Ferrets are incredible animals. They are smaller than an average cat but can kill a mouse, rat, or rabbit in a blink of an eye. Ferrets not only are fierce predators, they are also carnivores that require an animal-based diet. Let’s take a closer look at the ideal nutritional components of a ferret’s diet.
What Are Ferrets?
Ferrets are part of the Mustelidae family just like otters, weasels, minks, martens, and stoats. Most of the animals from the Mustelidae family are predators that hunt small animals to survive. Ferrets have a similar diet, although they don’t need to hunt animals, which is a perk of domestication.
The best proof of their diet is the way their teeth are developed and used. Ferrets have four types of teeth: incisors, canines, premolars, and molars. Ferrets use their canines to bite and kill their prey. They use premolars and molars to chew by cutting the flesh like scissors and crushing bones.
Are Ferrets Predators or Prey?
Ferrets are predators by nature, which makes them a danger for all small animals. But, due to their small size, they are also considered prey by bigger predators like wolves and wild dogs. One of the reasons for their domestication was their predatory side. Due to their high prey drive, they were domesticated to hunt rabbits, mice, and rats that attacked crops and, later, farms.
Are Ferrets Obligate Carnivores?
Ferrets require a very specific diet that should consist of meat, bones, and organs. This special diet makes them obligate carnivores, which means they shouldn’t eat any type of fruit or vegetable. Feeding a ferret fruit, vegetables, or sugary treats can lead to medical issues later in life. The reason for this is their fast metabolic system doesn’t know how to process any type of plant-based food.
A good ferret owner has two options for feeding the ferret the right way. There is an all-natural-ferret diet that consists of meat, bones, and organs and there is a commercial diet in the form of kibble. Both diets come with rules, which means you can’t feed your ferret only chicken wings and you can’t simply go to the pet store and pick out the first dry food you see.
What Is a Commercial Ferret Diet?
A commercial ferret diet is a type of diet most pet owners give their ferret pets. It is in the form of kibble or dry food you can find in every pet shop. Kibble can be for cats, dogs, and ferrets but you can’t always use them interchangeably between animals. For example, a kibble for cats can be used in a pinch for ferrets, but kibble for dogs is bad for ferrets, so you should avoid it. There are more rules you have to know if you want your ferret to eat healthily. Let’s cover this in more detail.
Animal Protein Is a Must
Ferret kibble should have animal protein in the first three ingredients listed on the package. The protein level of ferret food should be between 30%-40%. You should be able to easily find out the protein sources because they should be listed as actual meat like duck, turkey, chicken, beef, etc.
Animal Fat Is Also Essential
Animal fat is another important ingredient in a commercial kibble for ferrets. It gives them energy, so it is good for fat to make up around 20%-30% of a food’s nutritional value. You can easily find it on the ingredients list, usually listed beneath protein values. The most common source of fat in pet food is chicken fat.
Avoid Excess Fiber
Fiber is one of the main components in most plants, fruits, and vegetables. Ferrets’ bodies don’t know how to process them so it is very important to avoid them. Good ferret kibble should have grain-free listed on the package. Also, the fiber percentage of good quality kibble shouldn’t be over 3% and they should be at the very bottom of the ingredients list. One of the most dangerous vegetables is peas. Peas are known to cause bladder stones in ferrets which can eventually lead to serious medical issues, even death by blockage.
What Is a Raw Ferret Diet?
A raw ferret diet is one that mimics what a ferret would eat in the wild, which often requires a lot of extra work on the part of the owner. This diet is the best choice for a ferret because it is natural. It mostly consists of raw meat and is served in two meals over the course of 24 hours.
Natural Ferret Diet
A natural ferret diet consists of meat and not much else. This means that, as in the wild, a ferret eats meat, bones, and organs of different animals or whole prey. For this type of diet, a ferret owner combines different types of meat to achieve the best nutritional value for a ferret. That means one meal can have a part of a chicken wing, chicken heart, a quail egg, and rabbit ribs. This is the more complicated diet because it requires from pet owners great organization and planning. Every meal has to be thoroughly planned in advance.
Whole Prey Diet
A whole prey diet is the closest diet to the one domesticated ferrets’ relatives have. It is a diet that includes small animals like mice or rats, and small birds like quails or chickens. The whole prey diet is a diet where a ferret owner gives his ferret the entire animal carcass without separating bones, meat, or organs. That means that one meal could include an entire quail, a couple of mice, etc.
Which Meat Can Ferrets Eat?
Since a ferret is an obligate carnivore, almost any meat is on the menu, as long as it is raw. You shouldn’t give your ferret seasoned meat or any type of meat that has spices in it. So, if you cooked a steak for lunch, this is not something you should give to your ferret.
You can give your ferret a bit of cooked meat, but only as a treat since most of the nutritional value is destroyed in the process of cooking. Remember, cook it in water without salt, pepper, or other spices.
Another type of meat you should keep away from your ferret is wild game. Don’t feed him any wild animal carcass or roadkill since they can be filled with parasites and bacteria.
Ferrets are obligate carnivores that should avoid fruit, vegetables, or other plants. So, if you want to keep your ferret healthy, focus on providing them with a diet free of all plants and fiber.
- You may also want to read: Do Ferrets Get Along With Rabbits?
Featured Image Credit: Couperfield, Shutterstock