There are over 300,000 pet ferrets living in the United States. They’re one of the most popular types of exotic pets, and that’s for good reason.
But, if you’re thinking about bringing one of these furry friends into your home, you should make sure you’ve done your research before joining the ranks of small pet owners.
Let’s go through the most important things you need to know before adopting a ferret.
1. Ferret Lifespan
First and foremost, understand that ferrets are a long-term commitment, with a lifespan of 6 to 10 years.
This means you’ll be responsible for their well-being and care for a significant portion of your life. If you’re young, love to travel, and move around a lot, that’s an important factor to keep in mind.
2. Ferret Behavior
Understanding ferret behavior is essential before adopting one of these playful and curious pets.
Ferrets are highly social animals, and they thrive when they have companionship. It’s strongly recommended to adopt at least two ferrets to prevent loneliness and depression. Isolation can lead to behavioral issues and a lower quality of life for your ferret.
Ferrets are known for being especially playful and mischievous. They enjoy exploring their environment, digging, burrowing, and playing with toys. Providing toys and tunnels can help keep them mentally and physically stimulated.
Ferrets are intelligent. They might be trying to communicate with you. Make sure you’re paying close attention to your ferret’s body language.
Ferret Potty Training
Ferret potty training is another important aspect of ferret behavior to consider.
Select a small, low-sided litter box that is easy for your ferret to enter and exit. You can use a ferret-specific litter box or a shallow cat litter box.
Use a dust-free, clumping, or non-clumping, odor-neutralizing, and non-scented litter. Avoid litter with added fragrances, as ferrets can be sensitive to scents.
Put the ferret’s litter box in a quiet and easily accessible location within your ferret’s cage. Ferrets often choose corners to do their business, so place it in one of the corners.
When your ferret uses the litter box successfully, offer praise and a small treat as a reward. Positive reinforcement can help them associate the litter box with a positive experience.
If your ferret has an accident outside the litter box, clean it up promptly using an enzyme-based cleaner. This helps remove the scent, so your ferret doesn’t associate the area with a designated toilet spot.
Potty training takes time and patience. Ferrets are creatures of habit, and consistency is crucial. Stick to a routine and continue reinforcing the behavior you want.
3. Creating the Right Ferret Enclosure
Creating a suitable living environment is essential. Ferrets need ample space to play and explore, both inside their cage and in a secure, ferret-proofed area for supervised playtime.
Ferret-proofing your home is crucial to keep them safe and prevent them from getting into hazardous places or substances.
A large, multi-level cage is a must for when your ferrets cannot be supervised. Make sure the cage has platforms, ramps, and hammocks for exercise and rest. Ferrets are active animals that need room to move.
Allow your ferrets out of their cage for supervised playtime every day. Make sure the play area is ferret-proofed and free from hazards. Ferrets benefit from at least a few hours of daily exercise and exploration.
Ferrets are sensitive to temperature extremes. Keep their environment at a comfortable temperature, ideally between 60°F to 70°F. Avoid drafts and direct sunlight.
Ferrets can be messy, so be prepared to clean up after them. Regularly clean their cage, litter box, and play area to maintain a clean and odor-free environment.
4. What Do Ferrets Eat?
Understanding their dietary needs is another key aspect of ferret ownership. These obligate carnivores require a diet high in animal protein. High-quality commercial ferret food or cat food is recommended to meet their nutritional requirements.
Ferrets can also eat raw eggs as an occasional treat. You can mix the raw egg into their food or offer it separately.
There are ferret-specific treats available in pet stores. These should be given sparingly as occasional rewards, as some can be high in sugar or carbohydrates.
Ferrets may occasionally nibble on small amounts of fruits and vegetables. However, these should be given very sparingly and are not a primary part of their diet.
Avoid high-sugar fruits and vegetables. Instead, opt for small portions of items like banana or apple slices.
Always provide fresh, clean water for your ferret. Hydration is essential for their well-being.
5. Ferret Healthcare
Ensuring proper healthcare for your ferret is a crucial aspect of responsible ferret ownership.
Before bringing a ferret into your home, locate a veterinarian who is experienced in treating ferrets. Ferrets have unique healthcare needs, so it’s essential to have a knowledgeable vet who can provide appropriate care.
Ferrets should be vaccinated against certain diseases, including canine distemper and rabies. Discuss vaccination schedules with your vet. Ensure your ferret is up to date on these shots.
Spaying and neutering are recommended to prevent reproductive issues and reduce the musky odor that unaltered ferrets can emit. This procedure is typically done early in a ferret’s life.
Schedule regular veterinary check-ups for your ferret. Routine exams help detect and address health issues early. Ferrets are prone to certain conditions like adrenal disease and insulinoma, so early detection is critical.
Ferrets can suffer from dental problems, including dental plaque and tartar buildup. Regularly inspect their teeth and provide appropriate chew toys to help maintain dental health.
6. The Cost of Ferret Care
The costs of ferret care can vary depending on several factors, including where you live, the ferret’s age, and its specific needs.
The cost of adopting a ferret can vary widely depending on whether you adopt from a rescue organization or purchase from a breeder. Adoption fees typically range from $50 to $150 or more.
A suitable cage for your ferret can cost anywhere from $100 to $300 or more, depending on its size and quality. You’ll also need bedding, hammocks, litter boxes, and other cage accessories, which can add another $50 to $100 to the initial setup.
Initial ferret-proofing may require purchasing materials to block off hazardous areas in your home. Costs for this can vary widely but may range from $50 to $200.
7. Children and Ferrets
Children and ferrets can make wonderful companions, but it’s essential to ensure that the interactions between them are safe and positive.
Always supervise interactions between children and ferrets, especially if the child is young or unfamiliar with ferret behavior. Children can be enthusiastic and sometimes unintentionally rough, and ferrets can react unpredictably.
Teach children about ferret behavior, their needs, and how to handle them gently. Explain that ferrets have delicate bodies and can be injured easily.
Show children how to pick up and hold ferrets properly, supporting their bodies and avoiding squeezing or dropping them. Encourage calm and gentle handling.
Emphasize that rough play, such as chasing, hitting, or pulling on a ferret’s tail, is not acceptable. Ferrets can react defensively if they feel threatened.
8. Improving Your Ferret-Proofing
Regularly improving your ferret-proofing measures is essential to ensure their safety and prevent accidents.
Conduct frequent inspections of your ferret’s play area, both inside and outside the cage. Look for any potential openings, gaps, or hazards.
Ensure that all doors leading to rooms or outdoor spaces are securely closed before letting your ferret roam freely. Use childproof locks if necessary, as ferrets can be skilled at opening doors.
Install secure screens or locks on windows to prevent ferrets from escaping or falling. Check the integrity of screens regularly.
Ferrets may chew on electrical cords, which can be dangerous. Use cord protectors or elevate cords out of their reach.
Have an emergency plan in case your ferret escapes or gets into trouble. Know how to safely retrieve them and have an emergency contact for a vet ready.
9. End-of-Life Care for Ferrets
While ferrets live a long time, they don’t live nearly as long as humans. You do need to think about what happens when your ferret gets up there in years.
Work closely with a veterinarian experienced in ferret care to monitor your pet’s health, discuss treatment options, and make informed decisions about their care.
If your ferret is in pain due to illness or aging-related conditions, consult with your vet about pain management options. They may prescribe pain medication or recommend other methods to keep your ferret comfortable.
Spend quality time with your ferret, offering comfort, companionship, and love. Your presence can provide significant emotional support during this time.
If your ferret’s condition worsens, you may need to make difficult decisions about their care. Consult with your vet about options for humane euthanasia if your ferret’s suffering becomes too great. This is a compassionate choice to prevent further pain and discomfort.
Adopting a Ferret: Start Today
Clearly, there’s a lot more that goes into adopting a ferret than you might think. Once you’ve weighed the pros and cons, you’ll be able to make the right decision for you.
Do you want to learn more about taking care of your pets? Check out more of the posts on PetMarvelous today.