Ferrets are energetic creatures that have captured the hearts of many pet lovers all over the world. Their charming features and curious personality makes them wonderful pets that will bring a smile to your face from their endless frolicking.
However, these energy levels must be matched with proper feeding. Your ferret requires a balanced diet to keep him healthy and to provide him all the energy he needs. Even though ferret-based food is the best choice, it may not be available where you live.
Therefore, it’s necessary to find different food alternatives, and one of them is cat food. Nonetheless, is it safe to feed ferrets cat food? Keep reading to find out.
Ferrets are strict carnivores that require a well-balanced diet to meet their daily requirements. According to the Pet Food Manufacturer’s Association (PFMA), a ferret must consume approximately 5 to 8% of its total body weight to achieve optimum health and body performance.
In other words, an average 2-pound adult ferret must eat between 50 to 75 grams of food every day to stay healthy and fit.
However, it can change depending on your ferret’s current life cycle. For example, if your ferret is a kit (baby ferret), it needs more protein and fat for growth, while a jill (female ferret) must maintain at least 30% of protein intake during pregnancy.
Additionally, overweight ferrets must consume fewer calories and those with certain health conditions, like insulinomas, require a specialized diet plan.
Can Ferrets Eat Cat Food?
Cat food is a viable option to feed your ferret if your local pet shop doesn’t sell ferret-friendly food pellets. Although it does not provide the same protein value as ferret feed, it can be sustained with homecooked meals and supplements. Generally, you should always incorporate fatty acid supplements into your ferret’s diet of he is fed with cat food.
Unfortunately, not all cat food is suitable for your ferret since they have different nutrient requirements when compared to cats. When selecting the best cat food, animal-based protein must be the first ingredient on the label.
Some cat food use tuna or red meat as their main protein source, and therefore, are not great options for ferrets. Ideally, you must choose cat food with chicken, poultry or lamb as its main ingredient.
Some cat food also contains grains and wheat, which are complex carbohydrates. Therefore, ferrets are unable to break it down adequately and must be avoided as well. Rice and brewer’s yeast are simple carbs contained in certain cat food that are acceptable for ferrets.
However, keep in mind that protein has to be the main source in their diet.
Can Ferrets Eat Wet Cat Food?
Many owners wonder if wet cat food has the same nutritional value as dry cat food. Even though ferrets are able to consume wet cat food, it provides much fewer nutrients than the dry cat stuff, and thus will require high amounts to suffice your ferret’s appetite.
Also, wet cat food doesn’t help to improve your ferrets teeth health. Both food pellets and dry food maintain your ferret’s healthy teeth by eliminating plaque through friction. For these reasons, it’s advised to feed your ferret dry cat food instead of wet varieties.
What Kind Of Cat Food Can Ferrets Eat?
Kitten food and crunchy cat food are acceptable choices to feed your ferret. Ideally, kitten food is the best selection amongst all because it contains the highest amount of protein in smaller meals. However, crunchy cat food does have acceptable protein content.
On the other hand, canned cat food is strictly off-limits for ferrets due to the added ingredients. It usually contains sugar, preservatives, and other elements that are harmful to your ferret. Also, it is moist and provides no benefit in keeping your ferret’s teeth strong and healthy.
Cat food that contains pieces of fruit or vegetables is also bad options because it can reduce your ferret’s bowel movements and lead to blockage.
The Ideal Diet For Your Ferret
Your ferret’s ideal diet must be based on high amounts of animal-oriented protein, moderate content in fats, and low quantities of carbohydrates and fiber. In relation to caloric intake, it should be between 30 to 40% protein, at least 20% of fat, and less than 3% of carbs and fiber.
Because of this, food pellets manufactured specifically for ferrets are a great option because they are able to meet your furry companion’s nutritional needs.
In regards to protein, vegetable-based protein, such as cornmeal, is not suitable for your ferret’s delicate digestive system. This is because ferrets have a fast metabolism, and vegetables take a longer time to be digested.
Also, their digestive tract lacks a vital part called a cecum, which is in charge of absorbing nutrients from undigested food residue. In other words, it would not provide your ferret appropriate nutritional value and lead to malnourishment and other health issues.
For this reason, protein should always be animal-based, mainly chicken, lamb, turkey, and venison. Although beef and pork are also red meat, they are harder to digest and therefore, are uncommon in ferret food.
Eggs are another good source of protein, but they do not provide enough nutrients as meat does, and it should be used to complement its diet.
Some people believe that fish can be part of a ferret’s diet since it is considered white meat. Although fish or tuna can be given to your ferret, it is not the best option. First of all, fish has far less nutritional value than chicken or lamb-based diets and cannot be digested as easily.
Even more, it can disrupt your ferret’s digestive tract, causing discomfort, and produce certain skin issues, like bald patches and hair loss. Finally, it can cause your ferret’s feces to be more pungent and foul-smelling. In the end, the risks are greater than the benefits.
Therefore, you should refrain from using fish in your ferret’s diet.
Fats are also an important part of a ferret’s diet since it is utilized as an energy source, just like protein. Fats also offer certain health benefits, such as boosting your ferret’s immune system and maintaining a shinier and healthier fur coat.
Poultry fat is a good option, and food pellets must contain omega-3 fatty acids to grant high-quality fat content. You can also resort to supplements, such as fish oil, to ensure that your ferret meets its daily fat intake.
Fruits, vegetables, and other complex carbohydrates do not mix well with ferrets because they are rich in fiber and cannot be digested properly. Thus, they will not offer enough nutrients to keep your ferret strong and healthy.
Also, carb-rich diets can produce malnourishment, frail fur, and severe health hazards, like blockage and kidney stones. For this reason, it is best to maintain carbs consumption at a minimum or avoid it completely, if possible.
Food Products To Avoid
There are certain food products that you must refrain from feeding your ferret because they can affect negatively your ferret’s overall health. For example, all sugary products are forbidden because they can contain xylitol, a natural sweetener, that can produce life-threatening low sugar levels in your ferret.
Dairy products are also bad options because ferrets do not have the enzyme necessary to break down milk, which leads to diarrhea, vomiting, and dehydration. Finally, caffeine is toxic to ferrets and can cause cardiovascular diseases and liver damage.
If in doubt, it’s always recommended to visit a veterinarian before introducing a new food item to your pet’s diet.
A proper diet is crucial to keep your beloved friend healthy and happy. Although ferret food is the best meal choice, you can also use cat food if you follow safety measures to keep your ferret from harm. Sometimes, a way to your pet’s heart is through their stomach!