A Ferret is a small mammal belonging to the same family as the polecat and weasel. The word “ferret” comes from the Latin for “little thief.” Ferrets are also strict meat-eaters, and in some places in the world, “ferrets” are still used for hunting rabbits.
The answer to the question: “do ferrets eat mice and rats” is yes! Some ferrets will hunt and eat mice.
Ferrets are obligate carnivores. They need meat to stay healthy and have to be fed at all times. In captivity, they are usually fed raw meat or a special kibble diet.
Ferrets are Hunters
Ferrets have been domesticated for the past 2000 years. Ferrets are hunters. Humans used them to keep the rat and mice population under control and to hunt rabbits.
Just to be precise. The ferrets we commonly own and love are not wild animals! There is only one kind of ferret living in the wild—the Black-Footed-Ferret.
The Black-Footed-Ferret are located in Northern America (The great plains) and live off prairie dogs. The species is almost extinct and considered endangered. You can find more info on the Black-footed ferret here.
They hunt small rodents. They eat mice and rats, rabbits, rodents, birds, and other animals as well. As mentioned above, their primary food source is prairie dogs.
Hybrid Population of Ferrets in New Zealand
There is a wild population of hybrid ferrets living in New Zealand. They were crossbred with polecats and introduced to New Zealand to keep the rabbit and rat population under control.
This happened a while ago, to be precise, around 1880, and nowadays, Ferrets are considered an unwanted species in New Zealand. They are a real danger to the native animal population.
Will Pet Ferrets Hunt Mice?
Ferrets are carnivores, and their diet includes meat, fish (some), birds, and other animals. In many cases, ferrets are fed with prey animals like mice or rats.
But would your pet ferret hunt, kill and eat mice? Well, yes, maybe – but it is also possible that they would treat a mouse as a toy. I would say that depends on your ferret.
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Ferrets that never were introduced to whole prey as food might have a more challenging time associating mice or rats with food! But don’t let the fear of your ferret not eating mice or rats stop you from feeding them with those animals.
Feeder rodents such as mice or rats are available in most pet stores. Be prepared to spend something like $20 for a pack of 25. Put them in an airtight box and in the freezer.
Before you feed them to your ferret – allow enough time so they can warm up to room temperature.
Ferrets are obligate carnivores, and they need to eat meat to get their proteins and other nutrients. Ferrets are imprinted to the foods they prefer around the age of 4-6 months.
If you get your ferret at a young age, make sure to feed a variety of foods.
- whole prey
- raw meat
Once they are older, it will get harder to introduce them to new food.
If you have the chance to, feed a raw diet to your furry friend. It is said that a ratio of 80/10/10 is ideal for your ferrets’ needs. A raw diet comes closest to feeding whole prey.
- 80% Meat (including fat)
- 10% bones
- 10% organs
Kibble is a great way to add some variety. Mix kibble and raw chicken breast to gradually introduce your ferret to a raw diet.
Can Ferrets eat Cat Food?
Yes – Some cat foods are ok. Check the ingredient list. Fillers, grains, sugar, artificial, etc., are a big no!
Ferrets and cats have something in common. They are both not able to produce taurine by themselves, unlike dogs, for example.
Taurine is an amino acid and essential for ferrets and other carnivores. Taurine can only be found in animal sources such as meat, milk, etc.
Ferrets and cats can get taurine only from animal products. The lack of taurine could lead to damage to the heart and/or death.
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That’s why (wet) cat food could be fed to your ferret – it has taurine and other essential amino acids. Dog food contains too many grains and fillers and, consequently, insufficient ingredients to benefit your ferret.
Cat food should only be used in emergency cases or as a treat, but not permanently.
So to wrap it all up. “Will ferrets eat mice?” Yes. Potentially they will. The question is will they hunt mice, kill and eat them? This depends on your ferret. Some ferrets might others might not.
While ferrets are hunters and have hunting instincts, they may not understand that a mouse is something to eat but rather to play with. Some ferrets might not be interested in “new food,” so it might take a while for your ferret to get used to mice.
I have friends that tried to feed whole prey to their ferrets – but they won’t touch it. It took them a long time to get their ferrets used to raw meat too.
Make sure to feed a variety of food as long as your furry friend is young. If your ferret was introduced to whole prey at a young age – chances are that it will see mice as food.