Can Ferrets Eat Cheese

Can Ferrets Eat Cheese? [ Dietary Info & Risks ]

In a word, no! Ferrets are obligate or “true” carnivores. This means that they can only find the nutrition that they require in meat.
Whilst ferrets like to eat cheese and other dairy products, they lack the enzyme needed to digest the lactose in dairy. So, don’t feed ferrets cheese.

Further Reading: “Can Ferrets Eat Peanut Butter?”

Why is Cheese Bad for Ferrets?

Cheese, in fact, all dairy products, are very bad for ferrets because ferrets are what we would call lactose intolerant. The enzyme needed to digest lactose is just not present in their digestive system so they are unable to digest dairy products. If your ferret does eat cheese, it can have diarrhea and vomiting, or even seizures. If your ferret has continuous diarrhea and vomiting they will likely become dehydrated. Dehydration in ferrets can lead to further health complications such as kidney or heart failure.

Ferrets have simple sweat glands and thick fur, which can make it difficult for them to cool down in hot temperatures. If they are already dehydrated from a cheese-eating episode, and it is a hot day, you and your ferret could be in a very serious situation.

Ferrets can also experience intestinal blockage if they eat cheese. They will be very uncomfortable and in pain. If your ferret has managed to sneak a piece of cheese, monitor them closely and seek the advice of a vet.

Remember, the gastrointestinal system of a ferret is very short, especially when compared to other animals. A ferret’s intestines are only 5 times the length of its body. In cats, it is approximately 10 times! So ferrets eat – and poop! – frequently. Perhaps every 3-4 hours.
If you have slipped your ferret some cheese, it may not have eaten it all and hidden it for later. Then, you are only making a potentially bad situation worse as your ferret may revisit the cheese stash.

Ferrets can also experience intestinal blockage if they eat cheese. They will be very uncomfortable and in pain. If your ferret has managed to sneak a piece of cheese, monitor them closely and seek the advice of a vet.

Further Reading: “Can Ferrets Eat Canned Tuna?

Can I Give Cheese To My Ferret As A Treat?

Cheese is not good for your ferret, so do not give them any, even in small quantities. Suitable ferret treats are non-seasoned meat pieces; either raw or cooked. Turkey, lamb, beef, or chicken are all good. Don’t feed ham to your ferret though due to the high salt content. Occasionally giving a small number of cooked eggs, boiled or scrambled, can also be a treat.

Some kitten treats are suitable for a ferret but dog treats are not recommended. If using kitten food as a treat, try to buy a premium brand as it is likely to be more nutritious for your ferret.

Further Reading: “Why Does My Ferret Shake?

Can Ferrets Ingest Cheese?

Ferrets do like cheese, dairy products, and sweet things. They will happily eat some fruit and vegetables too. However, whilst they can ingest these items, ferrets cannot digest these items, so it is best to ‘ferret proof’ your home and keep such things well out of their way.

It is not the act of ingesting the cheese that is the problem for the ferret; it is its inability to process the cheese. Being lactose intolerant, the digestive system of a ferret just cannot handle the cheeses lactose.

Even eating honey, peanut butter, or syrup can be harmful to your ferret as it can produce too much insulin to process the sugars. Mustelid’s (the family that ferrets hail from) do not eat anything but meat in the wild. Interesting fact, mustelids are the largest family in the order carnivore.

It is not the act of ingesting the cheese that is the problem for the ferret; it is its inability to process the cheese. Being lactose intolerant, the digestive system of a ferret just cannot handle the cheeses lactose.

Further Reading: “How To Tell If A Ferret Is Scared?

Can Ferrets Eat Cheese

What Food Can Kill A Ferret?

Sadly, there are many foods that are considered toxic to ferrets, so we have to be very careful in what we give them.

Avocados, raisins, caffeine, and chocolate are all considered toxic to a ferret, all with the potential to be fatal to your mustelid friend.

The American Ferret Association, Inc. suggested a link between diets that are high in carbohydrates and islet cell cancer (Insulinomas) in ferrets. So, maintaining a high protein/low carb diet for your ferret is key to keeping it healthy. Other foodstuffs to avoid sharing with your ferret include sugar-free foods containing Xylitol. This extends to toothpaste and vitamins too.

As strict carnivores, it is ok to feed your ferret small bones. It is thought that eating fur, feathers, and bones aids dental care if your ferret is on a whole prey or frankenprey model diet. However, do not give cooked bones to your ferret. The cooked bones are hard and can splinter, possibly rupturing or piercing the digestive system.

As ferrets are curious creatures, who do like to chew things, keep an eye on your houseplants. Some houseplants can be toxic to ferrets.

Onion and garlic can be fatal to ferrets. Onions cause a type of anemia and garlic can cause the kidneys to shut down. If you’re feeding your ferret cat food, check the label for the ingredients. Remember, good quality branded cat food is better for ferrets. Even better is kitten food as it is so high in protein.

Bread and grains are also not good for ferrets. They cannot process the fiber contained within bread and grains which can also lead to intestinal blockages

Grapes! Yes, excessive consumption of grapes can also lead to kidney failure.

We’ve not mentioned it yet but tap water isn’t always good for ferrets if it contains fluoride and chlorine. I will write a detailed post about it later on. Sticking to a high-protein meat-based diet for your ferret is really the best way to care for your ferret. Frequent small meals throughout the day are the best way to feed your ferret due to their short digestive tracts.
If you can’t always provide the regular small meals, think about hiding treats for your ferret. This will stimulate their natural foraging behavior and is good for their psychological health.

Needless to say, a constant supply of freshwater is essential for ferrets as they can dehydrate quickly due to their sweat glands. But make sure the bowl isn’t too deep to avoid any drowning incidents!

The American Ferret Association, Inc. suggested a link between diets that are high in carbohydrates and islet cell cancer (Insulinomas) in ferrets. So, maintaining a high protein/low carb diet for your ferret is key to keeping it healthy.

Further Reading: “How To Tell How Old A Ferret Is?

Final Thoughts

Ferrets are playful, intelligent, and affectionate creatures that are naturally inquisitive. To keep them safe and healthy, sticking to a high-protein meat-based diet for your ferret is key to ensuring the overall health and longevity of life in a ferret. As much as we want to treat them, don’t give in to those eyes and slip them some of your cheese sandwich. Their digestive system won’t be able to take it and, best case scenario; you have smelly feces to deal with. Worst case scenario, it is a visit to the vet and a very sick animal.

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