When those sparkly little eyes are gazing up longingly from that adorable fuzzy face, it can be difficult to resist the urge to indulge your ferret in whatever tempting treat the tiny trickster is trying to tease out of you. But keep in mind that as with everything in life, moderation is key; no more than 5% of your ferret’s overall diet should consist of treats, and not all treats are created equal. As obligate carnivores, ferrets have very specific nutritional needs that differ from dogs, cats and especially humans. They can’t eat the same type of foods or treats that you or even your other pets consume on a daily basis and remain completely healthy. Ferrets need a high protein, high fat, low fiber diet with the main protein sources coming from meat ingredients. They do not digest fruit, vegetables, grains/cereals or fiber well, and should avoid sweet/sugary foods which can lead to dental problems, obesity, and increased risk of insulinoma.
The following is a list of some great treat options to offer:
1) Meat: Freeze dried, cooked or raw (If not part of their primary diet already) Chicken, turkey, beef, salmon, organ meats like chicken liver or hearts, salt free jerky (avoid seasoned meats or processed meats like lunchmeat, salami or bacon).
2) Small prey animals (If not part of their primary diet already) – mice, chicks, quail, rats, rabbits – preferably pre-killed or thawed from frozen to prevent injury to your ferret.
3) Bugs – (live/dried) Earthworms. Mealworms. Crickets. Cockroaches. Live bait.
4) Chicken or turkey baby food – ferrets can become addicted to this stuff! It also works well as a temporary substitute for kibble if your ferret is ill or recovering from surgery and is a picky eater.
5) Eggs: raw or cooked unseasoned (remove the shell)
6) Oils – Salmon, Emu, Cod liver, Extra-virgin Olive or Extra-virgin Coconut Oils.
Vitamin supplements like FerreTone, Linatone, Furatone, FerretLax, Laxatone, Petromalt should be avoided when dealing with healthy ferrets. Vitamin A toxicity can result from too much of the “tone” supplements.
7) Commercial ferret treats – The highest quality treats are free of all sugar or soy ingredients. Here are a few good ones:
– Wysong Daily Dream Ferret Treats
– Stella & Chewys freeze dried
– PureBites Freeze dried
The following are also OK in moderation but are less preferred because of trace amounts of sugar and/or soy:
– N-Bone Ferret Chew Treats
– Cheweasel Edible Chew toys
– Fuzzys’ Foamy Fries
– Brown’s Natural Chicken Strips Ferret Treat
Avoid most other “ferret treats” sold in pet stores; many are high in sugar, have fruits and vegetables as the main ingredients, and almost no protein.
Do Not Feed List:
Vegetables, fruit, dried fruit (including raisins), alcohol, sugary drinks or juice, coffee and tea products, garlic or shallots, cereals, dairy products, seeds and nuts (can cause blockages), chocolate, candy, fruit snacks, peanut butter, natural chew toys not meant for ferrets (like cow hooves, pig ears or rawhide – can cause intestinal blockages in ferrets), dog or cat treats.
When in doubt – don’t let your ferret eat it, even if he or she wants it! Remember… ferrets will eat a piece of deadly Styrofoam or plastic just as quickly as they will a tasty piece of meat – so they’re clearly not always the best judges of what is or isn’t good for them. You have to be the smart one in the family, and keep them on the safe path towards a long and healthy life; even if that means keeping them from eating things that they’re absolutely convinced that they want to eat. Being the bad cop and limiting your ferret’s treats will pay off when you get to enjoy the benefit of your bouncy, bright-eyed bandit’s company for many more years to come.