Ferrets aren’t like your usual pets when it comes to eating habits. They have a high metabolism and are considered free feeders. This means that they are always in need of fresh food and water.
Depending on their size and age, they may require anywhere between 4 to 8 meals each day. The older the ferret, the more it eats. They are picky eaters, but if you want to keep your ferrets healthy and playful, provide them with proper nutrition.
Let’s learn more about what ferrets love to eat and how to provide them with a healthy diet to take care of their health.
What Do Ferrets Eat?
Well, ferrets are carnivores, which basically means that they eat meat. They are natural predators and use their hunting instincts to survive in the wild.
Usually, they kill and eat smaller animals. On the other hand, domesticated ferrets only maintain their liking for meat; they don’t have strong predatory skills.
This does not mean that you can feed your pet ferrets live prey as it is not practical or even ethical. To fulfill and meet their nutritional needs, you can either give them raw meat or feed them pet food formulations that are rich in proteins and fats.
But you also need to make sure that the ferrets can easily digest the feed you are giving them. Plant fibers and grains are a big no as ferrets cannot digest or process plants and vegetables.
Cooked meat should be avoided as well because cooking the food changes its structure and digestive properties. This could even have inverse effects on the metabolism of your pets. Many pet stores and supermarkets have started carrying prepackaged ferret food which can suffice their daily nutritional needs.
But if stores in your neighborhood do not have any, you can get kitten food to feed your ferrets as an alternative since its contents are also high in meat proteins.
If you do not wish to feed your pets any packaged food, raw meat would be a more natural but expensive meal option for them. There is also a downside to feeding them raw meat. It awakens the animal instincts of domesticated creatures and this can lead to violent behavior. Ferrets also enjoy eating eggs.
Feeding eggs to them once or twice a week as a treat for something is a fun way to engage with them.
Dry or Canned Food
As already mentioned, raw meat can be hard to afford for many and should not be included in the daily diet of your pet ferret. Prepackaged dry and canned diets are a better option instead.
Although both diets are ideal to your pet ferret, many owners commonly choose the latter for their pets. This is because of the fact that dry food is less messy among the two.
Ferret owners are also of the view that canned food is more suited for sick or underweight ferrets having chewing difficulties or dental issues.
Raw Meat Diet
If you wish to have your ferrets retain their natural animal instincts, you would want to feed them a raw meat diet.
However, you must ensure you’re introducing it carefully into their diet:
First of all, give them meaty bones. If you are planning to feed them live prey, you should keep in mind that ferrets eat the entire animal, from the fur down to its bones.
If you wish to stick with the raw meat diet, you can also use minced meat to supplement a balanced raw meat diet.
A balanced diet should include a minimum of 15% of bone matter, about 5% of kidneys or lungs, 25% of heart, 5% of liver and50% of muscle mass. There is no need to separate the fat from the meat.
You can also feed them meat from different animals. This list includes chickens, turkeys, lambs, rabbits and pigeons among many other animals.
As owners of pet ferrets, you should also know that ferrets do not have a cecum in their digestive systems.
This makes them unable to process and digest plant fibers. Therefore, they should be given as little fruits and vegetables as possible.
Consumption of too many carbohydrates can also have catastrophic results for these cute animals. A diet rich in carbohydrates can generate excessive glucose in the bloodstream of the animal.
This can lead to insulinoma, a type of cancer. Other disorders caused by carb consumption include ulceration of the skin, mineral deposits leading to bladder stones, gastroenteritis and even reduced reproduction ability. In order to avoid these perilous diseases, you should keep your pet ferrets away from carbohydrate-rich diets.
Number of Meals through the Day
Ferrets are playful and active little creatures. Thus, these animals have a very high rate of metabolism.
Such high metabolism rates also demand that their bodies stay properly fueled throughout the day to allow them to keep up their mischievous antics. To keep them properly fed, you should feed your ferrets a minimum of 4 meals if they are infants.
Fully grown ferrets might require up to 8 meals a day. Make sure to stock up well on both, dry and canned diets, so you have access to their food 24/7. However, keep in mind that ferret food has high contents of fat and turns rancid if left in the open for longer periods of time. This means you should always discard any leftover or uneaten food and wash the bowl before serving the next meal init.
You need to make sure your ferrets are properly fed as fewer meals can have severe repercussions and negative effects on the health of these furry little creatures.
What should you look for in a prepackaged ferret diet?
The most important aspect to look for in prepackaged ferret food is its ingredients and nutritional value. An ideal formulation should include 40% of animal proteins and 20% of caloric fat.
The amount of soy, corn or any other plant extract used to bind the food should not exceed more than 5%.
If you cannot find or afford ferret diets, you can use high-quality kitten food as an alternative to feeding your ferret. Make sure the formulation you are purchasing isn’t cat food but premium quality kitten food.
Again, make sure of the ingredients. They need to be high in proteins and low in carbohydrates. Do not stick to feeding a single type of meal to your ferret
Ferrets quickly grow fond of the type of food they are fed on a daily basis and can act fussy if their favorite meal is not served. To avoid ever running into such a situation, it is better to keep mixing it up.
If your ferrets have already grown on to a type of food, you should start giving it different things throughout the day in smaller quantities.
If you can manage to keep this up for a while, your ferrets will adapt to the new meal type within a couple of weeks. Otherwise, your ferret will create a lot of fuss when you run out of stock and have to feed it something else.
A good quality ferret diet fulfills complete nutritional needs of your pet without the need for any additional supplements. However, if your ferret is old or sick, it may possibly be in need of a nutritional supplement that provides essential fatty acids. But before you decide to give it any kind of supplement, it would be better to consult a vet.
Ferrets are cute and cuddly, and they are fully capable of enticing their owners into giving them food that they enjoy but their bodies don’t. If you wish to keep your pet ferrets healthy and active, you should not give in to their cuteness. With proper attention, care, affection and right kind of nutrition; you ferrets are bound to live a happy, healthy and long life.
Q: Can my ferret eat dog food?
A: It probably can but it shouldn’t. Dog food is not high in meat proteins or fats. It does, however, contain vegetable fibers and proteins that cannot be digested by ferrets.
Q: Can baby ferrets be fed the same meal as adult ones?
A: An ideal meal for a baby ferret should be a combination of raw meat, water, and low lactose milk 4 times a day. As an infant, your ferret will adapt to eating whatever you feed it. If it is given the right kind of meals early on, you will not have to struggle with its eating habits in the future.
Q: What if my ferret isn’t accepting healthy food?
A: If your ferret isn’t switching over to a new or different food type, do not panic. Be consistent. Give it a more healthy diet, bit by bit daily. You can also starve your ferret for a couple of hours and then give it the food you want it to eat. Another approach, if you wish to bring the change faster, is to give your ferret some raw meat to help bring out its animal instincts.