A Ferret Care Guide for Beginners
Ferrets are adorable, high-energy pets that do best in small groups. Discover our tips and advice for caring for ferrets as pets.
Ferrets (Mustela putorius furo) are small members of the weasel family that have been domesticated for more than two thousand years. These energetic little bundles of curiosity are a big responsibility, often requiring as much, if not more, care than a cat or dog.
However, if you are truly ready to bring a ferret into your home the rewards will quickly become obvious to you and your family.
Ferrets live for 6 to 13 years and during that time they will require regular vaccinations and veterinary check ups to remain in tip top shape. In particular, Ferrets are at risk of fleas and heartworm, so monthly preventative treatments like Advocate (for kittens) should be used. They are also at risk of canine distemper, and annual vaccination can prevent this.
Annual health checks are recommended for ferrets up to 5 years of age and twice yearly health checks once they enter their senior years to keep them in ship shape. Any concerns you may have should be consulted with a veterinarian at the earliest possible time. Although ferrets are hunters, they still become prey to other animals so they hide their illness very well like other small mammals.
Unless you plan on breeding your ferrets it’s also important that you have them de-sexed prior to reaching sexual maturity (between 6 to 12 months old). Not only does this reduce the smell associated with Ferret reproductive glands but it is also essential to ensure the health of female ferrets who, once in heat, remain so until mated. This can lead to a condition of the uterus, known as Pyometra, which can have serious and even fatal consequences for female ferrets.
Ferrets are highly intelligent and social pets that do best in small groups. It is highly recommended you consider adopting a pair of ferrets so they will always have a companion to socialise with. Ferrets natural play includes nipping and training is required to ensure your ferret knows that nipping humans is not an acceptable behaviour. They are also extremely inquistive, anything you may have in your home IS of interest, so ferret proofing your home is must so they do not get caught in between, underneath or behind things.
Whilst ferrets are relatively robust when playing with each other, as small pets, they are not animals suitable for homes with small children. It’s best to wait until children in the family are at least twelve or thirteen years old. First, ferrets can be easily injured by handlers who lack manual dexterity.Second, children are easily injured and frightened by the nips and bared teeth of ferrets. A frightened child may injure a ferret by dropping or accidentally hitting the pet in retaliation.
Ferret cages are usually designed with two levels and a place to hang a cozy hammock. The cage should also contain a dark enclosure such as a wooden hut, where the ferrets can make a nest for sleeping. Towels and similar fabrics make good bedding. The bedding will need to be washed frequently, and the cage itself will need regular scrubbing.
Your ferret needs several litter boxes: one for the cage and several for playtime outside the cage. The best litters to use are shredded paper and newspaper-based cat litters.
From time to time, your ferret will need to visit the vet’s office. To transport your ferret safely, you’ll need a pet carrier with gaps small enough that your pet can’t worm his way through them. A leash and H-harness will also be useful.
Heavy ceramic or lock-on bowls are good dishes for ferrets. Expect the playful little pet to up-end the water bowl, however, so supply a sipper bottle as well.