(c) Ferret Info UK

Feeding ferrets

Ferrets are obligate carnivores which means that they depend solely on the nutrients found in animal flesh for their survival, and lack the physiology required for the efficient digestion of vegetable matter (although some ferrets enjoy a bit of cucumber or other veg as a treat). Plant matter in cat food and similar can infact lead to bladder stones in ferret which is why it is best to buy dry food (kibble) specifically manufactured for ferrets or follow a raw meat diet. In fact many owners provide a diet of both kibble and meat.

Ferret kibble

A proprietary high protein high fat dry ferret food is normally recommended. Vitalin, James Wellbeloved and Science Select are commonly used in the UK. Raw or cooked chicken, mince, rabbit, day old chicks, mice, an occasional egg yolk can all enhance the diet. NOTE ferrets with Kidney disease require a lower protein low phosphorous diet, and elderly ferrets may also benefit from a reduction in protein to help their kidneys.

When feeding ferrets it is always worthwhile introducing them to a mix of food, rather than stick to one type, just in case you are unable to get hold of it one week, or the supplier changes the ingredients or discontinues production.

l_23758-Chudleys-Ferret---15kg

Chudleys Ferret
Also Goldline Complete & AR Ferret Complete

Ingredients:
Chicken meal (40%), Chicken fat, Prairie meal, Rice, Maize, Wheat, Salmon, Chicken liver, Yeast, Lecithin, Mannan oligosaccharides, Blackcurrant, Kale, Spinach, Beetroot, Yucca, Rosemary, Rosehip & Pomegranate
Analysis:
Protein 39% Oil 18% Fibre 2% Ash 6.0

Available from Feedem, Amazon and some pet stores.

Vitalin Ferret

Ingredients:
Chicken Meat Meal (48.0%), Rice (26.0%), Chicken Oil, Sugar Beet, Fish Meal, Fish Oil (1.0%), Chicken Liver Digest, Brewers Yeast, Fructo-oligosaccharides (Prebiotic FOS) (0.1%), Mannan-oligosaccharides (Prebiotic MOS) (0.1%), Extract of Yucca Schidigera (0.015%).
Analysis:
Crude Protein 38.0%, Crude Oils & Fats 19.0%, Crude Fibres 2.0%, Crude Ash 10.0%.

Available in Countrywide Farmer Stores, Mole Valley Farmers, and Feedem,  Amazon, Vitalin Direct and other online stores.

Vitalin

Pets at Home Ferret Nuggets

Ingredients:
Chicken Meal (Min 37%), Wheat, Herring Meal, Poultry Fat, Linseed, Beet Pulp, Maize, Dried Egg, Fructo-Oligosaccharides
Analysis:
Protein 36%, Oils and Fats 19%, Fibre 4%, Ash 9.5%

Available in Pets at Home Stores

Petsathome

Visán Optima Ferret
Fresh chicken (> 40%), dehydrated poultry meat (30%), rice, dried whole egg, chicken oil, rice proteins, yeast, chicken liver hydrolyzate (5%), linseed, beet pulp, salt, inulin (source of fructo-oligosaccharides (0.1%), Mannanooligosaccharide 260 mg / kg, citrus extracts having a high bioflavonoid content.

Analysis:
Protein 40%, Oils and Fats 22%,
Fibre 1.5%, Ash 7.5%
Available from Zooplus

visan
Alpha Ferret Feast

Alpha Ferret Feast

Ingredients:
Poultry Meat Meal (min 26%), Whole Wheat, Fish Meal (min 15%), Whole Maize, Poultry Fat, Prairie Meal, Brewers Yeast, Beet Pulp, Whole Linseed, Minerals & Vitamins, Ext. of Yucca Schidigera with antioxidants BHA & BHT. NO artificial colourants or flavours.
Analysis:
Protein 36%, Oils and Fats 19%, Fibre 2%, Ash 8%

Available from Feedem, Amazon and some pet stores

Beaphar Care+ Ferret Food

Low fat content.

Analysis:
Protein 42%, Oils and Fats 14.9%,
Fibre 2.3%, Ash 9%
Available from Pet Planet, Amazon and some pet stores.

Burgess Supaferret Ferret Buffet

Ingredients:
Meat and animal derivatives, Cereals, Fish and fish derivatives, Oils and fats, Seeds, Derivatives of vegetable origin, Egg and egg derivatives, Minerals Fructo- oligosaccharides (Profeed® min 0.4%), Yucca (min 0.02%).
Analysis:
Protein 37%, Oils and Fats 18%,
Fibre 4%, Ash 9.5%

Available from Feedem, Amazon. Pet Supermarket

Burgess

Beaphar Xtra Vital Ferret Food

Analysis:
Protein 34%, Oils and Fats 18%, Fibre 3%, Ash 8%

Available online & in some pet stores.

TPP Complete Ferret Food

Ingredients:
Poultry meal, chicken fat, prairie meal, maize, rice, wheat, salmon, salt, yeast, contains EEC permitted natural anti-oxidants, vitamin C, mixed tocopherols, rosemary extract..
Analysis:
Protein 39%, oil 18%, fibre 2%, ash 6%

Available on Ebay & More For Pets Ltd

TPP

Mr Johnsons Advance Ferret Food

Ingredients:
Poultry meat meal, rice, poultry oil,maize, gluten meal, sugar beet, fish meal, brewers yeast, egg powder, fructo-oligosccharide, mannan-oligosaccharide, extract of yucca, Verm - X herb blend..
Analysis:
Protein 39%, Oils and Fats 19%, Fibre 2%, Ash 9.5%

Available from Wilkinson Stores & Online

Advanced

Versele Laga Ferret Pro

Ingredients:
Meat and animal by-products (> 15 % chicken), grain, vegetable by-products, oils and fats, fish and fish by-products (min. 4% salmon), yeast, minerals, fructo-oligosaccharides, yucca-extract.
Analysis:
Protein 32%, Oils and Fats 17%, Fibre 2%, Ash 7%

158971_versele_ferret_pro_2

Versele Laga Ferret Complete

Ingredients:
Chicken >30%, rice, wheat, maize, maize gluten, chicken fats, beet fibres, dried fish, hydrolyzed chicken proteins, dried eggs, brewer yeast, fish oil,
Analysis:
Protein 36%, Oils and Fats 19%, Fibre 3%, Ash 6.5%

Versele-Laga

Ferret Treats

The best treats for ferrets is raw or high meat base as their are no hidden sugars or plant extracts in these that can lead to health problems. However you will read of various treats being given to ferrets, below are a few tips.

Supplements - if you feed your ferret good quality ferret kibbles and a good mix of raw meats they should not generally need supplements.

That said many ferret owners do use natural oil mixes as a treat or as a means to keep their ferrets occupied to aide tclaw cutting, or even as an aide to ferret introductions. There are a few propietory ferret oil mixes available in the UK made by rescues such as Fluffy Retreat Ferret Oil, S.C.F.R Ferret Oil and Cathy's FerretOil. Commercial versions are available such as Ferretone and Ferret tonic but contain preservatives, so look into ingredients.

Pastes such as Bephar Malt Paste, Ferretvite, VitaFerret, can provide extra vitamins and minerals for a poorly ferret and can also be used for their laxative effect to help pass digested fur (ferrets dont regurgitate furballs like cats do, and fur can build up and block a ferrets gut) or clear a blockage, so certainly have their use especially round moulting time. There is also Ferret Lax available as a furball remedy. Read ingredients to check for sugars/syrups.

Natural Treats such as dried meat (jerk) strips can be used, just make sure there are no added sugars or salt.

Some cat treats can also be used such as Natures Menu (made from 95% real meat), Pet Munchies (no added preservatives, colours or flavours), Good Girl Kool Katz Deli-licious Chicken Bites Cat Treats (89% chicken - dry chicken strips available in most supermarkets).

Eggs can be given, but like any treat give sparingly. Egg whites are best avoided as the avidin in the raw egg white binds with biotin and can cause a biotin deficiency (vitamin H) which can lead to problems with the skin, hair and nails and cause nervous system disorders. It really depends on how much of their diet is made up of egg (egg is also present in some ferret food). So this is why most people give egg as a treat rather than a daily food, or remove the egg whites when giving egg raw, or cook the eggs (as advin is destroyed when eggs are cooked).

Dairy products -  ferrets are lactose intolerant, so dairy products (milk, cheese, cream, icecream) shouldn’t be given as these can cause diarrhea and also bladder stones, although lactose-free (e.g. cat/kitten milk) or soya milk can be given as a treat.

Xylitol - is increasingly used as a sweetener in sugar-free chewing gum and other confectionary; it is used in dental hygiene products and is also found as an excipient in many medicines. Of particular concern are the sugar substitute products that contain Xylitol which are used in home baking as well as in manufactured goods. Cakes, biscuits and other goodies made with it are toxic to dogs, and is suspected that this could also affect ferrets and cats.

Signs of toxicity can be seen as quickly as 30 minutes after xylitol ingestion in dogs. The xylitol causes a rapid release of the hormone insulin, causing a sudden decrease in blood glucose. This in turn may cause the following symptoms3:

Vomiting, Weakness, Ataxia (uncoordinated movements), Depression, Hypokalemia (decreased potassium), Seizures, Coma
Liver dysfunction and/or failure.

DON’T  give dried fruit such as raisins, or chocolate as these are poisonous to ferrets, and be careful with sugary foods...

  Chocolate contains theobromine and caffeine which can cause chocolate toxicosis in ferrets (cats and dogs as well),
  symptoms include vomiting, diarrhorea, hyperactivity, polyuria, polydipsia, lethargy, tachycardia, cardiac arrhythmias, seizures
  and death. For the same reasons, coffee and any other caffeine containing foods/drinks could prove lethal to a ferret.

  Raisins/Sultanas if given over a period of time on a regular basis can lead to the ferret developing kidney disease or kidney
  failure. Ferrets like raisins because, like other dried fruit, they are sweet and contain sugar.

   Ferrets dont need sugar, there are hidden ailments that may not present in your ferret until middle age (3-4 years) such as
  Insulinoma, that are made worse by sugar, so sugary snacks and treats are best avoided (check the ingredients on any
  manufactured ferret treats, you will be surprised how much sugar they may contain!)

Fresh Water is essential, as ferrets can dehydrate quickly. A large heavy cat bowl works well for one or two ferrets, water bottles can be used but it is always best to have one or more bowls in the cage/enclosure even with water bottles to minimise the effort needed to get fluids (water bottles can be hard work). Make sure you change their water daily , and check that they have not turned over their bowls. During hot weather make sure that they have extra water as they will also splash water from their bowls onto their bellies to cool down. Care should be taken with trays of water as ferrets can drown when playing.

During warm weather most ferrets will enjoy and appreciate a misting of water to help cool them down.

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Feeding sick ferrets

Occassionally a ferret may become sick and refuse to eat his/her normal food, when this happens seek advice of your vet to find out why this has occurred, as such problems can arise due to blockages in the stomach, kidney problems etc not just stomach upsets. So its really important to find out quickly why this has happened as this will help not only with the course of treatment needed for the problem, but also in terms of what foods to try to feed them (for example ferrets with Kidney disease need to go on a low protein, low phosphorous diet). In times of such illness prevention of dehydration is more important initially than feeding your ferret.

For information on the different supplement foods that are available through vets and online to help feed poorly ferrets, homemade duk soup, giving medication and syringe feeding advice take a look at our Feeding sick ferrets page.