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Finding the right food for your ferret is not always easy. Unless you shop at one of the larger pet store chains or order food online, most places do not offer the kind of quality food that your pet needs. Because these little guys require such a special diet, it can be frustrating when nothing is readily available. If you’re having difficulty finding food especially made for your pet, then a great alternative would be to replace it with high quality cat food.
Still, while cat food is a great alternative, not all of them have the right combination of ingredients that a ferret needs to thrive. These are highly energetic animals that require a delicate nutritional balance in order to maintain that infectious spirit that we all enjoy.
Their high metabolism needs to be fueled in precisely the right way so that they can continue functioning with optimum health. You want the food you give them to have the same nutrients they would have if they were feeding in the wild.
Ferrets are strictly carnivorous, so they need a hefty supply of meat in their diet. As you read the labels of different cat foods, the main ingredient must always be some type of meat protein, preferably with chicken, beef, or lamb. Outside of giving them raw meat, look for those brands those offers some form of high protein pellets.
You need to be very watchful though. A ferret’s digestive system cannot effectively process carbohydrates, so these should be avoided at all cost. These are fillers and offer no nutritional value for your little friend and could actually cause harm.
Many cat foods, while high in protein, don’t offer the right kind of protein. Most of them contain proteins from vegetables or dairy, which could also be harmful.
Since adult cat food is often too low in the right kind of protein and fats, your best option could be kitten food. It is usually higher in these areas because it is designed to nourish a growing animal. However, the problem with this option is that adult ferrets need dry kibble as this helps them to maintain strong, healthy teeth.
Many might also be surprised to learn that the shape of the pellets must be considered. While they may be cute to the human eye, any shape with sharp edges like triangles or squares, can be painful for ferrets to eat. Ideally you want to look for cat food that has round shapes and smooth edges so that it won’t cut or scratch the inside of your ferret’s mouth.
What Cat Food to Look For Nutrition-Wise
As you read through the labels here are a few essentials you should be looking for:
- Minimum 30% protein
- Minimum 15% fat
- Maximum 5% fiber
Finding cat foods that meets all of these requirements is not always easy, and many do not meet the high standards needed to keep a ferret healthy. Still, there are three different cat foods that have made the grade and can give your ferret everything they need in a balanced diet. Below is a list of the top three cat foods that may suit your needs:
Dr. Elsey’s Clean Protein Formula Dry Cat Food (Chicken)
The chicken formula of this product is specifically developed for a high protein diet for any cat. It actually has one of the highest protein contents of all of the formulas and derives its protein from chicken, eggs, and pork (in that order). It also has added vitamins and minerals that the ferret would get from eating the whole animal. This is good as most protein doesn’t come with the complete amino acid list.
Dr. Elsey’s Clean Protein Formula Dry Cat Food is grain free, gluten free, and there are no artificial flavors or fillers. This is definitely appreciated. The Crude Protein is 59%, Crude Fat is 18%, and Moisture is 12%. This means almost 90% of the ingredients are basic necessities.
The price is comparable to the other protein specific formulas and quality diets. Because of the necessity of protein in the ferrets diet, it is never advised to choose the cheaper version if it means less protein.
You can find this product on Amazon, here.
ORIJEN Cat & Kitten High-Protein Dry Cat Food (Kitten)
This is one of the best kitten and high protein cat food formulas on the market, and it is amazingly priced. Kitten food formulas tend to be around 40% protein. Remember, though, the percent isn’t the only variable when choosing a brand to buy. Orijen states that it has 40% Protein and 20% Fat. It is also grain free and has chicken meal as the first ingredient.
There is no corn, wheat, or soy in the formula, and the protein comes from chicken and whole eggs and turkey, all great protein sources. The ingredient list shows chicken, turkey, whole eggs, and flounder as the main ingredients.
The quality of this product is very high as it contains mainly meat protein and has the lowest cost per pound of all of the products mentioned here. Further, the packaging advertises that it uses free-run chicken and turkey, wild-caught fish, and cage-free eggs.
You can find this product on Amazon, here.
Solid Gold – Indigo Moon Holistic Dry Cat Food (Chicken)
The Solid Gold Indigo Moon Holistic Dry Cat food formula comes in third on the list but it is a strong third. Its main advantage is having significant amounts of super foods, aka foods that are rich in nutrients and amino acids. This is a benefit as normally your ferret would get them from eating the whole rat or mouse.
However, dry food doesn’t deliver the whole prey, and such, needs additives to deliver the entire nutritional diet. Solid Gold has a bit higher protein content than the number 2 on this list. Solid Gold has 42% Protein and 20% Fat.
This protein mainly comes from chicken and eggs, with the chicken meal being a huge percentage of the actual food. This is great as chicken is a great source of general and daily protein.
You can find this product on Amazon, here.
It is important to understand that while all of these products are very effective at meeting your ferret’s nutritional needs, they are not produced exclusively for ferrets. It can be quite difficult to find foods that do not contain something that may not be good for your ferret’s diet, so always be cautious.
For that reason, you not only need to think about the right food for your ferret, but also find it in the right balance. Ideally, you want to find a food that is specifically designed for ferrets, but if you can’t find anything, then your next best thing is to use a suitable cat food.
Can You Give Cat Treats to Ferrets?
If you are training your ferret, you want to have a healthy rewards system to give them something to work for. Aside from giving them small bites of cooked bits of meat (without the spices), you can also give them some nice little cat treats. Again, you want to make sure that these treats are absent of grains, dairy, vegetables, or chocolate.
What foods You Should Avoid
It is important to remember that your ferret is a high energy animal and needs the right food to fuel that energy. Cat foods or any other food high in fillers, complex carbohydrates – fruits, vegetables, and dairy can be very difficult on a ferret’s digestive system.
Every year, vets are visited by ferret owners for one main reason, digestive issues. Not only can these foods and other foods high in sugar wreak havoc on their tiny systems, they can slow them down and in time, and they will lose their lust for life. The very thing that draws many of us humans to invite them into our homes.
Ferrets are high energy creatures and are often on the go. That kind of energy can only be maintained with proper nutrition. If you are unable to find quality ferret food in your area, then you can opt for a high protein cat food. Make sure that the cat food you choose not only has the right amount of protein and fat, but also the right balance. It should have at least 30% animal protein (not from vegetable or dairy), 15% fat, and no more than 5% fiber.
While most cat foods have some amount of vegetables in their food, it should be a very small amount. Because these little fuzz balls are obligate carnivorous, vegetables and dairy can be very hard on their digestive system, so it should be kept at a minimum. Too much can cause health issues and you may find that you’re spending more time at the vet because of it.
One additional point, when looking for an alternative food for ferrets, the best option is cat food – never dog food. While they both have similar ingredients, the balance in dog food is completely wrong for a ferret and could actually be harmful for your little friend.
If you want to keep your little critter running and exploring at his normal energy level, you’ll take great pains to make sure that he is getting the right nutritional balance to maintain his metabolism. If you do, you and your pet will have many long years of fun and play ahead of you.