Feeding Nature
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What Do Ferrets Eat?

Ferrets are not as renowned in households as cats and dogs, yet these were some of the first domesticated animals.  These small, furry weasels are quite small at an average length of 51cm and height of 13cm.

They live around 7 – 10 years and are highly intelligent.

Ferrets have been domesticated for over 2500 years.  These cute and furry animals can, however, be just as vicious as an average dog.  In some countries they are still used to hunt rabbits but in most places, ferrets are kept as beloved pets.

These animals do terrific inside households. They offer pet owners lots of joy and their curious nature often serves for a good laugh. 

It is important to take great care of a ferret.  Neglected ferrets can grow to become aggressive and can carry diseases. Great ferret care starts at providing your ferret with the right type of foods.

What Do Ferrets Eat?

Ferrets are obligate carnivores.  They have a very short digestive system and a fast metabolism which forces them to eat regularly.  A ferrets digestive system prevents it from properly digesting plant matter. 

One of the most important things to keep in mind when you feed ferrets is that they imprint on foods.

Ferrets will imprint on certain foods at around six months old and will avoid trying and consuming new foods after this point.  Some pet owners even find it hard to switch between food brands because of this fussy feeding nature. 

It is important to expose your ferret to a versatile diet from a young age to avoid fussy eating or food imprinting.  And if you are going to supply your ferret with a specific food type then be sure to choose a brand that you can access and afford for the next 7 – 10 years.

A healthy ferret’s diet should consist of 32 – 38% protein and 15 – 20% fat.

 

Here is a quick look at the most common foods that ferrets love to consume;

Live small animals

Ferrets are natural hunters.  Like cats, they will stalk and hunt small animals.  They enjoy catching rabbits, game birds, pigeons, chicks, small chickens, mice, and rats.  These natural food sources are good for keeping ferrets healthy and active and they can provide your beloved pet with plenty of distraction to keep them from disrupting your home.

Raw meats

It is perfectly fine to raise your ferret on dead animals instead of offering them something alive.

They enjoy eating all sorts of meat.

The best meats to offer your ferret include chicken wings, stripped chicken carcasses, turkey necks, rabbit, birds, pigeons, minced beef, lamb, offal, lamb heart, raw animal bones, chicken and other types of meats.

Cat food

A good quality cat food contains all the needed minerals and protein your ferret needs to stay healthy. 

Many ferret owners keep their ferrets content on kitten kibble only and some choose to offer a variety of foods that include cat foods and raw meats.  Ferrets that learn to consume cat food may become quite picky about the brand.

It is better to choose a brand of cat food that is easily acquired because they can avoid feeding if you simply choose to switch between cat food brands. Ideally, you should offer a versatile mix of foods.  This keeps ferrets from imprinting on a specific brand of cat food.

Baby food

Ferrets can also consume high protein baby foods.  These foods are especially handy when you are caring for a very young ferret.  The key here is to focus on baby foods that contain lots of meat or that is high in protein.

Eggs

Eggs are a superb supply of protein.  Many pet owners choose to offer ferrets that live on cat foods with an egg as a weekly snack.  They enjoy this treat tremendously and eggs are always an easy go-to treat for your beloved pet.

Dried ferret food

Some pet stores do stock up on ferret foods.  These foods are usually high in protein and can be more affordable than offering meat.

It is, once again, very important to invest in ferret foods that you will be able to acquire for many years to come.

Ferrets that are raised on specific ferret foods will find it hard to switch over to another brand or other types of foods once they imprinted.

Water

Ferrets require lots of fresh water to stay hydrated.  They also enjoy playing in a water bowl and may dig around and splash in shallow waters.  These animals are not fond of cold water and can suffer from dehydration if you only offer icy cold water.  Room temperature water is ideal for these animals. 

Diet Variations

Some pet owners may advise you to offer your ferret fruits and veggies to eat.  They also may choose to munch on these foods if they feel hungry or curious.  It is, however, better to avoid all fruits and vegetables for these animals. 

Foods that contain too many carbohydrates can increase their glucose levels and cause insulinoma.

They also find it very hard to digest these foods and constant consumption can result in intestinal bacteria.

The vegetable proteins found in foods are also harmful to your ferret’s body.  Ideally, your ferret should only consume meat or dry cat and ferret foods.

How to Feed Ferrets

Ferrets have a very high metabolic rate.  They require food often and will consume 8 – 10 meals per day.  Most pet owners will leave ferret foods out all day so their beloved animals can consume foods whenever they feel hungry. This is much more practical than attempting to offer food 10 times a day. 

 Some ferret owners will choose to offer only dry cat food or ferret foods that are high in protein while others choose to leave out these foods and supplement additional treats like egg or meat in the morning or at the evening.

 

You can also offer your ferret occasional treats such as a small mouse, rat or dove to keep them content.

Ideally, it is best to offer a variety of food types from a young age.  By offering a variety of foods, you avoid raising a fussy eater and it will be much easier to feed your ferret in the future.

How Much Do Ferrets Eat?

Ferrets can eat 6 – 10 times per day because they have such fast metabolism rates.  It can be hard to offer your ferret sufficient servings of food ten times a day.  Ideally, ferrets eat 5 – 7% of their body weight in food every day.

On some days, your ferret will choose to consume more foods than others.  Various aspects like growth, age, pregnancy, lactation and high exercise days can affect their appetite. 

Fee feeding is the best way to feed your ferrets.  The only time you need to restrict food intake is when a ferret becomes overweight.

Many pet owners do however compensate for the weight gain by offering an alternative food snack that is more time consuming to eat such as stripped chicken carcasses. 

What do Baby Ferrets eat?

Baby ferrets are called kits.  A kits food intake and quantity depend on its age.  Ferrets rely on their mother’s care until 4 weeks of age and weaning is recommended until they are at least 8 weeks old.  In this time, the kit will consume all the food they need from their mothers.

 At 4 weeks old, you can start to offer your kit ferret food, cat food or small chunks or minced meat in addition to its mother’s milk.  The kit will gradually increase food intake until it can fully wean off its mother at 8 weeks old.

Orphaned ferrets are quite challenging to care for since they rely on so many feeding times throughout the night and day.  Most orphaned ferrets are fed on 3 parts puppy milk replacer and one part whipping cream.  

They need to be fed at least 4 times a day.  You can start offering kitten or ferret food at three weeks old.  The orphan will increase its food intake over the next few weeks but it is recommended to keep offering milk until the ferret is 6 – 8 weeks old.

 

What Do Ferrets Eat In The Wild?

Wild ferrets live off what foods they can find in their natural environment.  They are agile hunters and enjoy hunting small animals like mice, rats, squirrels, birds, rabbits, and chicks.  

Ferrets will also climb to great heights to reach nests so they can consume bird eggs.  They are also happy to feed off carcasses of any meat source they can find.

What Is The Best Food To Feed My Ferret?

The best way to raise a happy and healthy ferret is by offering a wide variety of high protein foods.

Ferrets can eat dry cat food, ferret food and any type of meat you can offer them.  They are also happy to catch and consume small animals.

Ideally, you should offer all three of these food sources.  Raw meats are as close to their natural food intake as you can come and offering live animals can keep your ferret engaged and happy.  Dry ferret or cat food is also a good food offering to have available to your ferret throughout the day since they love to eat food up to 10 times a day.

Can Ferrets Eat Fruit?

Ferrets will sometimes eat fruit but they shouldn’t.  These foods are not healthy for your ferret at all and can cause lots of digestive problems in the long run.  You should avoid offering any kind of fruits and vegetables.  They are carnivorous creatures and rely on high protein foods to survive.

Ferrets are not the easiest pets to keep but keeping a ferret can be a very rewarding experience.

It is important to offer your ferret healthy high protein foods to keep them healthy and active.  Offering other foods can result in lots of costly medical bills and just isn’t worth the risk.