In the wild, ferrets are quite the little hunters. They will catch and eat all sorts of small game, including lizards, birds, frogs, snakes, mice, and rats. While it is not recommended that you bring all these different animals into your home just because ferrets eat them in the wild, including live or pre-killed mice or rats in your ferret’s diet can be extremely healthy for your furry friend.
In this article, we are going to go over everything you might need to know when deciding whether or not you want to include live or pre-killed mice or rats into your ferret’s regular diet.
- Can Ferrets Eat Mice?
- Can Ferrets Eat Rats?
- How Do You Feed Mice To a Ferret?
- Are Ferrets Good Mousers?
- Can Your Ferret Eat Every Part of a Mouse or Rat?
- How Many Mice Should A Pet Ferret Eat?
- Do You Have To Include Mice or Rats in Your Ferrets Diet?
Can Ferrets Eat Mice?
Yes, mice can actually be a very healthy addition to your ferret’s diet. Ferrets are obligate carnivores which means that they are really only supposed to digest meat. There are different ferret foods and even some cat foods that are primarily protein that ferrets can eat, but many people choose to feed their ferrets a raw meat diet.
Most owners who choose to feed their ferrets mice prefer to provide their pets with pre-killed or frozen mice. Pre-killed mice will give ferrets all the same nutrients without a lot of the mess or potential chaos that comes with allowing your ferret to catch and eat live prey.
This does not mean that your ferrets cannot eat live prey. In fact, there are many benefits to feeding your ferret live mice. For instance, it is excellent mental stimulation as it simulates activities that Blackfoot ferrets do naturally in the wild.
If you are wanting to feed your ferret live mice, you need to start feeding your ferret the mice from a young age. Ferrets learn when they are young what is food and what isn’t; therefore, if your ferret is not exposed to mice as food from a young age, he will likely never view a mouse as such.
You also need to know that your ferret may not be a skilled hunter at first. Therefore, the first couple of kills could be rather messy, and if your ferret is unable to complete the kill, you will have to step in and do it. If you do not think you could complete the kill if necessary, you should stick with pre-killed mice.
Can Ferrets Eat Rats?
As far as nutrients and the ability to digest, ferrets can eat rats in addition to eating mice. However, while your ferret can eat pre-killed or live mice, it is better to stick with only pre-killed if you are wanting to include rats in your ferret’s diet.
Rats are generally bigger, more intelligent, and more aggressive than mice. If your ferret corners and attacks a rat, the rat will likely fight back much more than a mouse would, which could result in your ferret getting bit or even more seriously injured. In the wild, Blackfoot ferrets do hunt rats, but it is not necessary for a domesticated ferret to do, so it is better to be safe than sorry.
How Do You Feed Mice To a Ferret?
Frozen or Pre-Killed
When you are feeding your ferret pre-killed mice, you do not want to give your ferret a mouse that is completely frozen solid. Therefore you will want to thaw the mouse before feeding it to your ferret. However, you will not want to do this too much ahead of time, or else the mouse could go bad and make your ferret sick. By thawing out frozen mice in the fridge rather than at room temperature, you will help prevent potential problems.
Remember never to unfreeze mice or any other kind of prey in the microwave. When you microwave a frozen mouse, the bone tissue hardens, which can be extremely dangerous. On the other hand, uncooked bone tissue is not only safe for your ferret to eat but can actually be beneficial for your ferret’s teeth.
Once you are sure the mouse is completely thawed out, you can feed it to your ferret. You do not need to cut it up or remove anything (bones, fur, organs, etc.) unless you feel that ferret will only be able to handle smaller pieces.
How Much Does It Cost To Feed Your Ferret Mice or Rats?
You can generally buy frozen feeder mice for anywhere from fifty cents to a dollar, depending on the size and brand you buy from. Because rats are larger, they cost more money. You will likely be able to get frozen rats for anywhere from $2.00 to $4.00 or more.
Live prey also tends to be a bit more expensive than frozen or pre-killed. You generally can buy a live feeder mouse for around $1.50 and a small live feeder rat for around $3.00, but the price may go up significantly for larger rats.
Feeding Ferrets Live Mice
If you are going to teach your ferret to eat live prey, you will want to start the process when the ferret is young, and instinct will still tell them to hunt. In the beginning, you will likely want to place both the mouse and the ferret in the bathtub or some other enclosed area that will contain any potential mess. Over time, your ferret will get quite good at catching, killing, and eating mice, but it could be a messy process in the beginning.
If you find that your ferret is having trouble catching and killing the live prey, you could choose to stun the prey in the beginning by hitting it over the head. This will either cause the mouse to faint or to at least be dazed enough to slow down.
Even if you are feeding your ferret live mice, you will still want to get them from reputable food sales rather than just picking up some mice at a local pet store. You can trust feeder mice from reputable brands to not be carrying diseases, but some pet mice at a local pet store might be.
Are Ferrets Good Mousers?
If you live in an area that has problems with mice, you may be wondering whether or not bringing a pet ferret home could solve your pest problem. The good news is, it likely would. In fact, the main reason that ferrets were first domesticated as house pets was to keep away mice, rats, and other pests. While cats were also commonly used as mousers, ferrets’ thin shape allows them to find mice in smaller and tighter places than cats can.
Some people recommend that you only allow your ferret to eat mice from reputable food sources to ensure that the mouse is clean. If you do allow your ferret to catch and eat wild mice, you may run into problems with parasites or other diseases. However, if you do not teach your ferret while he is young that mice are food, you may find that you can teach your ferret to catch and kill wild mice without actually digesting them.
Finally, even if you are not interested in training your ferret to hunt mice, owning a ferret could still help you with a mouse or rat problem. There is evidence that the scent of a ferret alone could scare away any mice or rats in the area.
Can Your Ferret Eat Every Part of a Mouse or Rat?
Yes, your ferret is able to eat every part of the mouse or rat, including the skin, bones, and fur. In fact, the parts of the mouse that you might feel concerned about, such as the skin and the bones, actually have specific nutrients and health benefits that your ferret will miss out on if you separate those pieces. Additionally, taking off the skin or trying to remove the bones from a mouse or rat before you feed it to your ferret can be a rather gross process.
How Many Mice Should A Pet Ferret Eat?
The exact answer to this question depends on what else you are feeding your ferret. If you are only using mice or rats as a treat or addition to your ferret’s diet every once in a while, you do not have to give your ferret many mice at all. You just need to make sure you are giving your ferret enough pellets and other forms of food.
On the other hand, if your ferret’s diet is made up of primarily live or pre-killed mice, your ferret should likely be eating 3 to 5 small mice a day. 3 to 5 small mice a day may sound like a lot of food, but ferrets are very active creatures, and they typically have high metabolisms, which means they need plenty of food throughout the day.
Do You Have To Include Mice or Rats in Your Ferrets Diet?
The idea of feeding your ferret mice or rats, whether they be pre-killed or live, might be rather gross or unpleasant to you. If this is the case, you might be wondering whether or not you have to include mice and rats in your ferret’s day-to-day diet. The answer to this is no. Your ferret does need plenty of protein and nutrients in its diet, but there are other ways to ensure that your ferret is getting those things without feeding them live or even frozen prey. You could feed your ferret other raw meats or find a good pellet food that will provide your ferret with most if not all the nutrients he needs.
Resources and further reading:
- Ferret nutrition, Cathy A Johnson-Delaney