How to Switch Your Ferret to A Prey Model Raw Diet

            For those of you who’ve done your homework and have decided that you would like to feed your ferret a natural diet, you’re sure to still have a lot of questions.  Let’s address what is most likely your number one question: how on earth do you go about switching your ferret from kibble to natural foods? In this section we will provide you with several methods for switching your ferret to either a whole prey or raw diet. Feel free to modify any of the methods provided, or even make up your own method, but do your homework first.  The process is as unique as each individual ferret. Before we begin, you should know that switching your ferret’s diet can be a frustrating and time-consuming process (though well worth it).

            For each method of switching that we provide, we give you a short approach and a long approach. The short approach usually involves some fasting of your ferret and the switching procedure is accelerated. During the switch, a healthy, non-insulinomic ferret** can go up to twenty-four hours without eating  (but meat should always be available during this time). It is true that ferrets need to eat every four hours when on a kibble diet, but in the wild, a ferret wouldn’t eat everyday, so don’t panic if your little one still refuses to eat after this time expires. Hunger can be a great motivator, as mentioned before. Refusal to eat for more than twenty-four hours, however, warrants the need for mixing the ferret’s chicken chunks with some meat-based baby food to entice him to eat, at least a little bit. If the little devil still won’t eat, simply use a feeding syringe to feed him some baby food.

            If you are uncomfortable with fasting your ferret (or if you can’t fast your ferret because of medical issues, such as insulinoma), you can try other methods. Try using the long approach of each switching method below. This method eliminates the fasting steps and switching time is lengthened.  Pick a method you feel comfortable with and try it out. Also, don’t be afraid to try a different method if the original one doesn’t seem to be working for your ferret. If you wind up trying pretty much every method listed below, and your ferret still refuses to switch to natural foods, check out “Problems During The Switch.” Last but certainly not least, don’t forget: patience is of utmost importance when switching your ferret’s diet.

** A caveat here is that insulinomic, underweight, or immune system compromised ferrets should not have their food withheld more than four hours.  Hunger shouldn’t be used as a motivator when dealing with these types of ferrets.  This process (using hunger to motivate is only good for younger, healthy ferrets.  If you are the “ferrent” of an insulinomic, underweight/overweight, or IBD ferret, it is VITAL that you read this section of the Holistic Ferret Website: _____________________.

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Switching Method #1: Chicken Chunks and Baby Food  (Short Approach):

1. Remove all kibble from the cage for up to 12 hours.  Do NOT feed your ferret during this time, but offer plenty of water.  After 12                                  hours, take some baby food and mix it with finely minced RAW boneless, skinless chicken tenderloin, sprinkle some crushed kibble on top of the mixture, and add a few drops of ferretone.  Offer the mixture to your ferret. If he turns his nose up at the mix, put a little on his nose to encourage him to try it.  If your ferret eats the new food without any problems, continue to offer new food every 2-4 hours.  If your ferret still refuses to eat, you may fast him up to, but not exceeding, 24 hours.

2.  (Refer to this step only if your ferret is refusing to eat the new food) After 24 hours offer a fresh batch of the new food to your ferret.  If he continues to turn his nose up at the food and it’s been 24 hours, squirt a few CC’s of baby food and ground kibble into his mouth using a feeding syringe.  Don’t fill him up, but give him just enough food to keep his tummy from rumbling.  In a few hours offer the new food mixture yet again.  Eventually he should get hungry enough to try it.

3. Once your ferret is eating the mix, gradually increase the size of the chicken chunks and phase out the crushed kibble, then the baby food, then the ferretone.  Within a few days your ferret should be eating rather large chunks of chicken tenderloin.  Eventually he should be eating a whole tenderloin that has not been cut up.

4. Once he is completely weaned off the baby food, kibble, and tone, offer him a chicken wingette (also called party wings).  Eventually your ferret should learn to eat the bone. Once your ferret reaches this point, you should begin to see a difference in the   consistency of his stools (if their stools have been runny/ or loose they will start to firm   up due to the fiber content of the bone.)

5. Once he is eating party wings with ease, you can add chicken wings, legs, thighs, necks, and backs.

6. Once your ferret is used to the chicken and is eating all parts (including the bone) begin to introduce a meal of organ meat once a week (expect loose stools from this meal at first).

7. Once your ferret is eating meat, bone, and organ, start to add new foods into the diet (such as egg, beef, turkey, etc)  See What A Ferret’s Diet Can/Should Include and Sample Weekly Feeding Schedules for ideas on what to feed and when to feed it.

Supplies:

 1.) Feeding syringe

2.) Meat-only baby food (chicken, beef, turkey, or veal)

3.) Ferretone, Fish oil, or your ferret’s favorite treat

4.) Raw, boneless, skinless chicken breasts or chicken breast tenderloins

5.) Raw chicken wingettes (sections of chicken wings)

                6.) Patience!!!


Switching Method #1: Chicken Chunks and Baby Food  (Long Approach):          

1.  Gradually add baby food and cooked chunked chicken tenderloin to your ferret’s kibble over the span of several days.  Start out with 3/4 kibble and 1/4 raw mixture.  Gradually work up to ½ kibble ½ raw mixture, then 3/4 raw mixture 1/4 kibble, then finally 100% raw mixture.  Slowly add in the new food and if your ferret refuses to eat, reduce the amount of new food you are adding until your ferret will eat again.  Once he starts eating the new food and the kibble, start to increase the percentage of new food added into the kibble.  Keep in mind that kibble mixed with chicken/baby food will spoil after a few hours and will need to be changed several times per day to keep it fresh.

 

2. Once your ferret is eating the mix, gradually increase the size of the chicken chunks and phase out the crushed kibble, then the baby food, then the ferretone.  Within a few days your ferret should be eating rather large chunks of chicken tenderloin.  Eventually they should be eating a whole tenderloin that has not been cut up.

 

3. Once he is completely weaned off the baby food, kibble, and tone, offer him a chicken wingette (also called party wings).  Eventually your ferret should learn to eat the bone. Once your ferret reaches this point you should begin to see a difference in the consistency of his stools (if his stools have been runny or loose they will start to firm up due to the fiber content of the bone.)

 

4. Once he is eating party wings with ease, you can add chicken wings, legs, thighs, necks, and backs.

 

5.  Once your ferret is used to the chicken and is eating all parts (including the bone) begin to introduce a meal of organ meat once a week (expect loose stools from this meal at first).

 

6. Once your ferret is eating meat, bone, and organ, start to add new foods into the diet (such as egg, beef, turkey, etc)  See What A Ferret’s Diet Can/Should Include and Sample Weekly Feeding Schedules for ideas on what to feed and when to feed it.

            Supplies:

                1.) Feeding syringe

                2.) Meat-only baby food (chicken, beef, turkey, or veal)

                3.) Ferretone, Fish oil, or your ferret’s favorite treat

                4 .) Raw, boneless, skinless chicken breasts or chicken breast tenderloins

                5.) Raw chicken wingettes (sections of chicken wings) or raw chicken necks

                6.) Patience!!!

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Switching Method #2: Mushy Kibble and “Meatballs” (Short Approach)

1. Remove all kibble from the cage for up to 12 hours.  Do NOT feed your ferret during this time, but offer plenty of water.  After 12 hours, take your ferret’s kibble and add some juices from raw chicken to the kibble.  Moisten the kibble and smash it up (you can add some ferretone as well).  If necessary, heat the kibble slightly to entice your ferret to eat the mixture.  If your ferret eats the new food without any problems, continue to offer new food every 2-4 hours.  If your ferret still refuses to eat, you may fast him up to, but not exceeding, 24 hours. (NOTE:  Keep in mind that kibble mixed with raw meat juice or ground raw chicken will spoil after a few hours and will need to be changed several times per day to keep it fresh.)

 

2.  (Refer to this step only if your ferret is refusing to eat the new food) After 24 hours offer a fresh batch of the kibble/meat juice mixture to your ferret.  If he continues to refuse the food and it’s been 24 hours, squirt a few CC’s of meat juice mixed with finely ground kibble into his mouth using a feeding syringe.  Don’t fill him up, but give him just enough food to keep his tummy from rumbling.  In a few hours offer the new food mixture yet again.  Eventually he should get hungry enough to try it.


3. Once your ferret is eating the kibble/juice mixture, stop adding juice to the kibble and instead start offering ground chicken with coarsely ground kibble.  Make these into small meatballs or patties and begin offering these to your ferret. 

 

4. Once the meatballs are being eaten with ease, offer your ferret a chicken neck or chicken wingette.  He should learn how to eat the entire thing (bone and all) after only a few tries. Once your ferret reaches this point you should begin to see a difference in the consistency of his stools (if his stools have been runny/ or loose they will start to firm up due to the fiber content of the bone).

           

5. Once your ferret consumes chicken wingettes or necks with ease, slowly add in chicken wings, then legs, then thighs.

 

6. Once your ferret is used to the chicken and is eating all parts (including the bone) begin to introduce a meal of organ meat once a week (expect loose stools from this meal at first).

 

7. Once your ferret is eating meat, bone, and organ, start to add new foods into the diet (such as egg, beef, turkey, etc)  See What A Ferret’s Diet Can/Should Include and Sample Weekly Feeding Schedules for ideas on what to feed and when to feed it.

 

Supplies:

1.) Ground, raw chicken

2.) Low sodium chicken broth (or raw chicken juice)

3.) Feeding syringe

4.) Raw chicken wingettes (chicken wing segments) or raw chicken necks

5.) Ferretone, Fish oil, or your ferret’s favorite treat

6.) Patience!!!


Switching Method #2: Mushy Kibble and “Meatballs”  (Long Approach)

1. Take your ferret’s kibble and over a series of a few days slowly begin to moisten the kibble with some raw chicken juice.  Start out by just making the kibble slightly soggy and eventually work up to mashing the kibble/juice mix into a pulp. You can add a few drops of ferretone to the raw chicken juice to make it more enticing.  Go slowly and let your ferret get used to the new smells.  (NOTE:  Keep in mind that kibble mixed with raw meat juice or ground raw chicken will spoil after a few hours and will need to be changed several times per day to keep it fresh.)

 

2. Once your ferret is eating the raw juice/kibble mush, take the kibble mush and over a series of several days, gradually mix in raw ground chicken. Form this mixture into meatballs and offer one or two meatballs per meal.  Start out with 3/4 kibble mush and 1/4 raw ground chicken.  Gradually work up to ½ kibble mush and ½ raw ground chicken.  Then 3/4 raw ground chicken and 1/4 kibble mush, then finally 100% raw ground chicken.  Slowly increase the amount of raw ground chicken, and if your ferret refuses to eat, reduce the amount until your ferret will eat again.

 

3. Once your ferret is eating the ground raw chicken gradually begin to add in bits of chunked chicken tenderloin. Gradually increase the size of the chunks and slowly phase out the ground chicken.  Within a few days your ferret should be eating rather large chunks of chicken tenderloin.  Eventually he should be eating a whole tenderloin that has not been cut up.

 

4. Once your ferret is eating the whole chicken tenderloins with ease, offer him a raw chicken neck or chicken wingette instead of the usual tenderloins.  He should learn within a few tries how to eat the whole thing (bone and all).  Once your ferret reaches this point you should begin to see a difference in the consistency of his stools (if his stools have been runny/ or loose they will start to firm up due to the fiber content of the bone).

 

5. Once he is eating party wings with ease, you can add chicken wings, legs, thighs, necks, and backs.

 

6. Once your ferret is used to the chicken and is eating all parts (including the bone) begin to introduce a meal of organ meat once a week (expect loose stools from this meal at first).

 

7. Once your ferret is eating meat, bone, and organ start to add new foods into the diet (such as egg, beef, turkey, etc)  See What A Ferret’s Diet Can/Should Include and Sample Weekly Feeding Schedules for ideas on what to feed and when to feed it.

 

Supplies:

1.) Ground, raw chicken

2.) Low sodium chicken broth (or raw chicken juice)

3.) Feeding syringe

4.) Raw chicken wingettes (chicken wing segments) or raw chicken necks

5.) Ferretone, Fish oil, or your ferret’s favorite treat

6.) Patience!!!

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Switching Method #3: Duck Soup Bribary (Short Approach)


1.  If your ferret is accustomed to duck soup, Pingford’s Porridge, Bob Church’s Chicken Gravy, baby food, or some other ‘soupy product’ you can use this method to transition.  Take away your ferret’s kibble and feed him ONLY duck soup or whatever supplemental soup you feed (Yeah I know, right now your ferret is thinking it’s Christmas or something! Ha ha!)  but mix the soup with kibble sized pieces of raw boneless, skinless chicken breast.

 

                2. Over a series of a few days, slowly reduce the amount of soupy being offered, and       

                increase the amount and size of the chunks present in the soup.

 

3. At this point, your ferret should be completely weaned of the soup and eating whole (or close to whole) raw, boneless skinless chick breast tenderloins.

 

 4. Once he is eating the whole, raw, boneless, skinless chicken breast tenderloins with ease, offer him a chicken wingette (also called party wings).  Eventually your ferret should learn to eat the bone.  Once your ferret reaches this point you should begin to see a difference in the consistency of his stools (if his stools have been runny/ or loose they will start to firm up due to the fiber content of the bone).

 

5.  Once he is eating party wings with ease, you can add chicken wings, legs, thighs, necks, and backs.

 

6. Once your ferret is used to the chicken and is eating all parts (including the bone) begin to introduce a meal of organ meat once a week (expect loose stools from this meal at first).

 

7. Once your ferret is eating meat, bone, and organ, start to add new foods into the diet (such as egg, beef, turkey, etc)  See What A Ferret’s Diet Can/Should Include and Sample Weekly Feeding Schedules for ideas on what to feed and when to feed it.

 

Supplies:

1. Your ferret’s favorite “soupy” product (duck soup, Pingford’s Porridge, etc)

2. Boneless, skinless chicken breast

3. Feeding syringe (optional)

4. Raw chicken wingettes (chicken wing segments) or raw chicken necks

5. Patience!!!!


Switching Method #3: Duck Soup Bribery (Long Approach)

1.  If your ferret is not accustomed to duck soup, Pingford’s Porridge, Bob Church’s Chicken Gravy, or any food besides kibble, then before you can begin to transition him to raw foods, you will first have to transition him to “soup”.

 

2. To get your ferret used to “soup,” begin by moistening your ferret’s kibble with low sodium chicken broth.  The goal is to get your ferret eating a “soup” made out of kibble and broth.  See how moist you can make the kibble.  If your ferret refuses to touch the new food, add less broth and gradually work your way up to the point where your ferret is eating a “soup” made of just broth and kibble.  When you get to this point, you can move on to step three.

 

3. Once your ferret is eating the soupy kibble/broth mix, it is time to get him used to his first taste of raw food.  Remove ALL “soupy kibble” from his cage, and do not offer any hard/plain kibble.

 

4. Take some raw, boneless chicken.  Chop it up and toss it in a blender or food processor. Next, take some of your ferret’s kibble and crush it into a fine powder.  Add 50% raw chicken and 50% kibble (so for 1 cup of soup you would add ½ cup of blended chicken and ½ cup of crushed kibble) along with a little bit of warm water and mix thoroughly. Offer your ferret this soup.

 

5.(Refer to this step ONLY if your ferret is refusing to eat the new food).  If your ferret refuses to try the soup, don’t panic.  There are several things that you can do to entice your ferret to eat.  Try warming the soup slightly (but don’t cook it!) sometimes this can entice a picky eater to eat.  If this doesn’t work, you can put a little blob of soup onto your ferret’s nose (be sure to not put it IN his nose) this will encourage your ferret to lick it off, thus tasting the soup.  You can also scruff your ferret and using a feeding syringe, gently squirt a little of the soup into your ferret’s mouth.  There is also the option of adding ferretone to the soup mix (to make it more appealing).  You can also try to get your ferret to eat the soup by taking some additional bits of crushed kibble and sprinkling it on top of the soup.

 

6. Once your ferret is eating the raw soup, gradually decrease the amount of kibble that you add to the soup.  Work to get your ferret eating 100% raw chicken that has been blended up.

 

7. Now that your ferret is eating the raw soup and is totally off kibble, start to increase the thickness of the soup.  If you have been adding water, stop adding water.  If your ferret will let you, start to turn the “soup” into a “stew.”  Take VERY small chunks of chicken (the size of your ferret’s old kibble, or even smaller) and begin to mix these into the soup, thus turning it into a stew.

 

8. Your ferret might try to eat around the chunks.  If this happens, take the chunks and chop them very, very small.  Add some of the soup to the chunks (just enough to coat the chunks) your ferret will have no choice but to eat the chunks.  If it’s been 24 hours and he has refused to eat, take a step back and offer soup again.

 

9. Over a series of a few days, slowly reduce the amount of soupy being offered, and  increase the amount and size of the chunks present in the soup.

 

10. At this point, your ferret should be completely weaned of the soup and eating whole (or close to whole) raw, boneless skinless chick breast tenderloins.

 

11.  Once he is eating the whole, raw, boneless, skinless chicken breast tenderloins with ease, offer him a chicken wingette (also called party wings).  Eventually your ferret should learn to eat the bone.  Once your ferret reaches this point, you should begin to see a difference in the consistency of his stools (if his stools have been runny/ or loose they will start to firm up due to the fiber content of the bone).

 

12.  Once he is eating party wings with ease, you can add chicken wings, legs, thighs, necks, and backs.

 

13.  Once your ferret is used to the chicken and is eating all parts (including the bone) begin to introduce a meal of organ meat once a week (expect loose stools from this meal at first).


14.  Once your ferret is eating meat, bone, and organ, start to add new foods into the diet (such as egg, beef, turkey, etc)  See What A Ferret’s Diet Can/Should Include and Sample Weekly Feeding Schedules for ideas on what to feed and when to feed it.

 

Supplies:

1. Boneless, skinless chicken breasts

2. Blender

3. Feeding syringe

4. Something to crush kibble with

5. Low sodium chicken broth

6. Feeding syringe (optional)

7. Ferretone, Fish oil, or your ferret’s favorite treat

8.  Raw chicken wingettes (chicken wing segments) or raw chicken necks

9. Patience!!!

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For Additional Information on This Topic, Please Visit:


1.         General overview of natural diets, but includes small section on tips for switching your ferret’s diet:

            http://www.drsfostersmith.com/pic/article.cfm?c=17342&articleid=1971

2.         “How to Transition Your Cat to a Prey Model Raw Diet” from Rawfedcats.org. Written for cats, but can be applied to ferrets:

                             http://www.rawfedcats.org/practicleguide.htm

3.         “Switching Cats to a Raw Diet” (last section on this page)  from Rawfed.com. Written for cats, but can be applied to ferrets:

                             http://rawfed.com/myths/cats.html