Ferrets are cute, cuddly, playful and spunky. For many people, ferrets are great pets! If you're thinking about getting a ferret (or you've just found yourself as a proud new owner), it's important to learn all about your ferret's diet. Keep reading to find out all the details on what ferrets should (and shouldn't) eat in order to live a long, healthy, happy life.
What do ferrets eat?
Ferrets are strict carnivores, which means they love (and need) to eat meat. In nature, ferrets eat other animals -- and every part of those animals too, including their livers, kidneys, tissues and bones. They also eat whole prey, such as whole mice, rats and chicks.
Even when ferrets are pets, they must eat raw meat, including chicken, lamb, pigeons, rabbit, turkey necks and raw animal bones. Although you might be grossed out by the thought of feeding these things to your ferret, it's necessary that he gets this raw meat in his diet. If kept as pets, ferrets need high-quality raw meat that's purchased from reputable places.
Is "ferret food" sold at pet stores?
Yes. If you'd rather not give your ferret raw meat, dried ferret food that contains a lot of meat protein is available to buy. If you go this route, be sure to check the list of ingredients. Ferrets can't digest carbohydrates, so make sure that the ferret food doesn't contain any corn or grain and that meat (such as chicken, beef or lamb) is the first ingredient.
Some ferret owners also give kitten food as a good alternative. If you do this, it's important to feed your ferret kitten food instead of adult cat food because kitten food has a higher protein content. Also, if you feed your ferret kitten food, be sure to ask your veterinarian about feeding him extra fatty acid supplements because kitten food usually doesn't have enough fatty acids for ferrets.
What should ferrets not eat?
Ferrets should never eat fruits or vegetables, as these foods contain a lot of fiber, which makes them difficult for ferrets to digest. Ferrets that eat vegetables usually end up with bladder stones, skin ulcerations, gastroenteritis and/or a reduced ability to reproduce.
Specific foods to always avoid feeding your ferret include fish, corn, onions, cow's milk, apples, beans, berries, bananas, kiwi, onions, oranges, chocolate and dog food.
What are the general requirements for a ferret's diet?
In general, a ferret's diet should be high in protein and fat and low in fiber. This is a good goal to have for your ferret's diet:
- 30 to 40% protein
- 20 to 30% fat
- Less than 3% fiber
How often should you feed your pet ferret?
Because ferrets have a short intestinal tract but high metabolism, they need to eat small portions very often. Most ferrets eat six to 10 small meals every three to four hours throughout the day. And, it takes a lot of food to make a ferret feel "full." On average, ferrets eat five to seven percent of their body weight in food every day! For reference, the average size of an adult ferret ranges from one to five pounds.
Should ferrets have access to food at all times?
Yes. You usually don't need to worry about your ferret becoming obese. Because ferrets generally eat only until they're full, they typically won't gorge themselves simply because food is there.
What should ferrets drink?
The only thing a ferret should drink is fresh, filtered water. This should be left out at all times, and it should be refilled often.
Can you give your ferret treats?
Yes. Cooked eggs are great treats for ferrets.
There are also treats made specifically for ferrets. If you can't find these, try treats specifically for cats. These should only be given about once every four to seven days. Any more than this can cause constipation, tooth decay and obesity.
Something else to note is that ferrets groom themselves and can easily get hairballs. To fight this, there are special treats that prevent hairballs from forming. It's a good idea to supplement these treats into your ferret's routine.
What do baby ferrets eat?
Baby ferrets are called kits. Kits usually nurse from their mother for the first six weeks of life. However, at three weeks old, kits can also begin to eat small amounts of food that are soaked in warm water to moisten the food. At six weeks, a mother ferret's milk has typically dried up, so the baby ferret (kit) can move to a diet full of raw meat. However, until about 12 weeks of age, the food should always be soaked in warm water to make the food go down more easily.
It's important to introduce your pet ferret to a variety of safe foods as soon as possible. Trying to introduce new foods to an older ferret typically doesn't go well.
What if you want to change your ferret's food?
Transitioning your pet ferret to a new food should be done slowly and gradually over the course of several weeks.
Do veterinarians take care of ferrets?
Yes. There are certain veterinarians that have great knowledge about ferrets and are trained specifically to treat them. It's important to have your ferret examined by a veterinarian at least once a year. At these visits, be sure to ask your veterinarian about your ferret's diet. Your veterinarian will have all of the most up-to-date information about ferret feeding recommendations.
Ready to feed your pet ferret?
In conclusion, there are plenty of options to feed your ferret if you choose to have one as a pet. The most important thing to remember is that ferrets love food and water. If they're given the right food from the start, there's a good chance that their lives will be long, healthy, happy and delicious!