The Ferret, a strict carnivore
The ferret is a strict carnivore, that is to say that he should only eat meat, his digestive system is not made to eat anything else. Ferrets do not digest fibers (fruits, vegetables) or cereals (wheat, corn, rice, barley, etc.) which are nevertheless very present in the composition of kibbles.
The feeding of ferrets always triggers heavy debates in France. For a very long time, ferrets were the companions of hunters who gave them very special meals: bread and milk !!!
In 1989, in his thesis, Breeding and use for ferret hunting, Dr. Josset recommended feeding the ferret with bread soaked in milk (to remove the salt) and accompanied by fresh eggs at a rate of 1 per day. Raw meat was also part of the menu but only 3 times a week of raw meat no more, with the risk of making ferrets aggressive. Although these recommendations date back more than 25 years, this menu is still in place among some hunters (less and less fortunately) who continue to spread the rumor that meat would make ferrets aggressive and bite …
Nutritional needs of Ferrets
The ferret’s body is closer to that of the polecat or mink than the cat. Ferrets have very high protein needs and are only made up of animal proteins (vegetable proteins are to be banned because they are not assimilated by the ferret), it does not need sugars (slow or fast carbohydrates also called carbohydrate which is the preferred energy source for humans) which can ultimately cause insulinoma (pancreatic cancer). The ferret’s digestive system is special, it digests very quickly, in 1 to 3 hours against thirty hours for humans, its gastrointestinal system is very short. From this quick digestion, the ferret does not really have time to assimilate all the nutrients of its meal, this is why it needs a meal rich in lipids (fats) and animal proteins, in order to provide it with all the energy he needs.
An inadequate diet can cause a lot of damage (diarrhea, green or even grainy stools, fatigue, pancreatic cancer, etc.) which can lead to premature death. This is why, before even adopting a ferret, it is better to learn about the specifics of this species.
Foods prohibited for ferrets
Our food is dangerous for ferrets
The Ferret is a very greedy animal, he does not know what is good for him or not, he will always be interested in all kinds of treats, from your cookies or aperitif cakes to the treats sold in pet stores.
Good to know: an appetizer cake is equivalent to a whole pizza for a ferret, so yes he will claim it, go up to the ceiling if he can, but even a small amount will suddenly give him diarrhea (which does not not prevent coming to claim more and more…).
Dairy products are not digested by ferrets
Ferrets, like cats, poorly digest the lactose present in all dairy products, so they will not eat or lick or bowl of milk, yogurt jar, pieces of cheese, ice cream, etc.
To cover the calcium needs of your ferret, give him meat with bones (chicken feathers, duck legs) or food supplements such as dog bone powder (mixed with mixed meat).
Chocolate is toxic to ferrets
Ferrets love all pastries in general but they should not eat any because they all contain sugar, which swallowed daily will cause significant damage to the kidneys, liver or even the pancreas. Chocolate is a very toxic food for ferrets (as for cats and dogs), the ingestion of chocolate can lead to rapid death, so be sure to hide your chocolate bars!
Vegetables and fruit
The Ferret loves fruits and vegetables (clementine, melon, potato, plum, apple, kiwi …), so the fruit basket must be out of reach, just like the potato sack … Any consumption of fruit or vegetable will result in intestinal upset.
Ferret only drinks water
Whatever its diet, ferrets must always have fresh and clean water at their fingertips, which should therefore be renewed regularly. Ferrets are generally very interested in their water bowl and take great pleasure in spilling it, again and again! It is therefore necessary to favor a bottle like those given to rabbits.
Water will be the ferret’s only drink, it does not support milk and has no need to taste alcohols, teas, coffees or carbonated drinks which will only once again disrupt its already fragile intestinal flora.
In hot weather, a large container with a bottom of water can encourage them to drink more (plastic storage box, litter box, children’s pool …), you will find here tips to prevent your ferret from not suffer too much from the heat.
In pet stores and supermarkets, the shelves are full of treats for animals, you will find treats for ferrets in the “rodent” department… but be careful though these treats are clearly labeled “special ferret” or with the photo of a ferret, they are not really suitable for ferrets.
Simple treats for our ferrets:
- Egg yolk and only yolk, give an egg yolk once a week per ferret to supplement its protein requirements, especially for ferrets fed on kibble. The egg white is too fatty for ferrets.
- Brewer’s yeast is found in all department stores in tablets, glitter or powder in the “seasoning” and / or organic departments. Brewer’s yeast is generally a treat for ferrets (but not for all …), it also helps to give them a nice coat, so very useful during moulting.
- A knob of butter, exceptionally to make your ferret more cooperative when cutting the claws 🙂
- Raw meat, preferably poultry (chicken, turkey, duck).
With a good diet, adapted to his needs, a ferret can live 10 years and save you many visits to the veterinarian (not to mention worry …).