Can Ferrets Eat Dry Cat Foods

Many pet owners wonder if their ferret could eat dry cat food instead of kibble made for ferrets. While both types of foods contain protein, dry cat food is not suitable for ferrets. Ferrets have a very different digestive system than cats. 

They need to be fed special diets that are designed specifically for them. Dry foods often contain ingredients like corn or wheat which can cause problems in your ferret’s intestines. If you feed your ferret dry foods made for cats, it may develop diarrhea, vomiting, and weight loss.

So here is the answer to whether ferrets can have dry cat food, No! Ferrets should not eat dry cat food. 

Why is Dry Cat Food Bad for Ferrets?

Dry cat food is unsuitable for ferrets because of its ingredients. As the “fillers” are needed to hold the other components together, most dry cat foods depend on carbohydrates. And if there is one thing, your furry friend shouldn’t have ist carbs. Carbohydrates break down into glucose when digested.

Glucose causes insulin production, which leads to fat storage. This means that overeating carbohydrates will make your ferret gain weight. Ferrets also don’t digest starch well at all. Starch is found in many dry cat foods as an ingredient. When this starch gets broken down, they turn into sugars called maltodextrins.

Insulinomas

Ferrets are prone to insulinomas that are thought of being triggered by a high-carbohydrate diet. Insulinoma tumors grow quickly and can become life-threatening. So feeding your ferret dry cat food might lead to serious health issues later on.

According to Rick Axelson, DVM, “the average age for a ferret to develop an insulinoma is 5 years old, but it may be seen as early as 2 years of age.” and the typical signs of an insulinoma are: 

  • pawing at the mouth
  • “stargazing”
  • weakness (often) in the hind end 
  • weight loss
  • tremors
  • collapse
  • abnormal behavior
  • depression
  • lethargy, and confusion

He further explains that “Some ferrets with tumors of the pancreas show no obvious clinical signs or may show only intermittent signs.” 

Source: https://vcahospitals.com/know-your-pet/insulinomas-in-ferrets

How to treat Insulinomas

Here is what Elisabeth Simone-Freilicher, DVM, DABVP says about how to treat insulinomas in ferrets: 

“There is controversy regarding whether surgical or medical management is the best treatment for insulinomas in ferrets. Surgery is preferred in humans and dogs, and is considered the treatment of choice to stop or slow progression of the disease in ferrets. Surgery is associated with longer survival times (1.25-1.8 years vs. 0.5-1.5 years with medical management alone). However, several studies have shown that more than half the ferrets with nodulectomies or partial pancreatectomies will have recurrence of clinical signs in less than one year, and a small number will not achieve euglycemia post-operatively. Once informed of this, many owners decline surgical intervention in favor of medical management. In my experience, surgical intervention tends to be performed more often in ferrets which are not able to be stabilized medically, or have other known surgical diseases such as adrenal gland disease.”

Source: https://www.mspca.org/angell_services/insulinoma-in-ferrets/

As you can see, wrong ingredients in your ferret’s diet can have severe consequences. It’s important to know what kind of food your pet eats so you can avoid these problems. Dry cat food? Please don’t! 

What Should I Feed My Ferret Instead?

If you want to give your ferret healthy dry food, go for a ferret-approved kibble. You should look for products like Marshall Premium Ferret Food, Kaytee Forti-Diet Pro Health Ferret Food, Wysong Epigen 90 Dry Ferret Food, or ZuPreem Grain-Free Diet Ferret Food.

These kinds of diets contain natural ingredients that are good for your ferret. They’re made from real meat instead of corn syrup solids and artificial colors and flavors.

Wysong Ferret Epigen 90 - Starch Free Dry Natural Food for Ferrets, Brown, Model Number: WDFE905

Ingredients Wysong Epigen 90 Dry Ferret Food

Ferrets’ intestinal tracts are made to digest meat. After all, ferrets are obligate carnivores – strict meat-eaters. Carbohydrates, fruits, and vegetables do not belong to their diet.

The most important thing about feeding your ferret is making sure it gets enough protein and fat in its diet. You should aim for approximately 35% protein and 20% of fat. This will help keep your ferret healthy and active. 

read… can ferrets eat ants?

How often Should your Ferret eat?

Due to the highly energetic nature of ferrets, they need to be fed between 5-7 times per day. Obviously, this may differ depending on your ferret. If you feed raw meat instead of a kibble-only diet, your furry friend may have less frequent meals. 

Raw Meat

A variety of meats in front of a white background

Even though ferrets were domesticated around 2000 years ago, it still seems logical to feed them with what they would eat in the wild. And that is primarily raw meat! If you have not fed raw meat yet, start by adding small raw chicken breast pieces to your ferret’s kibble. 

Once your furry friend found out that meat is actually delicious, you can start adding more and more meat into his daily meal plan. The best way to introduce new foods is slowly over time.

Start off with one piece of meat at first, then gradually increase the amount until he eats 2-5 pieces every day. Make sure to always wash hands before giving him any kind of food.

Some examples of meats are: 

  • beef
  • chicken
  • chicken breast
  • organs (liver)
  • bones (raw)
  • game birds
  • pigeon
  • rabbit
  • whole prey (feeder mice) 
  • eggs (once in a while)
  • tuna (once in a while) 

Basically, every fresh meat of high quality is fine. Raw eggs are also safe. One or two per month are enough. 

Let us wrap it all up…

Summary

I hope my article helped you understand how to properly care for your ferret. Do not feed dry cat food to your furry friend! 

If you decide to feed kibble, make sure to use an appropriate “ferret-approved” product. Avoid sugar, starch, fillers, fibers, and artificial coloring on the label. 

Also, avoid products containing wheat gluten as well as corn syrup solids. Always read the labels carefully when buying food for your ferret. 

Last update on 2021-09-26 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

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