Ferrets are playful, friendly animals that can make excellent pets for the right person. A ferret may not be the best pet for a family with young children. Interactions between ferrets and a young child should always be monitored.
General - Most ferrets come from a commercial breeding farm where young ferrets are neutered and their anal musk glands are removed (descented). Two small blue tattoos are placed in the ear. Although pet ferrets are descented, they still retain their natural musky odor. Ferrets live an average 6 to 8 years
Diet - The ferret is a strict carnivore that requires a diet rich in animal protein (30% to 40%) and fat (15% to 20%) plus approximately 2% fiber. Most ferret foods or a high-quality dry cat meet their nutritional requirements. Most ferrets eat many small meals in a day, so make food available at all times. Cooked meat, poultry, or fish can be offered as treats in small amounts. The occasional raisin or small piece of vegetable is also acceptable as an occasional treat, however carbohydrates should never be a substantial part of the diet since ferrets cannot digest fiber. Make clean, fresh filtered water available at all times in a heavy ceramic crock or water bottle.
Habitat - Large, multi-level cages with ramps are frequently used to house pet ferrets. The cage should be constructed from easy to clean materials that are sturdy enough to withstand digging. Doors must securely latch. Select a cage location away from direct sunlight, drafts, or cold damp areas. Ferrets enjoy burrowing and hiding, so provide bedding such as old towels or shirts for your ferret to curl up and sleep. Make sure all burrowing material is free of loops, holes, or loose strings to prevent nails from getting caught. If your ferret chews on cloth, remove these items and provide a small cardboard or wooden box with clean straw or hay as a sleeping area.
Exercise - Pet ferrets should be allowed time in a supervised, ferret-proofed exercise area for a minimum of 2 hours daily. Although ferrets are nocturnal, they will adjust their activity schedule to their human family’s routine without much difficulty.
• Ferrets are capable of squeezing into very narrow spaces.
• Remove recliners and sofa beds from the ferret-proofed areas.
• Keep all foam or rubber items that ferrets enjoy chewing off the floor and out of reach. Prevent access to stereo speakers, sponges, headphones, rubber-soled shoes, pipe insulation, rubber bands, erasers, rubber toys or balls.
Ferrets normally select a latrine area by backing up to a vertical surface to eliminate. Most ferrets can be litter pan trained, especially when started at a young age.
• Place a small pan in the cage corner your pet has already selected as a latrine.
• Place a second pan in the corner of the ferret proofed exercise room.
• Provide a thin layer of litter. Kits will often play and burrow in clay or clumping litter. Pelleted litter such as recycled newspaper products or natural fiber litters are preferable as they are cleaner, more absorbent, non-toxic if swallowed, and compostable.
• Ferrets do not cover up their waste so spot clean daily and change litter several times a week to minimize odor.
Ferrets love toys, but be very careful when selecting them
• Do NOT give your pet any latex rubber or foam toys
• DO offer tunnel-type toys such as large cardboard mailing tubes, dryer hoses, paper bags, and PVC piping to stimulate normal activity like burrowing.
• DO provide cloth toys, but only if your ferret does not readily chew fabric on.
• DO remove buttons and eyes from cloth toys before offering them to your ferret. • DO select other toys made of indestructible materials like hard plastic that are large enough not to be ingested like ping-pong balls.
Ferrets are generally easy to handle, but like any animal they can bite when they become overstimulated or frightened. Do not hold a ferret near your face, especially if you are unfamiliar with its behavior. Ferrets also have poor eyesight and should never be placed where they might fall off a high surface. Ferrets normally play quite roughly with each other. Nipping is not painful for youngsters, because they are protected by their thick skin and fur coat. Kits normally grow out of their nipping stage, although some adults will occasionally nip for attention, a treat, or in an attempt to show dominance. Do not allow your young ferret to nip at you as tolerating occasional nips can encourage your pet to progress to painful bites. The most effective way to respond to nipping is to grasp your ferret by the loose scruff of fur over the neck, calmly ‘detach’ the ferret, then say “No” firmly and clearly while looking into your pet’s eyes. Then quickly divert the ferret’s attention elsewhere. This process may need to be repeated several times until the ferret learns what is expected of him. Products like Bitter Apple can serve as an excellent aid to prevent nipping. Spray Bitter Apple on your hands prior to handling or on your socks and shoes to deter ‘ankle biters’. Never hit or flick at a ferret (or any pet) for nipping as this can cause the ferret to bite out of fear.
Ferret nails can grow quite long and sharp, becoming entangled in carpeting or cloth. Nail trimming is a fairly straightforward procedure, however be sure to have an experienced person demonstrate toenail trims the first time. A treat can be used to distract the ferret during the procedure.
Bathe your ferret no more than 2 to 4 times a year. Ferrets have a natural musky odor that can never be completely eliminated, and frequent bathing will not only dry out your ferret’s hair coat and skin, but it will also increase your ferret’s odor! Immediately after a bath, skin musk glands go into overdrive to replenish the oils that were washed away. So for a few days your ferret will actually smell stronger. Most of the musky oils secreted by the ferret remain on cloth or bedding, so the best thing you can do to cut down on musky ferret odor is to launder these items regularly.
Veterinary Care - Ferrets should be vaccinated against canine distemper virus and rabies virus. Most ferrets purchased from pet stores will have received their initial vaccine series at about 6 to 8 weeks. A booster vaccination is required by 10 to 12 weeks of age, and another at approximately 14 to 16 weeks of age. Repeat vaccines annually thereafter.
The ferret is one of the few animals susceptible to the human flu virus. By the same token, a ferret with the flu can pass the virus onto humans. If you have a cold, try not to handle your ferret until you are well over your illness. If you must handle your pet, wash your hands first and do not put him near your face. Do not allow anyone else with a cold to handle your pet.