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What is the Best Diet for a Pet Ferret?

By Josie F. Turner, Journalist specialized in Animal Welfare. Updated: July 30, 2018
What is the Best Diet for a Pet Ferret?

Ferrets have been gradually welcomed into our homes as pets. They are no longer considered unusual, and there is a wide range of products available in stores for caring for them. Food, treats and other products have been designed to meet their every need.

If you have recently adopted a ferret and you're not sure how to care for it yet, we recommend reading our articles on ferrets as pets with guidelines and general tips, the different types of ferrets and how to bathe them.

This AnimalWised article will tell you all about a ferret's diet. With the correct diet and basic care, you will see your ferret grow strong and healthy.

Ferrets are carnivores

Ferrets are carnivorous animals. Their digestive tract is short, so they digest things quickly. They need to eat animal protein because this is easier to absorb than vegetal protein.

Feeding them inappropriate food will cause them digestive problems. Fiber, for example, should not be consumed in excess because it can create constipation problems.

Ferrets eat several times throughout the day. They should always have access to fresh food and plenty of fresh water. They regulate their own food and water intake. However, if you see that they easily put on weight you should pay attention to the quantities and limit the amount of food they have. Still, you should never limit the amount of water.

What is the Best Diet for a Pet Ferret? - Ferrets are carnivores

Food for ferrets

Nowadays, food specifically formulated for ferrets can be found in shops. It comes in dry or wet form. Dry food is more advisable, as it prevents problems associated with plaque build up. It provides all the nutrients your ferret needs. Wet food has a higher water content, which is excellent if your ferret doesn't hydrate regularly, but at the same time it may be less nutritious.

High quality cat food and wet food can also be given to ferrets, but you should never give them dog food. This is because dog food does not contain taurine, which is essential for ferrets.

The composition of the food should be appropriate:

  • A minimum of 35-40% of animal protein
  • A maximum of 15-20% of fat
  • A maximum of 4% of fiber

When you choose the food, take note of the composition and pay particular attention to the origin of the protein. You should look for food with chicken, turkey or beef while avoiding meat by-products.

What is the Best Diet for a Pet Ferret? - Food for ferrets

What do ferrets eat in the wild?

A wild ferret's natural diet is based on rabbits, rodents, birds and other small animals. They not only eat the meat and fat, but also eat the internal guts and organs. This makes it difficult to provide them with a natural diet at home, and given that you usually buy parts of an animal and not the whole of it, your ferret's diet would not be complete.

You can occasionally give your ferret cooked chicken, turkey, beef or organs such as liver or kidneys. Never give your ferret raw food, especially if it's pork. This is because pork can transmit pathogens and make your ferret ill. Many people report a healthy ferret when they provide a raw food diet. However, it is not necessary to give them a raw food diet and some of the ways in which meat is processed may encourage these pathogens in an otherwise healthy meal.

What is the Best Diet for a Pet Ferret? - What do ferrets eat in the wild?

Treats and supplements for ferrets

You can reward your ferret with a number of treats:

  • Commercial treats for ferrets or cats.
  • Malt for cats, as well as being an excellent treat, helps prevent the formation of hairballs.

You shouldn't overuse treats. Fruits and vegetables are high in fiber and complex carbohydrates, which cannot be easily digested by ferrets. Naturally occurring sugars found in fruit should also not be given in excess. Many will claim you shouldn't give your ferret any fruit or vegetables at all. This is wise if you want to be on the safe side as they are obligate carnivores which don't need them to survive. However, a very small piece of fruit shouldn't do them harm.

As for dietary supplements, there are some products made specifically for ferrets which meet their vitamin needs. Vitamins A, E and C are essential for your ferret to maintain a good state of health. If your ferret's diet is correct they shouldn't need vitamin supplements.

What is the Best Diet for a Pet Ferret? - Treats and supplements for ferrets

Forbidden foods for ferrets

Since ferrets are carnivores, there are many foods we usually eat that can damage their digestive system and cause diarrhea and other digestive imbalances.

You should avoid the following foods at all times:

  • Chocolate and sweets of any kind.
  • Leftovers of human food: Some ingredients such as onions are bad for ferrets.
  • Raw meat or fish, especially pork.
  • Milk and dairy products.
What is the Best Diet for a Pet Ferret? - Forbidden foods for ferrets

If you want to read similar articles to What is the Best Diet for a Pet Ferret?, we recommend you visit our Healthy diets category.

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5 comments
Daniel
Ferrets are obigate carnivores they should only eat meat,a dry kibble such as wellness core kitten is fine rule of thumb if it has picture of a ferret ie marshals ktey,ect probably better look at label never give vegetables fruit or nuts! You may contact Auburn university in Alabama best veterinary school in the country and certify my comments
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Melissa
You cannot give your ferret veggies or fruit! They are carnivores and their bodies can't disgust it. Giving them fruit or veggies could shorten their life. And you should feed them raw meat. That is their natural diet in the wild. Most ferrets are imprinted on kibble at a young age thou so it's hard to switch them to raw. That's why high quality cat kibble is best. With the first ten ingredients being meat! If your fuzzie won't eat raw you can try to make a raw soup for them! And feed them a raw egg with a little bit of salmon oil as a treat!
Administrador AnimalWised
Hi Melissa,

We thought it was clear that fruit and vegetables should only ever be given as a small treat. It is correct that they are not good with complex carbohydrates, a very small snack is usually fine. We see that this is not clear, so we have edited the copy for clarification. Also, we have added what you mentioned about the raw egg as this is a great idea for a snack and most ferrets will go crazy for them.
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Christine
Why are you saying ferrets shouldn't eat raw meat or fish? Of course they should never eat raw pork but vets and ferret experts recommend feeding them raw chicken, beef, fish, game, offal etc. if you want to feed them a raw diet.
Administrador AnimalWised
Hi Christine,

You should not feed your ferrets raw food at home. While wild ferrets will eat raw food, they have been conditioned to and will be better at judging what they should and shouldn't eat. Raw food for pet ferrets is not advised as it can promote disease much more than dry or wet food will.
Melissa
I totally agree with you Christine! Raw is best!
naturalbirdslove
Amazing article. I got all the information about my pet diet. I bought 6 month old ferret and i was confused about their food. I I searched lot's of regarding his diet, food on online. I follw your advice and also feed him these food that you suggest.
Aleex
Now I can simply feed my ferret .

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