Ferrets can be wonderful pets, but they can also be demanding and challenging if you don't understand your ferret's unique needs. By learning their quirky personalities and what they need to be healthy, happy and comfortable, you can give your ferret an awesome life.
How Ferrets Are Different
Ferrets are members of the weasel family, and more often than not they are predators rather than prey. Unlike many other cage pets – mice, hamsters, etc. – this gives ferrets a more aggressive personality. They are high-energy, inquisitive animals that can be quite intelligent, but with that intelligence can come stubbornness and mischief. These are not good pets for beginners or small children, but with the proper care from a well-informed owner, a ferret can easily live ten years or longer and be a faithful, rewarding pet.
The Best Ferret Care
All pets require good care to be happy and healthy. For ferrets, their needs include…
Ferrets are highly social and will be happiest in pairs or small groups. If it's only possible for you to have one ferret, it will need extra attention from you to feel comfortable instead of isolated. Positioning the ferret's cage in a popular room can also help keep them comfortable around their human family so they do not feel abandoned or neglected.
All pets need a place to call their own, and for ferrets that means a multi-level cage big enough to explore. The mesh must be small enough so they cannot wiggle out, and latches or locks must be firm to resist their insistent attention. Ramps, ladders and tunnels can help them get around, and a hammock or swing is a necessity for a happy ferret. There should also be a good litter box, and the cage bedding must be deep enough for digging. The flooring must protect their tiny feet, and the cage will need regular cleaning.
Ferrets are carnivores and need a varied, meat-based diet for the proper nutrition. Because they can be picky eaters, it is best to introduce a young ferret to several flavors and food types as soon as possible so it does not become accustomed to just one food, or else it may refuse to eat if that food changes. Foods should be high in protein and fat, without any grain or corn. Furthermore, a fish-based diet is not appropriate for ferrets. Pellet food is suitable, or raw meat can be fed to ferrets. Meaty bones, kitten food, organ meats, eggs and liver treats are other good options.
Fresh, clean water should always be available to your pet ferret. A sipper bottle is best for drinking because it cannot be tipped over, but they will also need a small bowl of water so they can groom and clean their faces. Bottles and bowls should both be washed regularly.
Ferrets are intelligent and can be trained to perform different tricks or games. Basic manners such as not to nip or bite humans should also be part of a ferret's training, and they can be litter box trained if desired. Some ferrets can even be trained to walk on a leash with a small harness, which can be a great way to give them exercise or take them to a veterinarian.
These animals are naturally clean and groom themselves well, but because they can get into mischief, they may get dirtier than normal at times. Wiping your ferret down with a damp towel can remove most dirt, and their ears will need to be cleaned regularly to minimize the risk of mites. Clipping their nails can also help keep them for getting snagged or stuck on fabrics. Baths should be minimized, however, as a ferret's skin will dry out quickly with too many baths.
- Play and Exercise
Because these pets can be vigorous bundles of energy, good playtime and exercise is essential to keep them fit and to stimulate their intelligence and curiosity. They will enjoy games with wrestling, jumping, chasing and digging, and there are a number of ferret-friendly toys that can be used for playtime. This should also include time out of their cage so they can explore new areas and investigate unusual objects.
Ferrets will need time to explore outside their cage, and that means ferret-proofing the house to keep them safe. Cords, wires and other chewable items need to be out of reach or securely covered, and any nooks or crannies where a ferret could get stuck or trapped should be blocked. Small exits, such as dryer vents, broken window screens or other potential egress points should also be closed so the ferret does not inadvertently escape.
- Veterinary Care
All pets need regular veterinary care, and ferrets are no different. Find a vet with experience in small pets, and schedule regular annual checkups for your pet. Ferrets can be especially susceptible to heartworm, and they will also need preventative care to minimize fleas. Unless you will be breeding ferrets, it is also a good idea to have them spayed or neutered as soon as possible to minimize aggression, reduce their musky odor and alleviate the stress females have while in heat.
Because ferrets are wily and may escape, it is a good idea to have them microchipped so you can be reunited with your pet. While microchipping is not required, it can help a pet rescue or humane society contact you quickly if your pet is found.
Ferrets can be remarkable pets, but they do have remarkable needs. If you are ready and able to meet those needs, you're ready to bring a furry ferret friend into your family.