Ferrets make great pets! They’re very inquisitive and sociable as well as being playful and intelligent!
Ferrets are extremely active, love lots of exercise and will want you to play with them every day. They’re friendly once they get to know you and although they’re carnivores, they won’t bite you if you treat them right.
Ferrets need lots of protein in their diet and because they digest their food very quickly, they must be fed at regular intervals.
Which Ferret Will You Choose?
Originally there were two ferret coat colours (albino and sable). Nowadays there are a wide variety of colours, patterns and markings.
The different combinations of colours, patters and markings produce an infinite number of variations. Some examples of patterns could be “Roan” (a mixture of coloured and white hair) or “Dalmatian” (with spots and blotches on a white coat). Markings can be a mask of colour found across the face mitts and feet, or a blaze (white on forehead and chest).
Bringing Your Ferret Home
Make sure that you have everything ready before you collect your Ferret, so that you can put it into its new home as soon as you arrive and it can spend the first 24 hours getting used to the new environment.
Don’t forget to talk to your Ferret and keep it company because it will be missing its brothers and sisters. We suggest you don’t handle your Ferret too much for the first day or two, just give it plenty of clean water and some food.
You’ll soon know when your Ferret has settled in – it will begin to eat, drink and groom itself.
What to Feed Your Ferret
Ferrets are carnivores so they need lots of protein in their diet, and this means that they will cost a little more to feed than a rabbit or guinea pig. Ferrets digest their food very quickly so need small, frequent meals with a high level of protein and oil.
A good quality, heavy, earthenware bowl keeps food dry and clean and prevents the Ferret from tipping the food. Bowls must be cleaned after every use and stale food thrown away. Click here to find out more about our special foods for Ferrets,
Treats should be an extremely small element of the animal’s diet – overfeeding may lead to health problems such as obesity, dental problems and heart disease.
Natural treats for your Ferret could be some cooked chicken, ham and hard boiled or scrambled eggs. You will need to be careful though as Ferrets will have a favourite hiding place where they will hoard food. You will need to find this and remove any food that is stale.
NEVER GIVE YOUR FERRET ANY DAIRY PRODUCTS OR SWEETS.
It is vital that you ensure there is fresh drinking water available at all times. You can provide fresh drinking water with a gravity-fed water bottle, attached to the front of the hutch. Use one of the large ballpoint bottles to prevent dripping and ensure a constant supply is available.
If your ferrets find it difficult to drink from a water bottle, you can provide a water bowl, but change them regularly to make sure they don’t get tipped over or contaminated.
While it’s ultimately up to you as the pet owner whether you want to keep your ferrets indoors or outdoors, we and the Ferret Association do recommend keeping them inside. Housing your ferret indoors protects against diseases including rabies. They also love to sleep in hammocks – so make sure you include one in your ferret’s enclosure.
If kept inside your Ferret will need a large cage with at least two compartments. It should be kept away from draughts and direct sunlight. The ideal sized cage for one or two Ferrets would be 6ft x 2ft x 2ft (120cm x 60cm x 60cm).
If you prefer to keep them outdoors a two-storey rabbit hutch will be ideal and it should be placed in a sheltered position, out of direct sunlight. In cold weather, there must be adequate protection from draughts, wind and rain.
Cages should be checked before winter to ensure that they are water and draught proof and extra bedding should be provided if there is any doubt about insulation. Place the hutch on bricks or legs to avoid becoming damp during wet weather
Ferret’s cages need cleaning out regularly to ensure that your ferrets stay in the best of health. They are clean animals and don’t like dirtying their living area, so you also need to provide a litter tray.
Every day: Remove all soiled bedding and check water bottle/bowl. Change litter tray to prevent odour build up and attraction of pests.
Once a week: Remove all bedding. Thoroughly sweep out all the soiled bedding. Rinse with warm water and mild detergent and wait until dry. Spray inside of cage with a safe cleaning product and wait until dry. Replace with clean bedding.
Ferrets can live indoors or outdoors..
There are many types of bedding available for Ferrets but the best are the natural products which have been dust extracted, as this reduces irritation to the eyes, nose and respiratory system. Ferrets also like snuggling up into clean, old towels. To find out more about suitable bedding products, click here.
Provide a run for your Ferret; it is very important that it gets plenty of exercise every day. It will love running around and playing.
Ferrets are naturally very active and inquisitive animals. They like to keep themselves busy and, when allowed, spend the majority of their time running around and investigating their surroundings.
Make some tunnels out of drainpipes or terracotta chimney liners. Flowerpots, cardboard or wooden boxes are great for hiding in and exploring. Your Ferret will also enjoy branches to climb on as well as platforms and a hammock.
Hide some small pieces of food or treats in the play area to encourage your Ferret to forage.
Your Ferret will also enjoy a walk outside with you too, but make sure you are in a safe, secure area. Use a harness and have an identity tag if you walk in a public area, just in case it escapes.
To ensure that your Ferret becomes tame and affectionate it is important that you handle it frequently and correctly.
Picking up your Ferret incorrectly could lead to it being permanently frightened and may lead to it becoming aggressive.
Remember that most small animals are prey in the wild. So, if approached from above they’ll see a large shadow and become scared. They might run and hide or try to attack you.
Before attempting handling, make sure that your Ferret is awake and alert. Let it decide when it is ready to come to you.
Your voice is a very good method of introduction, it will make your Ferret aware that you are nearby.
Ferrets should be grasped around the shoulders with one hand, with your thumb under its mouth and, at the same time, supporting the hind legs with your other hand. Then gently lift it and hold against your chest.
Ferrets should be checked on a daily basis for signs of illness such as unusual discharges, or abnormal behaviour. Ferrets should be vaccinated for distemper.
Respiratory infections – Stress such as weaning, separation, overcrowding and poor husbandry can encourage illness. Symptoms will include sneezing, coughing, fever, nasal discharge and lethargy. Seek veterinary treatment as your ferret may require a course of antibiotics. Several human influenza strains can cause influenza in ferrets. Humans can infect ferrets and vice versa, so take precautions if you have a cold or flu.
Nutritional diarrhoea – This can be due to a sudden change in diet. Avoid any sudden change in diet, new diets should be introduced gradually over a minimum of two weeks. Diarrhoea should correct itself within a couple of days. If not, seek veterinary advice. Infectious diarrhoea – This can be associated with parasites, bacteria or viruses and can affect ferrets at any age, although kits are most susceptible. In all cases it is important to find the cause, as ferrets can fall ill quite quickly, resulting in dehydration, poor condition and in the worst scenario, death. In all cases seek veterinary advice.
Foreign bodies – Due to the inquisitive nature of young ferrets, gastrointestinal obstructions are common. Occasionally a small, partially obstructing object may pass with the help of some intestinal lubricants, but in most cases surgery is necessary. In adult ferrets, hairballs can sometimes lead to obstruction especially during the moulting period. Grooming decreases the risk but for severe problems please see a vet
Canine Distemper – Ferrets are very susceptible to Canine Distemper, which often leads to fatality. Signs of the virus include discharge around the eyes, nose and chin (eyes may be closed). Other symptoms are loss of appetite, a rash and lethargy. It is highly infectious and can be picked up from dog urine on the soles of your shoes. To prevent infection, ask your vet to vaccinate at 9 – 10 weeks.
Oestrogen induced anaemia – Jill’s are induced ovulators and may often have prolonged seasons if not mated. High prolonged levels of oestrogen in the body can cause aplastic anaemia. To prevent this happening, if you are not breeding from your jill you should have her neutered, brought out of season by a hormone injection, or present her to a vasectomised hob.
External parasites – Ear mites are common and will be apparent if your ferret shakes his head and scratches his ears often. It can lead to inflammation of the area and generally be uncomfortable to the animal. Regularly check your ferret for fleas and flea dirt. If fleas are found you will need to treat with a product recommended for use on ferrets. Don’t forget to treat their cage environment too.
Always consult a vet if you have ANY reason for concern.
If you need to know more
For more detailed information about Ferrets, you can contact us and we will get back to you with our experts’ advice. However if you have any concerns about the health and wellbeing of your rabbit, you should seek veterinary advice immediately.
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