What Foods are Not Safe for Ferrets?


Like any other four legged critter, ferrets are prone to acquiring a taste for human foods. When this happens, it can be quite hard to say no to those big, innocent eyes as they plead for just a single smidge of your delicious dinner. While some select foods are perfectly fine to share with your house weasel of choice, there are a few things you should avoid giving to your pet, no matter how much they beg.

Let’s look at some common foods that are not safe for ferrets due to their negative health impact or lack of nutritional benefits.

Chocolate

If you are anything like most of the human population, chances are you partake in a little chocolate from time to time. Milk, white, dark, or apparently rose, chocolates can make for a satisfying treat after a long day or in times of stress. It literally triggers a release of endorphins in the brain that alleviates negative feelings!

Unfortunately, the opposite is true for your four legged friends. Ferrets, like dogs and many other animals, can become quite ill if they eat any amount of chocolate. For small animals like ferrets, two ounces of milk chocolate or just a single ounce of baker’s chocolate can prove fatal. Dark chocolate and cocoa powder take even less to cause illness.

Symptoms of chocolate related poisoning can vary from mild to severe. Mild symptoms include diarrhea and excessive thirst. More serious cases can involve vomiting, depression, seizures, muscle tremors, and cardiac arrest that can lead to death.

Dry Cereal

Cereal like Cheerios or Chex Mix are a popular treat for small animals like rats and bunnies. It is not the most nutritious but can make for a good snack on occasion if not given too frequently. Ferrets, however, should not be given carbs.

Ferrets are carnivores. This means they need a diet high in fat and protein and cannot process carbohydrates very easily. While one or two cheerios every couple of weeks may not cause significant harm, regularly giving your pet cereals can make them quite sick.

Aside from the carbohydrate issue, ferrets also do not need to be given a lot of sugar, which is something most cereals tend to contain. Sugar and sweeteners play no natural role in the dietary needs of a ferret and are almost nonexistent in the wild. Ferrets simply do not need these two things, despite them perhaps liking the food.

Diabetes is common among ferrets, especially if they are given an unhealthy diet. Even if your pet enjoys the occasional sugary treat, as its owner you need to be able to say “no” and offer healthier, still tasty alternatives. Think of it as parenting a child; you wouldn’t let them have straight frosting for breakfast everyday, right?

Fruit and Vegetables

Surely, fruits and vegetables are okay, right? They are packed with nutrients and are perhaps one of the most nutritionally important aspects of our own diets. Even dogs enjoy munching on carrots or other vegetables from time to time!

Sadly, no. Ferrets are biologically designed to not be able to process such foods due to their fiber content. Ferrets need a diet that is less than three percent fiber. They simply cannot process it, which can lead to bowel obstructions and a host of other gastrointestinal issues.

While your ferret may enjoy munching on a strawberry or some other snack, giving it to them can create some health issues that are otherwise avoidable. The fiber content paired with usual sugar content of fruits can be lethal in the long run.

Dairy

Ferrets are mammals, which means they drink milk from their mothers. It makes sense logically that they should be able to drink cow’s milk on occasion or have a bit of cheese or yogurt, right?

Ferrets are, by nature, lactose intolerant. Baby ferrets, called kits, can drink their mother’s milk just fine but will develop an intolerance as they age, resulting in some unpleasant discomfort if they have such foods.

While it is not as dangerous as some of the other items listed here, dairy can still make your pet quite sick. It is not nutritionally beneficial so it is best to avoid it and stick to a diet that actually helps improve your pet’s well being instead of temporarily damage it.

Tuna/Processed Meats

Ferrets are carnivores so a slice of deli ham or canned tuna must be a great choice! Unfortunately, many of these items contain preservatives, colorants, and other additives that make them less than stellar options.

The proteins provided to your pet should be of a high quality ranking and free of additives that may make your pet ill or irritate their delicate digestive system. Canned tuna contains high levels of mercury and other heavy metals that can damage your pet’s internal organs.

If you opt to raw feed, go for fresh meats and bypass the processed, sodium laden stuff. It honestly is not very good for humans, either, but is a bit more acceptable.

Questions and Answers

What foods are poisonous to ferrets? While there are tons of foods you should not feed your pet ferret, there are only a few that are outright toxic. Xylitol, a common artificial sweetener used in everything from candy to peanut butter, is perhaps one of the most notorious offenders.

Foods like onions and garlic can lead to kidney failure, as well. Dog foods that are high in plant proteins are quite dangerous since they have a high fiber content. Oddly, peas, which are commonly used in formulating plant based proteins, can cause kidney and bladder issues, including bladder stones. There are others, like chocolate, but these are some of the most common offenders you will encounter.

If you have any questions concerning if something specifically is safe or not, do your research before giving any to your pet. It is better to be safe than sorry!

What do ferrets eat in the wild? Ferrets are, by nature, carnivores. Due to this, they actually hunt for their own prey while in the wild. Small, live animals like birds, mice, rats, and other meaty little guys are common dinners for the wild black footed ferret (the only type of ferret that exists outside of domestication that is widely known about).

They eat the entirety of their prey, including the organ, bones, fur, feathers, and skin. If they decide to munch on eggs, they typically snack on the shells, too, which makes for a fantastic source of calcium to support healthy weasel bones.

Conclusion

Ferrets need a diet that is high in protein and fat and considerably low in carbohydrates, sugar, and fiber. Due to this, most human snacks are not a good idea. Stick to raw meats and other ferret friendly fare if you want to venture outside of basic ferret kibble for your pet’s meals.

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