On the surface, asking the question "What do ferrets eat?" may seem fairly simple. But it is important to emphasise the difference between what a ferret is physically capable of eating and the right range of foods to give them a balanced diet.
Anything a ferret eats should be easy to digest as they have a short intestinal tract, around half the size compared to cat.
This means their digestion process is much shorter than other pet animals , so with this in mind you need to make sure that what they eat is easy for them to digest as well as providing the nutrients they need.
Ferrets need lots of protein and fat, as basically they are meat eaters. You can buy frozen small mice, which some ferrets enjoy, but a pet ferret's diet should mainly be pieces of raw or cooked meat such as beef, chicken, lamb, liver or heart or some other organs.
Plain boiled chicken can be given as ferret food, but make sure there are no bones in it.
Ferrets can eat raw bones and can be given large bones to chew on. However, cooked bones should be avoided because they can splinter.
A ferret can also eat eggs either raw, scrambled or boiled as they are high in protein.
What food should be avoided for ferrets
Do not give ferrets carbohydrates such as bread or cereal as they cannot digest it. Sugary foods should also be avoided and certainly no chocolate as this can be toxic for ferrets.
Ferrets need to eat a diet low in fibre so do not give them fruit or vegetables. Also, ferrets are lactose intolerant so do not give dairy products eg cheese, ice cream etc.
Finally, do not give your ferrets fish as they cannot digest it easily and it will give them digestive problems.
Can ferrets eat cat food?
You should not give your ferret tinned cat food as it does not have enough protein or fat, but you could give it kitten food as long as the main ingredient is meat. The main ingredient is always listed first on commercial products.
You can also buy special dried ferret food. It is good to give your ferret some dried food as it helps to clean their teeth. Make sure the pellets are round as other shapes may damage the ferret’s mouth.
Some owners advocate giving dried pellets mixed with water and other ingredients as a “duck soup” when ferrets have digestive problems. There are lots of recipes on the internet but it may be advisable to consult your vet for advice.
What do ferrets drink?
As ferrets do not have the enzyme to digest lactose they should not be given milk unless it is definitely lactose free.
Water is their main drink and they may find it easier to drink from a heavy bowl rather than a bottle. The bowl needs to be heavy to avoid spillage.
How often should a ferret be fed?
Because of the way their digestion works and their high metabolic rate ferrets need to eat little and often, maybe as many as 8 times a day. Always clear away perishable food within an hour or two if it remains uneaten.
Try to vary a ferret’s diet as they can be fussy eaters and should not be encouraged to eat only one type of food
In conclusion, your ferret needs lots of protein and fat in a variety of forms little and often.
Meat and eggs should be the basis of their diet with some dried food and water to drink. Always consult your vet if you have any concerns.
Ferrets make fantastic pets and we have a full range of both ferret hutches and ferret cages to keep your pet safe and warm.
View our full range of ferret hutches below, which include luxurious multi-level hutches so your ferret has plenty of space to exercise.