Ferret Treats: The Best Treats for Your Ferret
By Stephanie Warzecha
One of the most common questions I receive from the Ferret-World.com community is “What treats can I feed my ferret?”
I get it, we all love our ferrets and want to spoil them rotten whenever the opportunity arises. It is one way for us to express our love for our fur babies. But before you give your ferret anything outside of its normal food here are some things I want you to think about and consider.
What is a food treat?
For us humans, a treat is something a little bit naughty, something out of the ordinary that we can give ourselves as a reward, or food that emotionally makes us feel good, but might not necessarily be very healthy for us. A ‘food treat’ is a human concept and not something that an animal would be familiar with. For animals, food is food. They eat for sustenance and taste. Us humans, on the other hand, have a very different relationship with food. We eat food for sustenance, sure, but we also might eat food because we are sad, bored, or happy. We use food to celebrate, we use food to bond with loved ones, and we use food as gifts. Your ferret may enjoy food, but they can’t understand food as a way to show love.
Food is sustenance
Food is about sustenance and keeping a body healthy and full of energy. With the genetic predispositions ferrets already suffer from, there is no room for error when it comes to food. For example, most processed commercial treat foods that are advertised to pet owners will most likely contain some form of carbohydrates which ferrets are unable to digest. There can be a variety of other nasties lurking in commercial foods, from plant material to sugar to heavy metals. So I tend to steer clear of commercial treat foods for ferrets as much as possible.
Food is about providing the body with fuel, pure and simple. I knew a ferret lady who loved her ferrets and would often give them a meat-based soup as a treat. This is a common practice, but there can be too much of a good thing. Because the ferrets didn’t have to chew the food, it meant that they could eat more of it. The ferrets got fat (something that’s pretty difficult to do!) and one developed a heart condition. And since the soup didn’t include any bones or hard materials to chew on, cleaning their teeth, the ferrets’ teeth required cleaning after a buildup of tartar.
So when are treats okay?
During training as a reward-based training technique.If you are training your ferrets to do tricks or wanting to reward desirable behaviours, then using treats as part of reward-based training is a great way to do this, especially if the ferret is food driven.
At the vet to help keep the ferret still during an examination. Ferrets are wriggly animals, which can be very inconvenient when they are being examined by a vet. This is where a food treat can come in handy, keeping your ferret focused on food instead of the scary medical person that is poking and prodding him. A food treat can also come in handy when you are trying to clip your ferret’s nails or clean its ears.
When a treat is in line with a healthy ferret diet. If the “treat” is not really a treat, but a supplement to a healthy diet, it’s fine to give to your ferret! For example, I give Yuki an egg yolk or two a couple of times a week but I don’t really see this as much as a treat but me providing different, healthy foods to make sure she is getting the nutrients she needs to stay as healthy as possible. Also, giving ferrets a variety of food with different tastes and textures also provides much needed mental stimulation.
When a ferret requires additional sustenance during sickness. If you have ever taken care of a sick ferret before, you will know that it can be hard to keep their weight on. Sometimes it is necessary to give ferrets food treats to give them energy, help them gain weight, and fight the illness they are suffering from. Always consult a ferret vet in this case before giving treats.
What types of food treats can be given as part of a healthy diet?
If you are looking to occasionally give your ferret something special, train it, and include healthy treats as part of their overall diet then try these:
- Raw egg yolks or whole eggs
- Raw or cooked chicken meat, but never cooked chicken bones which can splinter and cause a blockage
- Raw chicken bones, since chewing on bones cleans their teeth of buildup and acts as a ferret toothbrush
- Whole prey, including pinky mice, rats, or baby chicks can make for a delicious snack for ferrets, but makes sure you don’t just feed baby animals to your ferrets as they don’t have enough nutrients alone to keep an adult ferret healthy
- Raw or cooked muscle meat
- Raw or cooked organ meat
This article originally appeared in Dook Dook Ferret Magazine (Issue 8). To receive 6 new Dook Dook Ferret Magazines per year + get access to other bonuses then join the Ferret-World Membership.