Welcome to our complete guide to ferret treats. Giving you top tips and recommendations for the very best treats for ferrets.
Ferrets are smart, furry and playful. They make great pets because they combine the best features of cats and dogs.
And also contribute some uniquely wonderful features of their own!
But of course, you already knew this, because you are already living with one of these amazing little fur beings!
As early as 450 B.C.E., a Greek playwright named Aristophanes dubbed the ferret an equal to the ancient Greeks in terms of its thieving ability (believe it or not, at the time this was considered a great compliment!).
Today, the moment you bring your little one home, you know that everything you have now technically belongs to your ferret anyway. And you are glad to give it – so long as you know it is safe for ferrets to have.
This includes your ferret’s daily diet of meals, snacks and treats.
In fact, safe and tasty treats for ferrets is exactly what we are going to talk about in this article! We will take a look at the best treats for ferrets as well as offer some general guidance* about how often and how much of each type of ferret treats you can safely feed.
SAFETY NOTE: Please, for specific guidance on what to feed your individual ferret, we always recommend you consult with your veterinarian. Different ferrets may have different health needs and issues, especially if your ferret came to you as an adult rescue with an unknown health or dietary past!
Understanding the ferret diet
Did you know that the first pet ferret dates back as far as 63 B.C.E.? This is significant for three reasons:
1. Pet ferrets are no longer “wild” animals
The modern pet ferret is a domesticated animal, similar in this way to livestock and dogs.
It even has its own scientific name, Mustela putorius furo, that is separate and apart from that of its wild cousin, the endangered black-footed ferret, Mustela nigripes.
As well, unlike their wild ferret, polecat, and weasel relatives, a domestic pet ferret will NOT fare well in the wild and is thus completely dependent on its owner (YOU) for safety, health, wellness and survival.
2. Ferrets are still true carnivores in every sense of the word
In one way, today’s domestic pet ferret remains unchanged from its forbears: the modern pet ferret still requires a daily diet of pure animal protein to remain healthy. This is true for both meals and treats for ferrets. In fact, the ferret is known as an “obligate” carnivore. The word obligate means “obligated” or “compelled.”
The reason ferrets have to have pure animal protein with very little carbohydrate is because of how their digestive tracts work. They have very short intestinal tracts and aren’t able to digest their food very efficiently before it is already on the way out the other end.
In an adult pet ferret, the transit time from ingestion to elimination is about three hours. In a kit (a young ferret), the transit time can be less than one hour!
What you need to remember here is simply this: feeding a domesticated ferret a diet of anything other than pure animal protein that includes a healthy level of essential fats and very few carbohydrates can cause serious health problems, including intestinal disease and cancer.
3. Baby ferrets “imprint” on their food
Many baby animals imprint on, or bond with, their primary caregiver early on in life. But baby ferrets don’t just do this with their moms. They also do this with their food!
The sensitive period for a baby ferret to bond with its food is between 60 and 90 days post-birth. Baby ferrets are thought to imprint primarily through odors, but may also imprint on textures.
For this reason, veterinarians and the American Ferret Association recommend feeding young ferrets (12 months or younger) a mixture of high protein food types such as dry food/kibble, moist or wet protein, raw or cooked meats and a more soupy protein treat mixture many vets call “duck soup.”
By offering your very young ferret lots of variety in odors and textures for its meals and ferret treats, you will have more flexibility in the foods you can offer when he grows up.
This becomes especially important if your ferret gets sick and becomes fussier about what he is willing or able to eat.
But this also means that if your pet ferret is an adult rescue, even if your vet says she is healthy otherwise, you may find yourself with a generally more picky or fussy eater on your hands.
So you may need to experiment a bit with what you offer at first and be patient until you find the odors and textures your rescue ferret is familiar with. If you are having trouble, it is always a great idea to consult with your veterinarian about this!
Ferret eating habits
If you are caring for a pet ferret for the very first time, you probably have lots of questions about ferret eating habits!
As pets, ferrets differ in some important ways from other common pets like dogs and cats, and it is helpful to be aware of this as the two of you get to know each other.
One key way that ferrets are different from many other pets is in how often they eat. In other words, if you have ever left a bag of dog food on the floor by mistake and come home later to find your groaning pup with a distended tummy lying on the floor next to the half-empty bag, just know you won’t ever have to worry about this with your pet ferret.
This is because ferrets are not opportunistic eaters like dogs. Your pet ferret will not gorge himself simply because the food is there.
However, the down side to this otherwise health-promoting trait is that ferrets need to eat eight to 10 times per day to ensure they take in sufficient calories throughout the day. And to keep their blood sugar levels fairly constant.
What do ferrets eat for treats?
Ferrets can eat lots of different types of high protein foods for treats.
Here is a general list of safe and appropriate treat foods to give you some ideas:
- Kitten food (always supplement with fatty acids)
- Cooked or raw chicken
- Food pellets (chicken or lamb is a great choice here)
- Cooked egg
- Chicken, turkey or lamb bites
- Treats made specifically for ferrets (or kittens or cats)
Treat safety for ferrets
Ferrets might be great hunters, but they have very sensitive gums and mouth tissues. Also, their mouths are small.
So make sure you only feed treats that are softer or have smoothed edges (rounded dry or moist kibble balls are fine, but steer clear of dry hard squares or triangles) to avoid injury to their gums and mouth tissues.
Also be sure that any treats you offer to your ferret are pre-prepared in bite-sized pieces so your ferret won’t risk choking.
If your ferret ever does get a taste of sweet foods, it won’t be long before he is begging for more. This is just the nature of such “highly palatable foods” – it is why people love them too!
But for your pet ferret’s own safety, avoid offering the following types of treats:
Treats that are high in sugar or carbohydrates.
- Nuts or nut butters
- Dairy or ice cream
- Grains or rice
- Anything with caffeine
Your ferret’s very specialized digestive system cannot digest these foods and will likely get sick. Chocolate in particular can be fatal to ferrets, and should never be offered. (4)
Finally, your ferret will thank you for finding some good ferret treats that are formulated to prevent the formation of hairballs. Like cats, pet ferrets groom themselves by licking and can develop hairballs. But unlike cats, ferrets can’t vomit those hairballs back up. So if your pet ferret does develop a hairball, she may require surgery to dislodge it!
Here, it is far safer for her (as well as cheaper for you) to simply offer some treats for ferrets that can keep hairballs from forming in the first place or dissolve small ones that already exist.
Good treats for ferrets
These good treats for ferrets will give you plenty of options to “test the waters” of your ferret’s palate and see what he most prefers.
Since all of these options are economically priced and come in small amounts, even if your ferret isn’t keen for one treat flavor, you can quickly move on until you find the one he goes wild for.
Marshall Bandits Ferret Treat
Marshall Bandits Ferret Treats are very popular.
Bandits ferret treats come in a variety of flavors including chicken, banana, raisin, bacon and peanut butter.
These ferret chew treats are moist and soft and full of pure meat protein (regardless of what the flavor might indicate).
The unusual flavors are meant to appeal to finicky ferrets, and ferret owners say they work like a charm, giving the treats 4 stars across the board.
You can also order these treats in a starter variety pack if you are not sure which ones will most appeal to your ferret.
Wysong Dream Treats For Ferrets
Wysong Dream Treats are designed for dogs, cats or ferrets.
These raw food treats are rated 4 stars by ferret owners. As a bonus, if you have other pets in the household, you can feed these treats to dogs and cats as well.
These treats come in three flavor options: chicken, quail and rabbit. The treats are freeze-dried to retain full nutritional value without using additives.
Kaytee Bacon Bits Ferret Treats
Kaytee Bacon Bits High Protein Treats for Ferrets.
Packed full of high protein with a tasty bacon flavor, these new ferret treats actually have a poultry base and are economically priced.
They are designed to be a treat item only, not for use as a main food.
F.M. Brown’s Pork Treats For Ferrets
F.M. Brown’s Pork Ferret Treat comes in tropical carnival chicken flavor.
If your ferret likes F.M. Brown’s daily ferret diet, you can offer either treat type as a supplement. Be careful to steer clear of other F.M. Brown’s treats that are formulated differently for small fur pets like rabbits and mice that can tolerate more carbohydrates.
Healthy ferret treats
Some of the healthiest treats for ferrets you can offer your pet ferret are the ones that can pull double duty – as in, they are tasty but they also tend to your ferret’s healthcare needs at the same time.
Some examples include ferret treats that help to dissolve hairballs and treats that help to keep the teeth clean.
This is a list of some of our favorite healthy ferret treats to try!
8 in 1 Ferret Treats
The 8 in 1 Ferretvite is a high calorie vitamin supplement.
8 in 1 ferret treats are economical, tasty and healthy for your ferret. What more could a ferret owner ask for in a treat? This treat supplement gets 4.5 stars from ferret owners. It helps to stimulate the appetite if you have a fussy ferret.
It also delivers a healthy dose of essential fatty acids to keep your ferret’s coat thick and glossy and reduce skin issues. Best of all, you can give it as a treat on the tip of your finger and let your ferret lick it off – just be sure you have your camera ready to capture the cuteness!
N-Bone Ferret Salmon Chew Treats
N-Bone Ferret Salmon Flavor Chew Treats is another fab treat that gets 4.5 stars from ferret owners.
This one helps to remove plaque buildup and tartar from your ferret’s teeth and gums, even while it is cleverly disguised as a tasty soft salmon chew treat (these treats also come in chicken and bacon flavors).
The ingredients are all natural with no artificial colors, ingredients or preservatives and ferret owners say their fur babies love them!
Marshall Pet Products Ferret Lax
Marshall Pet Products Ferret Lax is a hairball and obstruction remedy.
This remedy treat is formulated by veterinarians to appeal to your ferret’s taste buds but designed to dissolve hairballs. Ferret owners rate it 4.5 stars.
Like the Ferretvite supplement, you can let your ferret lick a small portion right off the tube or off the tip of your finger. Ferret owners say you can also use it to safely dissolve other internal obstructions such as chewed up toy parts and plastic straws (although here, it is always a wise idea to talk with your vet before attempting at-home remedies for dangerous situations like swallowed objects).
Marshall Uncle Jim’s Duk Soup Mix
A fun alternative treat for ferrets is Marshall Uncle Jim’s “Original” Duk Soup Mix for Ferrets.
As mentioned earlier, “duck soup” (or duk soup) is the common name given to the soupy mixture often given as food when ferrets are under the weather.
This classic dry mix formula gets 5 stars from ferret owners and tastes like (what else!) chicken soup.
Ferrets love it and find it easy to ingest and highly palatable. It is a good idea to offer this treat occasionally when your ferret is in good health as well so he will recognize and accept it when he isn’t feeling well.
Homemade ferret treats
Even with your pet ferret’s protein-centric dietary requirements, it is absolutely possible to make your ferret homemade ferret treats. Here are two fun ideas to try:
If you have access to a local butcher or meat market, you can ask for some discarded meat cuts or organ meats that won’t be sold for human consumption.
Ferrets love these meats even though many people do not. Be sure to cook the meat fully to avoid dangers from bacteria or parasites.
You can then cube the cooked meat into bite-sized pieces and freeze the extra for future treats.
If your ferret likes to play with foraging toys, hardboiled egg crumbles or small egg cubes can be a fun treat to hide inside these toys. Just boil the egg until both the whites and the inner yolk are fully cooked, then cool and cube or crumble.
You can freeze what you don’t feed your ferret right away.
Ferret treats – human food?
As far as feeding your ferret human food, the guiding rule of thumb remains the same: your pet ferret is designed to consume pure animal protein and healthy fats with only trace amounts of carbohydrates (such as what might be present in the stomachs of herbivore prey animals).
As such, if you choose to feed your ferret any human food, make sure it is protein rich and steers clear of ingredients that may cause your ferret to experience indigestion or worse. Appropriate choices might include cubed soft meats and well-cooked hard-boiled eggs.
While it won’t take long for your pet ferret to learn how to tug at your heartstrings and beg, remember that you won’t be doing her any favors by offering her table food that her digestive tract won’t recognize and cannot break down. She may thank you now and then end up in the veterinary emergency room later, and that is not a “win” for either of you. But stick to pure animal protein and you will both do just fine!
Ferret treats for training
Ferrets are very intelligent and amenable to training, mostly because they love and crave the interaction with you. Veterinarians encourage offering treats and supplements for this purpose, which can serve as enrichment as well as an incentive to learn new skills or tricks and endure the occasional husbandry chores (nail trimming, fur brushing, et al).
The key to using treats for training purposes is to offer the treats in very SMALL quantities. This is due to how ferrets eat – as mentioned earlier here, they do not gorge and are not motivated to do so, but rather will take in only as many calories as they can use until their next small meal. So if they get full too fast, the training session will end quickly!
The best way to use food treats for training is to cut up a single treat serving into four or five smaller pieces to keep your ferret motivated during each session.
Can ferrets eat cat treats?
Ferrets can eat certain types of cat treats. In general, veterinarians recommend offering kitten food or kitten treats rather than food or treats formulated for full-grown adult cats.
The reason for this is simple: the high-protein, high-fat growing kitten’s diet comes closer to the diet a ferret needs than that of an adult cat’s, which is generally lower in fat.
Just remember, as mentioned earlier here, if you do choose to feed kitten food for a treat or a staple diet item for your ferret, be sure to consult your veterinarian to find out what kind and how much fatty acids to offer as a dietary supplement.
Best ferret treats
Just as you probably have your preferences for what your favorite “treat” foods are, so too will your pet ferret quickly develop her own preferences, if she doesn’t already come to you with preferences intact.
If you bring home a baby pet ferret, you have the opportunity to help your fur baby imprint on a wide variety of appropriate flavors and textures right from the start.
If you are a rescue angel and your new ferret came from a shelter or rescue organization, you may need to work by trial and error to figure out which foods and treats she prefers.
But the good news is, there are PLENTY of options you can try! In addition to the many wonderful prepackaged diet and treat foods formulated just for ferrets, you can offer a selection of kitten foods and also make your own homemade ferret treats.
And of course, it is always a great idea to take guidance from your veterinarian regarding your ferret’s daily diet, treat foods and dietary supplements to ensure her life with you is a long, healthy, happy one!
- Bell, J., DVM, “Ferret Nutrition,” Veterinary Clinics of North America: Exotic Animal Practice, 1999.
- Dvoskin, R., “Newborns Can Bond to a “Mother” from a Different Species,” Scientific American, 2007.
- Apfelbach, R. “Imprinting on prey odours in ferrets (Mustela Putorius F. Furo L.) and its neural correlates,” Behavioural Processes, 1986.
- Axelson, R., et al, “Ferrets – Feeding,” VCA Hospitals, 2008.
- Jenkins, J., DVM, “Care and Feeding of Ferrets,” Avian & Exotic Animal Hospital, 2011.