Ferrets just like cats are obligate carnivores. They are unable to survive on a diet that lacks meat. Although fresh raw meat dominates the diet of ferrets, they can contain harmful microorganisms or parasites that create unacceptable risks for pet owners. Meat is only a fraction of a natural carnivorous diet, predators also eat kidneys, liver, crunched up bones and intestinal tract of their prey. A diet that only has meat in it can be very fatal for ferrets and they may not get all the nutrients they need.
What can ferrets eat and not eat? Ferrets need a high protein food source. Food pellets or cat food are an excellent source of protein. On the other hand, avoid feeding your ferret foods that are rich in carbohydrates like vegetables, fruits, dairy or anything that is packed with sugar.
This article contains all the information you need when you doubtful about what to feed your ferret.
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Ferrets and dog food
Dog food is not good for ferrets at all. If you want to add kibble to their diet, then stick with cat food. Taurine is an ingredient that is really important for ferrets and it is not present in dog food, but cat food has it. Dog food also has a low amount of fat content and ferrets need about 20 to 30 percent fat content in their diet.
Dogs have been around people for thousands of years, so their digestive tracts have become used to consuming vegetables, fruits and meat. This is why dog food is also a mixture of vegetables, fruit, and grains but all these are bad for ferrets.
So all in all the major three reasons to avoid feeding your ferret dog food is that it is low in fat, does not have Taurine and ferrets should not be exposed to too much fruit, grains and vegetables.
Ferrets and eggs
Ferrets can eat eggs. Keep in mind to not overfeed your ferret eggs, twice a week is just fine. You do not have to separate the egg yolks from the egg whites if you are feeding your ferret chicken eggs. Quail eggs are also very good for your ferrets, remember to remove the top of the egg with the knife and your ferret will devour the egg in seconds.
Ferrets and cat food
Ferrets should only be given high-quality cat food. Some of the cat food has grains and vegetables in them which are very harmful to the ferrets so try avoiding such products. The best cat food is that has three main ingredients.
High-level proteins (at least 40 percent), meat and about 30 to 40 percent of fat. Remember to always check the ingredients before purchasing at food. There are many cat foods out there that are even better than the ferret food available.
Ferrets and organs, meat and bones
Ferrets can eat bones, meat and organs if they are all part of a healthy balanced diet. Ferrets are actually obligate carnivores so they should have a diet that is rich in three types of meats, bones, and organs, all in little quantities throughout the week.
The ferret diet in the wild consisted of raw organs, raw meat and raw bones. You can go ahead and cook the meat in order to kill off all the unwanted parasites, but the bones and organs should be raw. Bones tend to crack if they are cooked and that is dangerous for ferrets.
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Ferrets and fruits
Ferrets are unable to process anything but meat as they are obligate carnivores. Ferrets are driven on protein, not vegetables and fruit. Ferrets do not have the enzymes or the organs that can digest fibers. Feeding your ferret fruit can be rather harmful to him. Poor nutrition can even lead to cancer.
Ferrets and vegetables
Ferrets have a digestive system that has a very high metabolic rate. Herbivores on the other hand ave very slow digestive systems, hence feeding your ferret vegetables is a very bad call when it comes to their health and well-being. Here is a list of vegetables and fruits that you should definitely steer clear of:
- Lima Beans
- Pink beans
- Pigeon beans
- Small white beans
- Green beans
- Split peas
- Winged beans
- Brussels sprouts
- Peanut butter
- Dried plum
- Sweet potato
Ferrets and bacon
Ferrets should have a diet that is rich in meat components, but they should not be fed processed meat such as bacon that is filled with sugar and salt. Bacon in large amounts is bad for humans and so for ferrets, it is worse. Salt and sugar are two things that are not easily digestible by ferrets, and bacon has both of them. Ferrets should be fed meat but not processed meat or raw meat, and it should be without additional spices and salt.
Ferrets and bread
Just like fruits and vegetables, bread is a no-no for ferrets as they are unable to digest fiber and grains. Which means that ferrets should not be fed cereals, cookies, bread or cakes.
If you give your ferret milk or bread, it will get very sick and suffer from diarrhea. This will, in turn, make it malnourished and it will not be able to survive for long. Avoid feeding your fuzzy pet bread, fruits or vegetables, just meat.
Ferrets and fish
You can feed your ferret fish, but that is not part of their natural diet. Ferrets do not actually like the smell of fish so the chances are that your ferret might not even eat the fish if you offer it to them. The fish has a very strong smell and if your ferret has odor problems, this will just make the situation worse. Ferrets can eat fish, but it is better to stick to their natural diet of meat, bones, and organs.
Ferret and chocolate
Ferrets should not be fed chocolates or anything that is sweet. Chocolate like for other animals is also very bad for ferrets. The body of ferrets has no idea how to process sugar and so chocolates can be fatal for them. Even a small piece of chocolate can make your ferret very sick.
Ferrets and honey
Ferrets like other sweet things that cannot be ingested, as the digestive tract of ferrets is not designed to process sugar. In some cases, honey can actually help your ferret such as if your fuzzy friend is insulinemic and has a seizure you can give it a small amount of honey on its gums and that will help to stop the seizure. Always follow feeding honey with meat as honey is pure sugar.
Ferrets and coconut oil
Coconut oil can be fed to ferrets but in very small amounts. Just like olive oil coconut oil can help ferrets in managing hairballs or even provide them with laxative benefits when your ferret is suffering from constipation. You should give coconut oil to your ferret in very small amounts, less than half a teaspoon every day.
Keep an eye on your ferret when you provide him with oil for the very first time as some ferrets can be allergic to oils or show some other reaction. Besides the laxative effect and hairballs, coconut oil helps give shine to your ferret’s fur.
Ferrets and insects
It is normal to give your ferrets insects, and they can also be used as treats.
Ferrets and noodles
Pasta and noodles are not very good for ferrets. Ferrets cannot process grains and the unique structure of their digestive tract makes them very sensitive to any other food items other than meats.
Ferrets like other animals, only eat the number of calories they need. So it is safe and much more convenient to leave dry pelleted food with them. The dry pellet also has a very beneficial crunchy effect on the teeth of the ferret. A moist diet actually leads to the development of plaque on the teeth of the ferret much sooner if compared to dry food.
Ferrets have a diet that is very dry in nature, and so they need a constant supply of water. The volume required by the ferrets is almost three times the volume of dry pellets they eat. In the hot months, they drink much more water if a ferret which has not been given water for 24 hours will ultimately stop eating.
Ferrets prefer to drink from dishes rather than water bottles although water bottles are much more hygienic. You can slip a dish of water to the side of the cage or just put it outside so that the ferrets can reach it when they get out to exercise. Juveniles and kits will usually end up playing with the water that is left in the dish and will, in turn, contaminate the litter and food.
Snacks are great for ferrets
Ferrets do not actually need snacks but some owners feel good about themselves after feeding their fuzzy mates snacks. Snacks also help a lot during training. They help you save time looking for a sleeping ferret when you can just shake the snack box and they will come running to you.
Snacks are also sometimes bad for ferrets
Many nutritional problems arise when owners feed ferrets’ food as a treat, that is very wrong for them. Overfeeding your ferret sugary treats can lead to problems such as tooth decay, obesity and aggravation of hypoglycemia caused by insulinomas.
Keep in mind that many treats such as raisins that are loved by the ferret are high in sugar content. Dairy products can cause diarrhea and stress out the pet owner. Ferrets can also be so passionately in love with some flavors that they will refuse to eat anything else. Most of the snack foods are not nutritionally balanced. Overindulgence in snack food leads to obesity and malnutrition.
Snacks that should be avoided:
- Potato chips
- Peanut butter
- Soft drinks
- Ice cream
Snacks that you can give your ferrets but in small amounts
- Cooked meat
- Cooked eggs
- Linoleic coat conditioners
- Freeze dried muscles or organ meats
Proper storage of food is very important. Pellets are packaged in a way so that they are protected from moisture. After the bag is opened, it becomes your responsibility to safely store the food. You should store pelleted food for not more than three months even if the bag has not been opened. If your ferret likes only one kind of ferret food, then invest in small bags.
These may be much more expensive as compared to the bulk quantities but they will be fresh and also free of mold. Some of the ferret food comes in milk carton type containers that you can easily seal again once they are opened. Buy plastic bags with snug fitting lids and the store your ferret food in them.
Never leave the bags of ferret food in areas such as the garage or the basements as the food will get damp and ultimately develop mold. Molds are known to produce toxins that are very harmful to your pet and can even lead to death.
Tips for feeding ferrets
What do baby ferrets eat?
A baby ferret can be fed a combination of goats or low lactose milk and water and fresh meat. You can also feed your baby ferret about four times a day. For breakfast, you can give the little buddy fresh meat chunks and water. Then in lunch and at dinner time give the ferret fresh meat to munch on. At suppertime provide your ferret with low lactose or goat milk and meat on a bone.
Ferrets actually bond with food at a very young age and it is hard to change their diet when they are older. You should encourage them to indulge in different kinds of foods when they are kits so that they are not fussy eaters in the future.
Kits take time to develop their teeth hence it is better to feed them soft food or dry food soaked in water to make it soft and easier for them to devour.
Consult a vet before giving your ferret raw food
A raw diet might include giving your ferret whole prey such as rabbits and mice or feeding it meats and organs from your local supermarket. As it is very hard to balance out these meals, so it is better to ask your vet to assist you in developing the right kind of diet for your little fuzzy mate.
You should change out raw food or wet food every few hours
If you provide your ferret with a wet or raw diet then you need to make absolutely sure that it does not spoil. Remember to remove the left-over food one hour after you have fed your ferret and then feed it again in four to five hours.
Feed your ferret around a third of the can of food per meal and try reading the label of the can for more feeding information. Also, talk to your vet about the amount of raw food you should give your ferret.
Feed your ferret the same food that it ate in the pet store
Ferrets actually decide on their favorite kind of food at a young age and so older ferrets tend only to eat a specific type or brand of food. If you adopt an older ferret, then call the pet store and ask them what your ferret was being fed. Begin feeding your ferret the same things it was fed at the pet store and gradually move towards the diet that you want to feed your ferret.
Can I give my ferret tap water? Yes, you can give your ferret tap water to drink. If your ferret refuses drinking tap water, then that means it can smell the chlorine in the water and so you should filter it and see if that makes a difference. It is very important that your ferret is hydrated at all times.
How often should I feed my adult ferret? The answer to this questions actually depends on the intake of your ferret. Ferrets do not tend to overeat so let your pet guide you. You should also not leave a lot of food left around as this may overwhelm your ferret. Ferrets are also great hoarders and your ferret might end up hiding the food in places hard to reach.
Can I feed my ferret nuts? You should under no circumstances feed your fuzzy friend nuts as they are rich in complex carbohydrates which can be harmful to ferrets.
My ferret lost weight in the summer, should I be worried? Ferrets generally gain weight during the winter and then lose it during the summer. The fluctuation in weight is very common, so you do not need to worry. If there are any other changes in the ferret’s behavior like loss of appetite other than losing weight, then you should contact your vet.