Ferret Food – The Pros and Cons of a Raw Diet
The lack of truly ideal ferret food is one reason there is a growing interest in a more natural diet for ferrets.
Basic feeding rules
Ferrets have unique dietary needs that are now finally being addressed by commercial pet food manufacturers, albeit with mixed success. Ferrets are obligate carnivores, and food passes through a ferret’s digestive system very quickly. You have a sweet tooth, but don’t give in – avoid sweet treats (including raisins and other fruits).
Ferrets diets should list meat, poultry or fishmeal or animal by-products as the first ingredient. Ferrets love fruits and vegetables, but their systems don’t. They don’t digest fiber well at all; a banana in, a banana comes out. For this reason, a ferret diet must be high in animal protein, high in fat, and low in fiber.
Feeding young ferrets
Whether you feed them raw or commercial food, you should always feed at least two types of food in your young ferret’s daily diet to prevent them from imprinting on one food. Ferrets shape their diet when they are young, so varying their diet makes things easier if you need to change your ferret’s diet later.
There are ferret vitamin supplements and hairball remedies that ferrets generally love, and they offer some benefits.
raw food professionals
Good diets tend to be expensive, but it’s worth it. I continued researching raw food diets and found a diet that combines raw, meaty bones and ground beef that keeps our ferrets in tip-top shape. Feeding whole raw meat bones helps prevent tartar buildup on teeth and provides dietary calcium. Even if they don’t feed them raw food, they can be fed a few times a week along with kibble to keep their teeth clean.
You will notice an overall improvement in your ferret’s energy and coat condition. An advantage of a natural diet is that as more of the food is ingested, stool volume decreases and odor greatly decreases.
There are many websites with information about raw feeding. When feeding groups of ferrets, be careful to avoid bone fights.
raw food cons
The biggest downside to feeding fresh, cooked meat would be the ferret’s normal habit of saving food for later. It’s quite unsanitary and dangerous to have a pile of meat in the corner of the cage. Be sure to collect any leftovers after each feeding. Feeding raw bones for the first time can cause your ferret’s stool to turn white/grey. The ferret’s digestive system develops stomach acid to break down bone and should soon return to normal.
(Note that not all veterinarians advocate a raw food diet.) In the wild, a ferret’s natural diet consists of a mix of small mammals, some birds, fish, amphibians, and invertebrates. When feeding groups of ferrets, be careful to avoid bone fights.
Find the right balance
Perhaps it’s best to buy a bag or two of the highest quality ferret food on the market. Make sure you check the ingredients on the packet and note that the first few ingredients are meat. Make a meal out of some kibble, raw bones and meat, and even a vitamin supplement. Gradually, you can increase the amount of raw foods in your diet. Be sure to keep up the vitamin supplements to ensure your ferret doesn’t fall short.
Canned ferret food can be given as a reward or supplement, but only occasionally.
The diet you feed your ferret is critical to their health and overall well-being, and could even help your ferret live a long and happy life.
Thanks to Catherine Smith