Rates of oxalate degradation by mixed bacterial populations in cecal contents from wild rats ranged from 2.5 to 20.6 mumol/g (dry weight) per h. The oxalate-degrading activity in cecal contents from three strains of laboratory rats (Long-Evans, Wistar, and Sprague-Dawley) from four commercial breeders was generally lower, ranging from 1.8 to 3.5 mumol/g (dry weight) of cecal contents per h. This activity did not increase when diets were supplemented with oxalate. When Sprague-Dawley rats from a fifth commercial breeder were fed an oxalate diet, rates of oxalate degradation in cecal contents increased from 2.0 to 23.1 mumol/g (dry weight) per h. Obligately anaerobic, oxalate-degrading bacteria, similar to ruminal strains of Oxalobacter formigenes, were isolated from the latter group of laboratory rats and from wild rats. Viable counts of these bacteria were as high as 10(8)/g (dry weight) of cecal contents, which was less than 0.1% of the total viable population. This report presents the first evidence for the presence of anaerobic oxalate-degrading bacteria in the cecal contents of rats and represents the first direct measurement of the concentration of these bacteria in the large bowel of monogastric animals. We propose that methods used for the maintenance of most commercial rat colonies often preclude the intestinal colonization of laboratory rats with anaerobic oxalate-degrading bacteria.