Ferrets are strict obligate carnivores and need a base diet that consists solely of animal tissue. Recommended diet of choice is Frankenprey (or Biologically Appropriate Raw Food) which is easily created at home and can be fed on a budget, Whole-prey or a combination of both. Frankenprey is a combination of feeding muscle meat, organs and bone in meat. Compared to feeding simply whole-prey, mimicking natural eating through the Frankenprey model is more cost effective and easier for some. It is the most ultimate form of diet for ferrets, even more so since it supplies adequate moisture, keeping the ferret fairly hydrated.
Other Diet Recommendations
For those who are not yet ready or are unable to feed a homemade diet for whatever reason, there are options of commercial raw; where the diet is already pre-portioned out, or mixed, ready to serve without any worry on balancing it out for your ferret. Raw diets are the absolute ultimate diets and highly encouraged. The next best thing is a commercial Freeze Dried Raw, where the raw food is pre-mixed and freeze dried for storage convenience. Following FDR is Air Dried Raw, very similar to freeze dried, just a slightly different preparation but is also good for the convenience of storage. Often these may be required to be rehydrated, some not so necessary, check the packaging to be sure. However for ferrets who naturally consume a high moisture diet, I do recommend hydrating them when and where necessary.
Moving onto more commercial pet foods, Canned Diets are more ideal than kibble due to the moisture. Both kibble and canned are processed and in the end, would not be ideal, however in the chance that you have absolutely no other options, choose canned over kibble. All brands are unique and different. If you require help locating an appropriate brand, please send us a message on our page located here
where our admin will help assist you one on one in a private manner.
Nutritional Standard For Ferrets
A Nutritional Standard is a recommendation as mentioned by globally recognised bodies such as the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO), in which commercial pet food manufacturers use reference for the nutritional requirements of cats and dogs.
At this stage there is no official nutritional standard available for ferrets, this means that there is no macronutrient profile available for ferrets like there may be for a cat or a dog. With that in mind, commercial petfoods such as specially formulated ferret dry foods may not be entirely appropriate for the ferret. For a more natural diet, the nutrient percentage is approx 40-60% Protein, 20% Fat (all life stages) This is based on an average nutrient percentage of natural prey items within the wild polecat’s diet. This is as close as one can get without in-depth study and would be your best guideline when choosing out a commercial pet food.
Plant Proteins and Products within Pet Food
Ferrets cannot efficiently physically “digest” plant proteins and carbs, mainly in their whole forms and it is best recommended to avoid feeding anything that contain these in excess amounts. Excessively feeding these will put unnecessary stress on the ferret’s vital organs- In the long term forcing this can encourage a variety of health issues and complications as the ferret ages. As far as carbs and fibre goes, please read the following article
for more information on the appropriate amounts for commercial pet food. As far as raw food goes, it isn’t required within their diet as they get their protein and other needs from their animal tissue sources.
Quantities to be fed and how often they should be fed:
How much you feed a ferret depends on the ferret, the age, how much the food weighs (if we’re thinking whole-prey) and so on. To find out how much should be fed, you need to first figure out how much the ferret as an individual eats. Every ferret consumes a different amount and this varies season to season. During winter, ferrets may eat more, in summer they may eat less. (Sometimes reversed.) Young (kit) ferrets may even eat up to 10 ounces of raw in a day (or more), it is okay to let them eat as much as they would like (same applies for pregnant or nursing Jills.). Adult ferrets generally eat around 1-3 ounces of raw per meal. Females are known to eat small amounts so it is not uncommon for them to eat just a bit under 1 oz per meal. Male ferrets are known to eat more, which is understandable considering that size difference between male/female ferrets and could potentially consume up to 3-5oz per meal.
Ferrets on a natural diet seldom ever overeat so it is safe to feed according to how much they consume in a day.
How much they consume in a day, naturally tells us how much they need upon average with food and paints a good picture on how much food they should be consuming nutrition wise, let the ferret guide you to some degree. If a ferret consumes all given, feed some more. If there are leftovers that aren’t eaten after a few hours, feed less at the next meal providing there is still enough food given to last until their next meal. It is a good idea to keep a food log and weight diary in order to note changes in eating habits or weight in order to get a better idea what is and isn’t considered normal for the ferret as an individual.
COMMERCIAL PET FOOD
As far as commercial pet food goes, feed according to the label, often it may be according to weight and always have fresh water available 24/7. When in doubt, contact the manufacturer as they can provide you with any further information in regards to how much of what to be feeding on average.
Depending on the type and weight of the whole-prey, it is best to have one whole-prey item per ferret in an attempt to avoid any fighting over food… however even with more than one food between ferrets, they may still attempt to steal each others anyway. At least there is the benefit of enrichment through this behaviour. For large whole-prey, it is fine to feed according to the weight and how much your multiple ferret business eat per day. Example: 4 ferrets who consume approx 6 oz per day would mean that a rabbit weighing around 18 oz is more than enough for around 2 days worth of food. Baby animals are not nutritionally adequate for ferrets and therefore should be left as treats only.
LEAVING FOOD OUT
All food types can be left out for a certain time period. Please keep in mind that these are only guides and they should be treated with care and common sense. Weather and other environmental causes may alter the needs of changing the food or the time for keeping it out safely. The rest is really up to you to make the better judgement for your pet.
RAW FOOD (Including Commercial Raw)
Basic guidelines are as followed:
Soups ( Blended Foods) – 6-8 hours,
Grinds (Ground Food, Eg. Commercial Raw) – 8-12 hours,
Chunks – 10-24 hours depending on the size (larger chunks last longer)
Bone-in meats – 12-24 hours, again depending on the size,
Whole prey – up to 48 hours.
During hot weather or summer, food should be removed and replaced with fresh food frequently.
COMMERCIAL PET FOOD
Dry food / Kibble can be left out all day but it is recommended to change at least once to twice a day for freshness. If the dry food has become wet or moist (eg. from being near water) then replace immediately or as soon as possible (within an hour at best.) Moist / Canned Foods should be removed or replaced after approximately 1-2 hour(s). The time recommendations are different to raw as these are commercial products and may at risk of spoiling more easily. When in doubt, follow the recommendations on the packaging and just as the raw food, in hot weather replace frequently for freshness.
Storage of the food and recommended containers:
Raw meat or whole prey should be bagged securely, or put in airtight containers.
Bags and containers must be freezer safe, and labeled with the name of protein and date. It is best stored as individual feeding amounts. (Example: Prince Yuuki 13/07/2016 – 3oz Chicken Wings.)
If you have more than one ferret, and you are aware that these ferrets don’t mind eating together or sharing food, or that there is no specific health issues that limit certain foods (eg. Protein Sensitivities or Allergies), then feel free to pack according to how much your business consumes per meal.
In the freezer, the meat can last from 6 to 12 months. Meat should be thawed in the fridge and used preferably within the same day and if not used should be removed or thrown out after 2-3 days at max. If the meat is in an air-tight container, you may safely thaw on the bench but keep in mind it should not be left out for any longer than half an hour to an hour at best. It’s also perfectly okay to feed straight from raw to the ferret but monitor if there is hot weather.
Ferrets are very funny creatures when it comes to their food, so even if you happened to by chance accidentally feed what would be considered an off piece of meat, they are highly likely to avoid consuming it especially if it were to potentially make them sick. This is not to say they won’t ever consume something bad, because they often will, but they can be fussy, and this is why fresh foods is most ideal, especially for those transitioning. Keep in mind that ferrets also stash meat naturally, and tend to come back and consume old pieces of meat that have been jerkified. Their bodies are designed to be able to effectively handle this, especially the excessive bacterial load from natural foods, but if you’re really concerned then be sure to clean out any stashes on a daily basis (if they managed to get meat out of their eating area that is.) The risk is more there for us as humans and their food handlers. We can get sick, but it is very rarely due to their food providing you look after yourself, handle it with care and have some good hygiene protocols put in place. Also purchase food from reputable places, to avoid a contamination.
Keep the refrigerator temperature at or below 4° C. The freezer temperature should be -18° C.
Recommendations for container types: Sistema products for containers. They’re BPA and Phthalate Free. They are also fridge and freezer safe. If you cannot use these products, anything that is fridge / freezer safe and BPA / Phalate Free will be absolutely fine.
Potential hazards to human and animal health with regards to the food preparation and distribution:
Spread of bacteria (or even parasites) can be a hazard for both human and animal health. Make sure that you only ever purchase or obtain fresh raw meats or whole-prey from reputable sources. If feeding commercial raw or commercial products, ensure you purchase reputable brands and keep up to date on anything in relation to recalls of this particular brand. Inspect the meat prior to purchasing when and where possible, during prepping time and prior to feeding. When in doubt freeze meat for 2-4 weeks to kill any parasites. The best would be freezing for 6 weeks. Keep and clean human and ferret utensils or tools separately. It is preferred if you have your own set of utensils and tools specifically for ferret meal prepping. Wipe down benches and always wash hands before and after handling food. Taking precautionary measures, not just for raw, but also for commercial pet food, should ensure that no issues or problems occur- however in the rare chance that they do, go see a doctor and/or vet.
The following information should be recorded and reported* regarding ferrets for feeding and watering:
If the ferret is not eating or drinking.
If the ferret is eating less and it is not linked to seasonal changes.
If there is a sudden concerning weight-loss that is not within the ferret’s weight fluctuation range or seasonal changes.
If the ferret is showing signs of discomfort during mealtime.
If the ferret is bleeding from the mouth, or any other part of the body for the matter.
If the ferret appears to be choking, seizuring, unconscious or becomes unresponsive.
If the ferret seems to have broken or chipped a canine or other tooth.
If the ferret is vomiting, having diarrhea or having any signs of reaction to the food.
If the ferret is not urinating or passing stools or is appearing to be struggling to urinate or pass stools.
If there is any mold on the food.
If there is anything in regards to the food that is concerning. (eg. smells, colour, textures, etc)
If the food stock is running low.
Things such as weights should be recorded every week, fortnight or month at best just to ensure that you get an idea on seasonal weight changes. Note any changes in coats as well as these also change seasonally.
When first starting a new diet, the stool should be monitored with a diary or log. Note anything in regards to stool colour, smell, texture, consistency and include the type of meal and protein prior to the stool.
*Report to Vet if you notice any negative health related symptoms. The other information is useful for those who pet-sit for ferrets, or those working in rescues and would be required to report to a supervisor or someone in charge. For the average pet owner, it is handy to keep information recorded for your animals.
DO NOT Throw out any commercial pet food, in the chance your ferret becomes sick. Keep it securely packaged, out of reach from pets or children, and record any relevant things such as the product itself, the colour, consistency, photos and videos when and where necessary. This is a pre-caution especially if you would like to follow through with legal action in the chance of illness or death (human and/or ferret.) Keeping this will ensure you have good evidence, along with photos / videos and any necessary documentation from a doctor and/or vet. In the chance that you do not have illness, but something is wrong with the food, you may be able to get a refund or replacement.