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Can Ferrets Eat Tuna? What You Need to Know!

Nicole Cosgrove

Running out of ferret food can feel like a disaster, but it doesn’t have to be. There are quite a few alternative foods you can feed your ferret while you’re organizing a new supply of their regular food.

Or maybe you’re looking for a store-cupboard staple that you can use as a treat during training or just because your ferret is looking super cute today!

But is tuna okay for your ferrets to eat, or is this a food that’s best avoided? Let’s find out!

Before we get into the details, know that it’s okay to feed your ferret small amounts of some types of tuna. It’s best to do this only occasionally, and bear in mind that your ferret might not actually like the taste.

divider-ferretFerret nutrition and metabolism

To figure out whether tuna is going to be a good food source for your ferret, we first need to take a look at the metabolism and dietary requirements of these furry friends.

pet ferret to eat food_burdun ilya_shutterstock
Credit: Burdun Iliya, Shutterstock

Ferrets are obligate carnivores. That means that in the wild, they’d eat a diet made of 100% meat sources.

Not all ferret owners want to feed their pet ferret a diet of raw food designed to mimic their natural diet, so while that’s definitely an option, there’s also commercially available ferret food that’s designed to meet their nutritional needs.

Ferrets need food with at least 30% protein, 15% fat, and no more than 30% carbohydrates. Consistently feeding a ferret a food without the correct percentages of nutrients can cause them to suffer from reduced growth, metabolic diseases, and infections. Incorrect nutrient levels can also affect a ferret’s ability to reproduce, which is an important consideration if you want to use your ferret for breeding.

The ferret’s metabolism is extremely fast, and they have a short digestive tract. This means they need to trickle feed throughout the day. That’s why pelleted feeds designed for ferrets are convenient, as you can leave them out without worrying about them going bad.

Now we know what ferrets need, how does tuna match up to their requirements?

tuna raw
Image Credit: EvelinDare, Pixabay

Good things about tuna

Tuna is high in protein, containing 28 grams of protein per 100 grams of skipjack tuna. Ferrets need a high-protein diet in order to stay healthy.

It also contains good levels of omega-3 fatty acids. Ferrets also need high levels of fatty acids in their diets. The amount of omega-3 in different types of tuna can vary greatly. We’ve looked at the amounts of omega-3 per three ounces of tuna:

  • Wild bluefin tuna: 1,000 to 5,000 milligrams
  • Canned albacore tuna: 500 to 1,000 milligrams
  • Light canned tuna: 200 to 500 milligrams
  • Wild skipjack tuna: 200 to 500 milligrams
  • Wild yellowfin tuna: Less than 200 milligrams

Bad things about tuna

Tuna is low in calories and fat. 100 grams of tuna contains only 1.3 grams of fat and 132 calories. Ferrets thrive on a diet that’s higher in fat, as they have a fast metabolism and need a great deal of energy from their food.

Tuna isn’t a natural food for ferrets, and some ferrets may find the flavor too strong. So, don’t be surprised if your ferret turns their nose up at your offering. While ferrets are inquisitive by nature and enjoy exploring new things, they can be fussy when it comes to their food. Some ferrets will refuse to eat anything different if they’ve been fed the same food from when they were tiny.

Tuna on its own doesn’t contain everything that your ferret needs to stay strong and healthy, so it’s not a good idea to only feed tuna to your ferret.

tuna
Image Credit: Keegan Evans, Pexels

What type of tuna is best?

If you do want to feed your ferret some tuna, what type is best?

The best type of tuna for your ferret would be a fresh steak, fed raw. Only a small amount should be fed at a time, so this isn’t something that you’d want to feed your ferret as one of their main foods.

Canned tuna often has added salt or seasoning, neither of which are beneficial for your ferret. Some ferret owners do choose to feed unseasoned canned tuna, but as a treat, because their ferret likes the flavor, rather than something that’s going to provide the nutrients that the ferret needs. Only a small amount is recommended, like half a teaspoon of tuna at a time rather than a whole can. Feeding this as a treat once a month or so would be okay.

divider-foodWrapping it up

While we know that tuna isn’t going to do your ferret any harm, it’s not the most beneficial food for them either.

Tuna does contain a good amount of protein, but it’s low in fat, and ferrets require high-fat content for their regular meals. The amount of omega-3 fatty acids in tuna varies due to the type of tuna and how it’s processed. Wild-caught Bluefin tuna has the highest levels of these fatty acids, which are of benefit to your ferret.

Feeding tuna to your ferret is recommended as a treat only, rather than a regular part of their diet. Some ferrets just don’t like the taste!

If you run out of ferret food and need an emergency stand-in, something like a high-protein kitten kibble is actually going to be a better choice than tuna.

Looking for more info on what you can feed your ferret? Check out these posts:


Featured Image Credit: Pxfuel

Nicole Cosgrove

Nicole is the proud mom of Baby, a Burmese cat and Rosa, a New Zealand Huntaway. A Canadian expat, Nicole now lives on a lush forest property with her Kiwi husband in New Zealand. She has a strong love for all animals of all shapes and sizes (and particularly loves a good interspecies friendship) and wants to share her animal knowledge and other experts' knowledge with pet lovers across the globe.