The ferret is a strict carnivore that requires a high-protein, fat-rich diet. The wild black-footed ferret of North America thrives exclusively on the freshly killed meat of prairie dogs. Domestic ferrets are physiologically identical to wild ferrets, so it is important to maintain them on a diet that satisfies their strict need for animal-derived protein.
Evolution of Ferret Nutrition
Ferrets have been kept by man for at least two thousand years. Historically, ferrets were used as working animals for pest control and hunting, and depended on human caretakers for nourishment. Most early ferrets were reared on a diet of fresh game meat. Ferrets that were introduced into Australia in the 19th century, for example, were given a combination of kangaroo and rabbit flesh.
Before commercial ferret diets were developed in the United States, ferrets held in captivity were given a combination of pelleted mink food, fresh rabbit meat and ground bone, dried liver, and vitamin supplementation. Ferret-specific nutritional research began to flourish when companies like Marshall Pet Products, Performance Foods, Inc., Mazuri and 8 in1 Pet Products entered the scene. **For the full article, pick up the 2008 issue of Ferrets USA or click here to buy the issue.**