Ferrets can and will get into anything; these animals are such curious creatures! And sometimes that means they get into our food because the scent is just too tantalizing. But what happens if you’re eating breakfast and find that a bite of your morning banana is gone? Can ferrets eat bananas?
The good news is that if your pet scores a mouthful of banana, they should be fine, as bananas aren’t toxic for ferrets. However, bananas shouldn’t be fed to ferrets; no fruits or veggies should be given to them! Any fruit or vegetable, including bananas, can damage your pet’s health causing severe issues.
What kinds of health problems can bananas cause? Here’s what you need to know.
Why Are Bananas Bad for Ferrets?
There are a couple of reasons bananas are bad for ferrets, making them a poor choice as an addition to your pet’s diet.
1. Ferrets Are Carnivores
The main reason bananas can be unsafe for ferrets is because they are obligate carnivores 1. What does that mean? It means their digestive tracts are set up to process only meat, so they get all their needed nutrients from meat. In fact, ferrets’ digestive tracts can’t digest complex carbs or fiber—both of which bananas are high in.
Ferrets are unable to digest these things because they lack a caecum 2. This part of the intestines, found in herbivores and omnivores (like us!), produces the bacteria needed to break down fiber and complex carbs. Without the caecum, complex carbs and fiber can wreak havoc on a digestive system. Even for carnivores, ferrets have quite a short digestive tract and rapid metabolic rate, which is not ideal for digesting fibrous plant matter.
So, you might add a banana to your diet for more fiber, but that same fiber can cause your ferret to experience diarrhea, constipation, vomiting, and other similar issues.
There’s also a lot of sugar in bananas, and because your pet’s system isn’t designed for sugar, this could lead to problems. Again, if your ferret just steals a bite of your banana, they’ll be fine. But if they’re getting bananas as regular treats, long-term problems could occur.
For starters, ferrets who often eat sugary treats or high-carb items are more likely to end up with insulinoma when they get older. As you can guess from the name, this is a disease that affects insulin, but though it’s similar to diabetes, it isn’t quite the same. In the case of insulinoma, insulin is produced in excess by tumors in the pancreas, resulting in low blood sugar. This can lead to your ferret having fainting spells, weakness in the hind limbs, and extreme lethargy. Insulinomas are a common disease in ferrets, and can occur without a history of high-sugar diets, but we don’t want to increase their risk factors.
What Should I Feed My Ferret?
Because your ferret is an obligate carnivore, they need meat to survive and get a healthy development, so that is what most of their diet should consist of. Altogether, you want to aim for a diet that contains 10–15% fat and 32–40% protein 3. Ferrets should have less than 4% fiber in their diets; a tiny amount that is easy to overdo if we aren’t careful!
And although bananas aren’t an optimal treat for your furry friend, there are plenty of other foods you can give them on occasion if they’re in the mood for a snack.
Remember that even though these treats are ferret-friendly, they should still only be given occasionally and not every day!
A bite of banana on occasion isn’t toxic to your ferret, but it still isn’t healthy for them. As obligate carnivores, ferrets don’t have the necessary components in their digestive systems to properly break down fiber and complex carbs. This means fruit of any kind can lead to severe stomach upset, with bloating and diarrhea. Fruit also contains sugar, which can be harmful to ferrets in large quantities.
Thankfully, there are plenty of safe treats you can give your ferret if they’re in the mood. Stick with those to keep your four-legged friend happy and healthy!