Ferrets are very different than dogs and cats, and their diet differs a lot as well. But if you are ever out of food, you can use cat food made for kittens, not adults. You should never offer your ferret dog food as these foods contain a lot of carbohydrates and other things your ferret simply cannot digest. After thousands of years of domestication, dogs have a slightly more diverse digestive system.
In this article, we’ll talk about why you should avoid dog food as a ferret owner and what you can use as a substitute in case of an emergency.
Can a Ferret Eat Commercial Dog Food? Why not?
While you might be able to get away with replacing your dog food with cat food and vice-versa in an emergency, this doesn’t work when it comes to ferrets. This is because commercial dog food, as its name suggests, it’s specifically formulated for dogs. More than that, different foods are made for different types of dogs. So a big, but sedentary dog’s diet can be terrible for a small, but very active dog.
Commercial dog food simply lacks the necessary nutrients that ferrets need to thrive. More than that, any plant matter that’s inside the dog food can also be bad for the ferret. This is because they are obligate carnivores and cannot digest vegetables and fruits properly. And while the ferrets won’t get very sick immediately, long-term feeding can cause a lot of problems.
Eating food that lacks the necessary nutrients is very bad as it won’t be able to sustain the pets properly. There are countless ferret diets out there ranging from very simple to very complicated meals. It’s up to your experience and willingness to learn whether your ferret gets the proper food or not.
What Should a Ferret’s Diet Look Like Instead?
Ferrets have a short digestive tract and their metabolism is impressively high. More than that, they are obligate carnivores, which means they have to eat meat pretty much every meal. Raw meat is highly recommended as it’s the closest thing to what their wild relatives are eating and what their bodies were made to process.
Typically, you can either opt for a cooked, or raw diet. Cooked diets mean only offering your ferret cooked meat. And since most of the nutrients remain in the chicken even after cooking, it’s actually OK. However, ferrets also need other prey body parts, such as the liver, heart, etc. Commercial ferret food should be able to replace most nutrients even if it’s not in the healthiest way.
Cooked bones can splinter and hurt the ferret while it’s munching on them. You should either opt for raw bones or none at all. Commercial pallets are very small and great for the ferrets that don’t chew on bones too often. They can clean the teeth much better as well. Just make sure you’re always leaving the bowl full if you are not home throughout the day. Ferrets can eat up to 10 times a day as they need to eat very often.
Raw diets include whole prey, such as mice, birds, etc. More than that, all the chicken parts are offered over the course of a few weeks. Ferrets are capable of consuming whole prey, including the meat, organs, fur, feathers, etc.
What Kind of Foods Do Ferrets and Dogs Have In Common?
When it comes to raw meat, ferrets and dogs love chicken. Turkey is pretty good as well but be sure to stay away from cooked bones as they can do a lot of damage. Small chunks of raw meat are great and raw bones are even better. These are the only things that dogs and ferrets can eat together.
Any other type of food is hard to digest for either the ferret or the dog. Ferrets are pretty much just as bloodthirsty as their wild counterparts but dogs can eat a more varied diet. Dogs can eat fruits, veggies, dairy, and other things in moderation. But a ferret’s digestive system can be turned upside down just by a few slices of fruit and veggie.
Fish is something that ferrets are not really recommended to eat as they don’t contain the proper nutrients. But some ferrets love trying fish from time to time, which makes their diet more compatible with the one of a cat. Dogs are also not allowed to eat fish because of the small bones that can pierce their intestines and stomach.
What can I feed my ferret if I run out of food?
It’s always recommended to replace your ferret’s food with raw or cooked chicken when you’re in an emergency. Boiled chicken is rich in nutrients as well and all you have to do is shred a good chunk into small pieces so your ferret could eat them better. And if you plan on giving the pet raw chicken, make sure it’s properly chopped.
If you have a small kitten, then you’re in luck as the closest pet food to the ferret food is the one specifically made for small kittens and is very high in meat protein. Whatever your ferret eats, it needs to be high in meat protein. This is because the digestive system of a ferret is very short and their body only has a short amount of time to absorb all the nutrients it needs.
Never give your ferret fruits, vegetables, or anything a rodent typically eats, even if you’re out of food. It’s best to deal with a hungry ferret than with a sick pet. You should make it a mission to never run out of ferret food as these adorable balls of fur can become very angry and aggressive when they are hungry. They might start up fights between them as well.
Water is very important, especially since most captive ferrets don’t catch their prey alive to benefit from the blood. Most of the time, the meat has been frozen and thawed and then given to the ferret once it’s slightly warmer. It’s very important to do everything you can to stay away from salmonella and bacterial infections.