With so many ferret foods available, only retailers who stay informed on brands and ingredients will be able to advise owners on the best diet for their pets.
Imagine that you are a ferret, and you have been handed a menu in a restaurant for ferrets. What would you want to order? From the ingredients currently being used in commercial ferret foods, it appears most manufacturers hope the No. 1 choice would be chicken. But would that really be the case? The main diet for wild ferrets is probably rodents, although no doubt they’d be happy to catch a bird now and then. It very well could be that birds are their preferred food, much as someone who regularly eats hamburger relishes a steak.
Companies that make ferret food have discovered that not only does chicken taste good to ferrets, but chicken fat appears to contain the best mix of fatty acids for them. However, there are other choices for protein in ferret diets. In fact, one company makes a chicken-free formula for ferrets that might be allergic or intolerant of that common ingredient. Turkey is probably the second most popular meat used in ferret food, and many formulas include egg as a secondary protein source.
Other protein sources used include venison, lamb, duck, pork, beef, gelatin and fish, including herring, cod and catfish. There is even one formula that includes crab meal, although it appears to be a very small portion of the entire diet.
Because there are now so many different varieties of ferret foods, the choice of which to buy can be bewildering for ferret owners and retailers alike. The first step is to become familiar with the different options and their ingredients. Experts say that ferret food should be at least 34 percent protein and contain no more than five percent fiber. The diets now available contain protein ranging from 34 to 62 percent, fat from 15 to 25 percent, and fiber from two to five percent. Just like choosing food for dogs and cats, the factors to take into consideration include the pet’s age, activity level and condition. There are formulas for young ferrets, as well as older ferrets. Other features that consumers are interested in include organic products and products made in the U.S.
Although price is irrelevant for some consumers who just want the best product available, cost is often a big factor in the food choice a pet owner makes. Many want to get the best value for their money and have a budget in mind. With so many options on the market, which food is “best” really comes down to personal preference, personal experience and the individual needs of each pet. One ferret might do well on one diet, and not so well on a diet seen as “better quality,” so retailers should talk with customers to find out how their ferrets seem to be faring. Are their coats shiny and sleek? Are their eyes bright? Are they maintaining a healthy weight? Are their stools well-formed? Do they have lots of energy during playtime? Working with customers this way will ensure that their ferrets are getting the diets that are best for them.
Debbie Ducommun has a bachelor’s degree in animal behavior and has worked in the animal field since 1982. She is the author of three books about rat care, health, and training, and was a consultant on the movie Ratatouille.