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About Ferrets

TOP TEN THINGS FERRET OWNERS SHOULD KNOW
#8: WHAT TO FEED YOUR FERRET

Hi, I'm Ellie! Ferrets are obligate carnivores, and they have very specific nutritional needs. Do not feed your ferret "grocery store-bought" cat or kitten foods such as Meow Mix or Cat Chow; these are nutritionally incomplete diets and can cause medical problems and a shorter lifespan for your ferret.

Ferrets have very specific nutritional needs. They must have a diet that is high in meat-based (not vegetable) proteins, and high in fat. They are obligate carnivores, so they require a primarily meat based food. Examine the label of any food that you feed your ferrets. In the ingredients section, look at the first five ingredients. The first ingredient should be some kind of meat, such as chicken, chicken meal or chicken byproducts. You want to find a diet that also contains at least two other meat derivatives in these first five ingredients. Avoid corn, corn meal, corn gleuten meal, or anything similar. If your food does contain a corn product, it should not be listed in the first few ingredients. The farther down the list, the better.

Now look at the nutritional analysis. The protein content of the food you are feeding should be a minimum of 34%, with 36%- 40% being optimal. The fat content should be no less than 19%, with 22% being optimal for young and adult ferrets. Older ferrets can have a lower fat content than young ferrets, but should still not be below 19%.

So what foods are good to feed your ferret? Our shelter uses and recommends the following foods: Totally Ferret, The Ferret Store's Superior Choice, Zupreem Ferret Food, 8 - in - 1 Ultimate Diet. (Please note: the company 8-in-1 makes several kinds of ferret food. The only one that we recommend is the Ultimate Diet; two other products, Ultra-Blend and Premium Diet, are not complete foods). All are available at The Ferret Store. Some pet stores will also carry these foods.

While cat or kitten food is usually not recommended for ferrets, the following are two good foods that we use and recommend (check their labels!):

  • Eukanuba Kitten Food
  • Innova Feline Diet

We recommend that you feed a blend of foods to your ferret rather than one single food. First, it helps to give some variety in your ferret's diet. Secondly, if your food is ever unavailable for any reason, you won't have to deal with trying to introduce a new food to your ferret. There are a number of other higher-quality cat and ferret foods that you can use in your mix that are not on their own a nutritionally complete diet. As long as the primary ingredient in your mix is one of the foods listed above, you can also offer any of the following in your mix for variety: Pro Plan Kitten food; Purina ONE Kitten; Nutrition Maxx Kitten; Iams Kitten ; most ferret foods on the market, such as Mazuri, Marshall's, KayTee Forti-Diet, and 8-in-1 Ultra Blend, just to name a few.

You should always feed a kibble (solid) food to your ferret, never a moist canned diet, unless your ferret is ill and you need to hand-feed. If interested in a more natural diet for ferrets, please contact the shelter for information. Here is a recipe for Bob C's Chicken Diet, similiar to the BARF diet for dogs and cats, but designed specifically for ferrets.

Also, ferrets have short digestive systems - complete digestion takes place in about three hours. For this reason, you should always have food available to your ferret. Do not feed only once or twice a day, unless recommended by your veterinarian for a medical reason.

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