Feeding your ferret isn’t rocket science, but it’s not a subject you should blow off either. Pay attention to these do’s and don’ts for a healthy, happy ferret.
Do feed your ferret protein. Scrambled egg, white fish, and fresh meat are all healthy treats your ferret needs – and loves.
Don’t feed your ferret ice cream or milk. These can upset a ferret’s digestive system.
Do use dried food made especially for ferrets. These have nutrients that ferrets especially need, in the amounts they need.
Don’t use dried food intended for other animals, like cats or dogs. The pieces may be too large for a ferret to swallow and they don’t have the proper balance of nutrients for ferrets. Different animals have different needs.
Do leave a bowl of dried ferret food in your ferret’s cage at all times. Your ferret is perfectly capable of feeding itself when hunger strikes.
Don’t leave a huge amount of food in the bowl. Most ferrets eat a series of small meals throughout the day, rather than one huge feast.
Do watch your ferret’s appetite, especially at first, so you can get a feel for how much it eats each time.
Don’t let your ferret be greedy. If it seems to be eating too much, back off on how much food you put in the bowl and how often you fill it.
Do take your ferret to the veterinarian if it seems to be fat, especially if it doesn’t seem to be eating a lot. This could be a sign of an illness, such as an intestinal blockage.
Don’t worry too much about weight gain in cold weather months. Most ferrets – and many people – do put on weight in the winter.
Do give your ferrets vitamin made especially for them.
Don’t give chocolate or other types of candy. They can rot a ferret’s teeth just as much as they can rot yours.
Do occasionally feel your ferret’s chest. If you can feel the ribs, your ferret is probably not overweight.
Don’t allow your ferret to get too thin. Being able to feel the ribs is one thing, seeing nothing but skin and bones is another thing altogether.
Do wash your ferret’s food dish every day. No one wants to see the remains of yesterday’s dinner, or eat the germs and bacteria that have formed.
Don’t forget to follow the directions on the ferret food package.
Do give your ferret a raw egg every week.
Don’t feed your ferret more than one egg a week, or else it may start losing its fur.
Do include plenty of meat in your ferret’s diet.
Don’t feed your ferret fruits and vegetables. These foods (often raisins were recommended) were formerly thought to be okay for ferrets–but not anymore. The sugar content in these foods can contribute to the development of insulinoma.
Do compare a ferret’s weight pattern to a human’s: A teenager will eat everything in sight in preparation for a growth spurt. An “old-timer” will likely eat less as it becomes more sedentary.
Don’t force feed a ferret. He or she knows what it needs.
Do be advised that ferrets will eat a surprising variety of items.
Don’t let your ferrets eat cloth, plastic, rubber bands, sponge rubber or other non-food items. These can block the intestines or lead to choking.
Do pay attention if your ferret does eat one of those items. You may need to do bathroom duty – watching for the pieces to appear in the feces.
Don’t hesitate to piece together those digested fragments to determine whether the entire item has been excreted. You may have to give medication to get the missing pieces out.
Do be vigilant if your ferret nips, bites or chews people. They can and should be trained out of it.
Don’t confuse inappropriate chewing or nipping with hunger. Nipping or chewing could be merely playing or instinct. Ferrets can and should be trained not to do so.
Do pay attention to ferret feces. Normal ferret feces should be brown and somewhat resemble human feces. Feces that are black, red, green, slimy, thin or seed-like can signs of a health problem.
Don’t forget to collect a sample to show your vet if you do come across some abnormal feces. Do so by scraping some up with a disposable knife (wear medical gloves) and put it in a clean container (an old medicine bottle or baby food jar would work great). Label it with the date and time if possible. Be sure to wash your hands.
Do get a food bowl that won’t tip easily. Ferrets are very active and you don’t want to keep cleaning up a mess.
Don’t let other pets get into your ferret’s food dish. Likewise, keep your ferret from the other pets’ food.
Do weigh your ferret regularly.
Don’t hesitate to hand-feed a ferret that is sick, elderly or failing to thrive.
Do play with your ferret for longer periods if you find that it is gaining weight.
Don’t let treats take the place of healthy ferret food.
Do use the right food for your ferret’s age: Mashed food for those under two months old; soaked dry food for kits older than two months; dry food after three months.
Don’t skimp on water, especially for newborn ferrets. Lack of water can lead to digestive problems that may require surgery if left unchecked.
Do consider a “whole prey” diet but make sure it is very fresh and consult your vet before doing so.
Do enjoy feeding your ferret and watching it enjoy its meals.