Rucus Replies : diet

Meals first, treats later
Lactose Free Milk
Won't eat biscuits, meat only

Meal first, treats later

Dear Rucus,

I have two male ferrets, Rex and Winston, who will eat hardly any meat. All they ever want to do is drink milk. How can I change their diet to a healthier one?  

Cheers from Eric.

Dear Eric,

Sometimes you have to be cruel to be kind to ferrets and, when a ferret has a tummy full of lovely, warm lactose-free milk, he will not feel like tucking into his meat. Of course, meat on its own is not a very wholesome diet either, and your boys should be eating high quality cat or ferret biscuits too.  

I suggest that you not give your ferrets any milk until after they have eaten a decent meal. (Us ferrets can always find room for milk!). If they won't eat biscuits too, try soaking them (the biscuits, not the ferrets) in warm water until they are soft, and mixing them with the meat. Start off with just a few and increase the quantity as they get used to it. Then soak the biscuits for a shorter and shorter time until they are being eaten dry. Hopefully you will soon have your ferrets eating a lovely, well-balanced diet.  

Well fed dooks from Rucus.  


Dear Rucus,

My friend, Gus, loves to lick the soap in the shower. Why does he do this and will it cause him any harm?
Love from Gumpy.

Dear Gumpy,

Maybe Gus has been swearing a lot lately and needs his mouth washed out! Seriously though, I don't think that soap is a very good thing for a ferret to eat. One of the main ingredients used in the manufacture of toilet soap is fat, so it could be that Gus is asking for more fat in his diet. If Gus is not eating a diet which is mainly raw meat with the fat left on, supplemented with high animal protein cat biscuits and full cream low lactose milk, he might not be getting all the energy he needs. Us ferrets get most of our energy, which we need for Weasel-War-Dancing and stuff, from fat, not from sugar or starches like humans do. We are very lucky because we don't have to worry about cholesterol either! Us ferrets only need to go on a reduced fat diet if we are seriously overweight, and only if the Vet tells us to.

If Gus is a really fussy eater and won't eat all the right stuff, he could have more fat in his diet by having a dollop of cream added to his milk each day. YUM! He shouldn't have vegetable oil added though, because too much of that can cause problems.

In the meantime, you could help Mum keep the soap out of Gus's way by hiding it in a really safe place.

I'm off to eat soap now so that my Mum will give me cream.

Dooks from Rucus.  


Dear Rucus,

I've just bought a six week old baby ferret and I'm unsure what to feed it. So far I've been feeding him mince and weetbix. Does he need anything else?
Love from Doting Dad.

Dear Doting Dad,

Although a ferret has no right to be taken away from his mother when he is so young, the age at which breeders choose to sell their kits can't be helped sometimes and we must do the best we can for the little one.

Your baby sure does need more in his diet. First of all, throw away the mince and give him chunky beef (with the fat left on) to satisfy his need to chew and massage teeth and gums for good oral hygiene. Because your baby is growing very rapidly his need for calcium is great, so, apart from giving lactose-free milk twice daily, you could add fine bone meal or a calcium supplement such as Calcium Sandoz syrup to his diet. Raw chicken wing tips or chicken necks are also a great way to add calcium to your kit's diet and provide good dental care throughout the rest of his life. High quality cat biscuits such as Whiska's Advance or Science Diet added to the diet will ensure that all other vitamin and mineral needs are being met. (The biscuits may be soaked first).

Good luck with your new baby and may he grow strong and healthy and remain so for many years to come.

Love & Well-Fed Dooks from Rucus.

Lactose Free Milk

Dear Rucus,

I've been giving my ferrets soy milk for breakfast every morning because it is lactose-free. They love it, but I've heard that it is bad for them. What do you think?
Love from Ferretmum.

Dear Ferretmum,

Soy milk is not actually bad for ferrets but you can do better. While it's true that soy milk contains no lactose (a milk sugar that ferrets pass through their digestive system at a very fast rate!), it contains little else that a ferret can use. The protein in soy milk, being a vegetable product, is not able to be digested and utilised by a ferret. The oil which has been added to it to make it more palatable is usually maize oil which is not ideal for your ferret either because, unlike you humans, we ferrets need saturated fats in our diet.

Full cream lactose-free cows' milk is easily digested and is a very enjoyable supplement to our diet of chunky fresh raw meat and high quality cat or ferret biscuits.

I know of a few Ferret Mums who have adopted a grown-up ferret who has never been given raw meat so they don't know that it is good to eat. Their new mums mix a tiny bit of finely chopped meat into their milk and increase the quantity each day until their ferret eats meat on its own. The same can be done with biscuits too, and if a ferret is very sick and can't eat its normal food, milk with a little Nutrigel, egg yolk or extra cream can often be tolerated quite well.

Whiskas Milk Plus, Pets Own and Cosi are lactose-free milks specially for pets, but full cream lactose-free milks are also available in the long-life section of the supermarket and are good too.

Love and Big Milky Kisses from Rucus.

Won't eat biscuits, meat only

Dear Rucus,

One of my ferrets will not eat any cat biscuits of any type, only raw meat. I am worried that he is missing out on much needed nutrients. How can I improve his diet?  

Love from Tara.

Dear Tara,

Some ferrets will just not eat bickies but you can still give them a nourishing diet so the first thing is to stop worrying!

If you mix Bone Food (made by Companions Choice and available from vets and pet shops) with his chunky raw meat and add egg yolk and Nutripet to his lactose-free milk, he will be having a better diet. Raw meaty bones, such as chicken wings, are great for adding calcium and improving dental hygiene.  

Other great diet additions are defrosted day-old chicks or mice each day. It might sounds a bit macabre, but they are the sort of thing ferrets are designed to eat, and their wild counterpart, the polecat, has eaten for thousands of years. If you can think of the dietary benefits and not look too closely as you give them to your ferret it's not hard to deal with.  

While biscuits are a good supplement, they should not form the larger part of a ferret's diet. There is growing evidence that the high carbohydrate content can cause adrenal disease and insulinoma!  

Wishing all ferrets "Bon Appetit"
Love and Dooks from Rucus.