Ferret Nutrition

Today we hear a lot of arguments over which food is best to feed your ferret, while some are better than others it is important to note that there is no one perfect food. Another important thing to remember is that simply because a products says, "ferret" on it does not make it better than all kitten/cat foods. Also brand name does not mean a thing, it is the nutritional make up, quality & actual ingredients that make the difference.

First lets talk about the nutritional make up. Ferrets require a protein level of 32% to 38%, mid range is best. A protein content of over 38% could prove to be harmful for the kidneys of an older ferret. The protein should come from animal sources, not plant or vegetable sources. Ferrets also require a high fat content of 20% to 22%; this also should come from animal sources. Ash content should be no more than 7% to avoid the formation of kidney stones. You should also keep the fiber content at 3% or lower. As your ferret gets older you may want to bring these level to the low end of the scale, as he will not require the same levels as a younger ferret.

Next lets move on to quality & actual ingredients, these two things go hand in hand. Start by looking at the first 3 ingredients. Ingredients are listed in order of quantity. The first ingredient being the most and the last the least, the first ingredient should always be a form of meat other than fish. Ideally all 3 would be meat, although there are very few that are. Fish in general would be better to avoid, first because foods that include fish high on the list of ingredients are most likely designed with minks in mind not ferrets, another reason you may want to avoid fish is that ferrets that eat foods with a high fish base tend to smell like fish. Corn should not be one of the first 3 ingredients. Actually it is best to avoid corn in all forms altogether. Corn is hard for the ferret to digest. Another thing to look at is what form is the meat. Plain meat is better than a meat by-product, by-products have been rejected for human consumption, and they include things like feathers, bones, & hooves (although these things do all contribute to the protein content). Ferret should only be fed dry ferret or cat food, an occasional treat of a spoonful of canned ferret or cat food is ok but not on a regular or frequent basis. Feeding your ferret moist or wet cat food will not provide him with the proper nutrients and will lead to tooth decay.

Unfortunately cost does have to come in as a factor, spending top dollar on the most expensive ferret food and not being able to afford medical care when the ferret needs it is pointless. Feeding your ferret the most expensive food is not going to prevent him from becoming ill. However feeding your ferret a quality diet will lower his chances of having certain problems in the long run. Better to buy a mid-priced food and put the difference towards vaccines and future medical needs.

Also I would like to add that you should try mixing 1 or 2 foods in with their main food (all should be of high quality and within the proper levels) this way if you run out and can't find your usual brand they are already used to the other food. This also would enable you to buy a higher priced food if you choose by mixing it with a lower priced one of high quality. However by lower price I am not referring to the generic brand at the grocery store. Most of the grocery store brands are good for cats but not so good for ferret since they are at the low end of the catís nutritional needs. Always check your ingredient labels & percentages.

I do not endorse any one food, but if I had to pick the top three they would be Innova cat food, Eukenuba cat food & then Totally Ferret, although these are all pricey and hard to find. Other goods foods are Iams kitten, Mazuri ferret, Diamond Pro cat, L'Avian ferret, Nature Recipe, Maxi Cat kitten & 8in1 ferret food, all of these also meet their requirements. By feeding your ferret a high quality diet that meets his proper requirement you will find yourself needing to change his litter box less frequently as there will be less volume.

Fresh clean water should always be available for the ferret. Ferrets can very quickly suffer from dehydration.

Supplements and Treats

Unless you are feeding an improper diet vitamin supplements are not necessary for the healthy ferret. If your ferret is ill your vet may recommend you supplement his diet with vitamins but stick with the quantity the vet recommends as large quantities of vitamins over a long period of time can build up in the body and cause problems themselves.

During the colder months when you run your heat the air in your house may become dry. This dry air can cause a ferrets skin and coat to become dry itself. A few drops of Ferretone or Linatone a couple times a week can help maintain a healthy coat. Ferrets love the stuff but remember too much of a good thing is still too much! I mix equal parts of olive oil with the Ferretone to cut down on high vitamin A content.

Nutrical is a good supplement for young or ill ferrets. Ferrets also love it as a treat anytime! Nutrical is good for stimulating the appetite of ferrets, however it has a high sugar content so use it sparingly. You may want to give Nutrical and Duck Soup (this is a mix of many things used well a ferret is very ill) to your ferret as an occasional treat, that way he will be used to them in case he does get sick!

Ferrets can get hairballs like cats but unlike cats they do not throw them up. Many ferrets have needed surgery for blockage caused by hairballs. To help with this problem use a cat laxative like Laxatone or Petramalt twice a week during the time your ferret is changing his coat. They will love you for it! Again these things are great for ferret but use sparingly because of the sugar content and with the hairball remedies you may end up with a ferret with diarrhea if you give him too much.

As for treats, ferrets love anything "you" have but there are things they should not have. Nothing with a bone should ever be given. You should avoid treats high in sugar as ferrets have trouble digesting large quantities of sugar and this can lead to problems with the pancreas. Some good "people" treats to share would be bagels & cheerios. Chocolate should never be given to a ferret. Ferrets love fruits and veggies, but their systems don't. Ferrets do not digest fiber well at all; a banana in comes out a banana. They enjoy treats like banana, raisins, peeled grapes & blueberries. Oh, and they love mashed potatoes. Things to avoid are hard veggies like raw carrots these can actually cause blockage. The key to remember is that even a safe treat is not good if you give him too much, a good amount would be about 1/2 teaspoon of any treat per ferret. And 3 raisins are plenty for one ferret. Too much fiber can cause diarrhea and dehydration.

Most important of all remember to love your ferret everyday!

Tricia Conley

Frisky Ferrets of Louisiana


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This page created 31 January 1998