Ferrets are playful and curious animals by nature, and can make for wonderful pets. However, ferrets are a much more specialized type of pet than a cat or dog, and require a number of needs to be met regularly. Here are seven things to consider before deciding if a ferret is the right pet for you and your family.
Ferrets are obligate carnivores, and need to eat meat to thrive. They have short digestive tracts, and need to eat frequently in order to stay healthy and happy. This makes their feeding needs a bit more time-consuming than other common companion pets.
There are many high quality ferret foods on the market, but be sure to always read the ingredients carefully. Products that are high in grain or vegetable matter are not suitable for ferrets. Ferrets can also be fed raw, high fat meat, but do your research before taking this approach. It is also important to rotate foods regularly to ensure your ferret does not become dependent on a single food, in the event that it is discontinued or delayed in the supply chain. Ferrets, like all pets, need fresh, clean water available at all times.
Ferrets keep their fur very clean on their own, similar to cats. Regular baths are not recommended, as they will throw off your ferret’s natural body chemistry and cause an overproduction in smelly oils. Alternatively, consider a dry ferret shampoo, as it will keep your ferret smelling fresh and clean without compromising their natural body chemistry.
Keeping a bowl of water in your ferret’s cage for face washing is essential. This should be separate from their drinking water, which should be in a small animal drinking bottle. You will also need to to clean your ferret’s ears regularly with a gentle pet-specific ear cleaner, and trim their nails often.
A Stimulating Environment
Similar to a human home, ferret habitats should have separate spaces. The top level of a ferret cage has the best vantage point, making it the perfect spot for a cozy ferret hammock. A dark place such as a hut is also an essential part of a happy ferret home. A litter station and feeding stations top it off. There are many options for ferret litter, however paper-based pellet litters are most ideal.
Ferrets love to play, and require plenty of enrichment. Providing an exciting selection of ferret toys and activities will ensure your ferret stays happy and healthy. Ferret tunnels and play balls are among the best selling ferret accessories. Without the right stimulation, ferrets may make their own entertainment out of your stuff!
Regular Out-Of-Cage Exercise
For out of the cage play, your home should be ferret-proofed. Ferrets can slink through small spaces such as cracked windows and dryer vents. Ferrets commonly chew electrical cords, and may break glass items. Sprinkle ferret-safe toys around the room for them to discover and play with. To avoid bathroom accidents, be sure to set up a litter station.
Regular Vet Checks
Ferrets can live up to 13 years, the same as many medium and large breed dogs. Ferrets live healthier lives if they are spayed/neutered before reaching maturity. This will decrease their smell, and protect female ferrets – who remain in heat until they mate – from developing any serious uterus condition. A ferret leash, harness, and travelling cage are important to have on hand when visiting the vet.
Ferrets are remarkably intelligent animals and are always looking for social interaction. While ferrets can live well in single-ferret households, they are happiest in small groups, so consider adopting a pair or more. To avoid territory disputes in the home, it is recommended to adopt a bonded pair of ferrets if possible.
Nipping is a natural part of ferret play and interaction, so it is important to train your ferrets to understand that nipping humans is not OK. Ferrets can be easily injured, so use caution when handling them, especially with children. Ferrets often enjoy role-playing games where they play the role of predator. It is not recommended to have ferrets in a home with young children.
Ferret ownership is unique, and forming a quality trust bond with your ferret is a rewarding experience. Ferrets are affectionate and lively animals full of fun and fascination, and in a home with an educated owner, they will provide years of meaningful companionship.
Brandon Forder, known as The Pet Expert, is vice-president of Canadian Pet Connection, an industry leader in healthy pet lifestyles. Brandon holds multiple certifications in pet nutrition, and has more than twenty-five years’ experience specializing in pet health and behaviour. He has written hundreds of informative pet-related articles for newspapers, magazines, radio, and the popular Ask the Pet Expert Blog. Brandon is highly skilled in pet problem solving, and enjoys teaching others about smart and responsible pet ownership. To learn more, visit www.CanadianPetConnection.ca.