If you happen to be a vegetarian/vegan who plans on feeding your ferrets “rabbit” food or vegetarian ferret food (yes it does exist!) then
I would suggest getting another animal
give your ferrets away to someone who acknowledges that ferrets are first and foremost – MEAT EATERS.
You might ask, why do I single out the vegetarian/ vegan part of our society?
Well, I don’t think meat eating people will have too much trouble throwing a bit of meat to their ferrets.
Don’t get me wrong, I have absolutely nothing against vegetarians/vegans (in fact I used to be one myself), however, I do have a problem with people who try to force an unnatural diet on their pets. That is it.
Warning is over. Let’s get back to business!
Ferrets are carnivores (meat eaters). Therefore healthy ferret food will consist of plenty of delicious, succulent, juicy meat!
Ferrets have been kept in captivity for over 300 years; about 40 years ago we started introducing them to processed foods. Before that, they got healthy ferret food such as whole prey eg. mice, rats and chicks.
So why did we make the change to kibble and other processed foods? Mainly for convenience…in this day and age not many people have the time to go out and fuss over their ferret’s diet.
That’s fair enough, but if you want your ferret to live a long and healthy life then I would suggest you spend some time finding healthy ferret food!
So what are we giving our ferrets on a daily basis (kibble)?
Processed food = ground up raw food (including ingredients which are not even part of a normal ferret diet) which has been heated to such high temperatures that all the nutrients become altered or destroyed. Additionally we artificially add nutrients and preservatives/ additives to make the food last longer.
Sounds great, doesn’t it? Not really…
So what can you do to make sure your ferret is getting all the natural nutrients and vitamins that it needs? Keep reading….
In the wild, polecats (the closest relatives of the domestic ferret) feed on whole animals such as rodents and small birds. They eat everything… from head to toe (I won’t go into the gruesome details).
Ferrets have a very short gastrointestinal tract and the little organisms living in it are very simple, unlike other animals that eat vegetation. This means that even if ferrets do want a piece of fruit or veg, they actually are incapable of digesting it!
In the wild, the only “vegetarian” items that a polecat would come across would be in their prey’s stomach (and it would be partially digested).
Due to the short gastrointestinal tract it takes only 3-4 hours for food to pass through the mouth to the bottom. This makes ferrets rather inefficient when it comes to absorbing vitamins and nutrients.
This is why a ferret’s diet needs to be made up of mostly FAT, as the main source of energy. Plus, it needs highly digestible MEAT – BASED PROTEINS.
So in this case, what is healthy ferret food?
Ok, some of you may not like this, but I’m sure you knew it was coming!
Healthy ferret food consists of whole prey…such as mice, rats and chicks etc.
It is very important to get these from a reputable source (such as a pet shop) because otherwise you might give your ferret a horrible disease (which might be found in your normal “everyday” house mouse or rat).
I always buy frozen pinky (baby) rats from the pet shop. When it is feeding time, I will defrost them in a container of warm water (I say…I’m sorry to do this to you baby ratty, your very cute and all and I do feel a little bad, but my ferrets need to eat and unfortunately you're part of their food chain…sorry) and then I throw them into their cage and …look away!
If you are brave then you can watch…but it’s not a pleasant sight (and it stinks too).
Healthy ferret food includes:
Raw chicken necks
A bit of raw, poorer quality beef (can be mince beef as well, but my vet always says that they have inbuilt mincers - their teeth - so it is better to give them whole chunks of meat)
Raw egg yolks (no whites)
Piece of raw liver or heart
Or the next best thing are pre-prepared freeze dried or frozen carnivore diets which can be obtained from pet shops. These contain bits of lamb, beef and chicken including ground bones, organs, muscle and fat. There should be no grains or vegetable products, sweeteners and additives (sometimes these might be a little hard to come by)
Ok, so this is healthy for the ferret, but what else do they get out of it?
The advantages of including these items in your ferret’s diet include:
Better absorption of nutrients and vitamins – better coat and general health.
The above, also results in less poo (because everything is better absorbed).
Exercise for the muscles of the neck and jaw
Clean teeth and healthy gums (the bones normally clean them while they are being chewed on)
Mental stimulation for your ferret – It will experience different textures, tastes and the harder effort of getting through a raw meal! (it will definitely keep them occupied)
Ferrets will not need supplements while on a raw food diet – because all the nutrients and vitamins will be coming from their wholesome food!
True excitement when it comes to feeding time!
After a feed on raw, healthy ferret food Bear and Binxi come up to us and rub their faces in our laps, while licking their lips to tell us how much they enjoyed their meal!
They absolutely love it!
The only bad point to a completely natural ferret diet is the cost of it. Frozen rats are not cheap and sometimes it is just not financially viable. So if you’re like me and you find this applies to you, then even if you introduce a few natural foods per week then you will be giving your ferrets more benefits than what a plain kibble food does.
I tend to give our ferrets 1 pinky/baby rat each per week, 1 egg yolk each per week and 2-3 chicken necks each per week. If we are eating steak then they will also get a chunk of that too (raw). We also leave them with a bowl full of premium ferret kibble for when they are hungry, on a daily basis, as well as plenty of fresh water.
If you’re feeding your pets ferret kibble then you need to make sure that it consists of 30-40% crude animal based protein and 15-20% fat.
The first 3 ingredients on the food label should be meat-based. Grains, such as corn, rice and wheat only act as fillers and are not digestible for a ferret.
There should be no added sweeteners such as molasses, dextrose, corn syrup and raisin juice (good luck trying to find such a kibble!).
There should be no dried fruits or vegetables as part of the ingredients.
In short this really does not leave you with many choices as most pet food manufacturing companies are mostly interested in your money and not so much in the quality of their food (I’m sure there are a few exceptions).
Basically, try to spend some time finding the best option; I know that in some places around the world (such as Australia) there are not that many foods to choose from. So try your best and when you find the best option make sure you stock up on it!
Healthy ferret food will make your pet happier and prolong their lives. Feeding these items might also reduce the risk of diseases, which results in less money being spent at the vet in the long run.
Humans enjoy the taste and texture of food and so should our ferrets!