What’s in your ferret’s food?
If you’re considering adopting a ferret you may be wondering, “What should I be feeding my ferret?” Doing a bit of research before you go to the pet store is always a good idea. Many pet food brands will use sneaky tactics to make their foods seem healthier than they are. Keep in mind the ingredients lists can be manipulated too by using alternative names for unhealthy ingredients or lumping undesired ingredients together into groups like “by-products.”
Ferrets have a very fast metabolism and typically eat around 8-10 small meals every day. They are similar to cats in that they are carnivores who require a high protein diet. The most common source for this protein is pellets which can be found at your veterinarian’s office or at most pet stores.
Foods with quality proteins such as chicken or lamb should be chosen over foods with lower quality proteins like beef or “by-product.” The protein source should also be high up on the ingredient list since pet food ingredients are listed from highest quantity to lowest quantity. You should also look for foods that do not have grain or corn in them as these are dead calories for your ferret and can be difficult to digest.
If you live in a rural area where pet stores are limited, you may have trouble finding ferret pellets. But, it is good to know that you do have the option of feeding your ferret kitten food. Although, acid supplements would need to be added to your ferret’s diet to fill in where the kitten food lacks. Kitten food has a higher protein content than adult cat food which makes it more suitable for ferrets.
Another option is to make your own ferret food. Cooked or raw chicken along with pellets can be a great diet for your ferret. Chicken baby food is also an acceptable option. Don’t forget that ferrets need dry food in their diet to keep their teeth clean.
The most important thing to keep in mind when choosing what to feed your ferret is what you shouldn’t feed them. Foods high in complex carbohydrates like fruits and vegetables, dairy, or anything with sugar should be avoided. These foods can cause digestive issues and excessive feeding of these foods can lead to permanent health issues.
The comparison has been made many times before, ferrets are similar to cats. So they have similar dietary needs and issues. This includes hairballs. Unlike cats, ferrets do not regurgitate these hairballs. In order to avoid blockage issues, you’ll want to get some hairball prevention treats. Without these preventative measures, your ferret could need expensive surgery.
Ferrets can be picky eaters causing them to be partial to one brand or flavor of food. To avoid issues in case that particular food ever becomes unavailable, provide a variety of food from the beginning. If you do have to switch foods, mix small amounts of the new foods into the old food for a few weeks until you’ve fully transitioned to the new food.
You’ll also want to pay attention to the shape and texture of the pellets you are feeding your ferret. Anything sharp or jagged can cause pain on your ferret’s palette. Look for pellets in small chunks or oval shapes.
Ferrets are typically very food motivated creatures. This is why treats are so great to aid in training or just a reward for being an adorable pet. Some good treat options are: cooked eggs, cat treats, bits of cooked or raw chick, turkey, or lamb. If you cannot find ferret-specific treats, cat treats are the next best option.
You can also head to your local butcher for cast-off fresh meat cuts. These are usually organs and other cuts that people do not usually buy. When feeding your ferret these cuts of meat, you should cook them to avoid any sickness. Make treat time easier by cooking up large batches of treats and freezing them for later use.
The bottom line for feeding your ferret is high-quality ingredients. Make sure that any foods you are offering your ferret are of a quality that is similar to what you would want for dinner.
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