Live Prey

Live prey is a topic that everyone may have seen discussed on ferret groups at some stage. Anyone without added laws holding them back and who have a known good hunter may decide on live prey as it is the most enriching way to feed between all three methods of feeding. They are all, to some degree enriching depending on how you decide to feed it.

Live prey really gets the ferret involved as they need to use their head to calculate the kill. Frozen thawed wholeprey can be warmed up slightly (eg. Bagged prey in warm water), however it will not be the same as a freshly dispatched prey item or a live prey item. Ferrets, providing they have been taught to consume the prey, will consume it regardless though.

(This is a young rat, please avoid rats as live prey. 😉 )

Not all ferrets will be good candidates for live prey hunting, nor will all ferrets consume their prey freshly hunted. Some live feeders may fast for 2-3 or so hours before they do live prey feeding. (Kind of like how you remove kibble before trying raw.) This is more so they will consume their prey after making the kill, but keep in mind that it does not guarantee the ferret will consume the meal right after making a kill. ALSO Please note that you should never fast a ferret for longer than 3-4 hours.


3-4 hours is their general gut transit time, even 2-3 hours is pushing it and makes it risky for ferrets with illnesses like insulinoma, where they should always have food available or eat often. Please never exceed the 3-4 hour mark in general. 6 hours is the absolute max for any healthy ferret according to my veterinary books, but even then they need to be done so in a controlled environment such as a veterinary hospital. Without valid medical reason and approval of a vet would be classed as down right neglect and cruelty. The fasting topic is for another topic entirely.


When doing live prey, I recommend placing the small animal in a closed off area first before introducing the ferret. This will give the animal time to adjust to the new environment, rather than being thrown into the lions den right off the bat. When you put in the ferret, do so gently and hold them until they catch glimpse of the prey animal. Once you know they are on target you may release and allow them to make the kill. The prey animal may be vocal so keep that in mind. If you notice that the ferret makes the kill and then stashes in a corner but the animal is still alive, you will need to quickly retrieve the animal to preform a cervical dislocation.


Not everyone can find it in their heart to do live prey -let alone wholeprey in general- and that is totally fine. Some will find F/T or F/D more ethical to feed to their ferrets. What ever you wish to feed, and for what ever reason, is entirely up to you, providing you ensure that you are legally allowed to do so and understand what you’re doing beforehand.


Legalities of Live Feeding:

Oh the fun part about this subject! Before you even consider the idea of live prey, what is the first thing you must do? Check your local laws! Dun Dun Dun~ Live prey is not a legal thing everywhere you go, so making sure it is legal before you even do it is an absolute MUST.

Please note that when I mention “Live Prey” I am referring to vertebrate Live Prey.

Screenshot 2017-04-10 at 11.39.41 PM

Live feeding of live vertebrates is a legally grey area in both the UK and Australia. However it is generally considered to be illegal since the act of doing live prey can so easily clash with multiple Animal Welfare legislation in both countries.

Example: The Protection of Animals Act 1911, Animal Welfare Act 2006 (UK) and The Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act 1986 (Vic/AUS).

In Australia there is no national laws applying to animal welfare, so this means the legality of feeding live prey depends entirely upon the relevant State/Territory legislation and relevant code of practice.

In the UK, feeding any vertebrate animal to another animal is an example of unnecessary suffering as defined under section four of the Animal Welfare Act 2006, & by the deterrents of the Animal Welfare Act 2006, offenders are punishable by up to 51 weeks imprisonment, a fine of up to £20,000 or both. It is similar to the The Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act 1986 (Vic/AUS), A person who knowingly or negligently does any act with the result being unnecessary, unreasonable or unjustifiable pain or suffering to any animal could land themselves 12 months of jail time if proven to be guilty of cruelty to animals.
Though, there may potentially be ways around these, however it is incredibly difficult and would probably only apply to certain reptiles anyway, so this makes it a safer option to avoid Live Feeding of Vertebrates when you live in a country where legalities may be a tricky issue. There is apparently no issue with live feeding invertebrates however.


Some parts of the US may also have laws against it. I am unable to locate appropriate information on this topic in regards to the US or even Canada, so regardless of where you live, please do check local laws regarding live prey if you do have an interest. There are some countries that take animal welfare very seriously. ^_^;;;;

I will try to update this if I come across relevant information.

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