IS A FERRET?
(Mustela furo) are intelligent, lively, furry mammals
(they are not rodents!). Ferrets are the only domesticated
member of the Mustelidae family of carnivores.
Cousins of the ferret include the otter, weasel,
mink, ermine, skunk and European polecat. An adult
female weighs about 1-3 pounds; whereas males are
larger and can weigh up to 5-6 pounds. Ferrets
come in a variety of colors with Albinos (white
with ruby eyes) being the original color of pet
ferrets. Other popular colors are sable (with raccoon-like
mask), chocolate (brown), silver, and cinnamon-just
to name a few.
THE FERRET A WILD ANIMAL?
THE DOMESTIC PET FERRET
IS NOT A WILD ANIMAL. (Domestic ferrets should not
be confused with the wild native Blackfooted Ferret
of the western U.S., which is an endangered species.)
These DOMESTIC HOUSE PETS (estimated to be over 6 million
kept as pets in the U.S.) have no hunting instinct
left; they will chase and catch rodents, but do not
recognize them as food on which to survive. Ferrets
are domestic in the truest sense of the word. If a
pet ferret escapes outdoors, he/she can only survive
for an average of three days (possibly less depending
on environment/weather conditions).
DO FERRETS MAKE GOOD
YES ! But remember it
involves several long-term commitments. If healthy,
ferrets retain a youthful, playful nature late into
old age, about 8 to 10 years. Ferrets are small, quiet
and relatively easy to care for (similar to cats);
but require daily human companionship and interaction
(like dogs). In addition to the initial cost of purchasing
(or adopting) a ferret, there is the financial commitment
of investing in food, housing (cage, bedding and litter),
toys, and veterinary bills. A ferret is not the ideal
pet for someone who is away from home a lot because
it requires daily commitment of time such as feeding,
providing fresh water, cage cleaning, emptying the
litter box, and providing exercise (time spent outside
the cage). Time invested in handling your ferret combined
with consistent, gentle training is important to ensure
that your ferret becomes a friendly and playful pet.
DO FERRETS BITE?
well-trained ferret should not bite. Like cats and
dogs, ferrets need to be gently but firmly taught what
is acceptable behavior. Any animal that is frightened,
injured or in pain may bite. NEVER put fingers into
a ferret's cage as one may take a nip mistakenly thinking
your finger is an edible treat.
ARE FERRETS NOCTURNAL?
NO! They will adjust
their schedule to yours and be eager and ready to play
when you are! (Ferrets can become depressed if left
alone or caged for long periods of time.) DON'T FERRETS
HAVE AN ODOR? Ferrets have a natural light musky odor.
The odor is greatly minimized when the ferret is spayed
or neutered. Bathing and diet also have an impact on
WHAT ABOUT DESCENTING?
Descenting is not necessary
for ferrets. It only adds to the trauma of an operation,
$$ to the vet, and does not make a ferret smell better.
Ferrets use their scent glands only when startled or
threatened, then it's like a "bad passing of wind" and
airs out in a few minutes; and won't stain or permanently
mark your household. ...AND "DECLAWING"?
Ferrets are not destructive by nature and declawing
is not recommended.
ARE FERRETS "CAGE" ANIMALS?
For their protection,
it is recommended that your ferret be kept in a ferret-proofed
area of the house or a cage when you are not at home.
Wire cages with multiple floors are what ferrets prefer.
DO NOT USE AQUARIUMS (no ventilation; bacterial buildup)
OR CEDAR CHIPS (respiratory problems)!!! Ferrets are
inquisitive, fearless, and capable of getting into
places that you never imagined. Ferrets should not
be left in a cage for an extended period of time. They
need exercise, affection and human companionship to
keep them happy and healthy! High heat and humidity
can be killers. Ferrets should be housed in a climate-controlled
environment (indoors). Ferrets have poorly developed
sweat glands and will die very quickly from heat exhaustion/stroke.
Do not place your ferret's cage directly in front of
an A/C unit or a window with direct sunlight.
ARE PROPER CAGING REQUIREMENTS FOR FERRETS?
a roomy (18"Wx36"LX24"H), well-ventilated,
(preferably wire mesh no more than l"x2"),
cage with two levels as you will need room for a litter
box as well as separate areas for sleeping, eating
and playing. Water bottles are suggested as many ferrets
enjoy "playing" with (or IN!) water dishes
and easily tip the bowls over. Towels or old sweatshirts/t-shirts
are fine for ferrets to curl up inside. They all love
HAMMOCKS! Since ferrets do not cover their feces, a
small amount of the new recycled newspaper pelleted
litter (or unscented, clay litter) is plenty. Be sure
to place the litter box in a corner! Additionally,
a small cat sized carrier should be purchased for trips
to the vet. Never leave your ferret in the car on a
hot day and always provide a hanging water bottle in
the carrier during transport. It is extremely dangerous-to
both YOU and YOUR PET-to leave your ferret loose when
traveling by car.
ARE FERRETS TRAINABLE?
Ferrets are very clever.
They can recognize their name and with patience be
taught to respond to verbal commands. They can be successfully
trained to use a litter box or "paper
trained", but be prepared for occasional "mistakes".
Many ferrets have learned a few simple tricks.
A FERRET BE NEUTERED/SPAYED?
Many ferrets sold are
already neutered/spayed. (MARSHALL FARMS, the largest
ferret breeding facility in the U.S., tattoos two small
blue/black dots in the right ear of ferrets already
altered and descented before shipping to pet shops).
If your ferret is not neutered/spayed, it is strongly
recommended that this surgery be done by an experienced
ferret vet. Having a ferret spayed or neutered will
not alter his/her personality. The stress and strong,
pungent odor of intact males (hobs) is not desirable
for a household pet. For this reason, neutering is
strongly recommended. (Besides, due to overbreeding,
there are already too many great ferrets in shelters
across the country waiting for a good home.) WARNING:
Females (Jills) may go into heat as early as four months
of age and stay "in heat"unless bred, given
a hormone shot, or spayed (this CAN be done while the
ferret is still in heat). If a female is not brought
out of heat, she can develop an infection due to the
enlargement of the vulva. Additionally a hormonal suppression
of bone marrow causes "aplastic anemia",
and the ferret will die.
WHAT DO THEY EAT?
Good nutrition means
good health! A dry commercial ferret food (such as
TOTALLY FERRET, MAZURI) sold by pet shops, veterinarians
or feed stores is preferable. There are new ferret
diets appearing on the market all the time, but the
ones that are fish-based are not liked very well by
ferrets. Most ferrets prefer shaped pieces of food
and do not care for pelleted foods for this reason.
Alternatively, a high quality (at least 32% protein),
meat-based cat food (like WYSONG NURTURE or VITALITY;
IAMS KITTEN; PRO-PLAN GROWTH) is acceptable. Although
ferrets do require added fat in their diet, consult
with your veterinarian before providing fatty acid
supplements such as LINATONE or FERRETONE. DO NOT USE
ANY GROCERY STORE KITTEN/CAT FOODS BECAUSE THEY DO
NOT HAVE ENOUGH MEAT PROTEIN REQUIRED FOR A FERRET'S
DIET AND SUPERMARKET BRAND FOOD CONTAIN DYES, FILLERS
AND PRESERVATIVES NOT GOOD FOR FERRETS. Since ferrets
have a 3 hour digestive system, CLEAN, FRESH WATER
AND DRY FOOD SHOULD BE AVAILABLE AT ALL TIMES. Treats
such as fruits or vegetables should be given sparingly.
Ferrets should not be fed dog food, chocolate, sweets,
raw meat or dairy products!
DO FERRETS GET ALONG WITH OTHER PETS?
Ferrets are playful and get along well
with most larger animals. When introducing a ferret
to another pet, a proper period of supervision is necessary.
LIKE A CAT OR DOG, INTERACTIONS WITH BIRDS, RODENTS,
RABBITS OR REPTILES IS NOT RECOMMENDED.
WHAT HEALTH CARE DO FERRETS REQUIRE?
Ferrets should be vaccinated against
canine distemper every year without fail! Canine distemper
is always fatal, and as it is an airborne virus, you
can bring it to your ferrets from almost anywhere.
the approved distemper vaccine for ferrets. Many states
and municipalities require a rabies vaccination as
well. (On February 7, 1990, the USDA licensed the first
rabies vaccine for use in ferrets. It is known as IMRABâ,
a killed virus vaccine and is approved for use in dogs
and cats as well.) Your ferret should be examined by
a veterinarian at least once a year, which should include
a dental checkup, fecal (stool) exam, and ears should
be examined for ear mites. Annual Heartworm exam and
preventatives are a must in many areas.
Proper grooming and maintenance are vital
to a happy, healthy ferret. Ferrets are naturally clean
creatures but their nails should be trimmed and ears
cleaned on a regular basis. Baths can be given if necessary-try
to keep shampoo out of their eyes and noses. (When
bathing beware: Ferrets like the taste of soap-don't
let them eat any!) Ferrets will shed twice a year and
should be combed to help remove loose fur. They can
suffer from hairballs during shedding periods-give
a hairball remover twice a week as a precaution.
Ferrets should be kept free of external
parasites such as fleas, which they usually acquire
from other household pets that go outdoors. If a ferret
is subjected to a major flea infestation, he/she can
get "flea-induced anemia" and possibly die.
Any product labeled safe for use in kittens is usually
safe for ferrets as well. Use of shampoos containing
pyrethrins is recommended. NEVER DIP A FERRET! CAUTION:
All flea collars and canine (dog) flea products are
TOXIC to ferrets!
WHAT DISEASES CAN FERRETS GET?
are susceptible to canine distemper, ringworm, sarcoptic
mange, flea bite dermatitis, and Aleutian disease.
Cancer and urinary tract stones are also seen in ferrets.
In addition, they can catch colds and flu from humans,
so exercise caution when you are ill. Of late, an extremely
contagious viral disease known as ECE (Epizootic Catarrhal
Enteritis), also referred to as "Green Diarrhea/Green
Slime Disease", is affecting ferrets nationwide.
WHAT ABOUT FERRETS AND CHILDREN?
and ferrets can make wonderful playmates with proper
supervision by a responsible adult. If your family
has a baby or a small child (under 6 years of age),
a ferret may not be a good pet choice as ferrets can
sometimes play rough and nip tender skin, much like
puppies/kittens do, until trained not to do so. Also,
a small child could inadvertently mishandle a ferret.
And lastly, children often lack the sense of responsibility
required to care for a pet. A child should be taught
respect for all animals and, specifically how to hold
and care for a ferret. Small children should never
be left unsupervised with ANY animals, no matter how
trusted the pet, even for a few seconds.
HOW MUCH TIME
WILL I NEED TO SPEND WITH MY FERRET?
Two or more ferrets
will have a blast playing with each other all day long,
but if you only have one ferret, you should spend at
least an hour with him/her, and then give the ferret
another hour or two of play on its own.
HOW DO I PREPARE MY HOUSE FOR A FERRET?
Ferrets are curious by nature and can
crawl through any hole the width of its head. Contact
your local ferret Club or Shelter for helpful hints
on "ferretproofing" your
house. Reclining chairs and sleeper sofas are responsible
for high incidence of accidental deaths in ferrets
before their 5th birthday, as ferrets are crushed in
the mechanisms. These pieces of furniture cannot be
ferret-proofed, nor can you rely on children or guests
to refrain from using them when ferrets are about.
Ferrets love to dig in dirt, so potted plants should
be placed out of their reach. Ferrets can not climb
as cats do. They are able to jump and get a grip on
something, then will either pull themselves up...or
objects will come down with them. Items such as trash
cans, tablecloths, laundry baskets, drink glasses,
etc. are fair game. Ferrets enjoy tossing pillows off
sofas, pushing papers off desks, knocking over wastebaskets,
stealing dirty socks, and hiding anything they can
carry under furniture. RUBBER TOYS (and even chewing
on certain types of rags, cloth, rubber bands, pencil
erasers, or Styrofoam "packing peanuts")
ARE VERY DANGEROUS AS THEY CAN BE CHEWED AND SWALLOWED
BY A FERRET! All these items can cause an obstruction
in the intestinal tract and may require LIFE-SAVING