New ferret owners are often overjoyed at the new bundle of joy. The excitement comes with responsibility, as it is now their job to feed and care for this new furry friend.
A specialized ferret diet is the best option to feed a ferret, but it’s not always available as widely as other small animal foods.
An owner might wonder, “Can ferrets eat rabbit food?”
As ferrets and rabbits have distinctly different diets, feeding your ferret rabbit food is not recommended for any reason.
Ferrets are obligate carnivores and have trouble digesting high-fiber diets, whereas a rabbit relies on high-fiber and lots of vegetables as their primary nutrition. Read on to find out more!
Why ferrets should not eat rabbit food?
There are several reasons why a diet specially formulated for a rabbit will not work well for a ferret.
Although they are both small animals and their care requirements have some overlap, they are two distinctly different animals with vastly different nutritional needs.
Ferrets need meat.
Ferrets are classified as “obligate carnivores.” That means they must have meat to thrive, including bones and organs, for a complete profile of nutrients.
Their diets will include high levels of protein and fat while keeping carbohydrates and fiber low.
Rabbits, on the other hand, are herbivores that eat large quantities of vegetables, so diets formulated to their needs will take this into account.
Rabbits also rely on hay, including timothy, orchard, or brome, to receive most of their nutrition. Some pellet-based rabbit diets incorporate hay into the diet for this reason.
Ferrets don’t need fruits and vegetables.
Some ferrets enjoy fruit as a snack, but it’s not recommended to give them sugary foods because it can affect their blood sugar or cause diarrhea.
Vegetables, on the other hand, are often high in fiber and will cause gastric distress to ferrets who consume them.
Rabbits, too, enjoy the occasional piece of fruit, but it’s recommended to provide a small quantity only every now and then.
Likewise, vegetables are essential to a rabbit’s diet, and they may eat large quantities indiscriminately.
Ferrets don’t do well with high-fiber diets.
Ferrets are unable to digest large quantities of fiber. Anything more than 4% fiber will be excreted as waste.
Feeding a ferret with a diet high in fiber can cause gastric distress and, over time, lead to disease.
What will happen if I give rabbit food to my ferrets?
A ferret will not do well when eating rabbit food. In the short term, a ferret who has consumed large amounts of carbohydrates, fiber, and vegetables will likely experience gastric distress.
Diarrhea is common. If you observe your ferret having diarrhea, monitor their water intake to ensure they are keeping hydrated, and consult a veterinarian if it goes on for more than a day.
If you continue feeding rabbit food to your ferret for extended periods, your ferret will suffer from malnutrition, leading to various diseases.
In some cases, this could be fatal. For these reasons, feeding rabbit food to your ferret is not recommended.
Go for proper ferret food.
A specially formulated ferret diet is the best option for ferrets because it guarantees a balanced diet that meets all their nutritional needs.
Ferret food contains high protein and fat while keeping carbohydrates and fiber to a bare minimum.
Ferret food is not as easily located as food for dogs, cats, and even rabbits, but most specialty pet supply retail stores will carry at least one brand. For a more comprehensive selection, shopping online is preferred.
Some ferret owners feed a homemade diet consisting of raw meat, bones, organs, and some supplements.
While this is also a viable option, it is way less convenient than simply buying ferret food. It requires careful preparation to ensure your ferret’s nutritional needs are being met.
What if I run out of ferret food?
Ferret food is your best option, but sometimes we run out before we get more. Whether you’re waiting on a delivery, forgot to stop at the store, or simply didn’t realize you were almost out, you might need to feed your ferret something in a pinch.
It shouldn’t be rabbit food, but here are some viable options if you need something until you get that new bag of ferret food.
Ferrets love raw meat, as it’s what they would be consuming in the wild if they were still out there. Raw meat, including bones and organs, is a great substitute for their kibble.
Chicken wings, turkey necks, and ground beef are all easy to find and feed in the meantime.
Rabbit, lamb, and game birds are also viable, but they might not be as easily found. Nonetheless, these meats will provide valuable nutrition and make for a great treat while you wait!
Another option for feeding your ferret in the meantime is kitten food. Wet kitten food is preferred over dry kibble, as wet food has higher moisture content and similar protein and fat levels but less carbohydrates.
The reason kitten food is a great substitute is that both cats and ferrets are strict carnivores. Their nutritional requirements are very similar.
In addition, kitten formulas tend to have higher levels of protein and fat because it’s formulated for growth, whereas an adult cat formula is prepared with maintenance in mind instead.
Since ferrets have an extremely high metabolism and generally eat every 4 hours, kitten food works better to keep them getting what they need.
If adult cat food is the only thing you can find, it’s perfectly fine to feed as well.
Other safe human foods
There are several other human foods that your ferret can eat, either as a meal replacement for a short period of time or as an occasional treat. Human foods fit for ferret consumption include:
- Olive or coconut oil
Bones are also edible, but ferrets should eat raw, not cooked, bones.
This is because cooked bones can splinter when chewed on, and sharp pieces might slice or puncture your ferret’s GI tract. For this reason, it’s very important to feed only raw bones.
New ferret owners may not realize that ferrets and rabbits are distinctly different creatures.
Although they’re both small animals, their nutritional needs couldn’t be more different, so a ferret should not be fed a rabbit diet.
Raw meat, kitten food, cat food, and some other human foods are okay substitutes if you happen to run out of food. However, it is not recommended you feed rabbit food to your ferret for any reason.