Ferrets are obligate carnivores and require a high meat content diet. Options for feeding are 100% raw, a good kibble or a mix of both kibble and raw. With dry food you need to allow ferrets constant free access. Ferrets have a high metabolic rate and as such should be able to access food every 3 to 4 hours.

Here at the rescue all of our ferrets are offered a variety of raw meat every day alongside a freely available mix of dry ferret kibble. Throughout the week they are offered meat with bone, some offal and whole prey. For example when whole rabbit is offered, it is gutted and then chopped up. The fur remains on. We very rarely feed mince; when we do it is usually complete mince to introduce kits to raw. When we have young kits in they start eating raw from three weeks, initially stealing mum’s food. Ferrets come into us on different diets but nearly all leave us happily eating raw.

Transitioning: At the rescue those arriving on entirely inappropriate diets such as wet cat food are immediately started to transfer off them. Even if a ferret does not eat raw, we will continue to offer it. We find that defrosted meat has more appeal than chilled. Due to the blood frozen is not as dry as chilled. Some people have success with blending raw into a “soup” and gradually changing the consistency.

Raw feeding: A fully balanced raw diet should include approximately 80% meat, 20% bone and 20% offal. This is the best diet you can offer but we understand that this is not for everyone. Most ferrets leave us happy to be raw fed. With raw meat, chicken, rabbit, quail, pheasant and pigeon are very popular. Other meats can be offered but some can be too strong. Fish can be fed occasionally although we find that it is not particularly popular. Offal such as heart and kidneys should be offered each week. Liver can be fed in moderation. Day old chicks can be offered but as they have no nutritional value consider them as a treat.

Kibble: When feeding kibble offer a freely available mix of dry ferret foods such as Dr John Merlin and Vitalin. We recommend feeding a mix of at least two brands of quality dry food in case you have difficulty sourcing one of them as ferrets can get fussy when changing food. When choosing kibble look for high protein levels.

Acceptable treats: Freeze dried meat is fine to feed as a treat. A raw beaten egg can be given once a week. Other suitable treats include day old chicks and mice. We often have ferret oil, a mix of oils such as salmon oil, available to purchase. Salmon oil is ideal as bribery for nail clipping.

Unacceptable food: Ferrets cannot be fed a vegetarian or vegan diet; they are obligate carnivores. With the exception of a small number of very high quality dry cat foods, cat and dog food (especially wet cat food) is not an appropriate diet for ferrets and can lead to a number of health problems later in life. Dog food should never be fed as it does not have the appropriate nutrients needed by ferrets. The old habit of feeding bread and milk is also not suitable. Ferrets are lactose intolerant so they should not be fed dairy products including cat milk.

In essence avoid lactose (milk), grains, peas, salt and sugars.

Unacceptable treats; Treats sold in pet shops marketed to ferrets are generally not suitable for ferrets. Often they are aimed at several animal types and contain items that ferrets do not eat such as vegetables. Avoid any treats high in sugar or grains such as Ferretone, Ferretvite and malt paste.

Water: Ferrets need access to plenty of fresh drinking water in large ‘spill proof’ bowls. Ferrets do like snorkelling in water bowls so you may need to place the water bowls inside something else such as an empty litter tray. Water bottles can be provided as a backup option but they do not allow ferrets to drink sufficiently.