Ferrets/Problems with feeding
QUESTION: Hello! I need some advice and ideas. I have two ferrets, and last year, in September, I decided to switch foods to a better brand. So I started with doing mushy (put kibble in the food processor and then mix it with water). They accept it well, but my problem now is that they won't eat dry kibble at all. Puffy, the girl, eats it sometimes, and she is usually a very picky girl. But Yoshi (who used to be easier to switch foods), won't touch dry kibble at all. So, I have to handfeed them with a spoon, what I did last week was putting just a few grams of wet kibble and mixing it with dry. After a certain number of bites, I give them water (the soup formed when wetting the kibble). They go crazy about mushy. But generally, I have to scruff them to make them eat, sometimes it's easy, sometimes it's really difficult (it can take up to 45 minutes to make them both eat!). I know that they have fixed with wet/mushy/soup food now. But a month or two ago, Yoshi was still eating some dry kibble at the cage, then he stopped and now he only accepts wet. How can I fix this? Right now I stopped using wet kibble and using just dry, but put a little of water every 10 bites of dry kibble or so, but it's really hard to make them eat. I leave dry kibble available 24 hours at the cage, and sometimes it is left untouched, just on very few ocassions Puffy will eat one or two. Please help me, I've ran out of ideas and I don't really want to use coats like Ferretvite, too much sugar on it. Once a week I put extra virgin olive oil in their food but when it's dry, it doesn't really make a difference. I feel that I messed up with this switch. :(
ANSWER: Dear Yuki,
If your ferrets are being fed a good ferret food there's no need to change. You didn't mention what prompted you to change their diet so I'll do the best I can to answer your question.
Once a ferret decides he likes his food it's sometimes difficult to change to something else. The best way to do this is by adding just a little of the new food to the old food each day. Keep increasing the new food each day, using less and less of the old food. Sometimes these little furry little friends can be stubborn and turn their noses up and walk away. Don't rely on that old story that if they get hungry enough they'll eat. A ferrets metabolism is very high and they need to eat often throughout the day. You want to keep their body weight up.
Decide what food you want to continually feed your ferrets. Then go ahead and add a little of the new food to the old food each day until the transition is complete. Ferret vitamins are VERY important. They provide nutrients that ferret food doesn't contain. And, they sometimes increase the appetite. I use FerretVite and have had very good results. Try serving the vitamins to each of your ferrets by offering it on the tip of your finger. Make sure you follow the dosage directions. An overdose can cause diarrhea and you certainly don't want that.
I hope I've been of help. Please let me know how your little friends do.
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QUESTION: Thank you Janet! I'm sorry, I forgot to mention some important parts. They were in 8 in 1 Ultimate crunchy, but now they are on Orijen Cat and Kitten and Nature's Variety Duck and Turkey meal, which have good ratings on a food chart I've found for ferrets. I've changed diets because they changed the formula of the 8 in 1, and my babies weren't really interested on it anymore, they even started losing weight (now they gained back and more!) They accept it well, but ONLY if it's wet or mushy and if I hand feed them, sometimes I need to scruff or they won't eat it (specially when I introduce the same food but dry). What I want is to make them eat by themselves and also dry, because I've read too much wet and soups lead to tartar accumulation on teeth (though I clean their teeth 2x week). Taking the tartar issues aside, is it really bad for their digestive system to eat only wet/mushy food for a long time? That's another thing that worries me. They can really be so stubborn indeed! Thank you and I'm sorry to bother you again. :)
ANSWER: Dear Yuki,
I'm glad you wrote again. Wow, you should not have to force feed your babies. This takes a tremendous amount of time and you can't be sure if you're feeding too little or too much. And, your babies may begin to resent this procedure and object to it in a number of ways.
Since they like the wet food try mixing a little dry food with it. Enough so that the dry food is well coated with the wet food. Then use less and less of the wet food until they are eating only the dry food. Don't lose patience, this procedure will take time. Meanwhile, don't forget the vitamins. Your babies can be full of tricks, like licking the wet food off the dry food. But, don't give up. Yes, I know it can be exasperating.
Keep me posted. I'll work with you until the problem is solved. Obviously you are a wonderful ferret owner and very concerned about your babies. You are not a bother at all. I want to help you as much as I can.
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QUESTION: Hello again Janet and thank you so much for your help! Oh, I realized I've been force feeding them. Probably they hate me now lol, but I was worried that they won't eat all day if I don't give them food. I'm measuring everyday the quantity of food I'm giving them, it's 40 grams per day (1.410 oz), is this ok? Normally I feed them twice a day (20 grams each), maybe that's too much for a single feeding.
Tonight, I went back to the start again, mushy with no dry food. I'll introduce dry food slowly as you recommended. I gave them just a few with spoon and then left the bowl at the floor so they could eat by themselves. They just ate a little and then went to play. Do you think it's a good idea to put the bow of wet food in their cage to see if they eat it too? I know you can't leave wet food out for a long time or it'll go rancid? If that's ok, how much time can I leave it outside? I wil give them the vitamins too to see if they like it better. And I have another doubt, how much time is it ok for them to stay without food? I'm worried with this as well. They're both 1 year old.
Switching ferret food is difficult because once they accept a food they'll often balk at a change and will sometimes flat refuse to eat anything else.
Because a ferret's metabolism is so high it's necessary that food is available at all times. They need to nibble throughout the day. This is why dry food is such a good choice. You can simply fill their food bowl and they're set for the day.
However, if the switch over plan I suggested doesn't work for your little guys I would suggest that you put down their wet food each morning as well as a separate bowl of dry food for them to nibble on throughout the rest of the day.
It's never good for a ferret to go more than one day without eating. When the chips are down I would give them any good brand of ferret food that they'll eat. But don't forget the vitamins.
Sometimes I think we worry over brands just a little too much. Stick with what works.
Please let me know how things go.