Whether you're feeding a ferret, a gecko or a parakeet, animal expert Marc Morrone answers your questions about pet nutrition.

JONI: I just adopted a ferret and I believe he is 1 1/2 years old. What foods should I be feeding him?

MARC: Ferrets, like cats, are obligate carnivores. This means their diets should consist of high-protein and high-fat food that includes lots of meat. Most pet stores sell foods especially formatted for ferrets and you should purchase these rather than dog or cat food.

DAVID: I have a leopard gecko named Fred and was wondering what live plants would be safe to put in his tank.

MARC: I've found that a pony-tail palm is the best idea. It is appealing to the eye, easy to grow, and won't harm your gecko. Many lizards particularly enjoy this plant because they can hide among the leaves.

LORETTA: One of my parakeets' beaks has been growing very rapidly and I've had to trim it. Someone told me that this was a sign of liver problems. Does this have anything to do with his diet?

MARC: Without an avian vet doing the proper tests, it's hard to determine what's at the root of the problem. There is, however, something not right in a beak that grows so fast. You should have your bird monitored by an avian vet.

ZACK: I have a 9-week-old chinchilla. Can they eat tiny chunks of fruits and vegetables?

MARC: Although a chinchilla's primary diet should be formulated pellets and hay, they do require a daily serving of some fresh produce. Many chinchillas show a special fondness for carrots, apples, celery, and leafy lettuce.

JODI: I have an 8-year-old husky. I've seen special dog food in pet stores for senior dogs, but at what age should I make the switch?

MARC: Most vets believe that a dog over the age of 7 is a senior, but it can vary according to size. A smaller dog, for example, tends to age at a slower rate than a larger dog.

Special Thanks

Marc Morrone, pet expert

Comments (1)

Martha Stewart Member
July 7, 2010
As an experienced breeder and member of the chinchilla community, chins should only be fed a top quality hay, pellets and filtered water to protect them from microbial cysts such as Giardia. Chins have sensitive digestive tracts and should not be fed fresh fruits and produce. Acceptable treats include bite sized, plain shredded wheats, dried rosehips or a pinch of old fashioned oats. Raisins should be avoided due to high sugar content and can cause soft stools. Info? www.chins-n-hedgies.com