Rattie Recipes: Cuisine Des Rats
Flora Johnson Skelly
From the May/June 1996 Rat & Mouse Gazette
In the book The Proper Care of Fancy Rats (TFH Publications, Inc., 1993), British rat expert Nick Mays writes that feeding rats "is one of those areas akin to 'politics and religion' amongst many fanciers; everybody has his own preferred feeding method."
No kidding! Furthermore, like politics and religion, the optimum rat diet is a very emotional subject. (You could almost cook a meal on the heat generated by some of these discussions!) There is at least one thing everyone seems to agree on - it's okay to provide our rats with healthy, homecooked meals - at least sometimes. Here are two recipes I give to my three girls. In addition, another Gazette reader has contributed a recipe for a treat so tasty it can even be used to hide nasty medicine!
My husband, Tim, originally devised this recipe as an easy, filling dinner for us, but we soon found that our ratties enjoy it, too. Make it for your own dinner and you'll have plenty left over to serve the ratties a Mexican treat as well.
Cook the rice according to the directions on the package, but without adding the butter or margarine called for in the directions. (It tastes fine without all that fat - honestly!) While rice is cooking, place beans in a small pot and heat. When rice is done, mix with corn. Lay out tortillas and divide rice equally among them, placing it along the center of each tortilla. Divide refried beans equally among them, putting it on top of rice. Divide mozzarella equally and put it on top of beans. Fold ends of the tortillas over the mixture, then fold the sizes over to form a packet. Turn the burrito over so that the edges of the tortilla are on the bottom. Cut a slice out of the center of one of the burritos and serve it to your rat. For human consumption, place burrito on a microwave-safe plate, cover with desired amount of salsa and microwave on high for two minutes. One large burrito serves one person and one rat.
Note: Extra burritos keep for up to two days in the refrigerator wrapped in plastic wrap, or can be frozen. Reheat in the microwave for about 2 minutes 30 seconds on high. (Before serving to rat, check to make sure beans are not too hot.)
DOTTIE'S OWN RAT-A-TAIL
How do you provide your rats with small quantities of fresh foods without losing most of what you buy to spoilage? One solution is to buy bags of frozen vegetables and thaw small quantities as needed. To take advantage of bagged frozen veggies, I devised this easy-to-make "rat-a-tail." I added tofu after reading that estrogen-like substances in tofu may offer protection against mammary tumors, but my rats are all girls and if your rats are male, you may want to skip the tofu which is high in protein and fat. All frozen vegetables used may be any brand that comes in a bag.
Place the frozen vegetables in a microwave-safe bowl and put in the microwave for 30 seconds on high. Check to see if the veggies are thawed; if not, "wave" them for another 10 seconds and keep doing this until they are warm but not soggy. Add tofu if using. (I recommend Mori-Nu brand tofu for its excellent smooth texture.) Mix so that the tofu makes a "sauce" for the warm veggies. For an especially attractive presentation, serve on a bed of fresh spinach. Serves one rat.
Note: Tofu must be stored in an air-tight container and used within two days.
YUMMY RATTIE ROLLS
When Mary Macdonald of Kirkland, Washington, needed to find a way to get her ratties to take medicine, she devised this tasty and nutritious "rattie cookie."
Mash the banana, then mix with butterscotch syrup. Sprinkle with wheat germ and mix. Keep adding wheat germ until the mixture is semi-firm. Sprinkle some flour on waxed paper and shape the dough into the shape of a Tootsie Roll. Sprinkle with more flour and cut the roll into slices, using flour to keep them from sticking together. Give a slice to your rat! You can wrap any left over "cookies" in waxed paper and refrigerate them for up to four days, or they can be frozen.
Note: Because this rattie Roll can easily be sliced into same-sized pieces, you can use it to divide tablets or powders. (Example: If you are supposed to give your rat 1/16th of a tablet, crush a whole tablet and mix it very well into the mashed banana. After you've made the Rattie Roll, cut it into 16 equal pieces. Bingo! You've divided the tablet into 16 equal parts.) Mary reports that her five ratties love these cookies even when they contain medicine. (Editor's note: This method is not guaranteed to give your rat an equal dose of medication every time.)
ORGANIC GRAIN MIX
When Susan Crandall and Allan Klassen's two rats began having seizures, they wondered if pesticides in their grain mix might be at fault, so Susan developed her own grain mix recipe, using organically grown grains purchased from health food stores. She says switching to this mix seemed to help "somewhat" with the seizures, and her rats much preferred it to the store- bought version and has also been popular with their present "kids".
Susan added essential fatty acids to this mix when she and her husband had two other rats who began to overgroom themselves. Their vet suggested giving the girls Efa-Z, which is a skin and coat conditioner for dogs. Susan says ratties almost immediately stopped over-grooming, and also developed "wonderful shiny coats."
Blend first six ingredients plus any optional ingredients and store in fridge in a jar or plastic container. Pour 1/2 cup at a time into feeding dish and dribble essential fatty acid supplement over the mix. This will last one adult rat at least two days. After that, it should be replaced to make sure it is fresh.
Note: Susan says you can feel free to substitute other grains for those listed in her recipe or buy a pre-mixed brand of mixed organic grains (e.g. Red Mill brand) that humans would cook as a hot cereal. If Efa-Z is unavailable, dribble a bit of cold-pressed linseed oil on the grain or add 1/4 cup of organic flax seeds to the mix.
POLENTA WITH SWEET POTATO SAUCE
This recipe combines two things my rats loveocorn and sweet potato, using very convenient foods: Polenta, a Northern Italian favorite, is a cooked cornmeal that can be served either soft or firm, in which case it is usually served in slices. I buy non-fat polenta, already cooked, in my grocery store's deli section. (Look for a long, tube-shaped thing, about 2 inches in diameter, wrapped in plastic. It looks exactly like salami, except that its yellow.) Then I slice off 1 inch pieces as needed.
My "sweet potato sauce" is actually just pureed sweet potato in a jaroin other words, baby food. You could use any baby food that your rats like, but sweet potato is a favorite with my rats and is a great source of nutrients.
Cut polenta slice in pieces suitable for your rat(s) to eat. Place on a microwave-safe dish. Top with sweet potato puree. Place in microwave just long enough to warm. (Try 30 seconds on high to start.) Serve on a bed of spinach greens.
Serves three to four rats.
If you're wondering what you can do with the rest of the polenta, it makes a great quick meal for you as well as for your rats. Just cut off as many 1 inch slices as you feel like eating, top with any pasta sauce (rich sauces, such as those containing mushrooms, soy protein, or meat, are especially good), and heat in the microwave.
THE INCREDIBLE EDIBLE TOY
The only thing better than a toy is a toy you can eat once you're done playing with it. At least that's what my rat, Dottie, tells me. We discovered by accident that a lightly steamed asparagus spear makes a great toy if you wave the end of it in front of a rattie's nose. (The barely cooked spear has just enough wiggle in it!) It's quite tasty, too, once you catch it. We haven't tried this yet, but I suspect that lightly steamed spears of other vegetables, such as carrots and squash would also be good to play with and then eat.
STILL MORE TREATS
Subscribers to the Rat E-Mail List often share tips for human foods that make nutritious treats for rats. Here are some suggestions that have appeared in recent postings: Chicken meat (caution: high in protein!), chicken bones (good for chewing), peanut butter (caution: high in fat and protein!), banana chips, cooked pasta (fusilli, which is shaped like little springs is especially wiggly and fun), rice, cooked corn, graham crackers (note: low-fat varieties are available), bread (especially whole grain), breakfast cereal, and almost any fruits or vegetables.
If you have recipes your rats enjoy, send them to "Rattie Recipes" c/o Rat & Mouse Gazette. If we can collect enough we'll do this again.
Flora Skelly lives with husband Tim; cats Dashiel, Chris O'Fur, Ichi, Ni, Leamas, Minnie, and Max; parakeets Crusher, Tweetledee, Louie, and PB; and ratties Dottie, Serif, and Tilde in Redmond, Washington.