What Do Ferrets Eat?

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what do ferrets eat

What do ferrets eat? Ferrets are spritely pets with a lot of character and energy. But to keep those energy levels up, you have to feed your ferret the right food in the right proportions and at preset times every day. When I first got ferrets, their feeding schedule was quite a hassle, but it’s easy to become familiar with the routine! So, in this guide, I’ll take a closer look at what to feed ferrets, and how the diet of babies differs from adults.

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What Do Ferrets Eat?

As pure carnivores, ferrets eat a diet high in protein and fat. Their digestive system is rather small so their intestines don’t do a good job absorbing all the nutrients in the food they consume. Additionally, ferrets are unable to digest complex carbohydrates and sugars in the food they eat. This is why your ferret will not share your food and requires a special diet.

In the wild, ferrets hunt prey sometimes double their size. When they catch prey, they’ll eat every part including the skin and bones to increase the amount of protein and energy they can get out of it. The fatter the prey, the more nutrition the ferret will get.

This gives you a clue of what type of food to feed your pet ferret. When choosing the right meat for the ferret make sure that it contains about 38 percent protein and 20 percent fat. In general, ferret food can be categorized into one of the following groups.

1. Raw Meat

Ferrets only eat raw meat and won’t touch cooked meat. Feed your ferret:

  • Chicken wings
  • Chicken carcasses
  • Game birds
  • Turkey wings and necks
  • Offal
  • Minced lamb
  • Minced beef
  • Animal bones
  • And animal entrails.

Bird meat can be offered to the ferret as is, but the meat of large animals such as lambs and cattle has to be minced to make it easy for the ferret to consume and digest it.

what do ferrets eat

2. Whole Animals

This food is similar to what the ferret hunts and eats in the wild. Rodents of all types, rabbits, frogs, snakes, and chicks are excellent food for the ferret. Buy the prey from certified retailers to guarantee that the animals are clean and don’t contain parasites.

3. Canned Food

Ferret canned food contains meat of their favorite prey (rabbits and rodents) and has high levels of protein and fat. However, some brands also contain fish meat which is not a natural ferret food and your ferret might reject it.

4. Cat Food and Eggs

Cat food, unlike dog food, is high in protein and doesn’t contain vegetables or complex carbohydrates. You can feed your ferret cat food to supplement the fresh meat diet. Eggs are also an excellent source of protein and the ferret will eat them raw just like they do in the wild.

When feeding your ferret raw meat keep an eye on the leftovers. A ferret doesn’t like to waste food and if they can’t finish a meal, they’ll hide the raw meat for later. While this serves the ferret in the wild, you wouldn’t want raw meat rotting around the house.

What Treats Can I Give My Ferret?

Much like all other pets, ferrets enjoy the occasional treat. Ferret treats don’t have to contain high protein and fat content. They can be used either to supplement the ferret’s diet or just to pamper the energetic pet. However, you should avoid giving the ferret dog treats since they contain sugar and complex carbohydrates that could make the ferret sick.

Boiled eggs are delicious treats that your ferret won’t get enough of. You can also treat the ferret to bits and pieces of exotic meats that they don’t usually get in the wild. Turkey, lamb and beef offal fit the bill. Make sure to cook the meat and cut it into bite-size pieces to make it easier for the ferret to digest and benefit from the treats.

What Food Don’t Ferrets Eat?

There are a lot of things ferrets should never find in their food dish. Unlike dogs and cats which can eat human food and thrive on it, ferrets will get sick if they eat food that contains fruits or vegetables. All types of bread, pastries, and cakes are off limits. The same applies to sugary food such as ice cream, candy, and cakes.

Ferrets are lactose intolerant. Dairy products such as yogurt and milk will not nourish the ferret and will probably give it digestion issues and make them sick. In short, don’t offer the ferret any food that they wouldn’t hunt and feed upon in the wild.

What to Feed a Baby Ferret

If you get your pet ferret as a baby, that’s a great opportunity to introduce them to a wide variety of high-protein foods. This will make your life easier as he heads into adulthood. But for now you can start feeding them goat milk, low-lactose milk, water and bits of fresh meat. Limit the meat options to chicken and small birds.

Once your baby ferret gets used to the short list of food, encourage them to try out new food such as dried food and baby food soaked in water. Soft food is easy to digest and as long as it has high protein content, it will be nourishing.

How Often Should You Feed an Adult Ferret?

Ferrets are known for two things: high energy and fast metabolism. This is why the adult ferret will spend its waking hours hunting in the wild. At home, your pet ferret needs to eat between 8 to 10 times a day. These are small meals so don’t pile the food in the bowl. Keep the bowl empty and clean until it’s time for the next meal. Ferrets don’t have a fixed time to eat. They’ll ask for food when they’re hungry.

Baby ferrets eat 4 times a day. As usual, put enough food in front of the baby ferret for one meal. They’d try to hide any food leftovers which can be a health risk.

What Do Ferrets Eat? A Summary

Ferrets eat raw meats of all kinds. As long as the meat contains 38 percent protein and 20 percent fat, the ferret will benefit from it. Feed the ferret chicken wings, offal, minced beef, minced lamb, or eggs. Avoid fruits, vegetables, sugary treats, or foods that contain complex carbohydrates.

More Ferret Care Guides

References

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