Easy answer, NEVER!
First time ferret owners sometimes do lots of research on housing and play toys but neglect to do enough research on their ferret’s diet requirements.
Ferrets are carnivores; look at those sharp pointy canine teeth. Carnivore means meat eater. Meat, meat, meat!
Folks often choose a kibble diet for the convenience. When choosing a ferret kibble for your ferret, you can go with Marshall Ferret Diet or Totally Ferret. You should always have a mixture of two foods. This 50/50 mixture ensures that your ferret can adjust to any changes in one of the foods. Some folks go so far as using a 3 way mix. Ferrets imprint on their food source early in life and it can be nearly impossible to transition them to a new food.
There are only a few high protein cat foods that are suitable for your ferrets kibble mixture. I will only list one food as an example. I want to stress that you should be checking your ingredient list on a regular basis. Manufacturers update on a regular basis and what was once may be a good food for ferrets can become a bad food for ferrets.
Here is a very simple list of must haves:
first 3 proteins ingredients must be meat. Corn is a plant protein and often used to up the protein levels.
no peas, pea powder, legumes, none, nada, no exceptions. Peas are used as a filler and it causes bladder stones in our ferrets; can be fatal for our male ferrets.
try to choose a food with carbohydrates that have a lower glycemic number; tapioca is the best source. Ferrets on a high carbohydrate diet may experience blood sugar issues. The ferret body is not meant to process carbs. Rice is a second choice. Do your own research for more in depth information on carbs and Insulinoma in ferrets.
Under the Precentages:
32 – 40 % protein
20% fat content, check the percentages list
Crude Fiber 1.5% to 3.5% – DO NOT USE A FOOD WITH HIGHER FIBER NUMBERS. This is often overlooked but a food with high fiber is dangerous for ferrets.
So now let’s look at a ferret and cat kibble that the shelter uses; how does it meet the above requirements?
Marshall Premium Ferret Diet lists 38% protein, fat 18% and crude fiber 3.5%. first 3 ingredients are meat, and no peas or legumes.
GO Skin & Coat care Chicken Recipe With Grains. Never buy the Go Chicken Grain Free – it has peas.
32% protein (lower protein level required for our senior ferrets), fat 20% and crude fiber 2.5%. first 3 proteins are meat, and no peas or legumes. they use rice and oatmeal.
If you are choosing to feed a raw meat diet, please, please do in depth research. You can’t just feed a chicken breast and think they are getting all the nutrients they need. I am not an expert on the raw diet so I won’t advise on how to do it.
I embrace the best of both worlds. I recommend that your ferrets have a premium kibble mixture available 24/7; and please don’t drizzle oil over the kibble. It will make the kibble go rancid and you will be wasting a lot of food. Make one meal a day a cooked meat or raw meat meal. After a ferret got a blockage from grizzle, I recommend putting your raw meat through a grinder. I personally use cooked meats.
*Throw away those store bought treats and make your own. Cook a chicken breast and cube it. Tiny cooked meatballs are fun. Raw egg once a week. There are lots of ways to get whole protein into your ferret without carbs. Even canned wet cat food without carbs is good.
So, notice I didn’t mention any fruits. My girlfriend let her ferret steal a small grape. Two days later her lethargic ferret was rushed to the vet. A blockage! The grape skin didn’t break down and it cost her $1200.00 to remove. lesson learned.
No veggies? A member was feeding his ferret bits of carrot. One “bit” was too big and the ferret had to be rushed in for a blockage; their vet bill was $1,600.00. Ferrets do not have the enzymes to break down the skins and or pulp of veggies and fruit. NEVER FEED YOUR CARNIVORE FRUITS AND VEGETABLES!