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Ferret FAQ [2/5] - Ferret Care
Section - (6.1) What should I feed my ferret?

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The key ingredients in any food for ferrets are fat and protein,
specifically animal protein, since ferrets' short digestive cycles
prevent them from getting enough nutrition from vegetable proteins.
Chicken, turkey, beef, and lamb are all fine; most ferrets don't like
fish, and it may make their litter pan smell worse.  The food needs to
have 30-35% protein and 15-20% fat, and animal protein should be the
first ingredient and at least two or three of the next few.

Unless your ferret is overweight, you should just keep her bowl full
and let her eat as much as she wants.

Cat foods seem to have done okay for many years, but there's a fair
bit of debate about which food is best for ferrets, whether
high-quality cat/kitten foods are good enough, and so on.  The usual
conclusion is that while foods designed for cats probably aren't the
best we could do, most of the foods with ferret pictures on the bags
weren't designed for ferrets either -- they were designed for mink or
cats and maybe modified slightly, and priced twice as high.  If you
choose a food packaged for ferrets, check its label just as you would
a cat food.

There is only one food I know of which was designed and feed-tested
exclusively for ferrets, and that's Totally Ferret, from Performance
Foods.  It's very expensive and not available everywhere.  (Call
Performance Foods at 1-800-843-1738 or write them at 38251 Industrial
Park Blvd., Lisbon, OH 44432 to find out the nearest distributor.)
Many people feel that it's the best food, at least for ferrets who
aren't overweight (it's pretty rich), but most people also agree that
cat/kitten foods are entirely sufficient, and that there's not
*that* much difference between them.

Most people feed their ferrets high-quality cat food, such as Iams,
Science Diet, or ProPlan.  High-quality food may cost a bit more than
grocery store brands, but your pet will eat a lot less and be much
healthier.  We've found that an 8-pound bag of dry food (usually
$10-$15) lasts two ferrets a couple of months, so the cost of feeding
them even high-quality food is not very great.

Because of their high protein requirement, ferrets up to three or four
years old should get kitten or "growth" foods.  Older ferrets can have
kidney problems from too much protein, though, so they should be
switched to the cat versions.

Soft cat food is not good for ferrets, partly because it generally
contains much less protein than the dry kind and partly because it
isn't hard enough to rub plaque off their teeth and can lead to tooth
decay.  However, very young kits and those recovering from illness or
surgery may need their food moistened with water for a week or two.
Note that moistened food spoils much more quickly than the same food
left dry, so dump out leftovers every day.

Dog food is NOT acceptable, as it lacks some nutrients ferrets (and
cats) need.  Among other things, ferrets and cats both need taurine,
which is found naturally in poultry; many cat and ferret foods
supplement it as well.

In general, feeding your pet a variety of foods, rather than just one
brand, is probably a good idea.  Ferrets are known to be finicky
eaters, and if the brand you've been using changes or is suddenly
unavailable, you may run into problems if it's all your pets will
recognize as edible.  To switch from brand A to brand B, start mixing
them before you run out of A.  Add B a little at a time until they're
getting half each, then phase out A.  (Also see information on
supplements [6.2], as well as fruits, vegetables, and treats [6.3].)

Every so often, a discussion starts up about ethoxyquin, which is used
in many pet foods to preserve the unsaturated fats.  In short, it's
very unlikely that there's any problem.  The amount of ethoxyquin used
in cat food is far below the maximum concentration allowed by the FDA.
No adverse effects have been shown in any studies, including some done
by researchers not affiliated with any pet food company.  In fact,
ethoxyquin has been shown to have an anticancer effect in cats.  Foods
which don't contain ethoxyquin use high levels of vitamin E instead,
at greatly increased cost and generally reduced shelf life.

Laura L'Heureux Kupkee, a veterinary student, says:

    The original reports about ethoxyquin were started by one single
    dog breeder whose bitch lost pups.  They did not know why, so they
    thought they'd send a [food] sample to a chemist friend.  The
    friend analyzed it, and said it contained ethoxyquin, a component
    in car-tire manufacturing [but then, so are a lot of things,
    including many compounds remarkably similar to Petromalt and
    probably water].  The breeder was shocked and immediately blamed
    the ethoxyquin, the newspapers grabbed it, and now here we are.
    There was never any mention of the fact that the bitch in question
    may also have had some autoimmune problems.  Nor was there *any*
    proof that the chemical caused the abortion of the pups.

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Top Document: Ferret FAQ [2/5] - Ferret Care
Previous Document: (5.6) What kind of collar/bell/tag/leash should I use?
Next Document: (6.2) Should I give my ferret any supplements?

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Last Update March 27 2014 @ 02:12 PM