Ferrets are carnivores meaning that the majority of their diet needs to be made up of meat and animal products. They have a very high metabolic rate and need to have access to food and fresh water at all times as they have the need to eat regularly throughout the day.
It is often advisable to use clip on or heavy food and water bowls to prevent them from tipping them over.
There are some commercially available ferret specific dry food diets that have recently become available in Australia. We recommend these as your ferret’s primary diet. The two common brands of ferret dry food is Vetafarm Ferret Origins and Living World Extrusion Ferret biscuits. If these diets are unobtainable then you can also feed a premium brand kitten food. Examples of these premium foods include Hill’s Science Diet Kitten or Royal Canin Kitten dry food. Please do not feed lower quality or “supermarket” kitten food as these products often do not provide adequate nutrition for ferrets. If these recommended products are not available then please ensure that the commercial kitten dry food you are feeding has a animal based protein content of 32-40%, a fat content of around 20% and a fibre content of <3%. High digestibility is also desirable as sometimes ferrets can be fussy eaters!
Some owners prefer to feed a more natural diet of ‘whole prey’ items, for example rodents such as rats and mice are a favourite, small rabbits or day old quails and chicks. These can be fed on a daily basis or a couple of times a week if a high quality dry food is also available. These prey food items are available from a range of reptile shops and are supplied frozen. They just have to be thawed out first before feeding.
If electing to feed a commercial dry food mix then it is important that ferrets are also offered small pieces of raw meaty bone like chicken necks/wings one to two times per week. This helps to prevent dental disease, which ferrets are prone to. They can also be fed organs such as kidney, liver or hearts. It is important to make sure that your ferrets are eating the meat products shortly after giving it to them and not ‘storing it’ for later (which puts the meat at risk of ‘going off’ and spoiling.
Most ferrets will also love many fruits and vegetables however they are not designed to digest these well and hence we recommend to use these as a very occasional treat only or not at all. Small pieces of meat are a better alternative treat.