Some of the tastier things in life aren't good for you.
Rats, like children, will chew on and eat anything and everything. Anything and everything includes, but is not limited to, their bedding, lead paint, other rats' nubbies, ant baits, shoes, fingers, fingernails, clothing, cigarettes, pens, glass, concrete, wood, etc.
One of our first rats, in one of her escape-in-search-of-man episodes (see "Female rats will do almost anything to get to their male counterparts.") decided to take a look-see around the apartment and found a tasty ant bait trap (or so we soon discovered). We were lucky with this mishap, because although rats are physically incapable of throwing up, she did just that, and apparently, after a few days rest, got it out of her system.
Slinky was a huge lover of cigarettes. He used to always eat the tobacco, but then discovered that the butt was much tastier. He didn't seem to show any ill side-effects, but we made sure to keep all cigarettes far out of Slinky's reach.
ButtNutt was a huge lover of compressed recycled newspaper bedding. I'm not sure if you are familiar with the stuff, but it is super-absorbent, moreso than CareFresh bedding, and yet, quite similar. Every time he'd get his paws on that bedding, he'd spend the next two days constipated and bloated. We bought Aspen bedding just for him.
Some rats liked to eat the Aspen bedding though. Aspen is pretty harmless digestive-tract wise but often would cause the rat eating it to choke. You can usually tell if a rat is choking when their chin seems to be covered in saliva.
Some rats simply can't get enough of cleaning themselves and other rats to the point of injury. This generally does not cause the nibbling rat to become ill, but it usually requires a lot of repair and protective behaviors on the human's part.
Oliver was a huge fan of lead paint. We would move his cage further and further away from the walls, and he would simply stretch further and further to reach it, or simply jump off in order to gain access to it. He lived close to three years though, seemed pretty alert in most rat-like respects, etc but I hope to not have a lead-paint-addicted rat again as it tends to make us humans nervous.
Shoes and clothing are a rat's favorite food substance. Apparently it's very digestible and it also contributes to the human's lace collection. Eating shoes and clothing is really one of their better habits.
Rats don't actually swallow the fingernails of humans usually, but I would imagine if they did, it would probably cause the same possible choking reaction as wood chips. It would be best to avoid letting them eat your nails.
Chewing wood seems pretty harmless, as does concrete, but I would be careful of letting rats eat any plaster-like substance that, once wet, may solidify in a different form.
In short, rat-proof your home, and when you think it's completely safe and secure, go over it again and again then let the rats test your security and patch that up too. :O)
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Disclaimer: There are many non-sarcastic accounts and tips on the web regarding rat care. This is not
one of them. These are merely accounts of our experiences with rats, our perceptions of these experiences, where we've failed
and where we've succeeded. These accounts are here for two purposes: