Caring for a Pet Ferret
What’s so special about ferrets? What makes them unique? What makes them so darn lovable? And what does it take to own a ferret?
Any ferret lover will tell you that ferrets make great pets. Ferrets are playful, joyful critters and are endlessly entertaining. They not only steal your heart, but they take over your home and your life (in the best possible way)! A ferret will bond with you and love you unconditionally.
Although loveable and cuddly, ferrets are typically messy, difficult to potty train, and can be very expensive when they have health problems. They also need a lot of exercise around the house and typically fare better with a buddy.
It is believed that ferrets have been domesticated for over 2,500 years. They have a life span of 6-10 years, so if you decide to get one as a pet, be prepared to make a long-term commitment. Ferrets who lose their homes or families can become very depressed and can die of a broken heart.
I like to say that ferrets are a perfect mix between a cat and a dog, having the absolute best qualities of each animal. Every ferret has their own unique personality – some are calm and mellow, some are energetic and hyper, some are sweet and kissable, and some have a little bit of everything! But the one thing all ferrets have in common is that they will love you unconditionally, and having a ferret will improve your life more than you could ever imagine. Not to mention they are supremely intelligent and curious beings, and can outsmart even the cleverest of humans.
No matter what kind of ferret you have, you can be assured that it will be one joyous and happy little weasel. In fact, when ferrets are REALLY feeling playtime, they do what’s called a “weasel war dance”, hopping around like fresh popcorn kernels in the microwave. In fact, most ferret owners try not to wear shoes around the house, since a feisty ferret will most certainly get in your way, under your feet, or just beneath your next step. Almost all ferrets are also avid climbers (so nothing stored low or high is safe!), and they also infamously like to steal and hide anything and everything. The term “ferret out” or “ferret away” was named after these cunning creates who will go to great lengths to steal all of your stuff and hide it in the unlikeliest of places.
- Play: Ferrets are little balls of pure energy. They need to play for several hours a day to get all that energy out and to stay happy. Play time can be as simple as running around the room/house, getting into a friendly battle with their ferret friends or toys, or playing hide-and-seek in the most unlikely places.
- Sleep: Ferrets can sleep for 20+ hours in any given day. It’s important that they get their beauty rest – how do you think they stay so cute?!
- Diet: A ferret’s diet should consist of foods high in protein and fat. Ferrets are strict carnivores, so they should never be given any fruits, vegetables, grains, dairy products, or sugars. Their food should have at least 35% animal protein and 20% fat.
- Grooming: Ferrets need their nails clips, their ears cleaned, and their teeth brushed on a regular basis to help keep them healthy and comfortable. You should only bathe your ferrets a few times a year, as frequent bathing can strip their skin of essential oils.
Taking preventative health actions are super important for your fuzzy. Since many ferrets develop serious health issues as they get older, it is important to do whatever you can when they are young and as they grow to reduce the risk of diseases. Here is what we suggest to keep your fuzzy in tip-top shape:
- Consider a deslorelin acetate implant for your younger ferrets, which can often prevent or postpone the all-too-common adrenal disease (More information can be found here: http://www.virbacferretsusa.com/about-suprelorinf-implant).
- Ensure they are eating good-quality food, like “Totally Ferret” or grain-free cat foods.
- Give them “Uncle Jim’s Duk Soup” mixed with “Complete Care for Ferrets” and “FerreTone” every 3 days as an additional nutritional supplement (All of these can be found at www.ferretdepot.com).
- Give them a dab “FerreTone” on their bellies every day as an added nutritional supplement.
- To avoid hairball buildup, give your ferret a few dabs of “Ferret Lax” every few days.
- Bring them to an experienced ferret Veterinarian every year for a check-up.
- For skinny or sickly ferrets, give them some “Duk Soup” to fatten them up.
What They Need
- Lots of love and attention from you!
- Other ferret friend(s) to live with (preferably). Ferrets are very social creatures, and often live happier lives with at least one other ferret buddy at their side.
- A cage with plenty of space to stretch out and walk around in.
- Fresh food and water daily. Keep the food and water in separate bowls in the cage. If your ferret is allowed to wander around the room or house, make sure to have food and water available outside the cage as well.
- Lot of soft and plush bedding, like hammocks, blankets, and sleep sacks (Do NOT use woodchips, pine shavings, or anything that could cause irritation – this is bad for a ferret’s sensitive respiratory system).
- Litter boxes with ferret-safe litter (do NOT use clumping litter). Although it can be tricky to litter-train your ferret, it is very possible with patience and repetition.
- Lots of toys! Ferrets love tunnels, anything that squeaks or makes noise, and soft and fuzzy items. Just make sure their toys don’t have any small pieces that can break off and cause a choking hazard. They also cannot have any rubber or foam objects. Socks and empty cardboard boxes are always a hit!
- Yummy treats should be given in moderation, and ensure that the treats you give your fuzzy follow their dietary needs (i.e. protein and fat)! Ferrets should never be given raisins or other human foods, other than pure meat proteins.
What You Need
- Time to dedicate to your fuzzy. Plan on being available to play with them or watch them play at least 2-3 hours a day, 7 days a week.
- Ferret-proof your house! Ferrets can and will dig, push, and squeeze their way into even the smallest of openings, so be sure to block any openings that they could get in to. Some prime examples are: kitchen and bathroom cabinets holes, dishwashers, appliance vents, recliners, couches)
- Commitment. Ferrets live on average 5-8 years, so you need to be able to devote at least this amount of time to your fuzzy.
- A savings account. No one ever said that ferrets were cheap! As ferrets get older, their chances of encountering medical issues drastically increases, and they will need to visit the vet more often.
- A trusted ferret-sitter. If you plan on going away for more than 24 hours, it’s important that you have someone knowledgeable to watch your ferrets.
It takes a special person to fall in love with ferrets – do you think you have what it takes?