While I am well known as a "cat mom" amongst my students, few people realize that, for at least a portion of the year, our home is also the nesting place for around 10 of my sister's pet rats. Most people (even the Grade 4-5 boys I teach) go all squeamish and squeal when I mention the little boys and girls that roost in our front rec room, but the truth is they are quite adorable. For one thing, they all have their own personalities and quirks - you can always tell who will be the mischief-maker on cage cleaning day. They are also incredibly intelligent animals, knowing their names and forming intricate family networks in their shared accommodations. A few of them have even befriended my cat, who (not unlike Finding Nemo's Dory) thinks she can "speak rodent" and chirps incessantly back and forth with them.
Now, our family has always had a tradition of including a "pet stocking" by the fireplace for Santa to fill - one big ol' sock to house the treats and toys for all the current dogs / cats / fish / rodents living under our roof. Nowadays, the three kitties are the most noticeable non-human creatures here, and their gifts are easy to pick out - if it bounces, rolls, jingles or can be batted down the hallway at Mach 10, you're golden. The ratsies, or The Girls and Top Gear Boys (Jeremy, Richard, Stig and Diesel), are usually thrilled with the occasional box or paper towel roll, but when it comes to treats finding good quality, affordable ones can be a little trickier. The diet of a rat differs from rabbits, hamsters, and guinea pigs, and some foods are completely toxic (example: oranges are deadly to the male rats, but not the females). Thankfully my sister is almost 100% certified as a Vet Tech and knows her ratology inside-out, so she could guide me on how to make the gang their own crunchy biscuits this holiday.
These "mini muffin" bites are dense and hard, perfect for keeping teeth in check, and while they were made with rats in mind this mixture is also suitable for other rodents (and I would assume birds too, given that I used birdseed). They keep for a good long while in a cool, dry place, or you can freeze them indefinitely.
Rodent Seed Crunchies
Makes ~14-18 "mini muffin" crunchies
1 cup assorted seeds and grains (I used a couple birdseed mixes that had corn, wheat kernels, millet, sunflower seeds, and nyger seed)
½ cup whole wheat flour
3 tbsp sugar
3 tbsp honey
1 tbsp canola oil
½ tsp salt
- Preheat oven to 300F, line a mini-muffin pan with parchment or very well greased foil.
- Combine seeds and flour in a medium bowl, set aside.
- In a measuring cup or small bowl, mix together sugar, honey, oil and salt. Microwave on HI for 40 seconds.
- Pour the liquid mixture over the seed mixture and stir to coat well.
- Scoop into the lined pan and place another mini-muffin pan (with a greased bottom) on top, pressing down firmly to compact.
- Bake the double-layered pan 35 minutes, then uncover and bake a further 15 minutes.
- Immediately after removing from the oven, re-grease the bottom of the empty mini-muffin tin, place back on top of the seed pucks and press once again to compact it.
- Cool completely before unmoulding