Ferrets are obligate carnivores, meaning they can only eat meat and don't derive any nutritional value from plant material. For this reason, the proper feeding procedure for pet ferrets is widely debated among owners.
Some ferret owners feed their pets live or dead prey – mice and rabbits for example – to imitate their diet in the wild. Other owners give their ferrets specialized prepared dry foods, which are almost entirely meat based. There are ferret-specific diet plans available, which most experts agree are a better option than feeding them high-grade cat food, which was once a common choice.
A ferret's diet must be rich in quality meat-based protein, high in fat and very low in fiber and carbohydrates. Ferrets should have food available at all times, as their metabolism and digestive system work very quickly. Dry food is a convenient choice because it does not spoil as quickly as canned food, which is usually given on a supplementary basis or just as a treat.
Experts advise feeding young ferrets a wide variety of appropriate foods and flavors; ferrets imprint on their feeding habits before they are six months old. After this period, it may be difficult to introduce the ferret to different types of food.