With its pointed snout and agile whiskers, a ferret may look like a rodent, but nothing could be further from the truth. Ferrets are mustelids and come from the mink and polecat family. So your little rascal is a clear-cut carnivore! What kind of food is best for a ferret to eat and what is better to avoid?
Food tailored to your ferret
In addition to needing constant access to fresh water, ferrets require specialised ferret food with lots of animal protein. Fiber and vegetable proteins (legumes, bread, nuts) aren’t suitable for them as their digestive systems are short.
On top of this, ferrets need taurine in their diet, an amino acid that is essential for healthy heart function, brain metabolism and retinas. At the same time, fats are an important part of their daily diet. As a basic rule, quality ferret food contains about 20% fat and 30 to 40% protein.
Kibble specially developed for ferrets takes all this into account. With this food, a ferret gets everything it needs in terms of nutrients.
What ferrets shouldn't eat
Don’t feed them dog food because it contains too little taurine. Also avoid chocolate, because it’s downright toxic, as it is for many animals. On top of this, ferrets, like cats, are lactose intolerant. So make sure you hide the milk away! Occasionally you can give your ferret a little bit of milk substitute because it has a very low lactose content.
Your ferret may like a bite of banana or apricot now and then, but that’s not part of a ferret's natural diet. Citrus fruits are out of the question because they’re too sour. Grapes and raisins, on the other hand, are too sweet.
Also, don't feed your ferret cat food. Cats have completely different gastrointestinal tracts, and therefore completely different dietary needs than the ferret. As a result, most cat food doesn’t provide all the nutrition that your ferret needs every day.
What about table scraps?
Is it safe for a ferret to eat some human food? In principle, it doesn't hurt, but since ferrets need a complex mix of vitamins and minerals, a diet of table scraps may be too insubstantial, compromising their health. Can a ferret eat some meat as a treat? Sure, but make sure there’s no salt on it.
Finally, don't change their diet too quickly as this can lead to diarrhea. If their loose stools last too long, consult a vet. Have your ferret dewormed three to four times per year.