Ferret Dietary Questions: Can Ferrets Eat Bananas?

Ferrets are becoming popular pets and can it can be tempting to give fruit to ferrets to see if they like it. But is it harmful to give ferrets fruits and in particular is it safe for ferrets to eat bananas?

So, can ferrets eat bananas? Ferrets are obligate carnivores and don’t feed on anything other than meat to stay healthy. Giving bananas, which have complex carbohydrates and are high in sugar, is dangerous. It’s recommended to not give bananas to ferrets, not even a small piece. 

Ferrets are sensitive pets that can develop a range of health issues when they’re fed on a diet that has (complex) carbohydrates and high sugar content. Some people will say that giving a small piece of banana isn’t dangerous for ferrets. However, a ferret won’t have any benefits from eating a banana and has a high chance of getting sick. 

In this article, you’ll learn what the dietary needs of ferrets are and why bananas are dangerous for ferrets.

Dietary Needs of Ferrets

Ferrets are so-called obligate carnivores that need a meat-based diet to meet all of their nutritional needs and be healthy. In fact, their entire anatomy is made to digest meat and ferrets can’t digest grains, fruits, and vegetables. 

The main ingredients of a ferret diet should be meat. The diet should contain between 32 and 40 percent meat-based protein and between 15 and 20 percent fat. Besides that, taurine should be in the food to help your ferret stay healthy.

Nutritional Value of Bananas

Bananas are edible fruit and you can find bananas almost anywhere in the world. They are a more tropical fruit and are known for their high amount of potassium. Bananas can be eaten fresh, processed, or baked.

The following nutritional data comes from FoodData Central:

Total lipid (fat)0.33g
Carbohydrate, by difference22.84g
Fiber, total dietary2.6g
Sugars, total including NLEA12.23g
Calcium, Ca5mg
Iron, Fe0.26mg
Magnesium, Mg27mg
Phosphorus, P22mg
Potassium, K358mg
Sodium, Na1mg
Zinc, Zn0.15mg
Copper, Cu0.078mg
Selenium, Se1µg
Vitamin C, total ascorbic acid8.7mg
Vitamin B-60.367mg
Folate, total20µg
Folic acid0µg
Folate, food20µg
Folate, DFE20µg
Choline, total9.8mg
Vitamin B-120µg
Vitamin B-12, added0µg
Vitamin A, RAE3µg
Carotene, beta26µg
Carotene, alpha25µg
Cryptoxanthin, beta0µg
Lutein + zeaxanthin22µg
Vitamin E (alpha-tocopherol)0.1mg
Vitamin E, added0mg
Vitamin D (D2 + D3)0µg
Vitamin K (phylloquinone)0.5µg
Fatty acids, total saturated0.112g

Why Can’t Ferrets Eat Bananas?

To understand why bananas are bad for ferrets we need to take a look at the digestive system of ferrets and the nutritional value of bananas. 

Digestive system

Ferrets have a digestive system that’s suited for obligate carnivores, so animals that only eat meat. There are two important aspects of ferret biology that cause the ferret not to be able to digest plant matter properly:

  • ferrets have very short digestive tracts: this means that nutrients need to be easily absorbed if they want to be absorbed at all. Fruits have nutrients that aren’t easy to absorb and most will go to waste when a ferret eats fruit.
  • ferrets don’t have a cecum: the cecum hosts bacteria that help digest plant matter. Since ferrets don’t have a cecum they can’t digest complex carbohydrates such as fiber and starch.

Bananas are high in complex carbohydrates

Carbohydrates are made up from three components: fiber, starch, and sugar. Sugar is a simple carbohydrate. Fiber and starch are so-called complex carbohydrates. These complex carbohydrates take more time to digest and ferrets won’t be able to digest them properly, given their short digestive tract.

Bananas have around 23 grams of carbohydrates per 100 grams of which about 3 grams is fiber. This is also a reason why people on a low carb diet aren’t allowed to eat bananas. But unlike humans, ferrets have a lot of difficulty to digest bananas. It can lead to a wide range of health issues like intestinal problems.

Bananas are high in sugar

Bananas are a high sugar food. A banana (100 grams) has about 12 grams of sugar in it which is a lot for a small animal like a ferret that isn’t built to process high amounts of sugar. The sugar will cause a sudden spike of the blood sugar. A small piece of banana usually won’t cause serious health issues but regular ingestion of high sugar food, such as bananas, can lead to insulomina. Insulomina is a tumor on the pancreas which causes an increase in the secretion of insulin.

What to Do If Your Ferret Ate a Banana?

So ferrets can’t eat bananas but it’s possible that your ferret did. If your ferret ate a piece of banana by accident or if you gave it without knowing the risks, you should see if there are signs of health issues in the next few days.

Feeding a small amount of banana will usually not have a bad influence but you don’t want to make a habit of it. Make sure that you don’t give bananas in the future because this can lead to health issues fast.

The main signs of a health issue in ferrets are loss of appetite, lethargic behavior, diarrhea, and vomiting. When you notice these signs it’s definitely time to see a vet and check your ferret for diseases.

Related Questions

Can ferrets eat peanut butter?

Ferrets are obligate carnivores and aren’t built to digest carbohydrates and plant matter. Peanut butter has a high level of carbohydrates and sugar. It’s recommended not to give peanut butter to ferrets because it will hurt their health.

Can ferrets eat bacon?

Bacon is meat but it’s processed meat with a lot of sugar and salt. It’s recommended not to give bacon to ferrets because it will be difficult to digest for them. A small amount possibly won’t hurt their health but when you feed amounts that are large enough to replace a meal it will.

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