First of all, know what you are getting into. Yes ferrets are quite cuddly and cute, but they have certain needs that must be met and they have personalities that can get them into trouble and possibly hurt. You need to be one hundred percent sure that you are capable of meeting these needs so to provide for a happy and healthy environment for your ferret and you need to also be sure that you can have the patience that may be needed when they become mischievous.
So lets take a look at all of the needs of your new ferret, and what you will have to do to provide these needs for them.
It is an absolute necessity that you take the proper measures to make your home a safe environment for your new pet ferret. By this, you will need to take appropriate action to "ferret proof" your home to the greatest extent possible. You will need to ensure that even the smallest opening that you would think be impossible for your ferret to squeeze into, be sealed. You will actually be very surprised and even shocked at times, the small places they tend to find themselves getting into. After all, you wouldn't want to lose your new ferret in the wall of your home, or in your kitchen stove and other appliances would you? Make sure to seal or attach some type of barrier that will not allow them access to places like under your refrigerator, the kitchen stove, your laundry washing machine and dryer. In the case of the clothes dryer, make sure that the vent hose is securely attached to the wall properly so to not allow them access to inside the vent. Just remember, think small and seal it all.
All of these little precautions taken before you bring your ferret to its new home, will be well worth the effort and keep your ferret safe and out of harms way.
Though many people let their ferrets have run of the house, there will almost assuredly come a time when you may have to leave your home even if it is just for a short period of time. It is this situation where having a ferret kennel or ferret cage will not only come in handy, but also provide protection for your ferret if from nothing else; themselves.
When you choose a ferret habitat, it does not necessarily have to be a ferret McMansion but it should be sizable enough to offer enough room for bursts of playful energy that will most certainly erupt when they are not sleeping. The ferret cage should also be made comfortable and an enjoyable place for them to call home when you are not.
There should be small and dark places for them to squeeze into since this is one of their favorite things to do. You can provide for this need in several ways. An old box of cereal can make for days upon days of comfortable "hiding" places for your little ferret buddy. An old backpack that you may not be using will also make a good ferret hiding place just so long as it is presented in a way that will allow easy entry and escape, and also made so that there is no way for them to suffocate. You can also make a tube for your ferret to hide and crawl in out of old PVC pipe material or even an old clothes dryer vent hose.
Many ferret cages already come equipped with everything your ferret needs to be comfortable and happy. With tubes, ladders, and little ferret hammocks there will not be too much else that you will need to provide for entertainment. Save some toys. One of the best things you can get to add to your ferrets habitat is people baby toy sets. You know, those sets that have rattles and shiny big bells that make noise. Just be sure that the bells are large enough so that your ferret does not run the risk of ingesting it. That will be another topic covered later in this reading, the ingesting of objects topic.
Once you have their new habitat all set up and they seemed pleased with it, you will need to make sure that you provide a litter box for your ferret and you will also need to make sure that you keep the litter box away from where their food and water are kept in their cage. Just like us humans, they don't want to eat where they doo. You will also need to keep the litter box cleaned on a regular basis, preferably at least once a day, since they can be pretty picky about this topic. It is also advisable to use the pelleted type of ferret litter over the clumping kind, as the clumping kind can cause the ferrets nasal passage ways to become irritated.
Once you take all of these steps, you will be well on your way to providing your ferret with a decent and healthy environment they will be glad to call home.
Food and Water
Now we can move on to the topic of your new ferrets diet and nutritional needs. Over all it is pretty simple as far as their diet goes, but I will expound on the subject to include other nutritional factors and some sources to help you find them.
Water, of course, is an absolute must and it must be clean. Rather than just a regular water dish (though that will do), it might be advisable to get your ferret used to taking water from a small animal water bottle. The same style used for both rabbits and guinea pigs. This will allow for easy access to clean fresh water at all times and will also provide a spill free way for your ferret to drink without having to worry about messes and "extra" play time that they might engage in.
A ferrets diet is relatively simple, protein and fat. The ferrets digestive track is not made to handle the fiber of fruits and vegetables, it is specifically designed for the consumption and digestion of meat. Your little cute ferret buddy is a ravenous carnivore and will always be. So even if you are a stark vegetarian, there is no converting your ferret to your lifestyle. Otherwise, you may have a very uncomfortable and sick ferret on your hands and you would not want that. Once you understand that, providing a food source is easy.
So lets examine some good sources of protein rich high fat food sources. As a rule of thumb, the ratio between protein content and fat content for your ferret should be about thirty five(35) to thirty eight(38) percent protein and about twenty two(22) to twenty five(25) percent fat. Both of these need to be from high quality sources as some ferret foods contain proteins made from vegetable matter which will cause your ferret to have some digestive problems.
You should take great care and the time to actually read the ingredients on any container of ferret food you are considering purchasing. It is also important to note that while it may be tempting to purchase a cheaper brand of ferret food, the protein content of these items are generally much less than those that are higher in price. So you would be basically spending the same or even more in the long run as your ferret would require more food intake from these inferior products. This too would lead to the necessity of cleaning the litter box more often than if you feed them the proper protein ratios to begin with since they cannot digest it, they get rid of it. This will lead to using more litter adding to your expense.
Always look for food that has a meat product listed as the number one ingredient. This should be poultry or some other type of poultry protein variant. Fish meal based products are ok, but they are going to have a strong fish smell to them, so it is advisable to stick with poultry proteins and poultry by-products.
Ferrets require at a minimum, thirty(30) percent protein intake every day, just to lead a healthy life.
If you are feeding your ferret the proper balanced diet of protein and fat, then there should be no need for any type of dietary supplement. However; that said, some ferret owners give their ferrets fatty acid supplements like ferretone or linatone. These two products should be used in strict moderation as it can lead to your ferret becoming obese. With the proper diet, these types of products should only be used for rewards and special treats.
Proteins and fats are essential for your ferrets well being and health. The high protein part of their diet aids in strong muscle growth and development while the fat portion of the diet gives them the energy they need to be the rambunctious critters that they are.
Though fiber as a rule is a substance that should be avoided, some fiber is necessary for proper intestinal function. Carbohydrates, like those found in the binders of their food(rice, soy, and corn), can be sources of energy for your ferret but not as good a source as that of fat.
Speaking of the binders that make up part of your ferrets food, it is rice that is perhaps the best and most tolerable of all as it is easily digested and has enough fiber to aid your ferrets bowel movements. Some veterinarians recommend that you limit your ferrets intake of soy, another filler used, as it may cause hormonal problems later in your ferrets life. Though that has neither been formally proven or disproven, soy is still tolerated very well by the ferrets digestive system. Corn, on the other hand, is one filler that you have to watch out for as some ferrets can develop a food allergy to it.
Some of the signs that your ferret may be allergic to the corn bound food it may be eating is irregular or soft stools, stools with a mucus, gas and bloating, and pawing at the mouth because of stomach upset. If you suspect that your ferret is having an allergic reaction to the food it is eating, then it is highly advisable to get them to your veterinarian as quickly as possible. The long term effects of this food allergy can lead to the hardening of the bowels and ulcerations.
Vitamins are essential for ferret health as well, but it would be advisable to consult with a veterinarian or other ferret specialist before starting some regime of vitamin supplementation as they can develop a toxicity when given to much or too often.Minerals are important for ferret health as well, there again, as stated above it would do your ferret best to consult an expert before starting a mineral supplement program on your own as this too could become life threatening to your ferret if the doses are not administered properly.
If you are using a high quality ferret food to begin with, most every vitamin and mineral needed by your ferret is provided in the food they eat.
Grooming your ferret is also important. Though it is not a good idea to bathe them often, they will need a bath, a brushing, and claw clipping on occasion. Lets take a look at the best practices for these chores.
Bathing your ferret will become a ritual to say the least. Some ferrets take to the water pretty well and actually enjoy swimming around and having fun, while others will need your absolute patience and assistance in the bathing ritual.
Not too often.
You should only give your ferret a bath a maximum of one bath each month. The reason being that frequent bathing washes away the essential oils needed for healthy ferret skin and coat. Some say that a bath every two to three months is best, but thats up to you just as long as you are aware that bathing too often is bad for your ferret.
The water temperature should be should be warm to touch but definitely not too hot. You should use a very gentle shampoo like baby shampoo and lather the fuzzy up real good. You need to take great care as to not get any soap into the eyes or ears of your ferret. If you do, try to rinse it out as quickly as possible. Also make sure that when you are rinsing off your ferret to not leave any soap residue on them because it will dry out their skin and also try to not let them get chilled.
When drying, try to get it done as soon as possible.
Keeping your ferret brushed and well groomed also helps prevent the hairball problem and is good for their coat. You can do this as often as you like, but be gentle of course when doing so.
Claw trimming will also be necessary from time to time. It is very important that great care and caution is taken when doing so. Be extra careful not to trim too close to the nail quick, because just like for us humans, it will hurt them as well. You can pick up the tools you need for this at almost any pet store and it would be a good idea, especially if you are completely new to ferrets, to have a professional groomer show you the ropes in the beginning.
Ferrets and disease
Ferrets are susceptible to a number of diseases and other health problems. Knowing this beforehand can prepare you for what is inevitable at some point in your ferrets life.
Here are some of the diseases that your ferret may encounter. Not saying that it is a guarantee that your that your ferret will get a disease, it is just that they have become predisposed to certain illnesses and diseases over the years. So the chance for some type of illness is some what greater. Below is a partial list of common ferret diseases that you can use for reference to investigate on your own further. This list is by no means all of the diseases they can get.
1. Subcutaneous Abscesses
2. Pyometra and Vaginitis/Vulvar Cellulitis
3. Proliferative Colitis
4. Helicobacter Infections
3. Diabetes Mellitus
5. Eclamptogenic Toxemia and Nursing Sickness
Other Types Of Disease:
1. Gastrointestinal Foreign Body
3. Posterior Paralysis
4. Gastric Ulcers
5. Congestive Heart Disease
6. Dental Disease
7. Heat Stroke
8. Nutritional Diseases
1. Adrenal tumors
5. Mast cell tumors, basal cell tumors and sebaceous cell tumors
As you can see, there are quite a few diseases that you will have to stay on the look out for. This is not even a complete list. They are even prone to catch the human flu virus, so if you ever find yourself with the flu, it might do your ferret well to stay away from you. For more information on that and all of the other diseases they can get, I would suggest doing a search online yourself for all of the different diseases ferrets are prone to. There is no need to constantly be afraid for your ferrets health, but it is a good idea as always to get educated.
Well, we have certainly covered a lot of ground concerning being prepared and what it takes to have a ferret as a pet. It is a responsibility just the same as a dog, a cat, or even a child. There is no one or nothing else to look out for and take care of your ferret but you.
In recap, we talked about ferret proofing your home so that your new ferret can live safe and sound. We talked about your ferrets diet, grooming, diseases, and habitat.
Now lets wrap this up with ferret habits. This should be interesting.
The word ferret partly originated from the latin word for thief. So that should speak volumes for you. Be prepared for things to come up missing. Especially shiny pretty things. If your car keys come up missing, they probably are not under the couch cushion.
Ferrets are very inquisitive, this of course can lead to some serious trouble for them so that is why that it is imperative that you pay attention to what they are doing and what they are getting into.
Ferrets also tend to like to chew on soft rubber objects so it is wise to keep an eye out for chewable electric cords and cables, tennis shoe soles, sponges, and anything else chewable. This habit can cause all sorts of issues, especially if the material is ingested. This can cause intestinal blockage and will most likely require a trip to the animal ER, so make sure to do a walk around of your home a few times a day all the while on the lookout for rubber bands and other chewable swallowable things.
Be sure that your ferret does not have any access to any of your household cleaning products as common sense should tell you that it will be fatal for your ferret.
If you have other pets, be aware that while ferrets can get along with and live with other animals; however, if you have a pet bird it would do you well to keep your bird out of the reach of your ferret. Can you say free lunch!
As mentioned at the beginning of this article, ferrets love to tunnel and explore. It's in their very nature. That is why you must make sure that every small hole is sealed. That includes where pipes and plumbing come out of walls and electrical outlets too. Give them an inch and they will take a mile. Seriously, all the opening they need is about an inch and they can squeeze themselves through.
Don't be alarmed when your ferret does a war dance in front of you. It is just a sign that they are excited and in a playful mood and that's what you call all that jumping and twisting about. So entertain them just like they entertain you.
I do hope you have found some insight into what to expect if you ever decide to bring a ferret into your home and have taken away some knowledge that you may not have known before otherwise.
Just know that this is by far not all the information to know about ferrets and how to take good care of them. There is still plenty of useful information for you to find for yourself online or at your local library, pet store, and most importantly from other ferret keepers.