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Caring for Pet Ferrets

Category Ferrets
Many people enjoy ferrets as pets, but a number of things need to be considered to make them comfortable and safe. This guide is about caring for pet ferrets.
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By 1 found this helpful
October 31, 2013

The ferret was domesticated several thousand years ago to help hunters ferret out rabbits and small rodents from their underground lairs. They are the third most popular companion animal behind dogs and cats. Although these playful, cuddly creatures are easy to fall in love with, keeping one as a pet is not a decision to make impulsively.

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Are You Ready for a Ferret?

Like all pet ownership, keeping a ferret comes with costs both financially and in terms of your lifestyle. Although many people find them to be wonderful pets, they certainly aren't for everyone. A ferret's lifespan is 6 to 10 years, so your choice to keep one as a pet needs to be carefully researched and preparations made ahead of time before you bring a ferret home. Many people are surprised at just how much of a commitment is necessary to keep a ferret healthy and happy.

Financial Commitment

Veterinary care ($200-$300+ annually): Similar to dogs and cats, ferrets need regular veterinary care, including spay/neutering, routine vaccines, heartworm prevention, wellness check-ups, and care for unexpected illnesses.

Pet supplies (cost of initial supplies, then $400-$600 annually): This includes access to high quality food and treats, a cozy, well-appointed habitat, and a host of other miscellaneous items such as bedding, food and water dishes, toys, grooming products, litter box, etc.

Lifestyle Commitment

Time: Because ferrets are such highly social animals, they also need plenty of interaction with both humans and other ferrets to remain healthy. Ideally, this means four or more hours out of their cages each day for social interaction and supervised play. In addition, you must also be willing to set aside time for training and daily tasks like feeding, grooming, and litter changes.

Changes to your household: Ferrets are curious, intelligent creatures, which can lead them into dangerous situations in your home. They will climb on things, get into things, get out of things, and get under things. In order to provide them with a safe environment, you will need to ferret-proof your home. This means deciding where your ferret will be allowed to roam (while supervised) and getting down to ferret level to make sure that there is nothing harmful or dangerous they can get into.

Finding a Veterinarian

A good ferret veterinarian is important for helping your pet lead a long and healthy life. Ferrets require regular vaccinations against rabies and distemper. Young ferrets (also called kits) need a series of canine distemper shots two to three weeks apart. Since most are sold only with their first shot, its important to schedule a visit with your veterinarian as soon as possible after bringing your ferret kit home to arrange a vaccination schedule. If you are adopting an older ferret and are uncertain of its vaccination history, your veterinarian may recommend booster shots. A veterinarian experienced in caring for ferrets will also be able to show you techniques for proper cleaning, nail clipping, and dental care and answer any other questions you may have about keeping your ferret healthy.

To find a veterinarian experienced in ferret care, ask for recommendations from the breeder or shelter where you purchased your ferret. You can also find a list of veterinarians who specialize in ferret care by state from The Association of Exotic Mammal Veterinarians (see link below).

Encouraging Litter Box Training

With a little patience and effort on your part, most ferrets can be trained to use a litter box. Use the fact that ferrets don't like to go where they eat, sleep, and play to your advantage. Like many animals, ferrets have a natural tendency to go where they've gone before. Encourage them to use a litter box by placing one in a corner of their cage and in each of the rooms they are allowed to play in (once they decide they have to go, they don't like to travel far). Discourage them from going in the wrong places by putting down food bowls, blankets, or toys in the area.

Controlling Unpleasant Odors

Ferrets are generally clean by nature, but they do emit a musky odor especially males and females who are left intact. They should be bathed when they get dirty, but bathing them too often will cause them to release even more of their natural oils. Although you can never get rid of a ferret's natural musky smell entirely, keeping their bedding and litter boxes clean will go a long way to minimize unpleasant odors.

Training, Exercise, and Socialization

Ferrets are active animals, and they love to socialize and play. Boredom tends to lead to stress, which can lead to destructive behavior. The amount of daily exercise a ferret needs depends on the age and health of the individual ferret. During their most active years, ferrets need exercise and mental stimulation for a minimum of several hours each day.

Ferrets, especially kits, play with each other by mock combat which includes nipping and biting. It is your responsibility to teach them that nipping humans during play is unacceptable. Ferrets are smart animals and will learn proper play if you work gently with them and make your expectations clear. Mother ferrets discipline their babies by grabbing the scruff of their neck. You can do this, too. For example, if your ferret starts to nip you, grab him gently by the scruff of his neck and give him a firm "no". You can also try offering him lickable treats from your hand, or redirecting him to some toys.

If you're willing and able to make the commitment and to accept both the challenges and the rewards of caring for this unique animal, keeping a ferret as a pet can be a very satisfying experience.

Source: American Ferret Association (Http://www.ferret.org/links/vets.html )

Link: http://www.aemv.org

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Comment Was this helpful? 1

By 12 found this helpful
April 8, 2010

Take a shallow storage container, the kind you can slide under a bed (not to do that but for easier access for your ferrets). Buy plastic Easter eggs, also can be found at garage sales very cheaply or go to Dollar Tree. Fill a container 1/2 to 3/4 full with Easter eggs and let them go.
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They bury themselves, roll around, this is a fantastic cheap colorful way of entertainment for your ferrets, and it's fun to watch them too! Please keep these eggs out of the reach of dogs that like to chew.

by Deby from Kansas City

Comment Was this helpful? 12

January 6, 2010

First, go on freecycle.org and get a ferret cage by joining and then offering something like a couple of t-shirts, and then request a used ferret cage, that is two or three stories high, or buy one.

Buy a hammock for the cage, ferrets need these.

Put a box with a hole in it in the cage, big enough for the ferret to get into and sleep, like a shoe box sized box. I used a dollar shoe box from the dollar store, and cut a little doorway in it and put a little fleece blanket inside to let it sleep on.

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Get a water bottle, and buy good ferret food. Get a blanket to put over the cage when the ferret sleeps, as they need total darkness when they sleep.

Get the Ferret: Buy one of Marshall Farms ferrets, and bring it home. Let it get used to the cage for a couple of days or hours until it wants to come out.

Take the ferret out, as much as you can, but not too long at a time without putting it back in the cage. Never let the food bowl run out of food, because their metabolism is so fast they can starve to death really fast. They also need to have fresh water and have to water bottle never run out.

Put a bag of sandwich baggies by the cage. You will use this to clean the cage each time you take the ferret out. Put your hand in the bag and pick up any little ferret tootles. Usually they will eventually start going in one spot. You can try a litter box, but mine don't like them, they go on the linoleum in the corners of the cage.

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I leave a space for the ferret to see out at night, but most of the cage is covered. Ferrets cannot take heat. I have a little thermometer hanging on the cage to tell me how the temp is. They are more comfortable not in hot areas, but like cool areas. They are in need of lots of stimulation and attention. I have mine out about 6 times a day, all the time with little breaks to eat and drink.

I can't let it run free, because of the dogs and them not being reliable, but you could if you were there to watch them all the time. Mine gets stuck in drawers, and they are like kids, very curious and they are little bandits. They will find a place and put things they like in there. So keep your items out of their reach unless you want them to disappear.

They are so hyper. If you always hold them the same way and talk to them, they will become very attached to you. They are so sweet. Never keep a ferret in an aquarium. It is harmful and they need free flowing air, and the aquarium is for fish. Not ferrets.

They are so wonderful. They are the funniest, most hyper, most comedic animal I have ever seen. In the summer I like to keep a meatloaf pan in the bedroom window sill and fill it with fresh water ever night and ours likes to play in it; they love water, just like an otter would.

Enjoy yours!

By Robyn Fed from Hampton, TN

Comment Was this helpful? 1

January 2, 20170 found this helpful

This is a guide about, "What kind of pets do ferrets make?". When considering a more unusual pet it is a good idea to do some research into their needs, temperament, etcetera to ensure that they are the pet for you.

A hand holding a pet ferret.

Read More... Was this helpful? Yes

December 30, 20160 found this helpful

This is a guide about freshening a ferret cage. While ferrets make excellent pets, you do need to deal with their musky odor.

A ferret in a wire cage.

Read More... Was this helpful? Yes

August 21, 20140 found this helpful

This is a guide about setting up a ferret cage. The cage and furnishings you use depends on how much time your ferrets will be spending in it.

ferrets in their hammock

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Photos

Share on ThriftyFunCheck out these photos. Click at right to share your own photo in this guide.

By 11 found this helpful
November 8, 2009

Azazel is a one and a half year old Canadian Ferret. I purchased Azazel for Christmas, 2007. Azazel likes to play with our younger ferret Boba and pick on the Kitty. She also enjoys stealing my slippers and toothbrushes or anything she can get her paws on. Oddly enough, the ferrets never steal my son's or husband's things.

Azazel and our other Ferret are the friendliest most loving pets I have ever owned (including other ferrets). Contrary to popular belief, they do not stink and are not aggressive. No, they are not rats. They are more closely related to weasels. Since having the ferrets our house is so much happier. They always make me smile and laugh. My son, who is autistic has shown improvement and much better social skills.

My husband and I want to open a Ferret Shelter for abandoned and mistreated ferrets, often bought on a whim and viewed as exotic, by people who have neither the time or ability to care for them. They are prone to sickness if not cared properly for.

We would like to rescue and give a home to any ferret who needs it.

By babygaige from OR

Azazel (Canadian Ferret)

Comment Like this photo? 11

By 15 found this helpful
August 18, 2010

My pet's name is Buddy, a ferret. He will be 7 years old on the 4th of October. I bought Buddy when he was 4 months old from a pet's store in Ottawa. When I saw him in the cage, I knew he was coming home with me.

Buddy loves to steel my son's running shoes and hide them under my son's bed. He would drag them from one end of the house to the other. The running shoes were twice his size but he is very strong. His whole life he's been free in the house. He knows where all the litters are. He is very smart. He comes when you call his name. He likes to go up and down the stairs. I got him a stroller and we go for walks. That is something he enjoys very much.

Buddy has a health problem which ferrets get when they get older. He has adrenal disease. Last spring, he lost all his hair on his tail and a part of his back. He was on medication for two months to see his reaction. Everything went good. So he got an implant two months ago and he is doing great. I spoil him a lot. He gets his Duck soup three times a day and his supplement twice a day. He now looks great with his hair back on his tail and on his back. His coat his shinny and very soft. He doesn't look sick at all. I love him very much. Six months ago, I got him two friend ferrets, he enjoys their company. He likes to play with them in the tunnels and explore the house. Hope he will live a long life.

By Sylvie

Buddy (Ferret)

Comment Like this photo? 15

By 1 found this helpful
September 11, 2016

Your Pet's Age
We think Zander is about a year and a half old. We adopted him.

Your Pet's Breed
Zander is a male ferret :)

How and when did you get your pet?
Our neighbors wanted to find a home for him so he would be able to learn how to be more social and get out and play and interact more.

What does your pet like to do for fun?
His favorite activity is trying to steal anything that has a soft plastic rubbery texture, like my phone case. I buy him baby toys at the store and he cherishes every one of them. I have had to dig out my phone from his hideout in our bedroom twice now.

Do you have anything else to share about your pet?
He is at the age where he is learning tons of social skills. We try not to laugh at him when he is doing something, like nipping too hard, that we don't want to encourage him to do again. He jumps and plays and laughs with his mouth open, and he is a joy to us.

Comment Like this photo? 1
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