As mentioned before within other wholeprey related posts, every ferret is different. Some will take to wholeprey almost instantly, whereas others will require “learning.” Ferrets may be hunters by nature, but hunting and feeding whole animals is something they need to learn to consume.
Wild Polecats learn through experience as they grow up in their wild natural environments. Not every single kill they do will be considered “humane.” Even the most skilled wild polecats, have been known to make a dodgy kill and bring the animal back to the den where it would suffer until it dies. It sounds gruesome, but that is simply how they do things.
Various techniques for introducing wholeprey:
- Hand feeding sessions: With your adult whole animal in hand, grab your ferret in one hand and hold the wholeprey to them. Allow them to bite onto them, but hold the ferret tight. Their first instinct may be to stash the food but stashing does not automatically mean they are going to eat the food. If you find your ferret is really wriggly, you can try tucking their back end (back legs, tail end) under your armpit and firmly but gently press against them using your arm to hold them in place. The ferret under body should be resting on your arm and the hand on the same arm should be holding onto the front of the ferret. Ferret should be secure. Try and hold the wholeprey to the side of their mouth, near their carnassial teeth, which are designed to crush bone. Hold the prey there and nudge at the side of the mouth until they open. Hold tight to avoid constant stash instinct and continue until they begin a chewing motion. Do this for 3-5 minutes max at any given time as it may be a stressful experience so make things short and simple AND be over enthusiastic about it. Lots of verbal encouragement for ferrets can go a LONG way, believe me. The shorter the time for hand feeding sessions, but more frequent the exposure, the more the ferret will become accustom to the food and the less stress it will be under.
- Cut down the abdomen of the wholeprey, offer to ferret: Some ferrets will take to wholeprey once it is open and they can see it is fleshy food. If that fails you can try inserting some salmon oil into the abdomen and try again.
- If the above does not work, you can try chopping the wholeprey up into chunks and feed: If ferret does not take to the chunks, try some salmon oil or go straight to blending it up. If it is a soup, they may be more likely to try it. If they do take to the soup, you will have to gradually introduce large pieces of wholeprey and/or adult animals.
- Work your way up from baby animals through to adult animals: Example for Rats/Mice: Start with Pinky mice, hand feed and if they take to it, introduce a larger size (fuzzy) and then proceed to hopper, weaner and/or straight to young adult to adult animals.