Friday, October 1, 2010

Feeding A Ferret

Welcome to another edition of Ferrety Friday; a day of the week dedicated to those curious and mischievous little creatures commonly-referred to as fuzzies, furballs, ferts, and an assortment of other loveable nicknames. For those of you that are new to this blog or new to Ferrety Friday, we have two ferrets in our home.

First, there’s Bailey; a loveable and friendly male ferret that we believed for the longest time was a female...OOPS...(sorry about that Bailey...). We got him from the pet store near our home, and although we didn’t have any experience with ferrets before him, we’ve learned many important things along the way that – combined with all the love he receives from us - have helped him thrive.

(Excuse me while I pat myself on the back...)

Ahem...

Moving along.

Then there’s Clair; a tiny little female, cute as a button, with oodles of personality – and attitude – that we purchased/adopted from another family that just didn’t have time for her anymore (poor little girl). Like Bailey, she was the only ferret in her old home, so it was likely she was as lonely as he was. Now the two little fuzzies have each other and they couldn’t be happier.

So those are our wonderful fuzzies. But I’m not here to write about how cute and smart and playful and loveable and docile and huggable and sweet they are - which they are all that and more – no; I’m here to write about food. Their food. What they eat. What you should be feeding them. What you shouldn’t be feeding them. And when and how much you should be feeding them. Because most people (I was one of those people over a year ago) have no idea what (or how much) ferrets eat. No idea. None. Zippo.

And I’m here to share whatever knowledge I’ve picked up along the way; information that will help new or potential ferret owners to make the right decision when it comes to feeding a fuzzy.

Okay.

There are a couple of things that are extremely important.

1) Ferrets are obligate carnivores. I think most of you know what this means, but I will explain further by breaking it down into two definitions:

- Carnivore: an animal that derives its energy and nutrient requirements from a diet consisting mainly or exclusively of animal tissue.

- Obligate carnivore: an animal that depends solely on animal flesh for its nutrient requirements.

And because it’s absolutely vital that you understand what an obligate carnivore is, I’m adding this:

“Also known as a true carnivore, an obligate carnivore is an animal that subsists on a diet consisting only of meat. It does not possess the physiology to digest vegatable matter. Such animals may consume other products but do not require them.”

Got it? Good.

Now listen very carefully...

Ferrets do not have a cecum or appendix; the part of the intestine that helps in the digestion of plant materials. This means that their system is designed to digest only meat. Therefore, these obligate carnivores should not be fed foods that are high in fiber or carbohydrates. Instead, their diet should consist mainly of meat and animal products that are high in protein and fat.

So.

When you are checking the nutritional information of food products, keep this in mind: Your pet’s food must contain at least 30 – 40 percent protein and 20 percent fat, and only 2 percent (or less) fiber. Basically, what you are looking for is something that is high in animal protein, high in fat and low in fiber.

There are several products available to ferrets, and some are better than others. To help you select a high quality diet, I’m providing a link to a comparison chart that ranks a huge range of foods. Visit: www.mdferretpaws.org/care/food_treats.html

Choose a good quality diet and try to stick with it; do not feed your pet nuts, sugary or salty foods, coffee, tea, chocolate, alcohol, raw egg whites, dairy products, seeds, fruits, grains or vegetables; all of which can cause serious health problems.

And...

2) Food must be available at all times. Because ferrets have a high metabolism and a short digestive system they need to eat frequently; usually every 3 – 4 hours. Therefore, you cannot put them on a feeding schedule as you would a dog or cat, for instance. Give them access to food and fresh water at all times; this will allow them to eat whenever they need to. And if you’re feeding them a good quality diet combined with adequate exercise, you need not worry about your pet becoming obese; most ferrets eat just enough to meet their needs. Dry food is the most practical choice; it can be left available 24/7 without worry of spoilage. Canned food or food that tends to spoil if left available for long periods should be given as an occasional treat or as a supplement to a regular dry food diet.

And that’s it, folks. I hope that the above information helps you make good decisions when it comes to feeding your ferrety furballs.

Now, let’s see what our furry panel of experts has to say about today’s post, beginning with the ferrets...

“Clair?”


”Yeah, that’s a real bummer Clair... So glad I’m not a ferret.”

“Bailey?”


“Cause you need to drink beer while you watch the football game on the TV in your cage, right?” [rolling eyes]

“Nacho?”


“Sure, Nacho, you’ll get that blue jay if you ever get out of this house” [which you never will...mouhahahaha]

“Kitten?” [poor kitten...still nameless...]


[giggle…] No, kitten; mice are not vegetables. You can eat as many of those as you like if you ever find any!

You gotta love baby cats!

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