Ferrets: A Look Into What To Expect And
Prepare For When Keeping Ferrets As Pets
If you are going to keep a ferret as a pet, then there are a few things you need to keep
in mind so that you and your new friend can both lead healthy and happy lives.
First of all, know what you are getting into. Yes ferrets are quite cuddly and cute, but
they have certain needs that must be met and they have personalities that can get
them into trouble and possibly hurt. You need to be one hundred percent sure that you
are capable of meeting these needs so to provide for a happy and healthy environment
for your ferret and you need to also be sure that you can have the patience that may be
needed when they become mischievous.
So lets take a look at all of the needs of your new ferret, and what you will have to do
to provide these needs for them.
It is an absolute necessity that you take the proper measures to make your home a
safe environment for your new pet ferret. By this, you will need to take appropriate
action to "ferret proof" your home to the greatest extent possible. You will need to
ensure that even the smallest opening that you would think be impossible for your
ferret to squeeze into, be sealed. You will actually be very surprised and even shocked
at times, the small places they tend to find themselves getting into. After all, you
wouldn't want to lose your new ferret in the wall of your home, or in your kitchen stove
and other appliances would you? Make sure to seal or attach some type of barrier that
will not allow them access to places like under your refrigerator, the kitchen stove, your
laundry washing machine and dryer. In the case of the clothes dryer, make sure that
the vent hose is securely attached to the wall properly so to not allow them access to
inside the vent. Just remember, think small and seal it all.
All of these little precautions taken before you bring your ferret to its new home, will be
well worth the effort and keep your ferret safe and out of harms way.
Though many people let their ferrets have run of the house, there will almost assuredly
come a time when you may have to leave your home even if it is just for a short period
of time. It is this situation where having a ferret kennel or ferret cage will not only come
in handy, but also provide protection for your ferret if from nothing else; themselves.
When you choose a ferret habitat, it does not necessarily have to be a ferret
McMansion but it should be sizable enough to offer enough room for bursts of playful
energy that will most certainly erupt when they are not sleeping. The ferret cage should
also be made comfortable and an enjoyable place for them to call home when you are
There should be small and dark places for them to squeeze into since this is one of
their favorite things to do. You can provide for this need in several ways. An old box of
cereal can make for days upon days of comfortable "hiding" places for your little ferret
buddy. An old backpack that you may not be using will also make a good ferret hiding
place just so long as it is presented in a way that will allow easy entry and escape, and
also made so that there is no way for them to suffocate. You can also make a tube for
your ferret to hide and crawl in out of old PVC pipe material or even an old clothes
dryer vent hose.
Many ferret cages already come equipped with everything your ferret needs to be
comfortable and happy. With tubes, ladders, and little ferret hammocks there will not be
too much else that you will need to provide for entertainment. Save some toys. One of
the best things you can get to add to your ferrets habitat is people baby toy sets. You
know, those sets that have rattles and shiny big bells that make noise. Just be sure that
the bells are large enough so that your ferret does not run the risk of ingesting it. That
will be another topic covered later in this reading, the ingesting of objects topic.
Once you have their new habitat all set up and they seemed pleased with it, you will
need to make sure that you provide a litter box for your ferret and you will also need to
make sure that you keep the litter box away from where their food and water are kept
in their cage. Just like us humans, they don't want to eat where they doo. You will also
need to keep the litter box cleaned on a regular basis, preferably at least once a day,
since they can be pretty picky about this topic. It is also advisable to use the pelleted
type of ferret litter over the clumping kind, as the clumping kind can cause the ferrets
nasal passage ways to become irritated.
Once you take all of these steps, you will be well on your way to providing your ferret
with a decent and healthy environment they will be glad to call home.
Food and Water
Now we can move on to the topic of your new ferrets diet and nutritional needs. Over
all it is pretty simple as far as their diet goes, but I will expound on the subject to
include other nutritional factors and some sources to help you find them.
Water, of course, is an absolute must and it must be clean. Rather than just a regular
water dish (though that will do), it might be advisable to get your ferret used to taking
water from a small animal water bottle. The same style used for both rabbits and
guinea pigs. This will allow for easy access to clean fresh water at all times and will
also provide a spill free way for your ferret to drink without having to worry about
messes and "extra" play time that they might engage in.
A ferrets diet is relatively simple, protein and fat. The ferrets digestive track is not made
to handle the fiber of fruits and vegetables, it is specifically designed for the
consumption and digestion of meat. Your little cute ferret buddy is a ravenous carnivore
and will always be. So even if you are a stark vegetarian, there is no converting your
ferret to your lifestyle. Otherwise, you may have a very uncomfortable and sick ferret
on your hands and you would not want that. Once you understand that, providing a
food source is easy.
So lets examine some good sources of protein rich high fat food sources. As a rule of
thumb, the ratio between protein content and fat content for your ferret should be about
thirty five(35) to thirty eight(38) percent protein and about twenty two(22) to twenty
five(25) percent fat. Both of these need to be from high quality sources as some ferret
foods contain proteins made from vegetable matter which will cause your ferret to have
some digestive problems.
You should take great care and the time to actually read the ingredients on any
container of ferret food you are considering purchasing. It is also important to note that
while it may be tempting to purchase a cheaper brand of ferret food, the protein content
of these items are generally much less than those that are higher in price. So you
would be basically spending the same or even more in the long run as your ferret
would require more food intake from these inferior products. This too would lead to the
necessity of cleaning the litter box more often than if you feed them the proper protein
ratios to begin with since they cannot digest it, they get rid of it. This will lead to using
more litter adding to your expense.
Always look for food that has a meat product listed as the number one ingredient. This
should be poultry or some other type of poultry protein variant. Fish meal based
products are ok, but they are going to have a strong fish smell to them, so it is
advisable to stick with poultry proteins and poultry by-products.
Ferrets require at a minimum, thirty(30) percent protein intake every day, just to lead a
If you are feeding your ferret the proper balanced diet of protein and fat, then there
should be no need for any type of dietary supplement. However; that said, some ferret
owners give their ferrets fatty acid supplements like ferretone or linatone. These two
products should be used in strict moderation as it can lead to your ferret becoming
obese. With the proper diet, these types of products should only be used for rewards
and special treats.
Proteins and fats are essential for your ferrets well being and health. The high protein
part of their diet aids in strong muscle growth and development while the fat portion of
the diet gives them the energy they need to be the rambunctious critters that they are.
Though fiber as a rule is a substance that should be avoided, some fiber is necessary
for proper intestinal function. Carbohydrates, like those found in the binders of their
food(rice, soy, and corn), can be sources of energy for your ferret but not as good a
source as that of fat.
Speaking of the binders that make up part of your ferrets food, it is rice that is perhaps
the best and most tolerable of all as it is easily digested and has enough fiber to aid
your ferrets bowel movements. Some veterinarians recommend that you limit your
ferrets intake of soy, another filler used, as it may cause hormonal problems later in
your ferrets life. Though that has neither been formally proven or disproven, soy is still
tolerated very well by the ferrets digestive system. Corn, on the other hand, is one filler
that you have to watch out for as some ferrets can develop a food allergy to it.
Some of the signs that your ferret may be allergic to the corn bound food it may be
eating is irregular or soft stools, stools with a mucus, gas and bloating, and pawing at
the mouth because of stomach upset. If you suspect that your ferret is having an
allergic reaction to the food it is eating, then it is highly advisable to get them to your
veterinarian as quickly as possible. The long term effects of this food allergy can lead
to the hardening of the bowels and ulcerations.
Vitamins are essential for ferret health as well, but it would be advisable to consult with
a veterinarian or other ferret specialist before starting some regime of vitamin
supplementation as they can develop a toxicity when given to much or too often.
Minerals are important for ferret health as well, there again, as stated above it would do
your ferret best to consult an expert before starting a mineral supplement program on
your own as this too could become life threatening to your ferret if the doses are not
If you are using a high quality ferret food to begin with, most every vitamin and mineral
needed by your ferret is provided in the food they eat.
Grooming your ferret is also important. Though it is not a good idea to bathe them
often, they will need a bath, a brushing, and claw clipping on occasion. Lets take a look
at the best practices for these chores.
Bathing your ferret will become a ritual to say the least. Some ferrets take to the water
pretty well and actually enjoy swimming around and having fun, while others will need
your absolute patience and assistance in the bathing ritual.
Not too often.
You should only give your ferret a bath a maximum of one bath each month. The
reason being that frequent bathing washes away the essential oils needed for healthy
ferret skin and coat. Some say that a bath every two to three months is best, but thats
up to you just as long as you are aware that bathing too often is bad for your ferret.
The water temperature should be should be warm to touch but definitely not too hot.
You should use a very gentle shampoo like baby shampoo and lather the fuzzy up real
good. You need to take great care as to not get any soap into the eyes or ears of your
ferret. If you do, try to rinse it out as quickly as possible. Also make sure that when you
are rinsing off your ferret to not leave any soap residue on them because it will dry out
their skin and also try to not let them get chilled.
When drying, try to get it done as soon as possible.
Keeping your ferret brushed and well groomed also helps prevent the hairball problem
and is good for their coat. You can do this as often as you like, but be gentle of course
when doing so.
Claw trimming will also be necessary from time to time. It is very important that great
care and caution is taken when doing so. Be extra careful not to trim too close to the
nail quick, because just like for us humans, it will hurt them as well. You can pick up the
tools you need for this at almost any pet store and it would be a good idea, especially if
you are completely new to ferrets, to have a professional groomer show you the ropes
in the beginning.
Ferrets and disease
Ferrets are susceptible to a number of diseases and other health problems. Knowing
this beforehand can prepare you for what is inevitable at some point in your ferrets life.
Here are some of the diseases that your ferret may encounter. Not saying that it is a
guarantee that your that your ferret will get a disease, it is just that they have become
predisposed to certain illnesses and diseases over the years. So the chance for some
type of illness is some what greater. Below is a partial list of common ferret diseases
that you can use for reference to investigate on your own further. This list is by no
means all of the diseases they can get.
1. Subcutaneous Abscesses
2. Pyometra and Vaginitis/Vulvar Cellulitis
3. Proliferative Colitis
4. Helicobacter Infections
3. Diabetes Mellitus
5. Eclamptogenic Toxemia and Nursing Sickness
Other Types Of Disease:
1. Gastrointestinal Foreign Body
3. Posterior Paralysis
4. Gastric Ulcers
5. Congestive Heart Disease
6. Dental Disease
7. Heat Stroke
8. Nutritional Diseases
1. Adrenal tumors
5. Mast cell tumors, basal cell tumors and sebaceous cell tumors
As you can see, there are quite a few diseases that you will have to stay on the look
out for. This is not even a complete list. They are even prone to catch the human flu
virus, so if you ever find yourself with the flu, it might do your ferret well to stay away
from you. For more information on that and all of the other diseases they can get, I
would suggest doing a search online yourself for all of the different diseases ferrets are
prone to. There is no need to constantly be afraid for your ferrets health, but it is a
good idea as always to get educated.
Well, we have certainly covered a lot of ground concerning being prepared and what it
takes to have a ferret as a pet. It is a responsibility just the same as a dog, a cat, or
even a child. There is no one or nothing else to look out for and take care of your ferret
In recap, we talked about ferret proofing your home so that your new ferret can live
safe and sound. We talked about your ferrets diet, grooming, diseases, and habitat.
Now lets wrap this up with ferret habits. This should be interesting.
The word ferret partly originated from the latin word for thief. So that should speak
volumes for you. Be prepared for things to come up missing. Especially shiny pretty
things. If your car keys come up missing, they probably are not under the couch
Ferrets are very inquisitive, this of course can lead to some serious trouble for them so
that is why that it is imperative that you pay attention to what they are doing and what
they are getting into.
Ferrets also tend to like to chew on soft rubber objects so it is wise to keep an eye out
for chewable electric cords and cables, tennis shoe soles, sponges, and anything else
chewable. This habit can cause all sorts of issues, especially if the material is ingested.
This can cause intestinal blockage and will most likely require a trip to the animal ER,
so make sure to do a walk around of your home a few times a day all the while on the
lookout for rubber bands and other chewable swallowable things.
Be sure that your ferret does not have any access to any of your household cleaning
products as common sense should tell you that it will be fatal for your ferret.
If you have other pets, be aware that while ferrets can get along with and live with other
animals; however, if you have a pet bird it would do you well to keep your bird out of
the reach of your ferret. Can you say free lunch!
As mentioned at the beginning of this article, ferrets love to tunnel and explore. It's in
their very nature. That is why you must make sure that every small hole is sealed. That
includes where pipes and plumbing come out of walls and electrical outlets too. Give
them an inch and they will take a mile. Seriously, all the opening they need is about an
inch and they can squeeze themselves through.
Don't be alarmed when your ferret does a war dance in front of you. It is just a sign that
they are excited and in a playful mood and that's what you call all that jumping and
twisting about. So entertain them just like they entertain you.
I do hope you have found some insight into what to expect if you ever decide to bring a
ferret into your home and have taken away some knowledge that you may not have
known before otherwise.
Just know that this is by far not all the information to know about ferrets and how to
take good care of them. There is still plenty of useful information for you to find for
yourself online or at your local library, pet store, and most importantly from other ferret