How Long Can a Ferret Go Without Food & Water?

how long can a ferret go without food and water

New ferret owners have lots of questions, many of which will revolve around a feeding. One will whether a ferret can go without food for a day or two. It might be because you have run out food, need to go away for a weekend, you ferret is ill and not eating, or they escaped into the wild. 

How long can a ferret go without food? Your ferret might be able to go 1 to 3 days without food and water. However, how many days ferret goes without food will depend on their overall health and age, more of which is explained below.

The bottom line is ferrets have a very quick metabolism and will typically need feeding every 3 to 4 hours each day. Their short digestive tract means food and water should ideally be available to them 24 hours a day.

How long can a ferret go without water?

If it’s just water that your ferret doesn’t have access to then I have seen an example online where a domestic pet ferret had no water for 5 days and did survive. I am extremely surprised, but thankful, the ferret lived.

For any ferret to go longer than 1 day without water is very serious… there is water in their food though. But even so, a dehydrated ferret will become ill very quickly. Most ferrets will take a sip of water 20 times a day!

Here’s what you need to know about what happens if a ferret doesn’t eat and how long you can expect them to go without food and water.

How long can a ferret go without food or water
You don’t want to keep your ferret hungry for too long (Credit:

How long can a ferret go without food or water?

I just explained how a ferret can go 1 to 3 days without food and water. I appreciate that this is a long window and not the most specific of answers, but there’s good reason for that.

How many days your ferret goes without food or water will depend on the ferret. For example, the age of your ferret applies here as younger ferrets need more food than older ones. 

Also, what you feed them can be a factor. Kibble or dried cat food is easier for a ferret to digest than raw meat. So, if your ferret has any digestive issues, dry cat food would be the way to go, as it won’t upset their stomach as much as raw meat.

Plus does your ferret have any health issues that may impact their ability to handle not eating for extended periods. 

And then there’s how hydrated your ferret is. This will also affect how long they can go without eating or drinking anything. An extremely hydrated ferret may be able to go for a few days without any food or water at all, while a dehydrated ferret would only be able to last a few hours.

There are also several factors that impact how long ferrets can go without drinking water too. The first factor is age. Younger ferrets need more hydration than older ferrets because they are growing at an extremely rapid rate. 

The second factor is how hydrated your ferret currently is. If they are extremely hydrated, they will be able to go without drinking anything for a longer period than a dehydrated ferret. 

If they have been eating food high in water content, like wet cat food, they might be able to go longer without drinking. 

Handy Hint: When your ferret is hungry he might make whinging sounds. Here’s a guide to more ferret noises.

How can I tell if my ferret is dehydrated?

Dehydration can be tricky to detect in ferrets, as they do not show outward signs like humans and dogs. A few of the early warning signs you should look for include dry or tacky gums, lethargy, sunken eyes, and constipation. 

How can I tell if my ferret is dehydrated
A dehydrated ferret can be very lethargic (Credit:

If your ferret is showing any of these symptoms, it is important to take them to a veterinarian as soon as possible, as your ferret could be going into shock through dehydration.

Handy Hint: Ferrets come in different shapes and sizes, but you should know when they are too skinny. See how with this check.

Can a ferret drink tap water? 

Ferrets can drink tap water, but the safest water for them will be bottled or filtered water that doesn’t have fluoride additives in it. 

What can I feed my ferret if I run out of food?

If are worried about your ferret going without food when you run out of their special diet, then here are some other things you can feed them. 

  • Cat food (kitten food with high-protein content and low carbohydrates)
  • Cat treats
  • Chicken/turkey/lamb
  • Cooked eggs
  • Raw fruits or vegetables (one tablespoon size daily)

Toxic and poisonous foods that you should not feed a ferret when you run out of food include: 

  • Anything containing artificial sweeteners
  • Anything containing caffeine
  • Chives
  • Chocolate
  • Macadamia nuts
  • Onions
  • Ornamental plants
  • Raisins and grapes
  • Tree bark

What are some good ferret foods?

There are many types of ferret food that your ferret might enjoy, as long as it is high-quality and not adult cat food (kitten food is best). Some higher quality options include: Zupreem, Mazuri, Radiant, Pinnacle, Avoderm Natural, and Pro Plan Focus. 

These foods are relatively high in fat and protein while being low in carbohydrates. The high fat content will help keep your ferret’s weight under control, while the high protein levels will satisfy their natural carnivorous instincts.

If you are not sure whether this is the type of food your ferret might like, you can cut up some pieces into bite-sized cubes and see how they react. Most ferrets will eat anything that smells like meat or cat food, so this should not be an issue.

If you are looking for a cheaper option and can stomach it, one choice is be frozen rats. Rats are a lot cheaper than the diets listed above, but they often have to be ordered online. 

If you do not want to deal with ordering them from an online source, you could go to a local pet store that sells frozen rats and allows your ferrets to eat them there.

How often should a ferret eat and drink?

Ferrets should eat and drink as often as they like, particularly with drinking of water. Ferrets are known to take 20 sips a day, but sometimes more of less. How often they should eat though is a little more specific according to Vets4Pets.

Ferrets have a very high metabolic rate, and a short digestive tract. This means they process their food very quickly and need to eat little and often. Ideally ferrets will eat 6-8 times per day.

How much should I feed ferret?

The amount of food you feed your ferret depends on their age and activity level. You can use a measuring cup to make sure you are feeding them the right amount, but do not go overboard as this may cause them to gain too much weight.

Typically, you will want to feed your ferrets about one tablespoon of food per pound every day. If they are pregnant or nursing, then you can increase that amount to around two tablespoons per pound. Kittens should be given around half to  1 tbs per pound, while senior ferrets could receive around half to 1 tsp per pound.

In summary, dehydration is a very serious problem if left untreated. You should take your ferret to the vet as soon as you notice any symptoms of dehydration, and they will run tests to figure out exactly what is making them sick. 

There are many different types of foods that your ferret could enjoy, but whether they like one type over another is usually related to their sense of smell. You should feed your ferret about one tablespoon of food per pound, but you need to watch them closely to not gain too much weight.

What is the normal lifespan of a ferret?

Ferrets go through many stages in their life. These stages include weaning, becoming independent, and reaching maturity. The weaning process begins at about 5 to 8 weeks old and lasts until they become 12 weeks old. 

By this time, they should be able to eat regular cat or ferret food on their own. After the weaning process, ferrets go through a stage called “independence.” During this stage, they should be completely independent and able to feed themselves. 

This period lasts until they become about 10 months old. 

The final stage is maturity. A ferret reaches maturity around 18 months of age. At this point, they have reached full adult size and are able to mate with other ferrets.


A ferret requires a lot of care and attention, primarily due to how often they need to eat and drink. They need access to almost constant food and water. 

If you do forget to feed them, one day should be ok. But certainly don’t make a habit of it.

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