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Ferret Care: How to Keep Your Ferret Healthy

Quick Reference

Are Ferrets Easy to Take Care of?
Before You Get A Ferret
Behavior
Ferret Care
Health Issues & Diseases
Helpful Products

Are Ferrets Easy to Take Care of?
Yes, ferrets are easy to take care of if you know what to expect. Ferrets have a unique set of behavior and needs.

Before You Get A Ferret
– Be prepared To Buy Two Or More Ferrets
– Ferrets And Small Children Do Not Match
– They have a strong odor
– Ferrets live for 6 to 8

Ferrets Behavior
-. Ferrets Are Crepuscular
– Ferrets Are Social Animals
– Ferrets Are Curious Creatures
– They Are Predators
– They Love To Chew
– They Are Escape Artists
– They Need A Lot Of Exercises
– They Are Messy Eaters
– They Can Be Aggressive

Ferrets Diet
The diet for a ferret should be high in protein and fat and low in carbohydrates. Such as;
– Chicken
– Turkey
– Beef
– Pork
– Commercial ferret food
– Ferret treats
– Cat food [as occasional treats]
– Kitten food

Ferrets Housing (Ferret’s Cage)
Ferrets tend to be very active and playful, so they need a large enclosure that can accommodate their needs. Since they are escape artists, the ferret’s home should be escape-proof.

And they require a litter box.

Ferrets Grooming
– Once a week with ferret shampoo [avoid human shampoo]
– Use a waterless shampoo between baths
– Teeth brushing & Nail trimming once a month

Ferrets Training

Your pet ferret will respond well to positive reinforcement-based training. The two most common types of training are:
– litter box training
– basic tricks

Ferret Health Issues and Diseases
– Adrenal Gland Disease
– Distemper
– Dental Disease

Disease Preventive Care for Ferret
– Vaccinated against rabies and distemper at 6-8 weeks, again at 12-16 weeks
– Adult ferrets should be vaccinated every one to three years
– Regular check-ups, at least once a year.
– Keep your ferret on a leash when outdoors

Listen to our quick audio

If you enjoy the traits of both cats and dogs, ferrets could be the ideal pet for you. These small furry animals are playful and can use a litter box. If you know their basic needs, they’re easy to look after.

If you want to get a ferret as your pet, this guide will show you how to take care of it.

Ferret in owner's hand

About ferrets

Ferrets are small meat-eating animals related to weasels, otters, and mink. While wild ferrets used to be black or brown, now you can find domestic ferrets in colors like white, albino, and mixed colors. People call male ferrets “hobs,” female ferrets “jills,” and baby ferrets “kits.”

Ferrets have long, tubular bodies and can grow to be anywhere from 14 to 20 inches long. A full-grown ferret weighs 2 to 4 pounds. They have long tails that makeup about one-third of their total length. People often confuse ferrets with rodents, but they are closer relatives to weasels, otters, and mink. People have kept ferrets as pets for over 2,000 years and used them to hunt rabbits and other small animals.

Today, people keep ferrets as pets more than they use them for hunting. You can own ferrets in many states, but some cities and counties have bans or limits on them.

For example, the official website of NYC has stated Ferrets are not allowed to keep as pets in New York City. [1] California Department of Fish and Wildlife also prohibits ownership of ferrets in California. [2] Because ferrets are potential carriers of the rabies virus, ferrets are expressly forbidden as pets in Hawaii as well. [3]

When it comes to personality, ferrets are very playful and curious creatures. They are also social animals, so having at least two ferrets in a home is essential. If you want only one, be sure to give him or her plenty of attention and playtime.

Before you get a ferret

Before bringing home a ferret, there are a few things you should take into consideration.

Be prepared to buy two or more ferrets

Ferrets like company and thrive in pairs, so you should plan to get at least two. They are also very active creatures that need a lot of space to run and play.

Ferrets and small children do not match

Ferrets are not recommended for homes with small children. They’re very lively and can get hurt if you don’t handle them .If you have small kids, teach them how to handle and interact with a ferret.

Ferret smell

Ferrets also have a strong odor that some people find unpleasant. They have scent glands that give them a natural smell, as mentioned in the National Library of Medicine’s journal. [4] You can reduce this smell by spaying or neutering your ferrets, which also makes them less aggressive.

Ferret lifespan

Before getting a ferret, think about how long they live. Usually, ferrets live 6 to 8 years, but some can live up to 11 years, according to a review in the National Library of Medicine. Owning a ferret is a long-term commitment, and you should be ready to support their care for their whole life. [5]

Are ferrets easy to take care of?

Ferrets are easy to take care of if you know what to expect. Ferrets act in special ways and have specific needs, which we’ll explain below. If you have kept any other pet like a dog or a cat, things will be somewhat easier. But, you will still need to learn how to take care of your ferret since they are very different.

Video

Ferrets behaviour

People often compare ferrets to dogs and cats because they have some similar personality traits. They are lively and fun, and you can train them to use a litter box.

But, there are several significant differences between pet ferrets and other pets.

Ferrets are crepuscular

According to a Journal in the National Library of Medicine, Ferrets are crepuscular species, meaning they are most active at dawn and dusk. This can be a problem for people who work during the day and are not home to play with their pet ferrets. [6]

Ferrets are social animals

Ferrets are social animals and need to live in pairs or groups. They get bored and lonely if you leave them alone for a long time.

Ferrets are curious creatures

Ferrets are very curious by nature and will often explore every nook and cranny of your home. This can result in them getting into places they shouldn’t and injuring themselves.

They are predators

Based on a review about ferret nutrition on NLH, ferrets are meat-eaters by nature. [7] They have a strong urge to hunt small animals. So, never leave them alone with small animals like rodents, rabbits, birds, or reptiles.

They love to chew

Ferrets love to chew on things, which can be destructive to your belongings. Be sure to provide them with plenty of toys and chew toys to keep them occupied.

They are escape artists

Ferrets are also known for being escape artists. They are very good at squeezing through small spaces, so you must ensure that your home is ferret-proofed. This means keeping them away from small holes and gaps that they could squeeze through.

They need a lot of exercises

Ferrets are very active creatures and need a lot of exercises. A good rule of thumb is to provide them with at least three hours of playtime daily.

They are messy eaters

Ferrets are also messy eaters and often mess with their food and water bowls. Be prepared to clean them up after eating on a daily basis.

They can be aggressive

Ferrets can also be aggressive, especially if they are not spayed or neutered. Ferret aggression is abnormal behavior, according to a peer-reviewed study at NIH. [8] So, it’s important to have them checked by a vet and to get them spayed or neutered as soon as possible.

Are ferrets good pets?

A ferret could be a good pet if you trained it well. You have to remember that they are very active, curious, and escape artists. Ferrets need a lot of exercise and playtime. They are hunters, so you shouldn’t leave them alone with small animals.

They’re also messy eaters and can be aggressive. But if you’re ready for these challenges, a ferret can be a wonderful family member. If you are still unsure whether a ferret is the right pet for you, we recommend reading Are Ferrets Good Pets And What To Consider Before Getting One? Before going further.

A ferret in the garden

Desexing and neutering

Based on a study from PubMed, spaying and neutering ferrets helps control breeding and decreases their aggressive behavior and smell. [9] It’s especially important to spay female ferrets to prevent bone marrow problems caused by too much estrogen.

The usual way to spay or neuter ferrets is through surgery. The vet gives the ferret anesthesia, makes a small cut in the scrotum, and then removes the testicles through that cut. The ovaries and uterine body are also removed in female ferrets through a small incision in the abdomen. This surgery is known as spaying or ovariohysterectomy.

If you don’t want surgery for desexing, you can use a method called chemical castration, as mentioned in an NLH article about male ferret treatments. This involves an injection of a long-acting GnRH analog, deslorelin acetate, into the ferret’s scrotum. This method is not as common because it is more expensive and has a higher risk of complications.[10]

Postoperative care

After desexing or neutering, it is important to provide proper post-operative care. This includes monitoring the ferret’s food and water intake and providing a clean and comfortable environment.

If you don’t want surgery for desexing, you can use a method called chemical castration, as mentioned in an NLH article about male ferret treatments.

Complications

The most common complications after desexing or neutering are bleeding and infection.

Other complications can include:

  • Hemorrhage
  • Hematoma
  • Seroma
  • Incisional dehiscence
  • Wound infection
  • Gastrointestinal upset
  • Anesthetic complications

Ferrets are also susceptible to postoperative hypothermia. You can prevent this by using a warm-air blanket during and after surgery.

Proper postoperative care can help to prevent these complications.

Precautions

You should be aware of a few things before taking your ferret to get desexed or neutered. First, make sure that the vet you are using is experienced in performing these surgeries on ferrets. Second, ensure that the vet uses proper surgical techniques and equipment.

Third, ensure that the vet uses anesthetics that are safe for ferrets. Finally, make sure that the vet is providing proper postoperative care. These precautions will help to ensure that your ferret has a safe and successful surgery.

Ferrets diet

A good diet is essential to keeping your pet ferret healthy. Since these are members of the weasel family and strict carnivores, the diet for a ferret should be high in protein and fat and low in carbohydrates.

A good ferret diet can include various meats, such as chicken, turkey, beef, and pork. Besides, ferrets eat a lot of small prey, so their diet should also include some small rodents, such as mice and rats.

Ferrets should also have a regular supply of fresh water. For those who have no time to prepare food for your pet ferret, you can feed your pet with commercial ferret food and supplement them with ferret treats. You can buy them from local or online pet stores.

Some pet parents also recommend feeding your pet ferret with cat food. But, cat food is only suitable for occasional treats, not the main diet. High-quality kitten food usually has more protein and fat, so kitten food is better for your pet ferret.

Table of ferret's diet

Ferrets housing (ferret’s cage)

Ferrets tend to be very active and playful, so they need a large enclosure that can accommodate their needs. The ferret’s cage should have plenty of space for your pet ferret to run and play. It should also have a few hiding places for him to sleep and rest.

Since they are escape artists, the ferret’s home should be escape-proof.

You can either buy a ready-made ferret cage or build your own. We recommend buying a wire cage as it is more durable and escape-proof. Further, ensure that it has a litter box, water bottle, and food dish. It also needs to have proper bedding and toys. If you choose to keep your pet ferret in your room, you must ensure that the room is ferret-proof. Also, you should provide ferret litter and a litter box.

You can use a commercial ferret or cat litter or make your own using shredded newspaper or recycled paper pellets. Avoid cedar and pine shavings, as they might irritate the respiratory system, and clay or clumping cat litter, which can be consumed and cause blockages.

In general, you should provide 1-2 inches of litter at the bottom of the box. The litter box should be cleaned on a daily basis and changed completely once a week. Litter training a ferret is easy. You need to place the ferret in the litter box after he eats, sleeps, or plays. With time and patience, your ferret will learn to use the litter box on its own.

A ferret hiding in the grass

Ferrets grooming

Ferrets are clean animals, but they must be groomed because of their musky odor.

Although neutering or spaying your ferret can help to reduce the musky odor, you will never be able to get rid of it completely.

Bathing your ferret is the best way to keep him clean and smelling fresh. You should bathe your ferret once a week using ferret shampoo. Avoid using human shampoo on your pet ferret, as it can be too harsh for your pet’s skin. Using a ferret shampoo can also help in preventing ear mites, fleas, loose fur, and other parasites.

You can also use a waterless shampoo between baths to keep your ferret clean and smelling fresh. Waterless shampoo is convenient as you don’t have to worry about getting your ferret wet. spray it on your ferret’s fur and brush it through. Monthly teeth brushing and regular nail trimming are also necessary for your pet’s health.

Ferrets training

Like any other domestic pet, your pet ferret will respond well to positive reinforcement-based training.

The most common type of training is litter box training. As we mentioned earlier, ferrets are naturally clean animals and will learn to use the litter box on their own. However, you still need to place your ferret in it at least one hour after he eats, sleeps, or plays. With time and patience, your ferret will learn to use the litter box on its own.

Another popular type of training is trick training. Trick training is a great way to bond with your ferret and keep him mentally stimulated. It is also an excellent way to tire him out so that he sleeps more at night.

Some popular tricks that you can teach your ferret include:

  • Shake hands
  • Spin
  • Roll over
  • Jump through a hoop

Training your ferret is fun and beneficial for his health and well-being.

Ferret health issues and diseases

Although ferrets are generally healthy animals, they are still susceptible to a few health problems and diseases. These include;

Adrenal gland disease

Adrenal gland disease is a prevalent disease in pet ferrets. According to the review “Adrenal gland disease in ferrets” in NLH, approximately 70% of pet ferrets in the United States were impacted by this disease in 2003. [11]

Symptoms of adrenal gland disease include;

  • Hair loss
  • Skin infections
  • Swelling of anal glands
  • Infertility
  • Atrophy
  • Muscle wasting
  • Lethargy
  • Weight loss
  • Vulvar swelling in female ferrets

Distemper

Ferrets are also susceptible to distemper, a viral disease that attacks the respiratory, gastrointestinal, and nervous systems.

Symptoms of distemper include;

  • Eye discharge
  • Nasal discharge
  • Fever
  • Loss of appetite
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Lethargy
  • Seizures
  • Paralysis

If you think your ferret has distemper, it is important to seek veterinary advice immediately.

Dental disease

Dental disease is also common in ferrets, especially as they age. Poor dental hygiene can lead to tartar buildup and gum disease.

Symptoms of dental disease include;

  • Bad breath
  • Yellow or brown teeth
  • Drooling
  • Decreased appetite
  • Swelling of the face

If you notice these signs and symptoms in your ferret, it is important to take him to the vet for a check-up.

Other common diseases and health issues in ferrets include;

  • Lymphoma
  • Insulinoma
  • Hyperestrogenism
  • Rabies
  • Heart disease
  • Cancer
  • Diabetes
  • Kidney disease
  • Liver disease
  • Anemia

Older ferrets are usually more susceptible to diseases than young ferrets. So, extra care for your pet as he ages is essential.

Caring for a sick ferret can be challenging, so it is important to seek professional veterinary care if you think your ferret is unwell. [12]

Disease preventive care for ferrets infographic

Disease preventive care for ferrets

Disease control is necessary to keep your ferret healthy and free from any health issues. You can do a number of things to keep your ferret healthy and safe from diseases.

The first and most important thing is to get your ferret vaccinated. Ferrets should be vaccinated against rabies and distemper at 6-8 weeks and then again at 12-16 weeks. After that, ferrets should be vaccinated against rabies and distemper every one to three years, depending on their risk of exposure.

Taking your ferret for regular check-ups to the vet is also important. Ferrets should see the vet at least once a year for a physical examination and routine vaccinations.

In addition, you should also practice good hygiene and cleanliness around your ferret. This includes washing your hands after handling your ferret, cleaning your cage regularly, and avoiding contact with sick animals and other ferrets.

When taking your pet ferret outdoors, be sure to keep them in a ferret harness. Do not let your ferret roam free as he may contract diseases from other animals or get lost.

Taking these precautions can help keep your ferret healthy and disease-free.

Conclusion

Ferret care is not difficult, but there are a few things you need to do to keep your ferret healthy and safe. Be sure to vaccinate your ferret and take him for regular vet check-ups. Practice good hygiene around your ferret; if you take him outdoors, keep him in a harness. Following these simple tips can help your ferret live a long and healthy life.

FAQ

Are Ferrets High Maintenance?

No, ferrets are not high maintenance. They can be easy to care for and make great pets with proper care. However, there are a few things you need to do to keep your ferret healthy, such as vaccinating them and taking them for regular vet check-ups.

Can Ferrets Run Free In A House?

No, ferrets should not be allowed to run free in a house. They should be kept in a cage or ferret-proofed room when not being supervised. Ferrets are curious creatures and can get into trouble if left unsupervised. They may also contract diseases from other animals if allowed to roam free.

Do Ferrets Like To Cuddle?

Yes, ferrets generally like to cuddle and be around people. They are very social creatures and enjoy being around others. A ferret may be a good choice if you are looking for a pet that will cuddle with you.

References

  1. NYC311: Illegal Animal
  2. Wildlife: Why can’t I have a hedgehog, sugar glider, ferret, or other restricted, non-native species as a pet in California?
  3. State of Hawaii: ILLEGAL FERRET CAPTURED IN HILO OVER THE WEEKEND
  4. National Library of Medicine: Ferret Medicine
  5. NLM: Endocrinopathy and Aging in Ferrets
  6. Journal in the National Library of Medicine: Ferret Medicine
  7. NLH: ferret nutrition
  8. NIH: Ferret Behavior Medicine
  9. PubMed: Control of reproduction in ferrets, rabbits, and rodents
  10. NLH: Use of a gonadotropin releasing hormone agonist implant as an alternative for surgical castration in male ferrets
  11. NLH: Adrenal gland disease in ferrets
  12. National Library of Medicine: Biology and Diseases of Ferrets

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