This law is called the Animal Welfare Act. The Animal Welfare Act outlines how people must take care of and act towards animals in New Zealand. The Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI), the Police and SPCA work together to make sure people in New Zealand follow these laws.
Under the Animal Welfare Act, all animal guardians (owners) are responsible for making sure the welfare needs of animals in their care are met. Learning about the Five Domains helps us to understand these welfare needs and how we can make sure we provide these. One of the Five Domains is Nutrition. In this section you will learn about this domain and how you can make sure your rats have what they need for good nutrition.
Rats will eat just about anything – even things they should not eat. Therefore, it is very important that your family provides your rats with a balanced nutritious diet to ensure they live long, healthy and happy lives.
Many store-bought rat food mixes contain a large amount of fatty seeds and coloured pellets; they are bit like mixing dinner and dessert together into one meal. As most rats have a big sweet tooth, they will often pick out and eat all the sweetest, fattest ‘treat’ parts (the dessert) from their bowl and leave all the healthy stuff (dinner) behind – it would be like you eating dessert for breakfast, lunch and dinner! This can cause rats to become over weight and lacking the important vitamins and minerals they need to be healthy.
Rat blocks (sometimes called lab blocks) are a great diet choice for rats – they look like pellets but are larger. Rat blocks are the most balanced diet on the market for rats. They're made to meet all the nutritional needs of rats and your rats can't pick and choose what they want and don’t want to eat from a rat block!
Rat blocks are made of high-quality ingredients and are a healthy, nutritionally complete diet for your rats. However, on their own they're not a very exciting diet – imagine if you had the exact same meal every day for breakfast, lunch and dinner for your entire life! Like you, your rats will become very bored. It is recommended you add some variety to your rats’ diet by supplementing rat blocks with about one tablespoon of vegetables and fruits per day, per rat. For example, a small amount of greens plus:
Remember that just like humans, rats love variety.
Branches from apple trees can also add variety to your rats’ diet and gnawing this hard material can help to keep your rat's teeth in good condition.
Rats are nocturnal, meaning they're most active at night. This is a good time to feed them since they're likely to be awake and alert. Rats should have continual access to food and water so don't skip their meals.
Selecting a food dish for your rat isn't complicated, but there are a few factors to keep in mind.
Look for a small bowl. Larger bowls take up valuable enclosure space and may encourage you to feed too much.
Provide a separate dish for fresh produce to prevent your rat's lab blocks from becoming a soggy, unappetizing mess.
Choose a ceramic food dish rather than a plastic one. Ceramic dishes are sturdy, chew-resistant, and difficult to overturn. They're also durable and shouldn't need to be replaced unless they become cracked or chipped. Plastic bowls are easily scratched, and those scratches can be havens for bacteria.
Place the food bowl in an area of the enclosure that's far away from your rat's bathroom area.
Wash the bowl with soapy water and rinse and dry thoroughly during the weekly enclosure cleaning.
Your rats should always have easy access to fresh, clean water.
For hygiene reasons, water should be available to your rats in a water bottle. Make sure the water bottle is within easy access for the rats, especially for older rats who aren't as mobile as they used to be.
Having two water bottles available for the rats is also a good idea - if one bottle runs out or gets stuck, there is another source of water available until the problem is fixed.