The Importance of Variety
Author: Celene Hoag
Since different proteins have different levels of various vitamins and minerals, it is important to feed a variety. We generally recommend a minimum of 3-4 different proteins per week. Meats that are very similar (i.e. chicken vs cornish game hen) do not count as separate proteins as they have almost identical nutritional profiles.
- Try to choose fattier cuts of meat. Ferrets get their energy from fats similar to how humans rely on carbs. So instead of getting turkey breast, opt for the thigh instead! Fattier cuts are usually cheaper too, so it’s a win-win!
- Rabbits are relatively low in taurine. This is because taurine is created when muscles work very hard, and rabbits are kept in small pens and don’t run around a lot (wild-caught rabbits are different). This is also why hard working muscles like heart and tongue are so high in taurine.
- We generally recommend at least one “red meat” per week. Red meats such as duck, beef, lamb, etc. are very high in iron (which is what gives it the red colour) and other vitamins/minerals. This isn’t so much as a “hard” requirement, but a way to ensure a vider variety (as opposed to someone feeding chicken, turkey and quail as their three proteins, which are relatively similar).
- The reason some meats (heart, liver, organ) are required in specific amounts is due to them containing specific nutrients that are important for ferret heath. As mentioned above, taurine (which is very necessary in a ferret diet) is found in high concentrations in hearts. Taurine is water soluble which means any excess consumed by a ferret will simply be excreted in the urine. That’s why the 10% of the diet (1.5 meals per week) is a minimum. Liver is very high in Vitamin A. Although Vitamin A is also really important, it is not water soluble which means any excess will get stored up in a ferret’s system and can lead to toxicity over time. This is why the 10% liver (or preferably 5% liver 5% other organ) is an exact requirement.
Below I have made up a quick chart which illustrates the different vitamins in chicken, duck and beef (no cut in particular). It isn’t necessary to memorize any of the specifics, it’s just a visual to show how some meats have higher/lower levels of different nutrients.
You’ll notice that these meats are all relatively low in Vitamin A. By comparison, 100g of raw chicken liver has 11077 IU (222% of a human’s daily value) of Vitamin A, which is why it is very important for ferrets, but only in specific amounts.