Ferrets are carnivores and they only need meat and water to live and even thrive. These beautiful and mischievous creatures also have a high metabolism, which means they need to eat between 8 and 10 times a day. And since not many people have the time to feed them that often, ferret kibble is the next best thing.
The best thing about ferrets, which can also be the worst, is that they easily get used to one type of food and won’t require you to keep coming up with different meals each day to keep the diet variate. But if you’re feeding kibble and the company stopped making them, you will have a hard time transitioning to new food
In this article, we’ll talk about what’s the best ferret diets, their advantages, and disadvantages.
What do ferrets eat? Recommended diet and types of foods
Ferrets need meat, meat, and a lot more meat. They are simply built to be complete carnivores, and anything else can do more harm than good. There is an ongoing war in the ferret community between raw feeders and kibble feeders. But at the end of the day, it all depends on your time.
The most recommended diet and the healthiest for ferrets is the raw diet. No matter how much you hate the idea of your adorable little bundle of cuteness needing to eat a whole rabbit or hamster, the fact is that ferrets need and benefit from whole prey and raw food more than anything.
Raw diets include nothing but raw meat and whole prey. And for their teeth, raw bones are highly recommended. Ferrets haven’t been kept as pets for as long as dogs to be capable of thriving entirely on other types of food. This means that the healthiest diet is the one that follows what they would typically eat in the wilderness.
The advantages of raw diets are that the ferret benefits from all the nutrients it needs without using supplements. But the disadvantage is to the owner. You’ll have to buy a separate fridge for your ferret and you’ll need to start dealing with a lot of meat and small prey.
More than that, the meat needs to come from a good butcher so you won’t deal with parasites. It also can’t stand in the cage for more than half an hour before starting to go bad.
Kibble diet is the next best thing but it should always at least be mixed with a few meals of raw or cooked chunks of meat. The kibble needs to be specifically made for ferrets as even kitten kibble isn’t good enough for their needs. But it’s very good for their teeth.
The advantage of kibble is that it doesn’t go bad so quickly and you can fill the ferret’s food tray for the day and go to work. This is extremely helpful taking into consideration how often ferrets need to eat per day. The disadvantage is that it can be very hard to find kibble that’s been specifically made for ferrets and with the best intentions in mind. Watch out for overeating if you plan on giving them access to food all the time.
Types of Raw Meat
When it comes to feeding raw meat, you have lots of options available. However, you should always make chicken the regular meal. This is because it contains taurine, which is extremely important to ferrets. Next to the chicken, you can use whatever meat your ferret seems to like while also being able to digest well.
You can opt for turkey, duck, lamb, beef, rabbit, etc. Just make sure you’re cutting the pieces of meat very well and that the bones are always raw. Cooked bones can splinter and cause some very serious problems to a ferret.
Besides well-chopped chunks of meat, your ferret will also benefit from the occasional whole-prey meal. This includes various types of mice. And while it will still be eager to eat it if it’s dead, giving it mice that are still alive, but knocked out is better.
But whatever you do, avoid giving them whole prey that is fully awake and moving. This is because the prey might hurt the ferret in an attempt to get away and if you don’t notice the scratches, they could infect and cause other problems.
Whole Prey Carcasses
There are lots of suppliers that can provide you with bagged mice that are ready to be thrown in the freezer for long-term storage. All you have to do is take one and put it in a microwave to thaw. And if you have lots of ferrets, investing in a separate microwave would be recommended, especially if you feed them raw meat.
If you have a hunter nearby it might be tempting to get rabbit carcasses from him. However, you should only feed your ferret whole prey from special suppliers. This is because you never know what disease the wild rabbits might have and whether it has parasites or not.
Chicken stripped carcasses are a very good meal to a ferret as it will get its teeth in perfect condition while chewing them. The next best thing is turkey necks and it would be great if you could incorporate at least once a week in your ferret’s diet.
Commercial food can either be a hit or a miss. This is because many companies use the worst meat and supplements in making ferret food as they’re not as kept under the radar as much as cat and dog food makers. Some companies even use animals that arrived already dead. But at the same time, ferrets are getting more popular as pets so the commercial food is getting better and better as well.
Just be very careful about the kibble you buy. And since the ingredients are listed from the most nutritious to the least nutritious, you should make sure that chicken and turkey are listed among the first three.
FAQ – Frequently Asked Questions
Can ferrets eat fish?
While ferrets can eat fish and in the wild they catch one from time to time, their bodies are not meant to digest it so it’s completely useless for them. All the nutrients go to waste as their bodies are not capable of absorbing them and in large quantities, it can also cause an upset stomach. Ferrets will also start stinking worse after eating fish.
Can ferrets eat hamster food?
Hamsters eat grains while ferrets are strict carnivores, which means you should never feed your ferret hamster food, even if you’re completely out of ferret food. Ferrets can’t digest grains. But if you’re in an emergency, you can opt for kitten kibble as it’s the closest pet food to ferret kibble.
Can ferrets eat rabbit food?
Ferrets are complete carnivores, which means that they only eat meat. On the other hand, rabbits are herbivores and their diet consists of hay, veggies, etc. And since ferrets can’t digest vegetables, they will have a hard time if they eat lots of them and go through a lot of pain while they’re flushing everything out.
Can ferrets eat shrimp?
Ferrets should be kept away from fish and seafood products as they will start smelling very funky for days. And while shrimp won’t hurt the ferret, it won’t help it either as the ferret simply can’t digest it. The only thing shrimp may cause is an upset tummy if eaten in big quantities.
Can ferrets eat wet cat food?
When you’re out of ferret food you can replace it with kibble made for kittens. But it has to be made specifically for small kittens and not adult cats. And while dry kibble is the most recommended, ferrets can also eat wet kitten food as long as it’s high in protein, is grain-free, and has no sugar, fish, salt, or veggies.
Can ferrets eat rats?
Ferrets often hunt and eat rats in the wild and they sometimes even catch rabbits. In captivity, it’s highly recommended to use a rat once in a while as a whole prey meal for your ferret. It will be able to digest it whole, from the fur to the grains the rat ate for its last meal.
Can ferrets eat fruit?
Ferrets can’t digest complex carbohydrates and sugary products, which means fruits should be kept away from them. If you absolutely insist on giving them a piece of fruit, make sure it’s melon, banana, or apple. They’re the easiest to digest and you should never feed them citric fruits.
Can ferrets eat vegetables?
Vegetables contain complex carbohydrates, which a ferret can’t digest. So in instead of benefiting from all the nutrients veggies have to offer, a ferret will only be left with an upset stomach if it eats too many. You can make a thin slice into puree and mix it with baby food but it should only be used as a treat once a month or so.
Can ferrets eat bananas?
Ferrets should never eat fruits as they’re not able to digest them and the sugar can have negative effects on their health. But if your ferrets manage to get a piece of banana when you’re looking away you shouldn’t panic. Banana, melon, and apple are the only fruits that the ferret can eat in extremely small quantities and very rarely without suffering any problems.
Can ferrets eat cheese?
Ferrets lack the needed equipment to digest milk and milk-based products, which makes them lactose-intolerant. Just a little bit of cheese will not cause more than a slight tummy pain. But bigger chunks of cheese can create serious problems and you should keep a close eye on the ferret. If you don’t know how much it ate, take it to the vet as a precaution.
Can ferrets eat chicken?
Ferrets absolutely love chicken and it’s easily the best type of meat for them. It contains a big part of the nutrients ferrets need while also containing taurine, which is extremely important to them. You can cook the chicken meat or feed it raw, they will love it and will still benefit from all the nutrients it has. Just make sure to never give ferrets cooked bones as they splinter.
Can ferrets eat chocolate?
Chocolate can be lethal to lots and lots of animals and house pets, including the ferret. You should never give your ferret chocolate, especially if it contains lots of cocoa. An extremely small piece will create a bad mood and you’ll need to keep an eye on the ferret, but any bigger piece could kill it and you should run to the vet.
Can ferrets eat cooked meat?
Ferrets are obligate carnivores, which means they need raw meat to fully benefit from all the nutrients they need. And while cooked meat kills a few of the needed nutrients, the ferret can still benefit a great deal from it. Plus, cooked meat ensures that there’s no risk for parasites.
Can ferrets eat eggs?
Ferrets can and love eating eggs. This is one of the best treats for them, right up there with raw bones. You can give them eggs that are boiled, raw, fried, made into omelet, etc. They will eat eggs in any shape and form and boiled is the most recommended option as it’s also less messy.
Can ferrets eat peanut butter?
While peanut butter is widely known as a pet treat, you should stop doing that immediately. Besides the fact that it’s too nutty for a ferret’s digestive system, some companies use a sugar replacement sweetener named Xylitol. This allows diabetic people to enjoy peanut butter as well, while it’s extremely toxic to ferrets, dogs, and other pets.
Can ferrets eat tomatoes?
Ferrets can’t digest vegetables, so keep tomatoes away from them. The only time your vet will recommend feeding your ferret tomato salsa is when it has scurvy. Other than that, it’s best to avoid it.
Can ferrets eat bugs?
Ferrets can eat bugs from time to time but they’re not recommended to be deliberately fed to them as they’re not nutritious enough. But you might see your ferret turning your house upside down running hunting a fly.
Can ferrets eat snakes?
In the wild, ferrets can catch the occasional snake and even eat it. However, it sees snakes as another predator, not as prey. This means that they only eat snakes when they feel that they pose a threat to them or their kits.
Can ferrets drink fruit juice?
Ferrets don’t do well trying to digest fruits but making them into juice, it can be slightly easier on their stomach. But they should only eat one teaspoon once every two weeks or so.
Can ferrets drink milk?
Ferrets are lactose-intolerant and more than a teaspoon of milk can already cause serious problems. While they drink milk as kits, they become more and more lactose-intolerant as they get older and can even die if they drink lots of milk. But a vet should be able to easily help the ferret before anything serious happens.