Domesticated ferrets can be low-maintenance, entertaining pets. Ferrets are clean, friendly, playful, and quiet, and of all the “pocket pets”, they are considered uniquely responsive to their owners. Through selective breeding, many different color and coat pattern mutations have been developed. Male ferrets tend to be significantly larger, almost twice the size of females. Most are already spayed and neutered if purchased in the U.S.
A ferret ration containing high protein (30-35% animal based protein) and fat (15-20%), and low in carbohydrates and fiber, is recommended for pet ferrets. We recommend “Totally Ferret” or “Evo” brands.
These diets are complete and do not require supplementation. However, if you choose to, supplement the diet whole pinkies or small feeder fish. Avoid grain-based foods and sugary treats. Avoid cheese as it is high in fat and ferrets cannot tolerate large amounts of lactose. Ferrets have a short GI tract, so they should be fed in small frequent meals; food should not be left to sit in the cage all day. However, they should never go more than 4-6 hours without food.
Make fresh water available in a water bottle. Position sipper tube low enough to allow the pet easy access. Ferrets will only drink a fraction of the total bottle volume, but the bottle should be emptied, cleaned and filled with fresh water daily.
Provide the largest cage possible for your pet ferret. Ferrets are notorious escape artists, so a wire cage with only a very tiny space between the bars is recommended. Avoid cages constructed from wood or soft metal. Cages with a solid plastic base with closely spaced metal bars are ideal for both containment and ventilation purposes. Aquarium tanks do not provide sufficient ventilation and should be avoided. The best cages will be multi-level with ramps and bridges to and from levels.
Provide ample nesting material and deep bedding for burrowing, resting, and to soak up urine. Select clean, absorbent, non-toxic, and odor free bedding. Recycled paper products (i.e. CareFRESH®, Absorption Corp) or aspen shavings make the best lining materials. There are a number of beddings that should be avoided:
- Cedar shavings contain chemicals that are toxic and can cause irritation.
- Corncob bedding has a tendency to mold and can lead to intestinal obstruction if ingested.
- Sawdust or any pine shavings can cause irritation to the eyes and the respiratory tract.
Also provide shredded paper towels or tissue as nesting material. Avoid the commercially available fluffy cotton wool products as these materials are indigestible and can lead to intestinal obstruction if eaten.
Many ferrets will use a litter box if one is provided. Get a specially made “corner” litter box with high sides since ferrets tend to back up when urinating
Provide tunnels, exercise wheels, nest boxes, ramps and hammocks to help maintain the mental well-being of your pet. Offer cardboard tube rolls and wood blocks as chew toys. Avoid latex or rubber toys.
Optimal temperature range for rodents falls between 65-78°F (18-26°C), with a relative humidity of 40-70%. Keep the cage out of direct sunlight and away from other heat sources, such as a radiator, or drafts.
Ferrets are sociable creatures, and do well with a cage mate as long as their introduced at a young age. They also need to be socialized with their human family and should get a minimum of 2 hours a day to play outside their cage.
Clean the cage and all cage furniture thoroughly once or twice weekly. Changing the bedding and disinfect all areas of the habitat. Clean food dishes and the water bottle.
FERRET-PROOFING YOUR HOME
- Whenever your ferret comes out to play, be sure your cats and dogs are confined away from him; they are natural predators and will chase a fast-moving ferret.
- Be sure all cracks and crevices are sealed. This includes under the doorway, under and behind permanent cabinets, down sink drains… anywhere their little bodies can fit, they will go! If all you do is place a towel in front of it, they’ll get behind there.
- It is imperative that electrical cords be hidden or covered with tubing or hard plastic casing, since one bite by your ferret could be fatal. Conceal cords within vinyl tubing, found at hardware stores, so that he cannot reach them. Split the tubing lengthwise with a utility knife so the cord may be pushed inside.
- Remove poisonous plants and other toxic substances as well as any small objects or toys that could be ingested.
- Now that you’ve taken away all the harmful stuff, make sure to provide some safe and fun alternatives.
- Cat balls or other cat toys that roll or can be tossed
- Hard plastic baby toys. Make sure that the ferret is not eating and ingesting these toys!
- Large tubs of hay, newspapers, or a towel may be used as an outlet for digging.
- Nudge and roll toys like large rubber or tennis balls, empty Quaker Oat boxes and small tins
- Create a climbing area with baskets, boxes, and pillows
- Tunnels can be made from open-ended cardboard boxes, cat tunnels, and cardboard propped up against the side of a wall.
- Paper bags and cardboard boxes for crawling inside, scratching, and chewing.
- A cardboard box stuffed with hay, straw, or shredded paper makes an inexpensive play box.
- Yellow Pages for shredding
- Straw whisk broom
- An old but clean sock can make a fun place to explore – cut off the toes and it becomes a tunnel!
Just like dogs and cats, ferrets also require biannual exams and fecals and annual vaccines for their entire life.
DISTEMPER – This is actually a canine virus, but ferrets are highly susceptible to this widespread virus. It is 100% rapidly fatal in ferrets. There is no effective treatment for distemper. Ferret kits (babies) should receive a series of distemper vaccines every 3-4 weeks starting at 6 weeks of age, and ending at 14-16 weeks of age; then annually thereafter.
RABIES – Rabies is probably the world’s most publicized and feared disease. The Rabies virus attacks the brain and central nervous system and is transmitted to humans chiefly through the bite of an infected animal. This disease is fatal in pets and requires several painful vaccines in humans to prevent. Ferrets should be vaccinated for rabies annually