Ferrets: the diet of mustelids
The ferret diet should be as varied as possible and consist mainly of meat. The cute fur noses are predators and their wild relatives, the polecats, feed on mice and other small prey in the wild. The following tips will help you give your ferret the most species-appropriate food possible.
Ferrets are predators and need a lot of meat in their diet – Shutterstock/Xseon
Ferrets are carnivores and distantly related to the domestic dog. However, this does not mean that they should eat dog food, because it lacks important nutrients, including taurine. This, in turn, is found in high-quality cat food, which is why some varieties can supplement the ferret’s diet.
What ferrets need as predators
Predators such as cats, dogs and ferrets need meat in their diet. The teeth, the digestive tract and the metabolism of the marten animals are adapted to feed of animal origin – predominantly or exclusively plant-based food makes them ill. So make sure that the meat content in ferret food is around 80 percent and only give pieces of fresh fruit and vegetables as a small treat in between.
The digestive tract of the tame polecat is quite short, the food is digested within only three to four hours. That doesn’t leave much time to filter out all the nutrients you need – making a meat-heavy diet all the more important, because the little goblins can easily absorb the animal proteins and fats from the meat. They cannot process the nutrients from plant sources fast enough and excrete them almost unused. You can see how good quality meat tastes in 3-week-old ferret puppies in the following video:
What food is suitable for feeding ferrets?
The short digestive tract also means that ferrets need food supplies more frequently throughout the day and cannot eat “in reserve”. It can therefore make sense to always provide them with sufficient dry food at their free disposal. However, it should not contain grain, sugar and salt are also taboo. Furthermore, the ferrets always need access to fresh water, preferably in a bowl, because they – like cats – are lazy about drinking and have an increased need for liquids due to the dry food. For this reason, it is not advisable to feed your dog exclusively dry food.
In addition, the animals should be fed wet food about twice a day, ideally high-quality complete food for ferrets. In any case, carefully read the label with the list of ingredients and make sure that the ingredients contain around 80 percent meat, no sugar, no molasses, syrup or caramel, no salt and no grains. You can also look on the cat food shelf, some varieties are suitable for the little goblins, as they need taurine like the house tiger and also have other similar needs. Switch back and forth between different types and brands of dry food and wet food so that your furry friends don’t commit themselves to just one type of food. On the one hand, this makes it difficult to switch to a special diet if the marten animals become ill, and on the other hand, there is a risk of a nutrient deficiency if they don’t have enough variety. It can also happen that the food manufacturers change the recipe and your four-legged gourmets spurn the food from now on.
Danger! Ferrets have a habit of hoarding food. However, wet food can spoil quickly, especially in summer, and is then indigestible for the animals, in the worst case even harmful. So after the wet food meal, look in your furry friends’ enclosure to see if they have secretly stocked up somewhere and remove them before they go bad.
Barf ferrets: is that possible?
Dogs and cats can be barfed, i.e. they can be fed with biologically appropriate raw food. However, these pets have better researched nutritional needs than ferrets, so it is easier to feed them only raw meat and add the necessary nutrients and supplements. It is theoretically possible to barf ferrets, but the risk of doing something wrong is quite high. For this reason, it is advisable to only give fresh food in the form of raw meat and poultry, innards and prey such as day-old chicks as a supplement. Muscle meat from beef, sheep or rabbit is suitable as meat. Raw pork is also taboo for ferrets because, like dogs and cats, they can get Aujeszky’s disease and die from it.
Not all offal is equally suited to a ferret’s diet: heart is best, but care should be taken with liver and kidney. They can end up on your plate at most once a week, but you can also do without them altogether. Ferrets are also often very fond of eggs, but you should only feed whole eggs that have been cooked and only the yolks of raw eggs. Raw protein binds biotin and prevents its absorption in the intestine. You can watch the most important thing about feeding the little rascals again in the next video:
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