Ferret Care: How to Keep Your Ferret Healthy

For those who like the personalities of both cats and dogs, ferrets may be the perfect pet. These furry little creatures have playful dispositions, yet they can be litter box trained. They are indeed quite easy to care for if you understand their basic requirements.

If you're thinking of getting a ferret as your next pet, this guide will teach you all you need to learn about ferret care.

About Ferrets

Ferrets are small carnivorous mammals of the family Mustelidae, including weasels, otters, and mink. Though their wild ancestors were black or brown, today's domestic ferrets come in a wide variety of colors, including white, albino, and multi-colored. Male ferrets are called "hobs," while female ferrets are called "jills." The baby ferrets are called "kits."

white ferret in post about ferret care

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.

Though they are sometimes mistaken for rodents, ferrets are actually more closely related to weasels, otters, and mink. They have been domesticated for over 2,000 years and were originally used for hunting rabbits and other small prey.

Nowadays, ferrets are kept as pets more often than they are used for hunting. Ferrets are legal to own in most states, though some cities and counties have bans or restrictions on ferrets.

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

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.

Interesting Facts About Ferrets in a post about Ferret Care

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 are social species that do best in pairs, so you should be prepared to have 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 are very active and can easily become injured if they are mishandled. If you have small kids, teach them how to handle appropriately and interact with a ferret.

Ferret Smell

Ferrets also have a strong odor that some people find unpleasantThis is due to their natural scent glands, as cited in a journal of the National Library of Medicine, which are used to mark their territory. The smell can be lessened by having your ferrets spayed or neutered, which also has the added benefit of reducing their aggression.

Ferret Lifespan

Another thing to consider before getting a ferret is its lifespan. Generally, ferrets live for 6 to 8 years, but some have been known to live for up to 11 years, as NLM states in a review of Endocrinopathy and Aging in Ferrets. This means that they are a long-term commitment, and you should be prepared for the financial responsibility of caring for them throughout their lifetime.

Are Ferrets Easy to Take Care of?

Ferrets are easy to take care of if you know what to expect. Ferrets have a unique set of behavior and needs, which are stated below in detail. If you have kept any other pet like a dog or a cat, things will be somewhat easier. However, you will still need to learn how to take care of your ferret since they are very different.

Ferrets Behaviour

sleeping ferret in post about ferret care

People often compare ferrets to dogs and cats because they have some similar personality traits. They are very active and playful but can also be trained to use a litter box.

However, 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.

Ferrets Are Social Animals

Ferrets are social animals and need to live in pairs or groups. They will become bored and lonely if they are left alone for too long.

FerretsAre 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

Ferrets are obligate carnivores, according to a review of ferret nutrition on NLH. So, they have a strong instinct to hunt and kill small prey. This is why they should never be left unsupervised 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 neuteredFerret aggression is abnormal behavior, according to a peer-reviewed study at NIH. 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 require a lot of exercise and playtime. They are also predators, so they should never be left unsupervised with small animals.

In addition, they are messy eaters and can be aggressive. However, a ferret can be a great addition to your family if you are prepared for these challenges.

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.

Desexing And Neutering

Cream ferret looking into camera in post about ferret care

According to PubMed in Control of reproduction in ferrets, rabbits, and rodents, desexing and neutering is important to control fertility and reduce sexual behavior, aggressiveness, and odor of unneutered ferrets. Further, female ferrets should be desexed, especially to prevent bone marrow suppression caused by hyperestrogenism.

Desexing and neutering through surgical castration is the most common method used to achieve these surgical goals. The ferret is placed under general anesthesia, and a small incision is made in the scrotum. The testicles are then removed through this incision.

The ovaries and uterine body are also removed in female ferrets through a small incision in the abdomen. This procedure is called ovariohysterectomy or spaying.

If you are against surgical desexing, there is another method that can be used which is called chemical castration, as stated in NLH in Use of a gonadotropin-releasing hormone agonist implant as an alternative for surgical castration in male ferrets.

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.

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.

It is also important to keep the ferret's incisions clean and dry. The ferret should not be allowed to lick or chew at the incisions.

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

ferret sniffing cup in post about ferret care

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.

In addition, 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.

We recommend reading The Highest Rated Ferret Food and The Top Ferret Treats for more information on what to feed your ferret.

Some pet parents also recommend feeding your pet ferret with cat food. However, 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.

Ferrets Housing (Ferret's Cage)

ferret in cage in post about ferret care

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 highly 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.

You can find a list of the best ferret cages here: Buy The Best Ferret Cages.

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.

If you prefer buying one instead, we recommend reading The Highest Rated Ferret Litter Boxes.

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 relatively easy. You just 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.

Ferrets Grooming

ferret in bucket in post about ferret care

Ferrets are naturally clean animals, but they must be regularly 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. Simply 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

lady snuggling her ferret in post about ferret care

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.

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, which is 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.

To get in-depth knowledge of ferret diseases, check out Biology and Diseases of Ferrets, published at the National Library of Medicine. The above information is based on this article.

Disease Preventive Care for Ferrets

ferret on a leash in post about ferret care

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, and if you take him outdoors, keep him in a ferret 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.

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