31 Dec FERRET NUTRITION
The polecat’s diet
The domestic ferret (Mustela putorius furo) is a species that derives from the european polecat (Mustela putorius), the steppe polecat (Mustela eversmanni), and their hybrids. The species was domesticated 2000 to 3000 years ago, mainly for rodent control and rabbit hunting.
The diet of these carnivores in the wild is based on the ingestion/uptake of small mammals (rodents and lagomorphs, mainly), birds, amphibians, and insects, so that their body has suffered anatomic and physiologic adaptations to that type of diet. Is is basically characterized by being rich in high quality protein and fat, and very low in carbohydrates (fiber, … and simple sugars).
The problem with dry kibble
Dry kibble is the most commonly fed diet to domestic ferrets in our area. Feedind this type of diet allows ensuring our patients get a balanced and microbiologically safe diet in a comfortable and cheap way, but it might not be the best option for ferrets. According to the literature the composition of most of the dry kibble brands available in Europe for ferrets, cats and kittens do not match the composition of a wild ferret’s natural prey.
Using a diet based on dry kibble has been linked to dental and periodontal disease, insulinoma, urolithiasis, an inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), although in this last case no scientific evidence has been publisehd.
Nowadays there are alternatives to a dry kibble based diet, such as a natural diet formulated by a veterinarian who is specialised in animal nutrition. Dry kibble can also be combined with whole killed prey (rat, mice, chicks from reptile shops) or their parts (pieces of chicken and rabbit from the butcher’s).
If you are interested in reading more about this subject you can read the following article (in spanish)