Yes, ferrets are cute, cuddly, and playful creatures, but they also have certain needs that may not fit into every household. Please take the time to read the information below to determine if these fine, lovable fuzzies are the right pet for you.
I always stress that the key in a ferret’s life is personal time. There is a certain amount of daily maintenance they require, such as being sure that food and fresh water are always available and keeping a clean cage environment. They do require a daily outing of at least 60 minutes to play with you. Ferrets need a cage as a “Safety Zone” when you are not around, as they are very curious and will explore everywhere. They sometimes get into trouble, or even worse, escape out of the house. Their eyesight is very poor, and they cannot usually find their way home.
How often we hear people say they wished ferrets lived longer. However, their life span is a short 6 to 10 years.
Before taking on the responsibility, keep in mind that since these little guys are personal pets, they really take it hard if you decide that you no longer want them. When you leave their life, they can go into a deep mourning period and even die of loneliness.
Small children and ferrets are not a good combination. Children can play very rough, and ferrets can bite very hard when hurt by playful children. ALWAYS supervise any child playing with your ferret. The spine of a ferret is very fragile and can be damaged when bent too quickly or if the ferret is dropped on the floor. Ferrets will also lick the milk off a baby’s face and sometimes get carried away. A ferret should be an adult’s pet! Children lack the responsibility of caring for a ferret. Never adopt a ferret with the intention of it being the sole responsibility of a child.
Ferrets get along with other household pets such as dogs and cats. However, if you are a lover of rabbits, birds, or rodents, remember all of these pets are on the food chain of a ferret!
Some dogs that were originally bred for hunting do not mix well with ferrets. A supervised introduction is the only way to tell. You might have to have separate playtimes for your dog and ferret. Cats can also cause some serious eye damage to ferrets. It has been our experience that most cats, especially kittens, can become close friends with ferrets.
Ferrets are designated carnivores. They require a diet high in protein (not less than 32 percent) and high in fat (not less than 20 percent). The first ingredient in their food should be meat. Grocery store-purchased cat or kitten food is usually grain-based. Unfortunately, the ferret lacks the part of the intestine to digest these cheaper foods. They will survive on this food, but their health will be compromised in the end. Also, most grocery store foods are high in food dyes that can be harmful to ferrets. We recommend Totally Ferret or IAMS Kitten food for your ferret. There are also other ferret foods on the market, but check the labels for protein and fat contents. It is very important!
Fruits are often offered as treats, as are small bits of cereal and crackers. These are okay for treats but not as a regular part of a ferret’s diet. You can also give small amounts of Nutra Stat or Ferretvite, and Linatone or Ferretone, for treats. These are also helpful for distracting your ferret when cutting their toenails — put some on their belly, and they will generally ignore what you are doing.
Descenting has been linked with prolapsed rectums and reoccurring anal infections. A ferret normally uses his anal glands to frighten off the enemy or to mark his way if he should get out of the house and get lost. They will also release their scent glands when injured. This musky smell can be washed off with soap and water (unlike their close relative, the skunk). Bathing your ferret with a good ferret shampoo about every two weeks will control the musky odor that is natural for a ferret. It also helps to change their cage and bedding on a weekly basis.
Health Care – Ferrets have special health needs. They are not difficult, but they must be followed to ensure a healthy, happy life for your pet. Read this section before making the decision to adopt a ferret.
Habitats – Ferrets need little more than a cage, blanket, litter box, and food and water bowls to be safe when you are away, and play time with you when you are home, to be happy. Read more about this on the Habitats page.
Toys — (these are a must for ferrets!) Some toys are not suitable to these little beasts. Rubber can be chewed and swallowed, causing digestive and medical problems. Check out some of our suggestions on this page.
There are already too many unwanted ferrets awaiting homes in local shelters that at one time were someone’s whim and later became their inconvenience. Please consider first if you really have the time, money, and energy to devote to this personal pet! If you decide a ferret is the right pet for your lifestyle, remember that a low price can never make up for a poor quality ferret with health or behavior problems. Look for a ferret that is alert, has a shiny coat and long whiskers, bright eyes, and clean ears and teeth. Also, look for a docile temperament, but make sure that the ferret is playful.
We suggest that you learn more about these wonderful critters before purchasing one. There are many ferret books on the market today, but most have outdated and inaccurate information about ferrets. See our listing of books on our website. Another good way to learn about ferrets is to volunteer some of your time at a shelter in your area that specializes in ferret care.
Remember, as a ferret owner you have accepted the responsibility for your pet’s health and well-being. Take good care of your fuzzy friend, and it will lead a healthy, happy, and long life — and you will be rewarded with a wonderful companion.
© Copyright 1999 by the Oregon Ferret Shelter
All Rights reserved including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form
“Ferrets aren’t the perfect pet. The perfect pet is one whose unswervable need to overturn every small trash can and scatter its contents is something endearing, not irritating. The perfect pet is one whose imperfect visits to the litter pan are accidents cleaned up without rancor or frustration. The perfect pet is one whose relentless attacks on the carpet means changing the carpet to wood or linoleum, not changing the pet. The perfect pet is one whose trick of stealing your wallet and credit cards, just before you go shopping, is seen as an amazing talent rather than a punishable offense. The perfect pet is one whose playful, gentle nip on a toe invites a smile instead of a frown. The perfect pet is the one chosen after careful consideration of all of qualities that come with sharing your life with that kind of companion animal.”
© Copyright 1997. The Ferret Calendar.
Reprinted with the written permission of Jeanne Carley, the author