Ferrets are weasel relatives that have been domesticated for more than 2,000 years. Even though they appear to be easy to care for, they are very intelligent and social animals demanding as much care as a cat or dog. However, they are affectionate pets that can be trained. Given the right care, they make wonderful pets.
However, if you’ve never had a ferret, you might have questions about their care and essential supplies to get started. We’ve compiled several great tips to help you care for your beloved ferret, along with a checklist of essential items.
The 17 Ferret Care Tips
Caring for a ferret is a lot like caring for a dog or cat, but they have unique care requirements. Like all pets, their needs include a healthy diet, grooming, health care, exercise, and an appropriate living space.
Food and Diet Tips
1. Always Provide High-Quality Food
Since ferrets are carnivores, they should eat high-quality commercial food that has been specially prepared for them and is rich in fat and protein. Dairy products, fruits, vegetables, or foods high in fiber, carbohydrates, or sugar shouldn’t be given to them. A ferret’s inability to properly digest vegetable protein can result in various health problems, including bladder stones, skin conditions, GI disorders, and stunted growth.
- Our Pick: Marshall Premium Ferret Food
2. Treat Them With Ferret-Appropriate Snacks
The ideal treat for your ferret is a small piece of quality meat, such as chicken or turkey. Avoid the commercial snacks available because most of them include primarily grains and sugars rather than any meat at all.
3. Vary Their Diet
It is wise to expose your ferret to a variety of foods from an early age so they can become used to various flavors. Changing their food suddenly can give them digestive problems, so it’s always best to consult your veterinarian.
4. Have Fresh Water Readily Available
Your ferret should always have access to fresh, clean water, which should be changed frequently.
5. Bathe on Occasion When Needed
Despite being inherently clean creatures, ferrets are well known for having a musky scent. The smell will never totally leave a ferret, no matter how often they get washed. Similar to cats and dogs, they also have a pair of anal glands that secrete very pungent odors.
Unless they are afraid, they rarely release the scent, and the smell typically disappears after a short while. Much of the time, ferrets have already had these glands removed, so the only smell you will likely encounter is a slightly musky one caused by the oils on the skin.
Bathing should be limited to once or twice a month. Bathing a ferret too often will remove the natural oils from its skin and coat, causing the body to produce more. Bathing helps reduce itching brought on by dry skin or fleas. Use pet-friendly shampoo and warm water when bathing a ferret.
- Our Pick: Professional Pet Products Ferret Shampoo
6. Give Them a Cleaning Bowl
They typically clean themselves reasonably well, much like cats. Ferrets will wash their faces if you provide them with a bowl of water.
7. Don’t Forget About Their Ears
Your ferret will benefit from routine ear cleanings every 2 weeks to a month because their ears tend to become waxy. Make sure you use an ear cleanser that is pet-friendly. You should also ask your veterinarian to demonstrate how to cut your ferret’s nails properly.
8. Check Their Nails Twice a Month
It is recommended to clip your ferret’s nails at least every 2 weeks since they can become relatively long and sharp and snag on bedding.
Health Care Tips
9. Have a Carrier for Vet Visits
Ferrets need to have routine vet checks. Up to age 5, annual check-ups are advised, and then every 6 months after that. This should include an annual fecal examination for parasites. Ensure you have a suitable carrier to transport your ferret back and forth.
- Our Pick: Kaytee Come Along Small Animal Carrier
10. Speak to Your Vet About Flea Prevention and Vaccinations
Ferrets should always be treated with a monthly preventative because they are susceptible to fleas. Consult your veterinarian for advice on the best option for your ferret. Vaccinations are strongly advised, particularly for rabies and distemper.
11. Get Your Ferret Spayed or Neutered
Before reaching sexual maturity, which can occur between 6 and 12 months, ferrets must be spayed or neutered. This is particularly important for females since they remain in heat until they mate, which can result in several fatal disorders like pyometra and aplastic anemia. Thankfully, practically all ferrets sold as pets in North America have been sterilized.
Exercise and Training Tips
12. Give Them an Hour of Exercise Daily
Ferrets should not be kept in cages all day because they require exercise and mental stimulation. Because they enjoy social interaction with their owners, spend at least an hour with them each day and think about getting more than one ferret to keep them occupied.
13. Monitor Their Movements
They should always be monitored when they are not in their cage. Your ferret should only be allowed to explore areas that have been specifically “ferret-proofed.” Block off the area behind cabinets, seal off wall holes, and remove any breakable items or appliances.
14. Get Them Some Toys
When choosing toys, ensure they support the ferret’s natural need to burrow or hunt. They prefer playing with tiny balls, feather cat toys, and baby toys and love objects they can tunnel through. Ferrets like to chew and swallow objects, so their toys must be durable and free of tiny pieces that could break or come off. Avoid buying chewable toys composed of foam rubber, latex, or plastic.
- Our Pick: SunGrow Ferret Toys
15. Provide Them a Litter Box
Ferrets can learn to use the litter box! One litter box should be in the cage, and additional boxes should be in their play area. Due to their small GI tracts and inability to hold it in for very long, they should always have a litter box, pee pad, or newspaper nearby. Use newspaper instead of clumping cat litter. Since they don’t hide their messes like a cat does, you’ll need to scoop their litter boxes more frequently.
- Our Pick: Marshall Ferret Litter Pan
Habitat and Environment Tips
16. Choose the Right-Sized Cage
Ferret cages should have two or more levels with steps or ramps that they can climb and should be at least 18”L x 18”W x 30”H in size. Aquariums should not be used because of inadequate ventilation; wire cages are the most suitable. Ensure there are gaps that your ferret can squeeze through and that the floor is solid so there is no chance of your ferret’s feet getting stuck. Their enclosure should also have bedding, such as blankets or towels, which should be washed at least once each week.
- Our Pick: Aivituvin Large Wooden Ferret Cage
17. Have the Cage in a Safe and Private Place
Your ferret should have a dark enclosure they can rest in and hammocks or shelves to perch on. Their cage should be located away from the sun’s rays and in a quiet area. The ideal place to be is somewhere cool and shaded.
Ferrets as Pets
Ferrets are small, curious little creatures that are popular pets in the US today. They typically have an average lifespan of 5–7 years but can live longer if given the correct care. Just like felines, they enjoy taking naps and can sleep for up to 20 hours every day! However, when they are awake, they are lively and playful pets.
They enjoy crawling through practically anything, including long shirt sleeves, pant legs, PVC piping, dryer hoses, and paper bags. In the beginning, they often nip playfully, so it’s crucial to teach them not to.
If you plan to bring a ferret home, consider adopting two so they will never be alone since they are sociable animals. It is also advised against getting a ferret if you have young children, as they are incredibly delicate creatures that are easily hurt when handled incorrectly or dropped. If you plan to adopt a ferret for your child, it is essential to teach them how to care for small pets properly.
Ferrets are curious, playful, and sociable pets that are relatively easy to care for. Their care needs are much the same as any other pets, and their diet, exercise, and environment are all important in keeping them healthy and happy. We hope these tips have left you confident and ready to take on the rewarding responsibility of owning a ferret.