It seems quite often that the most popular companion animal to be switched over to raw are dogs, This FAQ answers the basic questions most have when starting raw. Click on the headers of each topic to learn more in depth information about them.
It seems quite often that the most popular companion animal to be switched over to raw are dogs, but in fact out of the two ferrets actually have more special dietary needs than dogs.
Why should ferrets be raw fed?
Ferrets are obligate carnivores. This means they can only properly utilize meat. They do not have a digestive system including digestive enzymes designed to consume anything but (1).
Ferrets also need higher moisture diets. Most commercial dry foods are only 7-10% moisture which is detrimental for any animal. Dry commercial foods are the primary reason many ferrets develop kidney failure (2), urinary tract infections as well as bladder, kidney and urinary stones (3).
What do I feed?
Each meal or batch should be made of 80% muscle meat, 10% secreting organ meat (5% of which must be liver) and 10% appropriate raw meaty bones (4).
Are there any proteins my ferret can’t have?
You do not want to feed other carnivores as well as wild boar, fox or bear as they contain a parasite that cannot be frozen and killed (5). Other than that they can eat rabbit, duck, chicken, quail, beef etc.
Note: if you want to fed any wild caught animals such as venison, turkey, rabbit, etc. you should freeze these for at least 3 weeks to kill any parasites (6).
What about organs?
Same with organs and bone. The total allotment is 10% of the total batch or meal. 5% of that must be liver but the other 5% can be any other secreting organ such as liver, kidney, spleen, testicles etc.
Why do I need to feed bone?
Raw bones contain calcium and trace minerals. They are nature’s tooth brush. They scrape and scale all the teeth as they are being chewed and the meat on them are perfect as they act as a floss getting in between the teeth. Almost all raw fed ferrets when fed chunked meat and raw meaty bones will have pearly white teeth and scentless breath!
Is bone safe?
As long as you don’t feed any cooked bone (7) and only feed appropriately sized, bones are completely edible and digestible
What kind of bone can I feed?
You do not want anything too small they can simply swallow nor nothing too big that they can break a tooth or jaw on. This means no weight bearing bone like femur bones. Also do not feed any cooked bone. This degrades the bone and can cause it to splinter. Great bones for ferrets include chicken necks, rabbit ribs, day old chickens and quail, small rodents etc.
What about weight baring bones of smaller animals?
Smaller animals like chicken or rabbit are ok too feed as their bones are soft and smaller and not as dense than say a beef femur.
What if my ferret won’t eat bone?
If you have tried multiple types of bone with no avail the next best thing is use eggshell.
What is eggshell?
This is a natural source of calcium (8) and your most cost effective option. It is simply the eggshell devoid of the white and yolk inside.
How do I prepare eggshell?
After using the egg, simply rinse and dry the shell. Either put the eggshells in a spice grinder and grind to a fine powder or stick in a plastic baggie and roll over with a rolling pin. Eggshell really doesn’t go bad but you can keep it in the fridge or freezer.
How much do I need?
To add it to your batch simply sprinkle in ½ teaspoon per pound of meat and organ mix.
Note: Keep in mind that because you aren’t feeding the mass of raw meaty bones and instead replacing it with powdered eggshell you will not be feeding as much because the eggshell will not weigh the same as the raw meaty bones so just feed the amount that is the meat and organs totaled.
Do I need to rotated proteins?
Variety and rotation are important in the diet of our ferrets. Not only does it prevent boredom and food intolerances, it also provides a varied nutrient profile and a balanced diet (9). A ferret should typically have about 4 different proteins in their rotation (10), but more is acceptable too. Variety can include single proteins, a mix of proteins or a change in raw meaty bones and organs. This can be on a weekly or monthly basis, it’s really your choice.
Don’t ferret’s need taurine?
Yes, ferrets require taurine. This is an essential amino acid that must be obtained from their food as they cannot make it themselves (11). Taurine is important for the eyes and for heart health (12). In order to compensate for this, you simply need to add more hard working meats to your batches. The easiest source is heart of any species and dark thigh meat (13).
Can I feed fruits and veggies?
Beings that ferrets are obligate carnivores you should not add fruits and vegetables (14). Although these do have many benefits that HUMANS can utilize, there are few that ferrets can. Unfortunately fruits and veggies more times tax the body and wear it down (15).
Are raw eggs good to feed?
Raw eggs are the superfood of raw feeding. They contain endless amounts of nutrients and benefits to your companions. They even can help with hairballs (16)! When feeding raw eggs, it is important to feed the whole egg as in both the yolk and the white.
What about Avidin?
There is a myth that if you feed the egg white it will cause a biotin deficiency. This stems from the fact that egg whites do contain avidin, a biotin binding protein (17), however what is also true is that the egg yolk contains the highest biotin content in the natural world, negating the effects of the egg white. Besides you would have to feed a ton of egg whites to produce any kind of deficiency (18).
Should I add any oils like coconut oil?
No. You can provide animal based oils like fish or krill oils. Fish oil contains important omega 3’s that act as anti-inflammatories (19). They also help the heart (20), improve the skin (21) and coat and even help fight cancer (22, 23, 24) Please do not feed plant based oils such as hemp, vegetable or coconut oils. None are species appropriate (25, 26, 27) and all three can actually cause harm to your ferret.
Should I include a probiotic or prebiotic?
Raw feeding in itself its great on digestion. It is the most bioavailable (28, 29, 30) and easy to digest of the food types and actually helps feed and create more beneficial microflora in the gut to increase good digestion (31). Unless your companion has a digestion issue AND you have identified the problem there is no need to provide pre/probiotics. Pre/probiotics when chosen must be chosen carefully. To be effective they need to be alive (32) so any pre/probiotics, baked into commercial foods or in powdered forms are not alive and provide little benefits.
Can I feed dairy products?
Most ferrets are lactose intolerance (33) and often experience digestive upset when fed dairy products. Most people look to Kefir or yogurt as a snack or to help with digestion. Kefir is not only made of dairy but also grains which an obligate carnivore should not consume. In regards to yogurt. Most commercial yogurt on the market today are loaded with sugar and actually do not have enough pre/probiotics in it. You would have to feed buckets full to get any of the effects (34) .
How much to feed?
Adults should be fed about 5-7% of their ideal body weight, but this can vary with the season of the year and may need to be increased or decreased based on activity level.
Kits should be allowed to eat as much as they would like until adulthood which is around 8 months of age for most ferrets.
What if my pet needs to lose weight?
A raw diet contains lean muscle meats and no additives like sugary grains or fruits and veggies. Naturally they will lose weight as fat is replaced with lean muscle (35). Especially with ferrets you do not want them to lose a ton of weight quickly (36, 37). This can cause severe health issues. 1 lb may seem minor to us humans but that is a lot for a small animal like a ferret.
How many meals should I feed?
When feeding your ferret provide at least two meals a day, but 3 or more is better. Simply take the amount of food needed to be fed in a day and split into however many meals you want to feed.
How long should I let the food stay out for?
While some animals finish their food in 2 secs others take much longer. The best indicator of how long to leave meals out other than how fast your pet eats, is the temperature in your home. If it tends to stay colder you can leave food out for about an hour. If it is much warmer leaving it out longer than 20 minutes probably isn’t a good idea. If your ferret does not eat within the time frame, simply wrap it up and stick in the refrigerator for later.
Is it easy to transition a ferret?
While most kits and younger ferrets are easy to transition and often can do so cold turkey, older ferrets or those kibble addicts out there may be hard.
You must look at your companion as an individual. Each is different thus some may easily transition to raw while others take months to fully transition. It is most ideal to start your companion out on raw as young as possible.
What is a standard transition time frame?
There are a few transition methods. Personally I use a cold turkey method. I serve a meal with 80% meat, 5% liver and 10% bone. If there is no stomach upset for two weeks than I give the full 10% organ recommendation.
The second and more common method is to transition over a 7-10 day period. If your companion eats a kibble based diet, now would be the time to transition to a canned food. Canned food is getting closer to raw feeding as it contains more meat, less carbohydrates, is full of moisture and easier to digest. Over this time period you will want to use 25% of the new food to 75% old food the first day, continue this for a bit, then move into 50% new and 50% old food. In a few days, transition to 75% new food, 25% old food. Than finally on the 7th to 10th day your companion should be consuming 100% raw. As mentioned some ferrets need this transition period to be longer.
Can I mix raw and kibble?
DO NOT transition to raw by mixing with kibble. Kibble and raw food digest at varying rates and can cause digestive upset (38, 39, 40). If your ferret will not transition cold turkey, use canned food as a transition tool.
Will my ferret eventually eat if they are starving?
DO NOT practice tough love with your ferret (35).
Transitioning Tips and Trouble Shooting
Some companions are finicky when it comes to texture. If your companion has previously been on a kibble diet it may be strange to eat a food that isn’t dry, hard and crunchy. If your companion was previously on wet or canned food, eating food that isn’t one conglomerate texture, a mixture of chucky and soft or one mixture with a gravy, may be strange.
Some companions may have difficulty transitioning to raw due to flavor. Wet and commercially produced dry foods often have added flavors or are sprayed with animal fats to make it appealing to our companions. Raw food is like a salad compared to kibble or wet food which is more like fast food. Often starting with a protein source that your companion likes may be a first step for companions that are picky with taste. Some companions will eat liver but prefers it to be chicken versus say venison. Every animal is different so one protein may be savored by your ferret, while the dog absolutely hates it.
Depending on what your companion is used to the chunks may be foreign to them. You may have to experiment with different sized chunks of meat, organs and bones.
Some companions simply do not like certain combinations of ingredients. Some may even not like a combination say raw eggs mixed with sardines, but will happily eat them separate on their own. It may take some trial and error to figure out what your companion does and doesn’t like.
Temperature especially in ferrets can make transitioning a challenge. Ferrets often like warm, moist foods. Some companions will eat their food after it’s been served right out of the freezer, some will prefer it right from the fridge, others need it served at room temperature (which is closest to their naturally served diets) One thing never to do is microwave the food. Microwaving (41, 42) and for that matter cooking can easily denature and destroy essential nutrients raw foods provide (43, 44). In addition, microwaving can great hot spots that can burn your pet’s mouth. Instead, if needed, place the container of raw in a bowl of lukewarm water.
Some animals feel too much in the open. Raw meat is a novel item for your companion especially for those fed a commercial diet previously so they may feel competition if you have other companions. Serving meals to your companion in a separate room or in a carrier/crate can help ease your companion’s anxiety.
Deep bowls can bother ferrets because their whiskers are being compromised. Providing a bowl that is shallow and large, even serving on a plate is ideal for ferrets.
Some companions don’t even like using a bowl. Some will want to eat right on the floor often times on the carpet as it will provide more grip than a laminate kitchen floor that may cause their food to slip and slide around. Try serving food on an old towel or a textured rubber mat.
Based on observations of animal behavior, other companions in your household can influence eating behaviors. In some cases, other companions can be distracting to your companion and inhibit meal consumption. In other cases, other companions can appear to be competition and induce your companions to quickly consume their meal or hoard their food. Remember especially in the beginning you are providing a new novel food especially compared to a kibble diet.
At times you may just have to be creative with serving your companions food in the begin as they get used to a raw species appropriate diet.
Ferrets primarily are just like cats who eat a raw diet so give it a try and provide the best for your furbaby!
1. Ann Wortinger, BIS, LVT, VTS, "Cats: Obligate Carnivore," CVC in Kansas City Proceedings, Aug 1, 2010.
2.. Hodgkins, Elizabeth M. Your Cat: A Revolutionary Approach to Feline Health and Happiness. 1st ed., Thomas Dunne Books, 2007.
3.. Chew, R. M. 1965. Water metabolism of mammals. Pp. 43-178 in Physiology Mammalogy, Vol. 2, W. V. Mayer and R. G.VanGelder, eds. New York: Academic Press.
4.. Prange HD, Anderson JF, Rahn H: Scaling of Skeletal Mass to Body Mass in Birds and Mammals, The American Naturalist, 1979, Vol 113, No. 1
5.. “Parasites - Trichinellosis (Also Known as Trichinosis).” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 28 July 2017,
6.. “Salmon Poisoning Disease and Elokomin Fluke Fever - Generalized Conditions.” Merck Veterinary Manual,
7.. Marijkee17. “Raw Diet Myth: Chicken Bones Splinter?” YouTube, YouTube, 9 Jan. 2017, www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ilgx4e_zJhQ.
8.. Rovenský, J, et al. “Eggshell Calcium in the Prevention and Treatment of Osteoporosis.” International Journal of Clinical Pharmacology Research., U.S. National Library of Medicine, 2003,
9.. NRC (National Research Council). 1980. Recommended Dietary Allowances, 9th ed. A report of the Food and Nutrition Board, Assembly of Life Sciences. National Academy of Sciences, Washington, D.C.
11. McCusker, Sarah et al. “Amino Acid Content of Selected Plant, Algae and Insect Species: A Search for Alternative Protein Sources for Use in Pet Foods.” Journal of Nutritional Science 3 (2014): e39. PMC. Web. 23 Feb. 2018.
12. Committee on Animal Nutrition, National Research Council. Nutrient Requirements of Cats, Rev Ed. 1986.
13. AR Spitze, DL Wong, QR Rogers and AJ Fascett, "Taurine Concentrations in Animal Feed Ingredients; Cooking Influences Taurine Content," Journal of Animal Physiology and Animal Nutrition 87, 2003, 251-262.
14. Kienzle E. 1993. “Carbohydrate metabolism of the cat. 1. Activity of amylase in the gastrointestinal tract of the cat.” J. Anim. Physiol. Anim. Nutr. (Berl.) 69:92–101.
15. Case, Linda P., et al. Canine and Feline Nutrition: a Resource for Companion Animal Professionals. 3rd ed., Mosby/Elsevier, 2011.
16. Kornreich, Bruce. “A Hairy Dilemma | Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine.”College of Veterinary Medicine, www2.vet.cornell.edu/departments-centers-and-institutes/cornell-feline-health-center/health-information/feline-health-topics/hairy-dilemma.
17. Nurminen, Kirsi P.; Helppolainen, Satu H.; Määttä, Juha A. E.; et al. (2007). "Rhizavidin from Rhizobium etli: The first natural dimer in the avidin protein family". Biochemical Journal. 405 (3): 397–405. doi:10.1042/BJ20070076. PMC 2267316
18. Coretta, Chinwe, et al. “Biotin.” NC State: WWW4 Server, www4.ncsu.edu/~knopp/BCH451/Biotin.htm.
19. Calder, PC. “n-3 Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids, Inflammation, and Inflammatory Diseases.”PubMed.gov, Am J Clin Nutr., June 2006,
20. Yinko SSLL, et al. Fish Consumption and Acute Coronary Syndrome: A Meta-Analysis. Am J Medicine. 2014;127(9):848-857
21. Calder, Philip C.; Kremmyda, Lefkothea-Stella; Vlachava, Maria; Noakes, Paul S.; Miles, Elizabeth A. (2010). "Is there a role for fatty acids in early life programming of the immune system?". Proceedings of the Nutrition Society. 69(3): 373–80. doi:10.1017/S0029665110001552. PMID 20462467
22. Caygill CP, Charlett A, Hill MJ (1996) Fat, fish, fish oil and cancer. Brit J Cancer74: 159-164.
23. Orengo IF, Black HS, Kettler AH, Wolf JE Jr. (1989) Influence of dietary menhaden oil upon carcinogenesis and various cutaneous responses to ultraviolet radiation. PhotochemPhotobiol 49: 71-77.
24. Doughman, S D, et al. “Omega-3 Fatty Acids for Nutrition and Medicine: Considering Microalgae Oil as a Vegetarian Source of EPA and DHA.” Current Diabetes Reviews., U.S. National Library of Medicine, Aug. 2007,
25. Burri, Lena, et al. “Marine Omega-3 Phospholipids: Metabolism and Biological Activities.”International Journal of Molecular Sciences, Molecular Diversity Preservation International (MDPI), 2012, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3509649/.
26. Beloshapka, A N, et al. “Effects of Inulin or Yeast Cell-Wall Extract on Nutrient Digestibility, Fecal Fermentative End-Product Concentrations, and Blood Metabolite Concentrations in Adult Dogs Fed Raw Meat-Based Diets.” American Journal of Veterinary Research., U.S. National Library of Medicine, July 2012,
27. Hamper, B A, et al. “Apparent Nutrient Digestibility of Two Raw Diets in Domestic Kittens.” Journal of Feline Medicine and Surgery., U.S. National Library of Medicine, Dec. 2016,
28. Sá, Fabiano C. et al. “Comparison of the Digestive Efficiency of Extruded Diets Fed to Ferrets (Mustela Putorius Furo), Dogs (Canis Familiaris) and Cats (Felis Catus).” Journal of Nutritional Science 3 (2014): e32. PMC. Web. 16 Mar. 2018.
29. Bermingham, Emma N. et al. “Key Bacterial Families (Clostridiaceae, Erysipelotrichaceae and Bacteroidaceae) Are Related to the Digestion of Protein and Energy in Dogs.” Ed. Katrine Whiteson. PeerJ 5 (2017): e3019. PMC. Web. 16 Mar. 2018.
30. Arribas, B, et al. “The Immunomodulatory Properties of Viable Lactobacillus Salivarius Ssp. Salivarius CECT5713 Are Not Restricted to the Large Intestine.” European Journal of Nutrition., U.S. National Library of Medicine, Apr. 2012,
31. P. & M. Messer (1968) Studies on disaccharidase activities of the small intestine of the domestic cat and other carnivorous mammals, Comparative Biochemistry and Physiology. 24(3): 717-725.
32. Scourboutakos MJ, Franco-Arellano B, Murphy SA, Norsen S, Comelli EM, L’Abbé MR. Mismatch between Probiotic Benefits in Trials versus Food Products. Nutrients. 2017; 9(4):400.
33. Leidy, H J, et al. “The Role of Protein in Weight Loss and Maintenance.” The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition., U.S. National Library of Medicine, 9 Apr. 2015,
34. Center, S A, et al. “The Clinical and Metabolic Effects of Rapid Weight Loss in Obese Pet Cats and the Influence of Supplemental Oral L-Carnitine.” Journal of Veterinary Internal Medicine., U.S. National Library of Medicine, 2000,
35. George, D F, et al. “Non-Thermal Effects in the Microwave Induced Unfolding of Proteins Observed by Chaperone Binding.” Bioelectromagnetics., U.S. National Library of Medicine, May 2008,
37. Song, K, and J A Milner. “The Influence of Heating on the Anticancer Properties of Garlic.” The Journal of Nutrition., U.S. National Library of Medicine, Mar. 2001,
38. Fisler JS. Cardiac effects of starvation and semistarvation diets: Safety and mechanisms of action. Am J Clin Nutr 1992; 56 (Suppl): 230S–234S.
39. Ellen Kienzle, "Effect of Carbohydrates on Digestion in the Cat," The Journal of Nutrition, no. 124, 1994, 2568S-2571S. “Introduction to Enzymes.” Effects of PH (Introduction to Enzymes), Worthington Publication, 1972,
41. Lennard-Jones, J. E., and N. Babouris. “Effect of Different Foods on the Acidity of the Gastric Contents in Patients with Duodenal Ulcer.” Gut, U.S. National Library of Medicine, Apr. 1965,
42. Kimura, M, and Y Itokawa. “Cooking Losses of Minerals in Foods and Its Nutritional Significance.” Journal of Nutritional Science and Vitaminology., U.S. National Library of Medicine, 1990, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/2081985.
43. Peterson, Michelle E. et al. “The Dependence of Enzyme Activity on Temperature: Determination and Validation of Parameters.” Biochemical Journal 402.Pt 2 (2007): 331–337. PMC. Web. 3 Mar. 2018
44. Nishiura, James. “Effect of Temperature on Enzyme Activity.” Effect of Temperature on Enzyme Activity, Brooklyn College City University of New York , academic.brooklyn.cuny.edu/biology/bio4fv/page/enz_act.htm