Meet Wilson! He’s a small ferret boy approaching seven years old. He and I have worked for his entire life to get him on a healthy diet and he has fought me every step of the way. We started when he was a baby on Marshall’s ferret food (please, never feed this food or any Marshall product to your ferrets!). It was weeks before he would accept ferretone-tinged Marshall’s food. Then it was weeks before he would eat any kibble shaped differently from Marshall’s food. Months followed before he would eat all his dinner without leaving the different flavored ones behind. Five years after he came home with me I finally succeeded in getting him to eat some duck soup (which was actually boiled chicken), and now, six years of living together and he is finally on a whole prey raw meat diet. Here is what I feed him and his girlfriend of five years, Amber CTB.
Their main diet at the moment consists of whole, pureed, raw quail. I throw it bones and all into my new Vitamix and spin it on high for about 30 seconds until it comes out pink and smooth. Often I will supplement with chicken skin or organ meat as my guys are pretty old and need the extra calories and protein. I admit, I gagged a little the first time I made it, but now it’s no big deal to me. About two months ago I started mixing up chunks of raw quail into the soup in the hopes that they would accidentally get in the weasel’s mouth, and then he would have to eat them. Luckily this strategy worked. I remember the night I woke up to hear happy weasels crunching on quail bones.
Once I had both of my smalls eating the whole meat pieces I stepped it up and added in pink mice. Weasels need a variety of meats to get balanced nutrition. I’m not sure how much variety is necessary, but in any case I found a reptile supply shop that sells individually frozen mice of all ages, so I order two tiny bags of small sized pinkies. Knowing Wilson, if I threw this little guy into his meat dish straight up he would carefully eat around it and it would just go bad, so I had to be sneaky. The first ten mice went into the blender with their quail. The eleventh mouse got cut in half and mixed into two separate servings of meat. Poor Wilson had no idea he was eating whole mouses! A few weeks later, I stepped it up to two pinkies per regular serving of meat.
In the most recent menu, one serving of meat includes about 45% whole quail, 45% chicken thigh and skin, and the last few pieces are baby mice. I divide up the meat and put one day’s worth into these tiny 80mL containers and refreeze them after they’re cut into Wilson-won’t-hide-this-in-my-underwear sized pieces. When I serve it, I put it in a small dish submerged in hot water and ladle soup over it. It only takes about five minutes in the water to get warm enough for my little things to find it appetizing. One container of meat and about three teaspoons of soup is all they will eat in a day right now, so that’s what I put out for them.
I have to say it is a lot of work to feed raw. It’s incredibly rewarding, though. Wilson and Amber have never been plumper despite their age and Amber’s recent health issues. I love being in control of my babies’ nutrition, too. I had searched all over looking for dry food that was ferret appropriate, but ultimately I came to the conclusion that no commercial product actually respects the obligate carnivorous nature of the ferret, along with their incredibly short digestive system. Pricewise, at the moment it is definitely more expensive that dry food, too. Probably about 50% more. But ferrets are tiny — 80 mL of meat for a meal! — so it’s not really a financial burden at all. More the time factor, really.
The next steps for my weasels are to get them to eat meat off the bone so that I don’t have to cut it. It’s supposedly good for their teeth to gnaw on big chunks, so I’m working up to chicken wings. They also need fur and feathers to replace fiber and bulk up their stools. I bought a pair of unprocessed marmots for that purpose, but when they arrived I had no idea what to do with them. They’re huge! And furry! At this point, however, I am simply pleased that my weasels will accept the food I prepare for them. Their doctor agrees with the diet and I am able to adjust the fat, protein and vitamin content of their food as they age, which is a huge source of comfort to me. I love my little furries and I highly recommend that anyone else who cares for weasels make the effort to incorporate at least a little raw. No amount of convenience can replace the ability to give your small things the nutrition they need, especially when their health starts to decline as my guys’ is.