Ah, dinner time. For most of us, we get excited about what meal we will be enjoying. Will it be something new, will it be a favorite, will it be something simple and delicious? Sadly, the diversity we enjoy as humans is not something we can offer our ferrets. Ferrets imprint on food at a very young age, and unless you have already gone through the laborious process of introducing a variety of new foods, they are stuck with the same-old, same-old every day. While we can’t offer a lot of variety in food, we can offer variety in other ways.
Enrichment is a buzzword many people toss around nowadays. Officially, the dictionary and www.enrichment.org define enrichment as “the process of creating a challenging environment to address an animal’s social, psychological and physical needs.” Enrichment falls into six categories: sensory, feeding, environmental, social, play and training. Let’s focus on using food as enrichment, examining ways to present ferret food that makes it more interesting and stimulating.
Ferrets are not naturally foragers because carnivores are more suited to hunting, but hunting can be considered a slightly more complicated type of foraging. After all, foraging is simply the act of searching for food. Focus feeding enrichment on providing more space, multiple den sites, and day-to-day environmental variability, and control exposure to aversive/rewarding stimuli. Hiding food is a simple and easy way to add novelty and fun into a ferret’s day. This works best with kibble and only takes a little creativity.
For the full article, pick up the 2012 issue of Ferrets USA or click here to buy the issue.