A ferret’s optimum diet is enough to make a child smile: lots of protein and fat, and absolutely NO yucky vegetables. Fruit? Only in very small quantities and only if it’s mashed.
The dietary requirements for domestic ferrets are a matter of some controversy, with no single diet being recommended by all veterinarians as the “best”. Ferrets are strict carnivores which means they depend on lots of protein and fat in their daily requirements. They generally do not need carbohydrates or fiber in any quantities.
Veterinarians recommend dry rations as your ferret’s main food, as opposed to canned food, because of the high metabolic rate of ferrets. When shopping for ferret chow, be a wise consumer. Some brands of cat or kitten food are acceptable for ferrets, but read the labels carefully. Many, especially the cheaper brands, do not contain the nutrients a ferret needs to thrive – and even some commercially-marketed ferret foods do not contain the recommended percentages of protein and fats. High quality dry kitten or ferret food is ideal.
Ferrets Need Meat
Ferrets need food with a protein level of 32 to 38 percent, and a minimum 20 percent fat content. The first ingredient listed on the label should always be meat. Avoid foods that have soy or plant protein, as well as fish. Fish oil makes for one smelly ferret.
“I’ve been in pet stores and found pieces of apples, broccoli, lettuce and carrots in the ferrets’ food bowls,” says Randy Horton, director of Especially Ferrets, the nation’s largest ferret shelter, located in suburban Denver. “Dried fruit can get stuck in a ferret’s throat and cause it to choke. The other problem is, they’re carnivores and cannot digest plant matter.”
At Especially Ferrets, only one brand of food is served to residents: Totally Ferret, made by Performance Foods. The premium quality ferret food is also endorsed by a number of ferret clubs.
“When we first tried Totally Ferret, kids in our sickroom who’d been sick for months got well within two weeks. The results have been outstanding,” says Horton.
While premium quality food is not cheap – Horton estimates it costs him about 50 cents a day to feed two ferrets-it may save money in the long run, given the lower veterinary bills a healthy ferret racks up.