Minks are exotic animals that are closely related to ferrets. They were originally domesticated as part of fur-farming facilities. In recent years, many seasoned exotic pet keepers have been keeping minks as household pets.

A common issue with keeping minks as pets is that they have specific dietary needs. It is difficult to find the right foods for them because most pet stores do not sell supplies or foods specifically formulated for minks due to their rarity as pets. A mink’s diet is meat-based proteins in the form of small reptiles, insects, rodents, and amphibians.

Choosing the right diet for your pet mink is important for their health and vitality. This article will inform you of everything that you need to know about feeding a mink.

divider-ferret Keeping Minks as Pets (Wildlife Regulations & Permits)

Important: If you want to own a pet mink, you must ensure that you are permitted to do so in your region. Most wildlife conservation centers have restrictions on keeping minks as pets. In fact, it is illegal to own a mink as a pet in most states. A general house check will most likely be conducted by a wildlife specialist to ensure that you meet all the requirements for a mink and have the right enclosure layout. You may then apply for a permit, which you will receive once you have been deemed responsible enough to own a mink. Always ensure that the mink has been captive-bred and not captured from the wild.

If you plan to import a captive-bred mink from a different state, you must ensure that both parties have the correct permits for exotic mink exporting and ownership.

Young mink
Image Credit: Aleksandra Saveljeva, Shutterstock

Different Types of Minks and Their Natural Diets

Both the European and American minks are kept as exotic pets. Although these are two different species occurring in different natural habitats, their diets are quite similar. Both the European and American minks are carnivorous and semi-aquatic, which means that they require a body of water to hunt for most of their food. One of the main differences in the two species’ diets is that the European mink will eat a higher percentage of fibrous plant foods, whereas the American mink will consume few plants even when live foods are scarce.

The Dietary Requirements of Minks

Minks are obligated carnivores that feast on various meat-based proteins in the form of small rodents, reptiles, insects, and amphibians. Minks require a varied diet that is rich in different types of live or freeze-dried creatures. Commercial foods will rarely cover all your pet mink’s dietary requirements, and you will need to get access to their appropriate food. In the wild, minks will keep their prey’s leftovers in their den to continue eating them for the next few days. They will hunt for their next prey once the leftovers are no longer viable to eat.

When we analyze the specifics of a mink’s diet, we need to consider the nutrients that their wild diet includes. Meat fills up the main aspect of their diet, with other natural foods making up the rest. Some European minks will also eat vegetation found in their natural ecosystem during the hotter months. In winter, all minks will consume high amounts of live foods that they catch in rivers or within the preys’ burrows.

A mink’s diet should be rich in protein and low in carbohydrates to ensure optimal health.

What Do Minks Eat in the Wild?

In the wild, minks will choose a territory that has many available food sources. They will then create their den in the area where they will primarily hunt. Their wild diet is simple and mostly contains the following foods:

  • Frogs
  • Waterfowl
  • Mice
  • Rabbits
  • Chipmunks
  • Fish
  • Snakes
  • Muskrats
  • Crayfish
  • Voles
  • Salamanders

Minks can technically eat snakes, but it has been observed that most minks will catch and kill snakes but not eat them. They may also drag the snake into their den, where they will leave the snake’s carcass with the rest of their leftovers.

Minks will primarily hunt in rivers or streams and are good at swiftly hunting their prey. Aquatic life becomes more prominent in their diet during winter, when land animals have typically taken to hibernating in sealed burrows or caves.

Their main hunting strategy is getting behind their prey to deliver a swift bite to its neck, which is a quick and painless death for their unsuspecting prey. Some animals like rats and waterfowl are too large for them to consume in one meal, and they will drag the remains to their den alongside the riverbank.

Image Credit: jandenouden, Pixabay

What to Feed Minks as Pets

Understanding how to feed your pet mink can be expensive, and it is important to note that most of their natural food sources are not available on the commercial market, so you will have to improvise by finding foods that contain the same nutrients that they would receive from their natural diet.

For pet minks, you can feed them foods made for cats or ferrets. Most ferret foods will contain similar nutrients that both species can benefit from because they are so closely related. It is essential to only feed pet minks high-quality ferret or cat foods. If you decide to feed cat food to your mink as its main commercial diet, wet foods are best. Cat pellets are typically low quality and lack the right amount of protein that your pet mink requires.

Aside from commercial foods, you should supplement your mink’s diet with feeder fish from the pet store, frogs, and live mice or rats. Most pet stores will stock these foods for reptiles like snakes.

Minks are not suitable pets for those who struggle to feed live foods to pets. Minks should be fed a live creature at least three times a week alongside their high-quality commercial food. Your mink will also enjoy catching its live prey, which can be placed in their water or let loose in their enclosure to promote hunting, which in return, will fulfill your mink’s enrichment needs.

Here is a breakdown of the main foods that your mink should be fed in captivity:

Young mink
Image Credit: Aleksandra Saveljeva, Shutterstock

divider-ferret Conclusion

Wild minks and pet minks have the same dietary requirements, which include food high in protein and low in carbohydrates. There are a variety of options that you can feed your pet mink. If you provide them with the right types of food, your mink will benefit by having a strong immune system, proper growth and development, and a shiny coat. Out of all the commercial foods that minks can eat, cat and ferret foods are the most recommended options, along with frogs, feeder fish, rodents, or chunks of bird meat as a staple diet.

Once you have a good diet ratio for your mink, you will be rewarded for their overall health and beauty.

Featured Image Credit by Gallinago_media, Shutterstock