While it is easy to just recommend buying one of the premium ferret food brands available, you are off better reading this article completely to ensure that your ferret will actually eat the food you finally buy for them, in spite of the brand of food being highly rated by “experts” and other ferret pet owners.
So, why make such a statement? Well, for starters, ferrets are extremely fussy animals, and it will largely depend on what the age of your ferret was when you bought or adopted them and perhaps what their previous owner fed them.
For one ferret, certain high quality cat food brands could be perfect because this pet is already used to this type of dietary source and refuses to eat anything else. For another ferret, only high quality kibble brands will do, and once again, because that is what they were used to eating from a very young age. In this article, we will take a look at ways to make it possible for your ferret to eat a wide variety of recommended foods without any fuss.
Ferret’s Digestive System
Ferrets need a concentrated diet. In other words, they need to eat foods that can yield the highest amount of required nutrition per serving. The reason is because these animals have a short, simple digestive tract. This means that when they eat a small portion of food, it will take roughly 3 hours to go through the ferret’s digestive system and out the other side. During this time, a ferret will rely on the concentrated nutrition found in its meals to be sufficiently digested before the food leaves their body. In most animals, the large intestine contains bacteria that are able to digest complex carbohydrates that can be found in vegetables and other types of grains. For a ferret, this will be extremely difficult to achieve as they have a very short “large intestine”.
When it comes to digesting carbohydrates, as long as they are simple, which can be found in food sources such as starches and sugars, there won’t be a problem in digesting them. Unfortunately, this is not the same for complex carbohydrates which can be found in sources such as beans, brands and many vegetables.
All of this information is important because many people make the big mistake of thinking that they can treat their ferrets like a dog. For example, during breakfast, lunch or dinner, pet owners will throw a few extra food scraps to their dogs. You would be making a big mistake if you did the same for your ferret, because you could easily accidentally feed them certain food scraps that have complex carbohydrates and/or not enough nutrition that is important for your ferret’s proper development.
Ferret Dietary Requirements
Your ferrets ‘dietary requirements don’t only depend on your knowledge of its digestive system. You also need to understand what type of animals ferrets are, as well as their natural behaviors. Ferrets are obligate carnivores. In other words, they are meat eaters. Without meat, these creatures will die, so don’t think you can turn your ferret into a vegetarian!
However, while ferrets are obligate carnivores, they also require other food types besides meat alone. When a predator catches its prey, they will also eat other parts of their prey’s body such as the intestinal tract, liver, kidneys and bones. All of these food sources are crucial to the carnivore’s development, and your ferret is no different. For this reason, if you only decide to feed your ferret raw meat, you would be making a huge mistake. It is for this reason why you should consider quality food brands, because you know that the companies making these products understand the makeup of a ferret’s body as well as what their dietary requirements are.
So, a balanced diet for ferrets would require that they have high quality protein, low fiber and high energy. More specifically, this protein has to be from meat and not plant protein, which we will go into a bit more detail when we speak about why you shouldn’t feed your ferret generic food.
In the past, it wasn’t easy to find specially formulated ferret kibble from pet shops, and so many ferret owners had to rely on thinking out of the box. One popular way was to buy food brands specially formulated for minks and foxes. The reason for this is because minks and foxes had similar dietary requirements to ferrets, with the one exception, which is that minks eat fish while ferrets don’t.
Unfortunately, there were a few challenges that ferret owners had to face when buying these products. The first challenge was that they were forced to buy food brands that were sold in large quantities. Second, finding mink and fox food brands was very difficult, and so once a ferret owner would find a pet store that sold these products, they would simply rely on them feeling that they had no other choice.
In addition, many pet owners also relied on premium and generic cat food brands. While the premium brands were adequate, generic cat food brands created many problems for ferret owners, which mainly had to do with the ingredients in these products.
The last challenge that ferret pet owners had to face was getting their ferrets to enjoy the taste of these meals. As mentioned earlier, ferrets don’t eat fish, and so many pet owners suffered a lot in trying to get there ferrets to eat a specific type of food brand simply because it contained fish. Some were lucky while others would watch the poor animals starve simply because they didn’t like the taste.
When it comes to choosing protein quality, keep in mind that the higher the quality, the more it will cost. However, this is one area where you don’t want to hold tight to your money because it could be detrimental to your ferret’s health. What makes good quality protein? Well, any protein from meat or poultry would be good because they are highly digestible. When looking for ferret food, make sure that there is at least 30% crude protein that is highly digestible.
As with protein, not all types of fat can be equally digested, so be careful in this area as well. When looking for the right source of fat for your ferret, always choose animal source fats as they are highly digestible, and ferrets have a preference to this flavor. A good ferret diet should contain between 15% and 20% fat, as this will ensure that your ferret has a highly concentrated energy source.
While most of us are taught that high fiber is crucial for a healthy diet, keep in mind that while this is true for humans, the opposite is true for ferrets. These animals need a diet that contains less than 4% of fiber. The more fiber there is in a ferret’s diet, the higher the stool quantity.
Pelleted diets are highly recommended for ferrets, for numerous reasons. Many ferret owners will opt for making their own recipes using high quality raw meats and other ingredients, and while there is nothing wrong with this approach, you really need to know what you are doing. If you don’t, you could unintentionally cause your ferret to suffer from malnutrition. When buying high-quality pelleted diets that are specifically formulated for ferrets, you can feel confident that they are getting all the dietary requirements from this kibble, and you will also be improving your ferret’s dental health.
To determine if a pelleted ferret diet is considered good quality, look at the type of ingredients the product is made up of. If the ingredients contain poultry or fish meal, meat or any of the animal-by-products as a first ingredient, this is good. In addition, these pelleted ferret diets should also contain liver meal, blood meal or eggs. In terms of protein quality, keep in mind that the higher the quality of protein, the more the brand will cost. To ensure that the protein quality is good, take a look at the percentage of digestible protein listed in the ingredients. If there is over 30% of highly digestible crude protein, it’s a good sign. This can normally be obtained by meat meal or poultry.
A good pelleted ferret diet will also have at least 15% and 20% of fat, which will come from animal source fats. Keep in mind that flavor is important in your ferret’s meal, as these animals are very picky. In fact, if your animal does not like the taste of a particular type of food, you will have an almost impossible time trying to get them to finally like it, and this in turn could leave you with a possible tragic outcome.
Good pelleted diets will also contain low percentages of fiber. This should be under 4%.
Now that we’ve explained the basics of what makes up a good pelleted diet for ferrets, let us take a closer look at the food labels of ferret kibble, how to read and understand them, and how to ensure that you are indeed buying the right product for your ferret.
The first thing to know is that there are rules and regulations regarding how labels are implemented on food products, and that they are not necessarily the same in your country. Therefore, regardless what you read in this article, please do your due diligence to find out what the rules and regulations are in your country regarding food labels for pet food.
While the quantities of each ingredient do not need to be specified, they still have to be listed on the label of the container. That being said, even though pet food companies don’t need to list the quantities of the ingredients, they do have to list them in order of highest to lowest quantity. So whatever listings you see first, you can be sure that it is a major ingredient in the product. If you take a look at the back of ferret food products, you will most likely note that meat, fish meal, poultry or animal-by-products would be listed as the first ingredient, and so you could be confident that this is the major ingredient in the product. When looking at the guaranteed analysis for a good ferret product, it will look something like this:
- 38% of crude protein
- 18% of crude fat
- 3.5% of fiber
There would also be no more than 10% of moisture and around 6% of ash. Of course, there are many other ingredients contained in these food products as well, which will be things like vitamins, minerals, and preservatives.
Raw Meat for Ferrets
Raw food can definitely be a good option when it comes to feeding a ferret. However, be careful in your choice of food and how long you can keep it. Some of the popular raw food choices are rabbit, lamb, chicken wings, pigeons, minced beef, as well as raw animal bones that are important for calcium and keeping your ferrets teeth clean.
Pay special attention to the way you prepare these dishes and don’t keep them for too long afterwards. Remember, spoiled food can also be bad for animals, and in most cases, your ferret will be able to notice and most likely avoid eating it, but you can never be sure. Some pet owners even go as far as feeding their ferrets mice and rats, which can be a very good food source. However, make sure that you buy this type of meat from a reputable source as this will ensure that these foods are free of any type of parasites that could harm your ferret. What is not recommended is to try and catch these rodents yourself, as these animals have not been tested and will most likely contain parasites.
Ferrets are extremely fussy eaters – especially when they are fed with food that was never part of their natural diet. For example, while many pet foods have fish, such as mink food brands, this is not part of their natural diet. So, unless you fed this type of ingredient to your ferrets when they were still kits, they will most likely never want to eat it, and in fact will even starve if there is no other food choice available.
In general, ferrets don’t like to switch from one kind of food to another. Once they actually find the food they like, they can become extremely attached to it. If you happen to find the right food source and don’t have any problems in buying more of it when needed, this will be okay. However, it can become a real problem if your ferret happens to like a specific food brand that is very difficult to locate once you run out of that product. So when you are looking for the best food for your ferret, this is one area that you really need to consider, because it could save you a lot of hassles in the long run.
One way to avoid running into this situation is by feeding your ferret various food formulas when they are still kits. In fact, you could even mix different food formulas in the same bowl when feeding time comes so that your kits can get use to the different flavors from a very young age every time they feed. Once they grow up, they won’t be too fussy about what you feed them, and so your choice of food brands becomes broader and easily available.
Another typical behavior of ferrets is there need to hide their food from time to time. While this is a very cute behavior, it can turn out very dangerous if your pet decides to hide raw meat as it could go off in the future, which could lead to food poisoning.
Food That Ferrets Can’t Eat
One of the typical mistakes new ferret owners make is by not acknowledging that their ferrets are obligate carnivores. They also don’t realize that dogs are not obligate carnivores, but rather, are scavenging carnivores, and so automatically think that dog food should be okay for ferrets as well. This is a big mistake, because if you continuously feed your ferret dog food, it will eventually die from malnutrition. The reason for this is because there are a few highly important nutrients that are not found in dog food brands. Another problem with commercial dog foods is that they contain very high carbohydrate levels, which are more specifically, complex carbohydrates. This can be very difficult for ferrets to digest properly. Remember, in order for ferrets to get the most from the calories they ingest, it has to come from the right type and percentages of protein, fat and simple carbohydrates.
Why Are Generic Cat Foods Potentially Dangerous for Ferrets?
While it’s true that premium cat food can be an acceptable food source for ferrets, the complete opposite is true for generic cat foods. The reason why ferret owners consider these generic brands is because they cost less. Unfortunately, what they don’t realize is that the value they are getting is definitely not worth the price because of the lack of nutrition in these brands which are also too low in fat.
Generic cat foods also normally contain high quantities of plant proteins. While this might not be a problem for cats, it is definitely a problem for ferrets because they can develop bladder stones when their bodies accumulate too much of this type of protein. High quality protein from meat sources doesn’t have the same problem as ferrets are more equipped to handle this type of protein better.
For more information on this subject, visit the link: Best Cat Food for Ferrets
Feeding Advice for Kits
Baby ferrets also need to be fed a healthy, balanced diet; otherwise, how can they grow up to be healthy, energetic and mischievous adults? Many ferret owners have relied on regular ferret food and premium cat brands, and rightfully so. Both of these products will have the right nutritional value to ensure healthy development. The only real difference in the diet of kits is the way the food is prepared. Normally, a moist diet is recommended. This is done to make the pellets softer so that it is easier for the kits to chew. The popular way to go about doing this is by mixing hot water with the pellets to turn it into porridge. However, only feed the mixture to your kit when the porridge is warm, not hot. Don’t leave the moist food around for more than one hour as it can go bad which could be very dangerous for your baby ferret.
All pelleted foods must have ample protection from moisture; otherwise, the oxygen exposure mixed with heat could make the fats in the pelleted food oxidized. This is dangerous for ferrets because the oxidation can reduce the nutritional value from their meals. The best way to ensure this does not happen is by always sealing the food package when you are done using it and then storing it in a dry cold location.
If you are feeding your ferret canned food, make sure you keep it stored in temperatures below 50 degrees Fahrenheit, and always remember to tightly seal it when you are done feeding your ferret.
While snacks do have certain benefits for your ferret, be very careful how you use them. Remember, ferrets can be very picky about foods, and they can also latch on to a favorite food with a lot of enthusiasm – so much that they might decide not to eat anything else but that type of food. This is the reason why you should train your ferret from a very young age to eat a variety of different ferret recommended meals; it will make them more open minded to many flavors. The problem is that if they latch on to one type of supplemental treat, and that treat happens to be inadequate in its nutritional value, you could be setting yourself up for some serious problems with your ferret.
Treats can serve an important function to help improve certain aspects in the health and well-being of a ferret. For example, they can be used to keep a ferret’s teeth, skin and coat healthy looking. Some treats are even used to help ferrets that have problems with hairballs, and more importantly, they can be used as a way to reward a pet if they have done something positive in terms of training and overall behavior.
However, it also depends on the type of treats you buy for your ferret. To get the most benefits from these supplemental snacks, it is highly advised that you avoid those that contain sugar because this can create problems in the long run. One area where your ferret could suffer with sugar contained treats is there teeth health, and there is also a risk of obesity if they become too attached to the snacks.
More importantly, never replace your ferret’s regular meals with treats, because this will create a serious nutritional deficiency in their diet. The truth is that ferrets really don’t need to eat snacks, and so based on this fact, use them sparingly and wisely.
In fact, if you do decide to give your ferret treats, which most ferret owners will do, tried to stick with snacks that are made from meat, egg products, and liver. If you do decide to feed them raw fruits and vegetables, make sure that they don’t get more than a teaspoon, daily.
If you’re looking for a snack to help treat hairballs, then you will most likely need something that is high in fiber because this can act as a laxative. It is also possible to use plain petroleum jelly, but when you do so, you’ll need to add some type of sweetener in order to make it more palatable. But once again, use these supplemental treats sparingly because this isn’t part of a ferret’s regular diet.
Snacks that you should avoid are potato chips, peanut butter, ice creams, marshmallows, and any other type of candy as these can be very dangerous for your ferret.
By the way, be very careful what you give your ferret to drink as well.
It can be very easy to treat a ferret like a dog or cat because we are used to having these animals as pets. However, ferrets are different to dogs, but can be similar to cats. Regardless of the differences and similarities, they are neither dogs nor cats, and so it is always highly recommended that you buy the right type of food for your ferret, in spite of the extra costs you might need to pay.
In the end, you want to have a healthy, energetic and mischievous little friend that will keep you company for many years, so allow these beautiful creatures to provide you with this possibility. Whether you are looking to buy them a ferret cage, food or any other type of ferret accessories like grooming products or toys, treat them well and they will do the same for you.