Is your pet ferret feeling a bit peckish, and you have nothing to give him? Make sure you don’t go for that rabbit food that you have laying around the house, because it’s a definite no go.
Ferrets are carnivorous animals, and rabbits are anything but, so their diet is completely different and should not be mixed under any circumstance.
In fact, giving your ferret plant-based foods will most likely kill him eventually. Keep reading to find out why that is.
Can ferrets eat rabbit food? Why that’s not an option.
As I mentioned above, a ferret is a carnivore, so what it will require is a meat-based diet, heavy on the proteins. In fact, wild versions of this animal will often eat rabbits, so the cute little bunnies that you might have around the house can be tasty treats, rather than diet buddies.
The reason for this is that this breed is a strict carnivore, which has an unusually short intestinal tract. This mustelid, and others like it, don’t have the cecum and the ileocolic valve, which would allow them to digest vegetable matter. As the transit time is extremely short, the digestion of the food is not complete.
As they are not able to digest vegetable matter, giving them rabbit food would likely kill them eventually.
According to studies, a diet which doesn’t include enough protein, and relies more on carbs, is typically associated with:
- bigger risk of metabolic diseases,
- higher chance of infections,
- poorer reproductive performance,
- slower growth.
What types of pet foods can ferrets eat?
Other types of pet foods, even from those commercially available for cats, may be appropriate for short periods of time, provided that the content of protein is high and that the amount of grains is very low. This is typically possible if you select a premium cat food, though make sure you check the ingredients on the label.
According to the above link from NIH, the recommended diet for a neutered or spayed pet ferret is:
- a premium cat or ferret food, 90% dry, and with a mixture of 30% meat source protein of high quality, 15% fat, and less than 30% carbs. Per gram, it should have around 4 Kcal. It can be delivered in extruded or pellet form.
While premium cat food can work in a pinch, particularly if you run out of ferret specific food, it’s not as good of an idea to give it dog food. The reason is that the caloric density is much higher, and it’s quite likely that it will gain weight fast.
What should I feed my ferret then?
As we’ve mentioned above, it’s best if you give a ferret special food which is designed with this particular breed in mind.
You can mix some high-quality cat food as well, provided that it’s meat-based and doesn’t contain a lot of grains.
This is a carnivore, so obviously you can also give the ferret meat, along with bones and skin (no need getting it boneless and skinless chicken, it’s going to require all sorts of tasty bits from the small animals it consumes).
Raw meat is preferred, and if you’re giving it bones this is especially important, in order to avoid the chance for cooked bones to splinter and become dangerous.
Among the popular ferret foods that you can feed it, these are among the best and easiest options:
Whole carcasses: purchase dead mice or rats, available as snake food at some pet stores. It’s the best option, as your pet ferret will be able to consume the same types of foods as in the wild.
A whole rodent will give it the option to go through skin and bone, and it will get all the nutrients it needs from them. You can be sure that it will enjoy it more than dry kibble as well.
Raw meat: you can buy red meat particularly, including ground beef, and that would be an excellent food for it. Though not as good, turkey or chicken can also be fed to a ferret, though not all the time.
Dry kibble: if it’s designed with ferrets in mind, and it gives them all the nutrition they need, then high-quality kibble can certainly work. In some cases, premium cat food can also be an option.
Eggs: both raw and cooked eggs can be served to a ferret, and they will love it, as this is one of the foods that they would feast in their natural environment as well.
A wild ferret’s natural diet
In the wild, a ferret will go after meat every single time. It’s a fairly small creature, so obviously it will go after small animals. Their main target will be mice, voles or rats, so rodents.
You might find them hunting for birds or rabbits, and even enjoying eggs at times. As long as it has an animal origin and plenty of protein, it will be consumed by the ferret. It will avoid eating vegetable matter at all costs though.
To conclude, definitely don’t give a ferret rabbit food. It’s dangerous for their health, as they are dedicated meat-eaters, and their body is not equipped to process vegetable matter.
If you don’t have commercial ferret food at your disposal, high-quality cat food could work, as would raw meat (particularly red meat).