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Veterinary/zoology session

Food preference tests with pet rats
Mong Mariann - year 5
SzIE, Faculty of Veterinary Science, Institute of Animal Breeding, Nutrition and Laboratory Animal Science
Supervisor: András Bersényi DVM


Nowadays, the tamed and bred variation of the Norway rat (Rattus norvegicus) – the so called laboratory rat – is becoming an increasingly popular pet all over the world including Hungary. A lot can be read about its care, housing, breeding and feeding on different web sites but these sources give only general information. There is very little literature available for rat owners. The aim of this study was to provide data on the appropriate feeding of rats kept indoors as well as to discover the factors influencing the food preference of rats such as: chemical composition and digestibility of foods given and the effect of the change of light and dark periods.

In the first experiment, six female Wistar (Crl:WI) rats were fed three different kinds of food commonly used in households. They were as follows: commercial pellet for rodents (R), semi-fat curd cheese (T) and mixture of grains (M). The order of feeders was changed daily in all cages. The animals were kept at a 12-hour period of light and a 12-hour period of dark. The results show the rats consumed primarily the curd cheese and they also preferred the grain mix to the commercial diet. Two thirds of the daily ration was eaten during the dark period and only one third by daylight.

In the second experiment, we examined the savouriness of the grains used in mixes for rats (VB, VS, VP) produced by a renowned pet food manufacturing company. In this case the illuminated period was changed as follows: the animals were housed in darkness during day-time and in daylight at night. The result of the test indicated that two thirds of the daily ration was yet again consumed in the dark period regardless of the fact that it was day-time.

In the third experiment, cocoa balls and banana chips produced for human consumption were compared to VS complete food, which was mostly preferred earlier. One half of the total daily feed intake occurred from cocoa balls while the other half consisted of banana chips and rat food (VS) in equal amounts.

According to the results of the experiments, it could be stated that the grain mix is more suitable for rats than the commercial pellets (R) because of its tastiness. Despite the fact that the preference of curd cheese was higher than that of the other two foods, it can not be recommended on the long run because of its high fat (23.7 g/100 g DM), energy (24.7 MJ ME/100 g DM) and low fibre content, resulting in obesity in rats.

Neither cocoa balls (low in protein, high in carbohydrate, 1.2 g and 85 g/100 g DM, respectively) nor banana chips (rich in fat, 32 g/100 g DM) preferred by rats are adequate as a monodiet.

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