After doing a lot of research, it seems the less grain in the food the better. They don’t even digest corn, wheat, soy, etc. (they might digest a little rice or wheat, but that?s just a carbohydrate source and should be minimal) so any protein in corn, etc. are counted in the analysis don’t really do the ferret any good. Corn especially seems to be linked to bladder stones in ferrets.
What I recommend is to read the ingredient list and see what is listed. Items like “turkey”, “chicken”, “turkey meal”, “chicken meal” are better sources of meat protein than “chicken by-product meal” or “chicken digest. Little or no corn (the farther back in the list, the less of it is in the food). I don’t like soy for ferrets, either.
Another objection I have to grains is that you are always hearing of recalls due to poisonous molds growing on the grain. No grain, no worries about molds. That whole “tainted wheat from China” really put me off foods with wheat in them, too. What are American companies doing buying wheat from China anyway?
If you look at the ingredient lists for the foods you use, you’ll see:
8-in-1 Ultimate: Chicken, Chicken Meal, Ground Rice, Chicken Fat (preserved with Mixed Tocopherols, Ascorbic Acid, Vitamin E, Beta Carotene and Rosemary), Chicken Digest, Raisin Juice, Banana Puree, Fish Oil, Garlic Oil, Taurine, Dried Whole Egg,… Protein: 45%, Fat: 16%
The first 5 ingredients are the most important. Chicken and chicken meal are very good sources of protein. Then rice (which is okay but not thrilling) and chicken fat (preserved with *natural* things, not BHA or something else toxic). So Ultimate is a good food. I’m not thrilled with the “raisin juice” but that’s pretty far back there.
Kaytee Forti-Diet: Poultry Meal, Poultry By-Product Meal, Brewers Rice, Poultry Fat, Dehulled Soybean Meal, Ground Wheat, Dried Egg Product, Soy Oil, Beet Pulp, Fish Meal … Protein: 35%, Fat: 20%
Poultry meal is okay but because they’re not being specific, it makes me suspicious they’re trying to hide the source. Poultry by-product meal is not as nutritious as some sources of protein. Then we have rice, fat (which they later say is preserved with mixed Tocopherols, which is okay), but then we have soybean meal and wheat. So in the first 6 ingredients, you have grains/carbs listed 3 times. Better than a lot of foods out there, but still high. Compared to the 8in1 Ultimate, which has a carb/grain source listed once in the first 5 ingredients (although raisin juice is 6th and that’s a carb), the Ultimate comes out looking better than the Kaytee. At least Kaytee doesn’t have corn.
Not all ferret foods are created equal, and a manufacturer that makes a decent food often will make a seriously inferior food under a similar name and market it to poor people. Walmart is a great example. 8in1 sells “Premium Ferret Food” in a box. That stuff has only 30% protein, 8% fat and the first 5 ingredients are: Poultry By-Product Meal, Brewers Rice, Ground Yellow Corn, Corn Gluten Meal, Chicken Fat… You can see that it’s a very low-quality food. Who knows how much protein a ferret actually gets from that food with a low-quality meat source and rice, corn and corn counting as part of the measly 30% protein?
Walmart also sells an 8in1 “Harvest” Ferret food that isn’t much better.
What we use here is Innova EVO foods. Even the dog food is better than most ferret foods (it’s considered a “super-high premium” food). The dog version has 42% protein, 22% fat and the first 5 ingredients are turkey, chicken, turkey meal, chicken meal and potato. [Kibbled foods (dry crunchy) need some kind of starch to hold it together. Potato is considered better because it doesn?t seem to cause stones, is easily digested and generally isn’t involved in mold issues.]
EVO contains no grains at all and is low-carb. I like the dog formula because it’s simple. They also make a ferret EVO which has even more protein, but I’ve found some of the shelter ferrets get runny poo on it because they’re not used to such high protein. So what we here is Innova EVO Dog Small Bites Turkey & Chicken Formula.
There are a couple other really high-quality cat foods out there that would make great ferret foods, too. Wellness CORE cat food and Blue Buffalo “Blue Wilderness” cat foods are two examples. They have ingredient lists similar to the EVO.
Other ferret foods that aren’t bad are Zupreem (but it’s very hard and some ferrets won’t eat it). Their first ingredients are: Chicken meal, Chicken fat, Ground wheat, Wheat flour, Chicken, Egg product … but as you see, it lists wheat twice in the first 5 ingredients, and like I said earlier, I’m leery of wheat at this point. Ferrets eating Zupreem seem to do well, though.
One highly regarded food, Totally Ferret, is one I actually don’t even like. The ingredients for their “active” formula is: Chicken by-product meal, rice flour, egg product, chicken fat, poultry fat, wheat flour, corn meal … First, the protein source is low-quality, the second ingredient is rice, and it lists wheat flour and corn meal 6th and 7th. Also, the ferrets I’ve seen on it don’t have as nice-looking fur as the ones on the Innova EVO dog!
So you can see the question of food is a very complicated one. I’ve done a lot of research on it, and I feel you’d be better off either only feeding the 8in1 Ultimate or perhaps getting some Innova EVO Dog small bites and mixing it in. The other nice thing about the EVO dog is that there is no fish and the food doesn’t stink. I find the Kaytee Forti-Diet rather fishy-smelling. Fish is an okay protein source … I just don’t care for the smell in the food.
— Barb Carlson