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    Rat Cafe - Autumnal rattie revelries
    by Alison Campbell

    As we all begin to wrap up a little and toy with the idea of putting on the heating for the first time since last spring it is clear that autumn is upon us, bringing us the festivities of Halloween and bonfire night. This time of year seems to raise all sorts of unique rattie questions:

    • Can I give my rats pumpkin flesh?
    • How do I roast pumpkin seeds?
    • Are acorns and chestnuts suitable for rats to eat?
    Can I give my rats pumpkin flesh?
    Pumpkin is a fruit (of the gourd family) and can be fed to rats either raw or cooked. As such, it shouldn’t be fed in huge quantities or it is likely to cause diarrhoea. The flesh can be baked or boiled, cubed or pureed (and if pureed is great mixed into EMP or similar, as it is quite wet). It is a good source of thiamin, niacin, vitamin B6, folate, pantothenic acid, iron, magnesium and phosphorus, and a very good source of vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin E, riboflavin, potassium, copper and manganese.

    How do I roast pumpkin seeds?
    Pumpkin seeds are rich in protein and fat and an excellent source of iron and zinc. If you want to store them for future use they should be washed, drained and placed in a single layer on a baking tray. Bake in a low oven (Gas Mark 3 or 170°C) for 15-20 minutes or until well-dried. When roasted they have a delicious nutty aroma. Feed them as treats, or as a small part of a mix for growing or lactating rats. Like sunflower seeds you just leave them in their shells and the rats will have no problem in de-husking them.
    The seeds can also be fed raw, but they will not keep well unless they are scrupulously clean and dry prior to storing in an airtight container.

    Are acorns suitable for rats to eat?
    I was asked this question recently. Well - I hadn't a clue, so I have tried to find out but couldn’t find anything definitive about rats eating them - except wood rats, which are a different species. The nutritional values seem pretty similar to a lot of nuts except that they are not high in protein. They are high in fat though - 31% - of which only 4% is saturates and no cholesterol. Good for iron, B vitamins, calcium, copper and manganese. Also high in potassium and phosphorus...which might make them less suitable as a treat for oldies. Overall they sound fine as a treat to me, but I would love to hear from anyone who has more information on the subject.

    What about chestnuts?
    Horse chestnuts (conkers) are not considered to be edible as they contain aesculin, a bitter, poisonous glycoside that breaks down blood proteins. This property has led to the development of the common rat poison, warfarin, extracted from clovers which contain a similar toxin. Toxicity and even death has been reported in human toddlers. All parts of the horse chestnut tree contain this toxin.

    Sweet chestnuts, however, are fine for rats. They are low in both fat and protein (0.6g and 3.4g respectively) and can be fed freely. They are a good source of B vitamins, vitamin C, copper, manganese and carbohydrate. They tend to appear in the shops between late autumn and Christmas, though the tinned variety is more readily available. If you can get hold of fresh sweet chestnuts you can dry roast them which will go down well with your ratties. To roast chestnuts, split the pointed ends and lay on a baking tray. Roast in a hot oven (Gas Mark 6, 200°C, 400°F) for about 20 minutes until the shells split open and the chestnuts are deep brown.

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