How to Clean and Care for Your Pet Ferret
Pets are wonderful to have around a household. There are plenty of studies documenting the positive effects of cats and dogs on human psychology and health. However, people who live in apartments and dormitories may find themselves restricted by space or noise laws. A bulldog or Russian Blue might be out of the question, but a ferret may be the perfect alternative. Ferrets were domesticated more than 2,000 years ago, and they're still a popular pet option today. They are much smaller than cats and dogs but are every bit as playful and clever.
Ferrets can live up to ten years if properly looked after, and regular trips to the veterinarian will help encourage good health. Ferrets should be examined once a year for vaccinations and, as they get older, blood tests to help monitor the state of their liver and kidneys. Ferrets will also require occasional teeth and ear cleanings. Nails should be clipped every two weeks, and ear cleaning can be performed weekly with a cotton ball and a gentle cleanser from the pet store.
A cage is absolutely mandatory when ferrets are left unsupervised, as their curious nature can lead them into many rooms that the owner would prefer they avoid. Ferrets do still need space to explore, so a cage with multiple levels is ideal. The cage should include a sleeping corner, which may be lined with towels, old shirts, or other cloth for bedding. Hammocks and shelves can provide endless play possibilities, and if the ferret uses a litter box, it may be useful to have a litter pan in the corner of the cage. Use litter pellets rather than scoopable litter, as the latter can irritate a ferret's eyes. The cage itself should be cleaned frequently and kept in a cool, shaded area.
Ferrets sleep up to 75% of the day, making them the perfect pet for people with full-time jobs. For the other quarter of the day, they love to play. Ferrets are social creatures, and a pair can easily keep one another entertained. Toys are another good source of entertainment for ferrets, but rubber toys are not recommended, as ferrets will happily chew and ingest rubber if given the opportunity. Instead, provide a paper bag, cloth toys, or hard plastic toys. Ferrets also enjoy exploring long tunnels of PVC pipe and mailing tubes. Like young children, pets should always be supervised when playing.
It is important for ferrets to have access to water at all times, whether provided in a bowl or in a cage bottle. Ferrets enjoy playing in water, so if a bowl is used, make sure it is of a substantial weight or design to prevent it from being accidentally overturned. Ferrets are carnivores, and they cannot eat cat or dog food. Ferret food is easily found in pet stores, and there are a variety of different foods to choose from. Avoid feeding a ferret treats with sugar and a lot of fiber, like most fruits and vegetables. Ferret-appropriate treats include cooked egg, cooked chicken, and sliced melon.
Ferrets are wonderfully clean animals, and for the most part, they take care of their own grooming needs. Some people do choose to bathe their ferrets to remove fur and dander, but frequent bathing can actually result in uncomfortably dry and itchy skin for the ferret. Ferrets can be bathed once or twice a month if necessary. To bathe a ferret, use a ferret shampoo from the pet store and avoid getting soap in their eyes and mouth.
A good rule to remember is that anywhere a ferret's head can fit, its body will follow. Make sure to "ferret-proof" the room it will be playing in to ensure a safe environment. Tuck away all wires and rubber-coated cords, and make sure that all drawers or small spaces are blocked off. Avoid letting the ferret play in rooms with beds or soft-bottomed furniture, as they enjoy burrowing into the soft undersides. Ferrets cannot thrive in environments where the temperature is below 40 or above 90 degrees Fahrenheit or in environments with high humidity. For most households, these requirements aren't an issue, but someone living in a tropical or unusually cold environment may want to consider a different kind of pet.
Did you know that ferrets can be trained to use a litter box just like cats? Young ferrets, called "kits," will happily play in their litter box until they figure out what it's for. Providing a smaller litter pan in the beginning may help, as the ferret will be unable to play in it without fouling their sleeping and eating area. Ferrets naturally back up into corners to defecate and urinate, so when a ferret begins heading into a corner, picking them up and placing them in a litter box can help train them to seek out the box instead of the corner. Ferrets can also be trained to come when called, which can help save a lot of time searching for them under furniture! Simply reward the ferret with a piece of egg or cooked chicken whenever they come when called. It is important not to attempt training until play is slowed and the ferret is able to focus on training.
- Ferret Care Sheet (PDF)
- Feeding and Caring for Your Pet Ferret
- Mischievous Ferrets Make Good Pets
- Frequently Asked Questions About Ferrets
- Ferret Behavior
- Top Five Differences Between Wild and Pet Ferrets
- 10 Tips for New Ferret Owners
- Is a Ferret the Right Pet for You?
- Your Ferret's First Vet Visit (PDF)
- Ferret Vaccination Schedule (PDF)
- Facts About the Domestic Ferret
- Ferret Care
- Domestic Ferrets
- Pros and Cons of Ferrets as Pets
- Appropriate Company for Ferrets
- Ferrets for Dummies Cheat Sheet
- A Starter's Guide to Feeding Your Ferret
- Caring for Your Ferrets (PDF)
- Ferrets: Facts and Care (PDF)
- Ferret Basics (PDF)
- Taking Care of a New Ferret