is available to a pregnant doe when babies’ bones and vital organs begin to form, but it’s also true that a rat can’t eat an unlimited amount of food, and the more supplemental foods she eats, the less a doe will consume of her balanced base diet.
No matter where you stand on when to start supplementing during pregnancy, it’s absolutely necessary to feed a lactating doe extra until her babies are weaned. Nursing is very physically taxing, particularly for young or small does who have large litters. Extra fat, protein, and calcium should be added to a lactating doe’s diet daily until several days after her young are weaned.
What to Supplement With
Every rat owner who’s had a litter has their own favorite snacks to feed a pregnant or lactating doe– if you’re preparing for a litter, your choices will depend on your preferences, your rat’s tastes, and availability. Here are some suggestions:
- Scrambled or hard-boiled egg
- Chocolate Ensure (a protein-rich drink available at most grocery stores)
- Multigrain cereal with a drizzle of olive oil on top
- Cooked chicken breast
- Uncooked pasta
- Mixed vegetables
- Bok Choy
- Canned oysters
- Leafy green veggies (but not lettuce)– Kale, Spinach, Collard Greens…
- Fresh berries
- Soy infant formula
- Cooked tofu (don’t buy from bulk bins– packaged only)
- One chocolate chip per day