Ferrets are often compared to cats as they have similar personalities. Females are more active while males are a bit more laid-back. They’re about the size and shape of a zucchini as they’re typically between 8 and 18 inches long. And their tails are almost half of their body length.
Like many animals, ferrets have their own personalities, which means some are easier to train than others. But overall, they make excellent pets as they will ensure that you won’t ever have a boring day again. They are incredibly smart, which is why they’re also very mischievous and get themselves in the funniest situations.
When it comes to caring about them, it’s actually very easy as long as you have around 15 minutes a day. In this article, we’ll talk about everything you need to know about caring for your new ferret.
Food, Treats & Water – Diet for ferrets
How you should feed a ferret is a controversial topic among the ferret community as some prefer raw feeding, while others would rather go with dry feeding. And although everyone agrees that raw feeding is overall healthier for a ferret, you can maintain a ferret healthy with dry food as well. But it takes a lot more work and extra supplements. So let’s talk about both diets and their advantages and disadvantages.
Let’s start with raw feeding. This means feeding your ferret nothing but raw meat and whole prey. The reason why this is the healthiest option is that ferrets are obligate carnivores. It isn’t a matter of preferring meat over other types of food, but rather a matter of life and death as ferrets will die if they’re not fed meat-based food.
Ferrets have short digestive tracks and they need to eat exactly what their body needs as they don’t have much time to absorb all the nutrients they need from food. Offering them different types of raw meat, a whole prey from now and then, and the occasional raw bone is everything they need.
Chicken is a very popular type of meat as it contains taurine and ferrets can’t produce their own. But it should also be mixed with rabbit meat chunks as rabbit contains more helpful nutrients. As whole prey, you can use mice (bought not caught), and the occasional raw bone can be of anything as long as it’s big so it can’t swallow it. And it absolutely has to be raw as cooked bone splinters and hurts the ferret.
The advantages are that ferrets get all the nutrients they need, their coat will be shinier, and since they absorb more of the food they will poop less as well. They will be much healthier, have better teeth, and live longer.
And when it comes to disadvantages, they’re all about your inconvenience. Providing a raw diet to your ferret means having a good budget, a butcher you trust, and a feeder mice breeder nearby. Otherwise, the raw diet can get a bit too pricey. But you can also find high-quality freeze-dried ferret food that is made of pure meat and lasts much longer.
Now let’s also talk about dry feeding. This means feeding your ferret kibble and other types of similar food. You can find ferret dry food in almost any exotic pet store and there are lots of companies making it all over the world. The key is finding the right one as cheap kibble can actually be harmful to ferrets.
A good ferret kibble is made from real meat and it doesn’t contain many other ingredients, especially fruits and vegetables. This can create some serious health problems for ferrets as they can’t digest vegetables and fruits. But good kibble is completely safe. And when you’re out, kitten food is a good temporary replacement.
The advantage of kibble is that it can remain in the cage for days and not go bad. While raw food needs to be removed as quickly as possible. It’s also easier to store kibble and it will last a lot longer, so you won’t have to worry about expired kibble.
The disadvantage is that it breaks into little pieces when the ferret bites into them and it can ruin the ferret’s teeth. More than that, it doesn’t contain everything a ferret requires and you’ll have to make up for it with supplements.
It’s completely your decision to choose which diet fits your ferret as both diets work well. You just have to make sure the ferret gets absolutely everything it needs, either everything from food or with the help of some supplements.
When it comes to treats, they differ depending on what type of diet your ferret is on. A raw bone is a good choice from time to time and a drop of salmon oil on your finger will keep the ferret busy while you’re brushing it. But there are also some commercial treats made specifically for ferrets and they’re pretty good.
You might be tempted to feed your ferret a slice of vegetable or fruit, but as we mentioned before, they can’t digest these types of food. And if you absolutely have to, you can mix a slice of fruit or vegetable into a bit of baby food and feed a teaspoon of this mix a week.
As far as drinking goes, ferrets can only drink water. They’re lactose intolerant, which means you need to keep milk and cheese away from ferrets. They also can’t drink fruit juice.
You should also be careful about the water your ferret drinks. Tap water is not good for them as it contains some harmful chemicals and lacks the minerals they need. Bottled water is the best choice.
Cage, Bedding, Litter Box & Bowls
Housing ferrets can also be very different depending on whether you’ll keep them outside or inside. If you’re providing everything they need, they will thrive regardless of where you keep them. And the space you’re giving them should get bigger and bigger as you keep adding ferrets to the group.
If you’re keeping your ferrets outside, you will need a very big enclosure that has various protective layers. This will keep predators outside of the cage and leave the ferrets alone. The cage should have various levels and various rooms that are connected with the help of some tubes. You should make sure the tubes aren’t too tight as this can hurt the ferret if it gets chunkier.
The cage should have a few small “houses” that are layered as described and filled with hammocks and beds, while the rest of the cage should be left empty so that the ferrets can have extra room to run. You should always use dust-free ferret litter as a base for all layers and clean the cage thoroughly once a week
You can also build a separate playground that has mesh underground so they can’t dig their way out. Leaving them there a few hours a day is ideal. The recommended time a ferret needs out of the cage is 6-8 hours, even more per day.
While some ferrets can be easily trained to use a litter box, if you don’t have to clean it daily, it’s no point in training them as they will never do their business in a dirty litter tray. This is why you should make sure their beds and hammocks are away from corners as they typically do their business in corners.
Food bowls should be very heavy so the ferrets won’t turn them into their toys. And while many people use water bottles that can be attached to the cage, water bowls are a much better option. This is because water bottles can do a lot of damage to a ferret’s teeth with time.
However, if you keep your ferrets inside, it’s highly recommended to provide a whole room for them regardless if you use a cage or not. This will give them the space they need when it’s time to play outside the cage, and if they have accidents, at least it’s n the same room and they won’t cause your entire home to stink.
With giving your ferrets their own room you have two options: to use the room itself as the cage or get a dedicated cage anyway. There are advantages and disadvantages to both of these options.
Using the whole room as the cage can offer your ferret a lot more room to run around and play. And since they’re incredibly mischievous, they will need as many hiding spots as possible to play. But this can also make litter training harder and you will have to place a litter box in every single corner of the room to avoid accidents.
But if you’re generally keeping them in a cage while they sleep, they will use the litter trays they have there instead of making accidents when they’re finally let out for a few hours. But they might become destructive if you’re not getting home on time to let them have their roam-free session.
Grooming Requirements (Brush, Shampoo, etc)
While ferrets are widely known for their musky smell that can be incredibly bad, you can’t do much about it except de-sex and de-odorize them. This can be done by neutering them and removing the glands that make this terrible smell. But even then, it’s not gone completely and there’s nothing more you can do, except maintain their cage clean.
Bathing a ferret might be tempting but this can turn the problem into an even bigger one. The musky smell is created by some glands that release the smelly oil into the skin while also keeping the coat looking very healthy and shiny.
When you bathe the ferret, you wash away these oils and the glands start working overtime to make sure the ferret won’t end up with itchy skin. This is why the smell always gets stronger the first few days after a bath. That being said, they do enjoy being in water.
But since they’re incredibly mischievous, they can end up in something that they shouldn’t be and that might require a bath to get rid of. In this case, make sure you’re only using ferret, kitten, or baby tearless shampoo. And make sure you’re rinsing it very well as any leftover shampoo can dry and become irritating.
It’s recommended to place a few towels inside the bathtub or in a similar place and let the ferret snuggle into them. This will help dry him off better and faster.
You might also have to brush your ferret’s teeth almost daily, especially if they’re not eating raw food. It can be done with a ferret toothbrush and ferret toothpaste. At first, they will be naturally squirmy, but with time they’ll get used to the grooming process.
Ferrets typically only need brushing during the shedding season. However, ear cleaning and nail clipping should be done regularly. Continuous ear cleaning will prevent ear mites and wax build-up. All you have to do is apply a few drops of wax softener and massage the ears very gently. After a few minutes, you can start cleaning the ears.
Safety (harness, transport cage, ferret proofing)
If you like taking your ferret outside for walks, a harness is extremely important. This will keep the ferret safe so they won’t go off chasing any other animal or get chased by dogs. And if you’re letting them free for a while, leave the leash attached to the harness to be able to catch the ferret faster.
When you need to transport the ferret, be it to the vet or when you’re moving, it’s important to have an appropriate cage. You should also have their favorite blanket and toy so they can try to relax during the road trip. A transport cage is also a good investment when it comes to training as you can use it as a time-out space for stubborn ferrets for a short amount of time.
And if you’re letting your ferrets roam all over your house, you will need to work on some serious ferret-proofing. They’re very curious, which means that it’s best to make sure they won’t get hurt from anything while they’re out exploring.
Ferret proofing includes getting rid of any food the ferret can get interested in, block all the small areas around the house where it can get stuck, put a protective layer on cables, etc. Once their room is ready, the ferrets will definitely enjoy exploring it.