Last updated on September 27th, 2022
Recently I came across a report that discussed an unusual behavioral change in rats. According to the journalist, rats have started eating nuts and even learned how to strip a pinecone to access the nuts.
The entire report made me curious because I did not know that rats eat pinecones. Moreover, I always considered rats to be omnivores and scavengers, and they are usually found near garbage dumps.
But after learning that rats eat pinecones, I decided to do some more research, and here are my findings.
The scales on the pine cone are indigestible for rats, so they strip the scales from the pine cone with their sharp claws and incisor teeth to access the nuts. However, the process of stripping pinecones is not genetically passed on from an adult rat to a pup; instead, young rats will learn it from their mothers.
Do mice eat pine cones?
A mouse wouldn’t eat a pine cone because of the scaly outer layer. A mouse will eat the nut inside if they can get their hands on it but the majority of the time it’s inaccessible because their claws are short.
Because of this, the common house mice don’t eat pine cones regularly, and it is unlikely they will steal them.
Can baby rats eat pinecones?
Pinecones can be dangerous to baby rats. The sharpness of the scales on the cone is the reason for this. Even if the baby rat does not chew on the cone, the scales themselves can hurt the rat because they are indigestible to them.
Hence, you shouldn’t give it a pinecone.
Do rats steal pinecones?
Pine cones are not a regular food source for your common house rat; therefore, it is unlikely that rats will steal them.
Rats can prove to be quite curious creatures. You will find that it tends to carry the bait back to the nest.
This is usually how the exterminator will try to get rid of a rat infestation.
But if you think pinecones are one such item that a rat is likely to take back to its nest, then you are mistaken.
Can you give a pine cone to your pet rat?
Pinecones are safe objects with which your pet rat can play. But if you expect your pet rat to strip the cone and access the nuts inside, you will be disappointed.
Rats bred in captivity must be taught how to strip pinecones to access the nuts inside.
If you want to give your pet rat a taste of pine nuts, you need to give these separately to the creature as part of its diet.
But discuss with your veterinarian if the cone proves to be toxic to your pet rat before you give it to the rodent as a chew toy.
Do rats eat the entire pinecone or only the nuts?
Rats have sharp teeth, but the scales on the pinecone are indigestible for a rat. Hence, the rodent strips the scales from a pine cone with its sharp claws and teeth to access the nuts.
Rats are intelligent and can learn how to strip a pinecone. Once they learn this, the pinecones can become a regular source of food for rats.
Are there any particular rat species that easily strip the pinecones to access the nuts?
No particular species of rats know how to strip pinecones intrinsically. But scientists have observed that rats living in or near temperate pine forests naturally learn how to strip pinecones.
In addition, it is an easy source of nutrition for the rats, who naturally learn to strip the pinecones.
The primary reason for this is the easy availability of cones in pine forests.
Thus, it depends upon the vegetation around the area from which rats will develop the ability to strip pinecones to access the nuts.
If pine is toxic to the rats, how do they consume the nuts?
This is a behavioral change that scientists have observed in rats living in some areas of the world.
For example, rats in temperate regions can eat pine nuts without suffering any adverse effects.
Similarly, certain species of rats in Israel have completely emulated the life of squirrels and have begun surviving only on nuts.
Thus, it is a change that is being observed by scientists occurring in rats.
Do rats eat other types of nuts or only pine nuts?
Rats are opportunistic feeders and omnivores. They can survive on both plant and animal-based food.
They usually nest in places close to human habitats. But several species of wild rodents are found in jungles; some can even live on trees.
Such species of rats can survive on different types of nuts.
For example, you will find that rats living in temperate regions (for eg. pine forests) where many pine trees reside tend to eat pine nuts.
However, they can also eat other nuts such as acorns if they get the opportunity.
Interested in other animals that eat pine cones? Check out that article for more information.
Are rats dangerous pests for pine nut farmers?
Rodent control is essential for any urban farmer, and they need to ensure that the harvest is not affected by rats, squirrels, or other native rodents.
But when it comes to harvesting pinecones, rats do not pose a significant threat.
In most cases, rats do not consider pine nuts found inside the cones a suitable food because the nuts are inaccessible to most rats.
Hence, rats do not pose a significant threat to pine nut farmers.
Can pine seeds prove to be healthy for rats bred in captivity?
Pine seeds do not form a part of the regular diet of rats.
Pine trees are not in the habitats of most house mouse species and are not used to eating pine nuts.
Furthermore, moldy pine nuts can even prove to be toxic for rats.
Hence, unless you are sure that your rat belongs to the temperate region and has been trained to consume pine nuts, you shouldn’t introduce the particular nut as a part of its diet.
Consult with your local veterinarian before making any changes to your pet rat’s diet
Do mother rats teach their pups to strip pinecones?
Scientists have observed that pinecone stripping is not genetically transferred from the adult rat to the pup.
Instead, the younger rats have to learn the process from the adults.
In most cases, the mother rat teaches their pups to strip the pinecones to access the nuts.
But this is only possible in the case of rats that have already acquired the ability to strip pine cones.
Can the Christmas tree in your home attract rats?
Unless you live in cold temperate areas, you need not worry about the Christmas tree in your home attracting rats.
It will not attract rats if you have a natural Christmas tree in your home or have hung pinecones.
Pine and cedar wood are toxic to rats. Therefore, they tend to avoid chewing on the wood of the tree.