When you ask any web browser ‘What do ferrets eat ?’ – you will get the simple reply – MEAT.
It is the truth. Ferrets are 100% carnivores so meat is their best food but experienced ferret owners would have much more to tell you about ferrets food.
First you should know that ferrets are bit picky eaters, they will not be grateful for any bite you give them and will easily turn away from the meal they do not find attractive.
Even with packed ferret food you should be careful because not all food products for ferrets are of high quality.
That is why you need to learn more about your pet’s needs when it comes to food and nutrition and what does market offers you as well as alternatives that can help.
Eating habits of one ferret
Ferrets are animals full of energy and almost always in a mood for play. Due to the fact that they live a very active life and that their metabolism is super quick, they need to have several meals per day including snacks.
Experienced ferret owners say that 4-8 meals per day is something normal, depending on the size and age of the ferret (I found the older, grown-up ferrets eat more than younger ones )
In any case their bowl with dried food ( kibble ) should be always full and available as their digestive tract is very short.Do not be afraid to keep the food bowl full 24/7 as you pet will take the food when he/she is hungry, will not eat constantly because the food is there( dogs would do that )
If you give raw meat to your pet instead of dried food then maybe he/ she will have less number of meals but still any ferrets eats often in smaller portion.
I read that time between the moment your pet takes food and the moment he/she eliminates the waste is around 3 hours if we talk about grown-up ferrets.
If we talk about very young ferrets this time is even shorter, about 1 hours . This is reason, a ferret cannot eat pretty much anything besides pure animal proteins.
Ferrets packed food (What To Look For?)
You can find different packed food for ferrets ( kibbles ) and this is the easiest solution. What is not so simple is that you always have to look at the nutrition value label and buy the food which has similar or the same values. Quality food should consist of :
- 40-50% proteins ( animal source only, forget about plant proteins, they are not good for your furry ball)
- 20-25% fat
- Maximum 7% carbs
Useful Feeding Tip :
Ferrets are usually one type of food animals but you should offer your furry friend variety.
You never know if you would be able to find exact pellets your pet used to or maybe the company which produces your pet’s favorite food goes out of the business. That is why you should mix different foods.
When you want to introduce a new type of packed food, mix a small amount with the old one, and increase the percentage of new food in the old one gradually. The process should last for 15 days after which your pet should accept new food totally.
Is There any Other Packed Food You Can Give to Your Pet Ferret?
In case you cannot find or afford packed food for ferrets only, cat food also can do the job. It is better to serve to your pet a meal for kittens than for adult cats . Food for kittens is richer in proteins and fat therefore more appropriate for ferrets.
These are some brands that have good reviews as cat food good for ferrets: Solid Gold Indigo Moon, Blue Buffalo Wilderness dry cat food for ferrets, Orijen dry cat food for ferrets, Wellness Core dry food.
The greatest advantage of all listed brands is that all of them have a very high level of animal proteins and very low or none of the grain ( grains are not good for ferrets, same as fibers).
Some of them are enriched with vitamins and minerals and all of them are made of carefully selected ingredients so no chance that your pet brings in something toxic.
Do ferrets eat human food ?
I am sure that you asked yourself if you can give your ferret some other food then packed one. This could be a less expensive option but you really need to provide high-quality food for your ferret in order to keep him/her healthy and safe.
Meat (human food for Ferret)
Some ferret owners prefer to give raw meat to their furry friends, some other people like to cook the meat before serving it to a pet ferret. You must know that there is a nutrition value difference between raw and cooked meat and raw meat is a better option.
On the other hand, giving raw meat to your pet can awake some natural instincts ( that are not so strong as you have a domesticated ferret in your home ) which can lead to more aggressive behavior.
Overall, a big number of ferrets landlords support raw meat diet and also make a combination with packed food.
You can serve raw meat in pieces or even whole prey. The best meat for your pet is :
- Chicken ( wings )
- Minced beef
If you provide a minced meat to your ferret, you can also add some minced bones. It will be good for ferrets teeth and he/she will get a great portion of calcium. If you cannot put a bone in your pet food then make sure you put some chicken parts such as neck or wings or feet.
Giving a whole prey to your pet is also a good idea as ferrets like to play with food. Eating the whole prey has some more advantages besides having fun. In order to eat the whole prey ferret must rip off piece by piece. During this process the ferret cleans its teeth.
Pork meat is not on the list but it does not mean you should not give it to your pet. The problem with pork meat is that it can be infected with Trichinella worm,a parasite that can cause very serious disease – Trichinosis. But if you have a reliable supplier and you are sure of the meat quality, why not.
Do not let ferret eat the meat that is too old (if you wouldn’t eat it do not give it to your pet. Of course their digestive tract is not so sensitive as in humans but still they can become sick if they eat rotten meat. It may happen that your pet does not want to eat meat which is not fresh or has some specific ( not so good ) smell.
Also remember to throw away any leftovers after hour or so. If you serve raw meat to your pet and he/she does not eat it all in one hour then you should get rid of it.
As alternative you can give your ferret a baby meat based food .
Eggs (human food for Ferret)
Ferrets love eggs. Eggs are a good source of proteins and are in the group of very few foods that naturally contain vitamin D. Egg could be a great treat for your furry ball.
You can give him/her either a boiled egg or a raw one. If you are giving a boiled egg, let ferret eats the whole egg but if you are giving raw one, make sure to have a very fresh egg.
In the case of raw egg It is better to serve yolk only and skip the white part as it can cause biotin deficiency. Your pet can lose its fur due to this.
It is not advisable to serve eggs on a daily basis but once or twice a week will be quite ok.
Fish (human food for Ferret)
What about fish ? –well , fish is not on ferret’s natural food menu so basically you can give it to your furry ball but pay attention to following :
- Fish should be cooked, never raw in order to reduce the strong smell that ferret can find repellent and therefore reject the fish-based meal
- Always buy the whole (fresh) fish, rather then canned one , as this in cans can have some spices in it , especially pepper and salt which your pet should avoid
- White fish is the best option for your little friend and but always make sure you are giving him/her 100% bone free meal as he /she cannot cope with fish ‘s bones that can cause throat or intestine injury.
Oils (human food for Ferret)
You can give either olive or coconut oil to your furry ball. Coconut oil is a great laxative and olive oil is usually used for dealing with the digestive problems.
Both of them are not on the list of natural ferret’s food so you need to give them to your pet in very small quantities and always look carefully at your pet after he/she takes them as maybe some allergic reaction shows off .
Pumpkin (human food for Ferret)
You will find later on what food you should not give to your pet and among others you will find both fruits and vegetables on that list but there is one great thing you can give to your pet and what’s the best -he or she will love it – pumpkin. This vegetable is great in preventing hairballs but you should not exaggerate with it ( small quantities, two or three times a week) as some experts say that too much pumpkin can help in developing the adrenal disease.
Same as with main course, treats can be either packed, bought in pet store or you can prepare it in your home.
Packed treats top choice are : Marshal Bandits Premium chicken treat or N-Bone ferret chicken chew treat or Bacon chew treat or Salmon chew treat ( same brand N-bone) or Bandits Premium banana ferrets treat or or Bandits Premium peanut butter ferrets treat ( Marshal pet products ) The choice is truly huge .
We already have said that boiled egg or raw yolk can be a great treat. Also, some small pieces of chicken or lamb could do the work.
You can always offer some cat or even better kitten treat to your furry ball, but avoid offering him/her dog treats, not good for your tiny friend.
Great Tip for Cooked Meat Treat
There are some ferret owners who prefer to cook the meat instead of giving their pets raw. If you belong to this group you can do the following …
Take the larger piece of meat, cook it, chop it up, divide in smaller bags and freeze it. When the time for treat comes, just take one bag out, but the content for a minute or so in the microwave and your ferret will get yummy bite.
Drink for Ferrets
The ideal drink for your small pet friend is water. Choose bottled or filtrated water over tap. Tap water may contain harmful additives such as chlorine which makes your pet’s immune system weaker.
I was talking to several ferret owners and they all agree that there is no exact amount of water one ferret should drink per one day but it is well known that they drink water many times so fresh water should be available 24/7 .
You can give your pet water in the bowl or in the bottle . There is some study that says the bowl is a better alternative. It is easier for ferrets to drink from the bowl and for you to clean up. Whatever you choose -bottle or bowl daily cleaning is a must .
If you do not do the cleaning on a regular basis your pet may get sick from bacteria or even algae ( especially from the bottle ) Remember not to put too much water in the bowl as any larger amount of water can be drowning threat.
What do Baby Ferrets Eat ?
Ferret mums are usually nursing their babies until they are 6 weeks old. After that period kitten starts with hard food.
If you have a baby ferret less then 6 weeks old, you should consult with your vet and consider feeding you furry pal with some milk formula designed baby cats (Kitten Milk replacer- KMR or Just Born )
In case you have a baby ferret which has just stopped with its mother milk and now begins transit period from milk to kibble or hard food, you can offer it packed food ( kibble ) for kittens.
You can soften kibble a bit by putting a small amount of water or kitten milk replacer (as an alternative you can use goat milk or low lactose milk). You can continue giving kibble which is soaked for the next two months before your baby ferret starts with solids definitely.
Same as with human baby, you should offer to your ferret baby a variety of different tastes and textures. Of course you will feed the baby ferret only with food suggested for ferrets, high protein diet, enriched with fat, very, very low carbs, and no fibers.
If you ‘learn’ your baby ferret to eat different tastes you will avoid ending up with picky and fussy eater in the future. That will make your life much easier.
What Food Ferrets Should Not Eat!
We all know that ferrets are truly carnivores and their diet should consist of animal proteins and fats but there is a list of things that your ferret should skip in order to stay healthy.
Dairy Products (should not eat)
Even though some ferrets may love to eat cheese or ice cream, you should keep them away from milky based products. They do not have an enzyme that can digest lactose so dairy products are not good for them. In small quantities given in rare occasions, they should be fine but it is better not to feed them with milky products at all.
Dog food / adult cat food (should not eat)
Although kitten food can be a good alternative for ferrets, adult cat’s food is not such good option . Kitten food is richer in proteins and fats and therefore meets better ferret’s nutritional needs than adult cat’s food. Both dog food and dog treats are not good for your pet ferret.
Sweets (should not eat)
Humans love sweets, even though they are not the healthiest things in the world, moreover bring a lot of troubles to human health but still, very popular.
If you like chocolate, you can eat it but please do not give it to your pet ferret. Chocolate is literally toxic to ferrets.It contains theobromine which can affect your pet’s heart causing irregular heart rhythm. Their short digestive tract is not made for digesting sweets so keep the food that is rich in sugar away from your furry friends.
Do not make a mistake by giving your ferret a product that is ‘sugar-free’ as most probably contain Xylitol which can also be very toxic to ferrets .
Unlike other sugar you can stuff honey is something that you occasionally give your ferret but more like a remedy in case of Insulinoma disease ( you can read more about this disease in our article How do I know if my ferret has cancer )
When blood sugar level drops, your ferret needs immediate help. Before you get to the vet, as first aid you should put a small amount of honey or corn syrup inside of its mouth.
Fruits and Vegetables (should not eat)
Both fruits and vegetables are not good for ferrets, they are rich in carbohydrates (high-level carbs diet may lead to Insulinoma disease) and fibers. Ferrets cannot digest these.
Some vegetables are even toxic, such as carrots which can block ferret’s intestine and provoke big trouble. If we are talking about fruits – grapes are extremely dangerous for ferrets. Feeding your pet with grapes can result in kidney failure.
Grains (should not eat)
You should definitely avoid feeding your ferret with grains. Do not give him/her any type of bread, cereals, pasta, noodles, cookies, cakes etc. They are simply not able to digest grains and fibers. For example, if you give a piece of bread to your ferret, he /she might suffer from diarrhea.
Cooked bones, processed meat, bacon …. (should not eat)
Although raw bones should be part of your ferret’s diet , cooked bones are not good. Cooking process makes bones dry and hard to digest so you should avoid them.
Processed meat such as a variety of cold cuts -hams, prosciutto, bacon -is NO-NO to your ferret. In spite of the fact that all these are meat-based products, all of them contain sugar and salt which is absolutely not recommend for your furry ball.
Coffee (should not drink)
I assume you do not think that your pet should make your company for first-morning coffee but still I would like to point out the caffeine is not good for your furry friend.
House plants (should not eat)
I am sure you do not think it’s clever to give your ferret a leaf from your home plant but your furry ball likes to chew on things ( house plants among others) .So keep an eye on him/her and contact a local vet if you notice some chew marks as some plants can be toxic to your furry pal.
Avoid giving your ferret soft drinks, peanut butter, potato chips, nuts ….