Can Rats Eat Hay? [Complete Guide]

Hay is used by rats according to their necessities. One day you notice one of your rats is nibbling on some hay. Now, you are worried if it’s safe to let your rat consume it. If you’re a new pet rat owner, a lot of these questions fly around in your mind.

So, can rats eat hay?

The answer is YES! Hay provides some great nutritional value to rats. But you have to make sure you’ve given the proper kind of hay. There are many types of hay to choose from. But not all kinds are equal in their importance. For example, oat hay and timothy hay are loved by rats.

But how to feed hay to your rats and how much to feed them? Are there any drawbacks? Well, we’ve answered them all.

So, keep reading to find out!

Should You Feed Hay to Rats?

Should You Feed Hay to Rats

This is a rather simple question with complex answers. Even though hay is not essential in a rat’s diet, they can make very good use of it. Let’s discuss some of the merits and demerits of hay as a food source. 


The nutritional content in hay differs in each of its kinds. Also, the source from which it is being obtained. First things first, there are a lot of variations. But the key ones are Alfalfa hay, Grass hay, Oat, and Timothy hay, to name a few.

Key Source of Proteins

The biggest differences lie in each of their protein content. Alfalfa and Timothy hay rank the highest amongst the likes. Because they range from 10-23% in protein content. Though alfalfa hay is much more suited in horse feed.

Grass hay ranks the lowest. It contains only 10% or less protein. Oat hay is the middle child and the most economically viable option. Considering its price along with its 15% on average protein content. In dry mass calculations.

Important Lipids

In terms of fat content, hay contains very little at less than 2% on average. But provides enough for a more lean diet for the rats. Regulates their fiber to fat ratio as well as controls glycolipids and cholesterol.

Mineral Content

Now, let’s look at the mineral content. Hay from seeds contain high percentages of nitrates. Those from legumes (like alfalfa) contain calcium and phosphates. This is the key to a healthy diet.

We’re done with the pros. Let’s see the cons now!


Hay can also have its drawbacks. Let’s look at some of the cons.


Hay poor in quality brings in diseases. As they harbor molds (fungus). This is caused by the mycotoxins they produce. That causes digestive issues in rats when ingested. 


Hay containing molds such as rhizopus and mucor produce spores. This causes respiratory issues in animals. So, make sure you do a quality assessment prior to purchasing in bulk.


Filling up on hay can cause them to grow a temporary loss of appetite. Because it has lower nutritional value than fruits and vegetables. So, overfeeding one time will later cause weight loss.

What Hay Can Rats Eat?

So, after going through the pros and cons, you’ve decided to feed your rat hay! Well, there are a few things to note when trying to feed hay to rats. And that’s we have to pick the right hay type for the rats.

So, here we mentioned different hay types and if rats can eat them-

Alfalfa Hay

Alfalfa hay is usually less suited for rodent diets. Studies have shown they contain too high fiber content. So, it’s not recommended as they can’t digest it properly. 

Oat Hay

Oat hay is made from oat harvests. Particularly that which is not used for the grains. They are comparable to grass hay however with less calcium.

Grass Hay

Grass hay is not time-sensitive regarding its nutritional content. It is higher in individual yield for protein.

Timothy hay

This hay is best suited for cooler climates. These grow in any soil and have high nutritional value. That means this can grow anywhere. This provides great diet value for the budget.

How Do You Feed Hay to Rats?

To feed hay to your rats you need to follow a few things. These are important because otherwise, the rat will have a hard time digesting hay. Now, let’s take a look at them-

  • Bunch the hay up in small handfuls. 
  • Mix it in with seed heads, fruit or vegetable chunks or pellets. Because rats As they are not directly drawn to hay.
  • Place it in a small bowl.

That’s it! The feeding process is pretty easy!

Note: In order to make it easily accessible to the rats. You can even hide tiny chunks of butter or cheese in it to up the ante on bribery! Furthermore, you shouldn’t feed rats hay every day. You can give them hay mixed with seeds once a week. 


Do rats like straw?

Rats don’t particularly eat straw all that much. Since it provides little nutritional value. Plus they are not drawn to it for any food purposes. It bears no significance in their diet. But they can use it to play. Maybe even for nesting.

Do rats need seed-based hay?

No, but they prefer it to normal blends of hay without any seeds or seedlings. Because it tastes blander to them. Hay that contains seed heads provides for a tastier meal. Hay mixed in with fruits, vegetables and cheese provide for an even tastier meal!

Can you give treats to your rat?

It is great for encouraging interaction between you and your rat. But it should be given in a limited amount after the daily basic foods. Excessive amounts may cause your rat to show disclination towards its regular food.


By now you should have a clearer idea on can rats eat hay. Also which kinds to get them.

Hay doesn’t make for the most appealing meal on its own. But mixed blends and mixing with other little snacks make it irresistible to them. Rats most definitely can eat hay. It just comes down to how you present the meal to them!

So, that’s it for now. We hope the article helped you!

Ryan Dugan
Ryan Dugan
Ryan Dugan

Ryan Dugan is a dedicated pet care professional who offers top-notch services for a variety of pet species. He has a soft spot for my own feline companion, Sophie. He is passionate about animals He shares his knowledge and experience on his blog to help other pet owners understand and care for their own beloved companions. Whether you need a pet-sitting service or advice on pet care, He is the go-to expert.

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