The domesticated ferret is not wild nor feral. If left outside on it’s own, it would most likely die within a few days because a ferret’s survival instincts are extremely minimal. Before bringing one of these fuzzy little creatures home with you, it is important that you know what their care and health needs are.
Beginning at the age of 2 or 3 years, ferrets are susceptible to two very common serious illnesses: insulinoma and adrenal disease. Either of these illnesses may require medical and/or surgical intervention which could be quite expensive. Ferrets should be seen by a knowledgeable veterinarian for regular yearly check-ups and for required vaccines for rabies and distemper.
Your ferret should be housed in a cage when not being closely supervised. The cage should allow the ferret ample room for playing. For 1 or 2 ferrets, the cage should measure 18 inches x 30 inches x 36 inches with at least 2 levels. You will need to furnish your ferret’s cage with a litter box, water bottle with sipper tube, food bowl and various hammocks to relax in. A small cardboard or plastic tray, 3 to 5-inches high secured to one side of the cage is ideal for use as a litter box. Fill the tray with 1-inch or more of a pelleted litter product made from paper or plant fibers. Ferrets do not cover their wastes regularly, therefore you may have to scoop their litter box often. Be sure to place the litter box away from eating and sleeping areas. Rabbit cages or any cage of that size are not recommended for ferrets. Since ferrets are accomplished escape artists, their cage should have a secure latch and openings no larger than one inch by two inches.
Never use cedar or pine chips to line the bottom of your ferret’s cage; they may cause respiratory problems. Soft materials such as cloths or washable carpet are best. Clean your ferrets cage regularly by washing soft materials in hot water and mild detergent and disinfecting the cage before returning the clean bedding materials.
You should feed your ferret a commercially formulated food especially for them. This can be purchased at your local pet-supply store. Never feed your ferret cat or dog food. Ferrets also enjoy fresh fruits and vegetables, which they should be given regularly. Since ferrets will eat almost anything, make sure you only offer them healthy foods, never junk food or candy. Always clean their water bottle daily and refill with fresh water.
Provide your ferret with toys such as tennis balls, cat toys, PVC pipes and cardboard boxes. Always make sure none of the toys have small removable parts, as your ferret can ingest these and develop an obstruction in their digestive tract. Although ferrets will be happy in their cages, they must have sufficient time out of their cages to run free and burn off some of their abundant energy. Three to four hours each day is recommended. Be sure to ferret-proof your home by removing hazardous products before allowing your pet to roam the house. If you take your ferret outside, always keep it on a leash made for small animals.
Ferrets are very social creatures but they must be carefully supervised around other animals or young children. Young children tend to grab and pull and the small ferret could either be injured or attack the child in self-defense. Ferrets should never be left unsupervised with young children. Ferrets have a keen sense of smell but their vision is limited. When approaching them, you should avoid sudden movements and speak in a gentle voice. Always handle your ferret carefully. NEVER pick him up by the tail! Lift him from behind using both hands; one to support his chest and the other to cradle his hips.
Your ferret needs to be protected from extreme weather and temperatures. Never place your ferret’s cage in direct sunlight. Temperatures above 80 degrees F can be harmful to your pet. The ideal temperature range for your ferret is between 55 and 70 degrees F.
You should have your ferret spayed or neutered to minimize odor. A ferret’s sebaceous glands, which are used to mark territory, secrete oil that has a musky odor and the ferret’s anal scent glands can spray much like a skunk’s. However, the ferret’s oil secretions are easily washed away and dissipate much faster than those of a skunk.
Owning a pet ferret should be a life-time commitment, regardless of their needs, health or expenses. Therefore, it is very important to ensure that a ferret is the right pet for you and that you can handle the responsibility of providing them with proper care.