Can rats eat chocolate? Or is chocolate poisonous to rats?
Rats can eat chocolate in small doses as an occasional treat. But, too much chocolate at once can cause poisoning in rats because of the chemical theobromine.
Chocolate is also very sugary. So, too many regular chocolate treats for rats can cause obesity, tooth decay, or an upset stomach.
Let’s take a closer look at when can rats eat chocolate safely and how much they can eat.
Is Chocolate Safe for Rats?
The substance in chocolate that makes it dangerous for so many pet species is called theobromine. This chemical can be toxic to rats if they consume too much of it.
However, theobromine levels vary depending on the type of chocolate. So, some chocolate is more dangerous for pet rats than others.
Small amounts of chocolate won’t hurt your rat, and can actually provide certain benefits.
But, too many chocolatey treats can cause obesity, and problems linked with this. It can also cause tooth decay and dental problems.
Let’s take a closer look at chocolate for rats to find out exactly how much is bad for our pets.
Rats and Chocolate
Can rats eat chocolate as part of their natural diet?
Rats are naturally omnivores, just like humans. So, their healthiest diet consists of a mixture of plants and lean meats. Let’s find out more about whether chocolate fits into this diet.
Chocolate is made by roasting and grinding the seeds of the Theobroma cacao, or cacao tree (sometimes spelled cocoa).
Chocolate is an ancient food, with a history tracing all the way back to 1900 B.C.E., when it was made by the Olmec civilization in south-central Mexico.
Modern day chocolate was created by new technology from the Industrial Revolution.
In 1847, new technology allowed Joseph Fry to use a press invented by Dutch chemist Coenraad van Houten to remove about half of the fat from chocolate, then add back melted cocoa butter.
This made it possible to mold and harden chocolate.
Nowadays chocolate is one of the most popular foods in the world. In 2016 alone, more than 7.3 million tons of chocolate were consumed worldwide.
The average American consumes 11.64 pounds of chocolate a year. In Switzerland, where chocolate is consumed the most, the average person eats nearly twice that amount!
But that doesn’t mean it’s always great for our rats!
Why do Rats Like Chocolate?
Rats like chocolate for the same reasons that we do – it tastes great!
Rats are like people in that they tend to have a preference for junk food, even to the detriment of their own health.
So, rats won’t limit their consumption of chocolate. Which is why we need to make sure they’re not eating too much!
But, occasional chocolate treats can be useful!
In fact, giving medication with a bit of chocolate is a great way to get stubborn rats to take their meds.
Is Chocolate Bad For Rats?
When can rats eat chocolate safely?
A rat would have to eat quite a lot of chocolate to consume a fatal dose – we will look more at the amounts in a moment. But, it doesn’t require a fatal dose for a rat to get sick from eating chocolate.
Unfortunately, we don’t know the minimum toxic dose of theobromine for rats.
We do, however, know that negative health effects start appearing well before signs of toxicity do. After all, just because something isn’t poisonous doesn’t mean it’s healthy.
Other Negative Qualities
Too much chocolate can be bad for rats for the same reasons it can be bad for humans: chocolate has a lot of fat and sugar.
Too much of these substances can lead to diabetes and obesity in rats, which are linked to a number of other health issues.
These include pituitary tumors, cardiac health problems, and, in particular, the formation of lipomas, which are fat deposits under the skin which impair the rat’s mobility.
Lipomas can develop into ulcers and sores, and must be removed surgically.
Does Chocolate Kill Rats?
Is chocolate toxic to rats? Unfortunately, eating too much chocolate can cause death in our rats.
Symptoms of theobromine poisoning include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and increased urination. This can escalate to cardiac arrhythmia, heart attacks, seizures, internal bleeding, and death.
However, this only occurs if theobromine is consumed in a large enough dosage.
So how much chocolate can rats eat?
Chocolate Poisoning Dosage
The median lethal dose of theobromine for rats is about 1,265 mg per kg of body weight. The median rat weighs about 450 g, so a lethal dose of theobromine would be about 569 mg.
The average female rat can be as small as 350 grams. She would require about 442 mg of theobromine for a lethal dose.
A large male, on the other hand, can weigh up to 650 grams. For him, about 822.25 mg of theobromine would constitute a lethal dose.
Theobromine levels vary in different types of chocolate. So we will look at this in a little more detail in a moment.
If your rat has already eaten a lot of chocolate, click here to jump to our section on what to do next.
Is Chocolate Good For Rats?
Chocolate in moderation won’t hurt your rat. It can even be good for them, providing the same mood boosting and pain suppressing effects to rats that it does to humans.
Small amounts of chocolate in a rat’s diet can positively affect the systemic and intestinal antibody concentrations in the rat.
Studies have found that chocolate can help rats in the following ways:
- Enhance antioxidant defences in the thymus gland
- Influences differentiation of thymocytes
- Increases percentage of B cells and reduced percentage of T-helper cells in spleen
- Decreasing visceral adipose tissue
So, can rats have chocolate? Yes, and sometimes it can be good for our rats!
Can Rats Eat White Chocolate?
White chocolate has the lowest levels of theobromine compared to other types of chocolate.
So, it is the safest in terms of avoiding chocolate poisoning.
However, it contains high levels of other ingredients like cream and sugar. So, white chocolate isn’t exactly good for rats, especially in large doses.
White chocolate is safe for rats to eat in moderation as an occasional treat. But, don’t overdo it! Too many sugary foods can cause problems like tooth decay and obesity. Plus, too much theobromine can be toxic.
Can Rats Eat Milk Chocolate?
100 grams of milk chocolate contains about 211 mg of theobromine. That means that the average 450 gram rat would have to eat about 269 g of milk chocolate – about 1.5 cups of chocolate chips – to consume enough theobromine to be lethal.
Milk chocolate also contains sugar and cream. So, eating too much milk chocolate can cause your rat to become overweight or develop tooth decay.
Too much milk chocolate can be really harmful for rats. But, milk chocolate is fine for our rats as an occasional treat.
Can Rats Eat Dark Chocolate?
100g of dark chocolate contains about 705 mg of theobromine. Dark chocolate has more theobromine than other types of chocolate.
So, an average rat would only have to consume about 81 g of dark chocolate for a lethal dose. That’s still quite a bit of chocolate, though. It’s almost half a cup of chocolate chips.
An occasional piece of dark chocolate won’t hurt your rat, it can actually be beneficial. But, eating too much can cause chocolate poisoning.
Can Rats Eat Chocolate Chip Cookies?
Chocolate chips come in any of the above flavors of chocolate. So, some types of chocolate chip are worse for your rat than others.
The average chocolate chip cookie won’t have too much chocolate in. So, it should be safe for your rat to eat.
However, cookies, just like chocolate, have lots of sugar in. So, eating too much of this snack can contribute to dental issues and obesity.
My Rat Ate Chocolate, What Should I Do?
If your rat has eaten a small amount of chocolate, you don’t need to worry. It takes a larger amount of theobromine to harm your rat.
But, rats will gorge on chocolate if given the opportunity. So, if your rat has eaten a LOT of chocolate, especially dark chocolate, you should contact your vet.
If your rat shows any of the symptoms of chocolate poisoning that we mentioned earlier, call your vet.
Try to find out exactly how much your rat has eaten, as your vet may need to know this.
Can Baby Rats Eat Chocolate?
When baby rats are allowed to eat solid foods, you can give them a very small piece of chocolate, such as a small chocolate chip.
But, remember that baby rats are much smaller than adults. So, it takes a much smaller dose to cause them harm, or even kill them from chocolate poisoning.
Avoid giving them dark chocolate, as this has the highest levels of theobromine. Milk chocolate is the best option, as it has smaller levels of sugar and cream than white chocolate.
If in doubt, speak to your vet before giving your baby rat any chocolate. You can always stick to healthier treats until they are bigger.
Can Rats Eat Chocolate Every Day?
Chocolate can be a great addition to your rat’s diet, but only in very small amounts. If you feed your rat too much chocolate they can become sick.
Feeding your rat chocolate every day is also not a good idea.
Chocolate can lead to obesity and dental problems. So, stick to using chocolate as a very occasional treat. Your rat will enjoy it, but don’t overfeed them!
Rat Chocolate Treats
If you’re excited to let your rat try some chocolate as a treat, here are some ways that you can offer it.
- Chocolate Chips
- Small piece of chocolate chopped up
- Chocolate chips in a small piece of cookie
Alternatives to Chocolate for Rats
If you’ve decided that you don’t want to risk the negative effects of chocolate for your rat, that’s okay! There are plenty of other human foods that rats can try and enjoy.
Make sure you check every new food is safe before giving it to your pet.
Click the links below to find out about these other foods.
Can Rats Eat Chocolate Summary
So there you have it, the answer to the question, “can rats eat chocolate?”
Just like people, rats can eat chocolate, but only in moderation to avoid the health risks associated with too much fat and sugar.
While rats enjoy chocolate and can even benefit from a little bit of it, limiting your rat’s consumption of chocolate and other junk foods is essential to giving your pet rat the longest, healthiest, happiest life that you possibly can.
Have you given chocolate to your rat? You can let us know about your experiences with chocolate and rats in the comments below.
References and Further Reading
- American Fancy Rat & Mouse Association, ‘Pet Rats & Mice – General Care‘
- Huang-Brown, K. M. & Guhad, F. A. ‘Chocolate, an effective means of oral drug delivery in rats‘ Lab Animal (2002)
- Rogers, P. J. & Blundell, J. E. ‘Meal patterns and food selection during the development of obesity in rats fed a cafeteria diet‘ Neuroscience & Behavioral Reviews (1984)
- Schemmel, R. (et al) ‘Dietary Obesity in Rats: Body Weight and Body Fat Accretion in Seven Strains of Rats‘ The Journal of Nutrition (1970)
- Wang, Y. (et al) ‘Reproductive toxicity of theobromine and cocoa extract in male rats‘ Reproductive Toxicology, (1992)
- Camps-Bossacoma, M. (et al), ‘Theobromine is Responsible for the Effects of Cocoa on the Anitbody Immune Status of Rats‘, The Journal of Nutrition (2018)
- Katz, D. (et al), ‘Cocoa and Chocolate in Human Health and Disease‘, Antioxidants & Redox Signaling (2011)