Ferrets are cute, agile animals that are increasingly being adopted as pets. Many owners don’t bother to ask in advance what such exotic pets eat in the wild, and offer them products that are not quite suitable.
Let’s figure out what ferrets eat at home and in the wild.
What Ferrets Feed On In Nature
Ferrets are predatory animals whose diet consists of animal products. In their natural environment, they eat what they can catch. Ferrets that live in the wild mainly feed on small rodents. Their diet is rich in field mice, shrews, moles, etc.
Ferrets also eat amphibians: lizards, frogs, and newts. They love to feast on hedgehogs, bird eggs, and chicks. In villages, ferrets steal chickens and geese. If possible, they will gladly eat hare or muskrat meat.
On a note. On rare occasions, wild ferrets eat carrion. This happens in situations where they cannot hunt and starve for a long time.
Vegetables and fruits account for a scanty part of the diet of ferrets since their digestive tract is not designed for processing plant feed.
The Correct Diet For Ferrets
Contrary to popular belief, feeding a ferret is very different from that of cats and dogs. The animal’s menu should contain:
- 3% vegetable fiber;
- 20% carbohydrates;
- 22% fat;
- 32-35% animal protein.
Based on the specific taste preferences of the ferret, it can be fed with natural food, dry or live food.
The natural diet of animals should consist of 2/3 of fresh meat and offal and only 1/3 of cereals (rice, buckwheat, oatmeal or wheat). Ferrets eat veal, poultry, lean beef, and lamb. Poultry meat can be given to them with cartilage and bones (except for tubular ones).
It is also recommended to include cottage cheese, shrimp, squid, redfish, and boiled eggs in the diet of animals. Ferrets are extremely reluctant to eat vegetables. Therefore, it is better to give them boiled and chopped.
According to experts, feeding ferrets at home should be the same as their natural diet. The animals will eat insects, mealworms, mice, marble cockroaches, and chickens with an appetite. But not all owners are morally disposed to feed their pets with all kinds of animals.
Due to the difficulty in formulating a natural diet, many owners prefer to give their ferrets good dry food. It contains easily digestible animal proteins, vitamins, and minerals.
On a note. If necessary, instead of specialized ferret food, you can use a premium dry food for pregnant cats or kittens. But giving food for dogs to ferrets is categorically contraindicated.
Vitamins and Supplements
For full development and growth, special feeding is introduced into the diet of a small pet, which contains iron, magnesium, brewer’s yeast, phosphorus, calcium, vitamins A, E, D, etc. They are selected together with a veterinarian and given to ferrets all year round. The dose is adjusted taking into account the age of the animal and the season.
In addition to dressings, there is a vitamin paste. It speeds up the healing process and helps the animals recover faster after surgery. It is given separately or added to food.
Ferrets eat pears, bananas, and apples with a great appetite. But these fruits can be fed to ferrets occasionally and in strictly limited quantities. Ferrets also like to eat cheese and kefir as a treat.
How To Choose The Best Dry Food For Ferrets
When feeding with dry food, preference should be given to premium products that contain taurine, poultry meat, 32-36% protein, up to 20% carbohydrates and fats, and no more than 5% vegetable fiber. It should be free of cornflour and excess ash.
It is best to feed your ferret with the following brands:
- Eukanuba Kitten;
- Acana Kitten;
- Eagle Pack Kitten;
- Nutro Choice Kitten.
How Many Times A Day Should You Feed A Ferrets
The feeding schedule depends on the age of the ferret:
- a month old animal eats 4-5 times a day;
- young animals are fed 3-4 times a day;
- adult animals eat twice a day.
How Much And How Often Should Ferrets Drink?
Regardless of what the ferret eats, it should have access to filtered water around the clock. The animal can come to the drinker 7-12 times a day. Therefore, you need to take care that there is always fresh, not cold water in it.
Important! To prevent the ferret from splashing water, it is advisable to pour it into a ball sipper or heavy bowl.
Feeding Habits Of Ferrets During Periods Of Growth, Molting And Pregnancy
For the first weeks of life, ferrets only eat breast milk. With it, they get all the nutrients and vitamins. After about 21-28 days, baby teeth erupt in the cubs and they try adult food for the first time. The little ferrets are initially given liquid mince to help them get used to the new diet more quickly.
On a note. Foods high in phosphorus and calcium are added to the diet of growing males.
During spring and autumn, the animals begin their seasonal molt. It lasts for 7-14 days and is accompanied by severe itching. Since ferrets are very clean, they lick vigorously.
To prevent the gastrointestinal tract from clogging with the coat, the animals are given special pastes. And to speed up the change of the fur coat, supplements with B vitamins, brewer’s yeast, and sulfur are introduced into the diet of the animals.
In order for a pregnant female to bring strong healthy offspring, complexes are added to her menu, which contains a lot of calcium, phosphorus, and vitamins A, E, D, and B. If the expectant mother eats natural products, her diet is enriched with fish oil, meat and bone meal, and calcined cottage cheese.
If the female eats dry food, she is given special food for pregnant animals.
Prohibited Foods For Ferrets
The list of foods that ferrets should never eat are:
- fatty meat (pork and lamb);
- some types of fish (hake, herring, pollock, bream, and pike);
- whole milk;
- onion and garlic;
- chocolate and sweets;
The Consequences Of Poor Ferret Nutrition
The health status of animals directly depends on what is included in their diet. That is why it is so important to keep an eye on what ferrets eat. Pets, whose diet is dominated by fats and carbohydrates, are prone to serious illness.
The most common health problems due to poor diet include:
A ferret in a house is not only a joy but also a great responsibility. The owner should make sure that the pet eats complete and balanced food. After all, the health and quality of life of the animal largely depends on what it will eat.