What Should I Feed My Ferret?
By Matthew Humphries
The food debate
Cat foods have been used by Ferret owners for many years, but there’s a fair bit of debate about which food is best for ferrets, whether high-quality cat/kitten foods are good enough, and so on. The usual conclusion is that while foods designed for cats probably aren’t the best, many of the foods with ferret pictures on the bags weren’t designed for ferrets either — they were designed for mink or cats and maybe modified slightly, and priced twice as high. If you choose a food packaged for ferrets, check its label just as you would a cat food. Recommended quality Ferret specific diets include: Eight in One, Marshall, Sheppard & Greene, as well as Totally Ferret.
Many feel that Ferret specific foods are the best food, however these people also agree that cat/kitten foods are entirely sufficient, and that there’s not that much difference between them.
Kitten or cat food
Many people feed their ferret’s high-quality cat food, such as Iams, Science Diet, or ProPlan. High-quality food may cost a bit more than grocery store brands, but your pet will eat far less and be much healthier. Keep in mind also that an 8-pound bag of dry food can last two ferret’s a couple of months, so the cost of feeding them even high-quality food is not very great.
Because of their high protein requirements, you should feed ferrets three to four years old kitten or “growth” foods. Older ferrets may develop kidney problems if given too much protein, so they should be switched to adult cat formulas.
Soft cat food is not good for ferrets, because it generally contains much less protein than the dry kind and because it isn’t hard enough to rub plaque off their teeth which can lead to tooth decay. However, young kits and those recovering from illness or surgery may need their food moistened at your veterinarian or breeders request. Keep in mind that moistened food spoils much more quickly than the same food left dry, so dump out leftovers every day.
Dog food is NOT acceptable, as it lacks some nutrients ferrets (and cats) need. Among other things, ferrets and cats both need taurine, which is found naturally in poultry; many cat and ferret foods supplement it as well.
Variety and change
In general, feeding your pet a variety of foods, rather than just one brand, may be a good idea. Ferrets are known to be finicky eaters, and if the brand you’ve been using changes or is suddenly unavailable, you could run into problems. To switch from one brand to another, it’s best if you mix them gradually, which should aid in determining what other product(s) your pets will eat, as well as allow the time necessary to successfully complete the process. As your ferret reaches the “half & half” mark, you can slowly decrease and/or eliminate mixing of the two products.
Matthew Humphries – http://www.ferret.com