Best Ferret Food

Updated May 2021
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We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

32 Models Considered
16 Hours Researched
2 Experts Interviewed
88 Consumers Consulted
Zero products received from manufacturers.

We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

Buying guide for Best ferret food

While cats and dogs might reign supreme as the most popular pets in the U.S., your choices as a pet owner actually go beyond the canine and the feline. In fact, quite a few other companion animals dwell in human homes, including rabbits, hamsters, fish, birds, and reptiles.

Another option, not so widely known, is the ferret. Ferrets may not be as common as other companion animal species, but they are certainly not rare. In fact, somewhere between 5 and 7 million ferrets are kept as pets in the U.S., and in 15 states, including Colorado, Idaho, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Vermont, and Wisconsin, ferrets are the most popular type of pet after cats and dogs.

The care of a ferret isn’t quite as simple as it is for many other pets. Ferrets need living quarters designed for their active and curious natures. They also need a diet specifically formulated for their nutritional needs.

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Ferrets are loads of fun, and they make excellent pets for apartment dwellers or anyone looking for an alternative to a cat, dog, or other small companion animal.

Ferrets as pets

The domesticated ferret is a descendent of the European polecat and has been an animal companion to humans for over 2,000 years. While originally bred to hunt rodents, today, ferrets — who are in no way related to rodents themselves, being members of the Mustelidae family that also includes weasels, badgers, otters, and minks — are mostly enjoyed for their hyper-curious, active, and playful nature.

Typically, pet ferrets weigh less than 5 pounds, are 13 to 16 inches long, and live between 5 and 10 years. You’ll find a wide range of colors and markings, but the most common colors are white, sable, dark brown, black, and champagne. Most ferrets, other than pure white animals, have a darker “mask” on their faces.

Ferrets are sociable creatures, and they do best living with one or two other ferrets, but they also love to spend time interacting with their human family. Many get along well with pet cats and dogs, but it’s a good idea to keep your ferret away from pet rodents or rabbits, who are the natural prey of ferrets in the wild. And because ferrets sometimes nip if handled roughly, they are best kept in households without young children.

Ferrets can be litter-box trained and taught a variety of tricks. They love playing with toys, including crinkly bags, balls, dangling toys, tubes they can squeeze through, squeaky toys, and most cat toys. While ferrets play hard while awake, they spend the majority of their hours sleeping, just like cats do.

Your ferret needs a suitably large cage with multiple levels. Because ferrets are escape artists and can squeeze through surprisingly narrow openings, the bars of the cage must be spaced closely together. Provide soft bedding on the cage bottom, one or two soft beds for your ferret’s snoozing sessions, plenty of toys, and easy access to clean water and fresh food at all times.  Remember that your ferret needs a lot of exercise and play time, so plan on at least two or three hours out of the cage (while under your direct supervision) every day.

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Did You Know?
A male ferret is called a hob, and a female ferret is called a jill.
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Feeding your ferret

Just like cats, ferrets are obligate carnivores, meaning they require a meat diet. Their digestive systems are not equipped to handle fruit, grains, nuts, sugar, or vegetables, and diets high in these foods can lead to illness. Ferrets also need to eat frequently, as often as every three to four hours, because they have short digestive systems and high metabolisms. Therefore, your ferret should have access to food during all waking hours.

While some ferret owners prefer to feed their pets whole prey, such as baby mice or chicks, the majority rely on commercial ferret food in kibble or pellet form to keep their furry companion healthy and happy. Another option is a freeze-dried food, which must be mixed with water before feeding.

There are quite a few brands of ferret food available online and in pet stores. For optimal health, look for ferret food with these concentrations.

  • At least 30% to 40% animal-based protein
  • At least 20% to 30% fat
  • Less than 3% fiber
  • Ideally, less than 10% carbohydrates

Protein: Ferrets need plenty of protein in the form of meat. Look for ferret food with a named whole meat as the first ingredient rather than an unnamed meat byproduct. Most ferrets do very well with chicken, beef, or lamb as their primary protein source, and these are the most common top ingredients in commercial ferret foods. Egg is also a great protein source. Skip ferret kibble that includes plant-based protein as a major ingredient, including legumes, corn gluten, wheat, pea protein, and soy protein.

Fat: Chicken is the most common fat source in commercial ferret food, providing a healthy balance of omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids.

Vitamins and minerals: Most top-quality ferret foods include additional vitamins and minerals necessary for ferret health. Some even include probiotics to keep your pet’s digestive system in peak condition.

Grain-free: While the majority of commercial ferret foods contain a small amount of grain, there are grain-free options. You’ll pay more for these foods, but they are the closest thing to your pet’s natural diet.

Seniors: If your ferret is four years or older, they’re a senior. While older ferrets still require diets high in protein and fat, they sometimes develop diarrhea or other digestive problems when fed foods with the highest levels of these nutrients. Ferret food specifically formulated for older pets typically is a little lower in fat and protein for easier digestion.

Treats: A high-quality ferret food should provide the majority of your pet’s daily calories, but that doesn’t mean you can’t give your ferret treats as well. Ferrets love snacks, but don’t feed your ferret fruit, candy or other sugary sweets, nuts, chips, bread, or other grain-intensive foods. Instead, provide bits of hard boiled egg, tidbits of cooked meat, freeze-dried liver bits, and other freeze-dried meats.

A healthy ferret diet includes lots of meat-based protein and fat.

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Ferret food prices

Ferret kibble is usually sold in 4-pound or 5-pound bags, which is typically enough to feed one ferret for a month. The best ferret foods generally cost between $15 and $25 per bag. For that price, you can expect a high-quality food with meat as the first ingredient, little to no grains, chicken fat or another source of animal fat, and a spectrum of vitamins and minerals to keep your pet healthy.

Don’t be swayed by bargain-bin ferret foods costing $10 or less per bag. Most of these include far too much grain to keep your pet in peak health.

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Did You Know?
Your ferret will enjoy treats of eggs, cooked meat, or freeze-dried meat. Avoid grains, fruit, vegetables, sugar, and nuts.
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Tips

While they might be adorable, mischievous, and playful creatures, they require a great deal of care. Here are a few tips for keeping your ferret healthy.

  • Provide clean water and fresh food for your ferret every day.
  • Get the right cage. A ferret cage should be a minimum of 18 x 18 x 30 inches with two or more levels. A latched door is a must to prevent escape, and the cage’s bars need to be closely spaced so your pet can’t squeeze through.
  • Cover the bottom of the cage. An old piece of carpet or fabric is an apt choice.
  • Situate your ferret’s cage appropriately. Place it in a spot away from drafts, direct sunlight, and heat. The temperature should remain between 60°F and 80°F.
  • Fill your ferret’s litter box with the right materials. Use shredded paper or aspen. Do not use clumping cat litter, cedar, or pine. Clean the box daily.
  • Give your ferret a cozy bed. Ferrets love to sleep in cuddly fabric beds or even on your old tee shirt. They also love sleeping or relaxing in hammocks. Keep things sanitary by washing the bedding each week.
  • Choose your ferret’s toys carefully. Don’t give your ferret toys made of latex, foam, or soft plastic. Toys adorned with small pieces that could be chewed and swallowed should also be avoided.
  • Practice good ferret hygiene. Brush your ferret weekly to remove shedding hair, and trim their nails monthly. You can bathe your ferret once a month to reduce the musky odor, but don’t bathe more than that. Too much bathing can dry out your ferret’s skin and coat.
  • Take your ferret for regular checkups. Your ferret needs a veterinarian who treats small companion animals, not just cats and dogs. An annual checkup is the best way to catch health issues before they become serious. Ferrets also require annual vaccinations against distemper and rabies.
  • Watch for hair loss on your ferret’s tail, hips, or shoulders. This can be a sign of adrenal gland disease, which is fairly common in pet ferrets.
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Ferrets are very curious, agile, and mischievous. Never leave your ferret unsupervised while  out of the cage.

FAQ

Q. Do ferrets smell bad?

A. Ferrets naturally have a musky odor, as do most members of the Mustelidae family. The odor is greatly reduced by spaying or neutering, but you’ll still notice a bit of musk even in an altered animal. Most people don’t find the musk objectionable, and keeping your pet’s living quarters clean will reduce it further.

Q. Is it legal to own a ferret?

A. You can legally own a ferret in most of the U.S., but there are exceptions, so check local ordinances before buying a new pet. Notably, ferrets are illegal in all of California and Hawaii, Washington, D.C., and New York City.

Q. Are ferrets wild animals?

A. No. Just as domesticated dogs are related to wolves but no longer have the same behaviors as their wild cousins, domesticated ferrets are quite different from their wild European polecat ancestors. Most ferrets would quickly perish if returned to the wild, as they have lost the instincts to hunt and survive on their own.

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