At The Furry Companion, we love all types of pets. Ferrets, like cats and dogs, are animals that can be a great friend for the household. They also share characteristics with both cats and dogs. While they sleep a lot like felines, they can be sociable like canines. So how do you prepare yourself for a pet ferret? Let’s look at the things you need to be aware of before you bring your furry buddy home.
1. A Ferret’s Personality
As mentioned earlier, ferrets share many traits with both cats and dogs. They like to sleep a lot: roughly 18 hours a day. We wish we could sleep for that long! They enjoy having naps of about 6 hours before having periods of activity. They’re often awake during the morning and evening.
Their similarity to dogs is their playful and social nature. Ferrets enjoy being around people and interacting with them. They’re energetic, so expect a lot of playing. According to Lianne McLeod, DVM, “Watching ferrets play for the sheer joy of it is guaranteed to lift your mood.” Likewise, they also tend to munch on things. Be sure to keep wirings hidden and safe. Also, they can even be cuddly like your canine friends. These fuzzy little critters like to cozy up to their owners, especially when it’s cold.
Moreover, it seems like they have more similarities with domesticated dogs when it comes to training. Researchers came up with an experiment among canines, ferrets, and wild mustelids. Several tests showed the dogs and ferrets exhibited the same behavior. In one case, they both ate from a container to which their owner pointed. In another, they were more likely to take food from their owners than strangers. Meanwhile, wild mustelids showed no preference over either.
So if you’re thinking about getting a pet ferret, consider these characteristics. Don’t expect to be able to play with them all day. But when they are awake, be ready for a lot of activity.
To prepare your home for your new furry friend, start by getting them a cage. As pets, they’re cage-dwellers like hamsters and guinea pigs. The reason why they need to have one is to avoid accidents and damages to property. They tend to chew on things, making them a danger to your appliances. However, do not get them a glass tank as these have poor ventilation.
Look for a cage that is about 22 inches long, 22 inches tall, and 30 inches wide. This size will allow your new companion enough space to roam around. Choosing between a single-level or multi-level enclosure will be up to you, but the latter will allow them more room. If you also plan on adopting more ferrets, adjust the size accordingly. Find a cage double in width and length. This Prevue cage is one of the highest-rated on Amazon, is multi-level, and allows enough space for playtime.
Next, remember to get a solid lock for the enclosure. A ferret is essentially the Houdini of the animal kingdom. They can easily escape and slip away without you noticing.
Since the cage will be your furry buddy’s new home, make it comfortable.
Prepare appropriate bedding by laying down linoleum or carpeting. Alternatively, you can use old clothing. Just make sure that you prepare a little nest for them to sleep comfortably. Do not use wood shavings as ferrets may inhale these or be allergic to the oils in the wood. For extra fun, some cages have a space for a little hammock.
Another necessary addition to the cage is a litter box. Just like a cat, they can also use a litter pan. These boxes will be smaller than the one cats use. Look for something that’ll fit inside the cage and is about 3–5 inches deep. Use paper or plant-based litter; regular clay litter for cats can be dusty, which can irritate your pet’s lungs. Ware Manufacturing has a small pan that locks itself into the cage.
Unlike cats, however, they may not immediately figure out how to use their litter box. Train them by carrying them to the pan after they wake up since ferrets usually do their business after a nap. Lay down some newspapers in the surrounding area to avoid a mess.
3. Ferret-Proof Home
Next, you’ll have to ferret-proof your home or at least a few rooms. Even though your new pet will spend most of their time in their enclosure, they still have to go out. When preparing your home, keep in mind that your furry companion is like a curious child. They like to fit things into their mouths and chew on them. And like cats, they love fitting their flexible bodies into small, enclosed spaces. “If you are thinking of getting a ferret, plan to supervise him whenever he is out of his cage,” Dr. Laurie Hess DVM, DABVP reminds.
Start with blocking escape routes. Cover windows, doors, and potential holes or gaps that lead outside. Ferrets can easily tear through a screen cover, so make sure that the window is completely shut. Keep locks on the door to avoid having someone come in by accident.
Next, free the room of appliances if possible. They can slip inside the structure and chew on wires and other components. Electrocution is another risk if they find themselves inside.
Lastly, look at the furniture you have in the room. Staple or sew down fabric underneath chairs, mattresses, and couches. This procedure is to ensure they don’t rip through the undersides and ruin the springs. Avoid placing reclining furniture inside the room. The mechanism can trap and harm your ferret. Be careful with cushions as well, as your tiny friend may burrow into them.
4. Ferret Diet
Now that you have your home set up, it’s time to prepare food. Unlike dogs, ferrets are carnivores like cats. In the wild, they capture smaller animals for nutrition. As for your new pet, exclusive kibble for ferrets is available. Avoid giving them dairy products, vegetables, and other foods high in fiber and sugar. However, a small number of eggs and cut-up cooked meat is also acceptable. Meanwhile, Tracey Ritzman, DVM, DABVP says, “A warning: Feeding your ferret a cat food can have health consequences. So talk to your veterinarian about nutrition recommendations for your ferret.”
You can also feed your pet raw meat or meaty bones. Make sure these are human-grade to avoid harmful preservatives. Cooked bones are dangerous as they may splinter and puncture internal organs during digestion.
You’ll have to be more mindful of feeding times with ferrets compared to other animals. Their metabolism is much faster than other pets. You’ll find yourself feeding them about eight times a day.
Additionally, make sure they have enough water at all times. Like all other pets, they can quickly become dehydrated. Change their water bowl or dispenser regularly.
5. Ferret Hygiene and Grooming
One great thing about ferrets is that they’re not as high-maintenance when it comes to grooming. They clean themselves as cats do. Bathing isn’t required as often as for dogs. You can give them a good bath every 3–6 months. Doing so more often will dry out their skin, and their odor glands will overcompensate, making them stink more. Make sure that when you do bathe them, you use shampoo specified for your furry friend.
When it comes to their fur, they need to be brushed about once every two weeks. Since ferrets shed twice a year, you’ll have to increase the frequency during these periods. You can switch over to brushing them every other day when they’re losing fur.
Their nails also need trimming. Depending on how fast they grow, you may need to do so every week. Make sure not to lop off too much, and avoid the red vein you see inside the nail, similar to cats’ claws.
You’ll also have to brush their teeth now and again. Look for veterinarian-approved ferret toothpaste. You can use a small, gentle toothbrush or a rubber finger-brush. Brush their teeth at least once every two weeks.
You’ll also have to keep those ears clean. Take a cotton swab or ball and an ear cleaning solution for your new pet. Gently rub the outside of their ear and avoid sticking it in too much. This action will push dirt into the ear, causing damage and pain.
Despite being low-maintenance, make sure you check your furry pet daily. Go over the fur, ears, and teeth to see if there are any problems. This way, you can find out issues before they become serious.
Now, let’s move on to the fun part: preparing activities for your ferret! Once they’ve gotten used to their enclosure, you can start introducing them to your ferret-proofed room. Have your ferret roam around for a few hours every day. It’s best to supervise them during this time to avoid any accidents.
For your furry friend’s toys, you can place them inside the cages. Avoid soft plastic or rubber items as they can easily chew into them. You can give them hard plastic toys such as baby rattles. Pet supply stores will also have ferret balls that they can slip into and roll around. Do not give them plush toys as they may bite into the stuffing and ingest it.
You can also purchase PVC pipes for them to run around in like a tunnel. Some shops will have materials you can use to assemble a small maze. Niteangel sells tunnels for ferrets and other small animals.
Like dogs, you can also teach them tricks. Repetition is the key to teaching them these actions. You can also award them with a treat. We’re sure you’ll have loads of fun once your ferret learns how to fetch.
Take note that when playing with your furry friend, avoid raising your voice. They become nervous or aggressive when it comes to loud noises, as it can hurt their sensitive ears. Talk to them gently and softly.
Supervise all activities with children and other animals. Although they’re friendly, they can bite when they feel threatened or when someone provokes them. Children may also become rough with them, causing injuries. To avoid this problem, you can hold the them during playtime with kids and other pets.
Before you commit to having a ferret as a pet, make sure you do your research. In some places, it’s illegal to own these furry companions. In the United States, you’re allowed to have them as pets in most states, but it is illegal in California and Hawaii.
Outside of the US, similar policies may apply. Brazil also has specific rules for ownership. You’ll have to microchip ferrets before they allow you to own one. These animals are legal in most areas in Japan. However, Hokkaido requires owners to register their pet ferrets as a restriction.
Make sure to research the legality of these pets in your area. Likewise, look for nearby vets and pet supply stores to ensure you have everything you need for your new friend.
Although uncommon, ferrets can make an excellent pet. The Furry Companion loves looking at how a variety of animals can be your new friend.
To prepare yourself for this commitment, make sure you check their legal status in your area. Then you can purchase an enclosure for them and make it cozy with comfortable bedding. Make sure you have a water bottle or bowl, food, and a litter box. Next, remember to ferret-proof at least one room so you can let them roam around now and then. Provide them with enough protein-rich food and water at all times.
Check for grooming needs daily, but don’t worry so much as they often groom themselves. Keep sturdy toys and prepare activities for your energetic new companion.
Now that you’re ready, it’s time to go out there and adopt your new furry friend.
Frequently Asked Questions
Are ferrets dangerous?
An average person is safe from dangers that ferrets may cause. Like other pets, owning this pet makes you prone to getting scratches and bites. These injuries, however, may seem minor but they are rabies carriers which may be fatal. To those who are immunocompromised, they are a hazard for them, because these animals can pass on the influenza virus to humans.
How much does a ferret cost?
A ferret may cost anywhere between $75 to $250, the average is about $100. The price varies because it depends on which store or what breed you prefer.
Do ferrets make a good pet?
Yes, they make a good pet. Ferrets are friendly, affectionate, and sociable. Also, they are very playful. Owning one may feel like having a toddler in the house. They are also intelligent animals and they enjoy doing puzzles.
Do ferrets kill cats?
Yes, they can kill cats, but it can be avoided. As long as the two animals can control their temperament and are in a controlled environment to suppress aggression.
Can ferrets kill humans?
These animals don’t attack humans. However, they are likely to escape danger. When in an abusive situation, ferrets might bite as a form of self-protection.
Can ferrets die of loneliness?
Since they are sociable animals, they can die of loneliness. Loss of owner or cagemate may be a huge blow for them and may cause ferrets to fall into deep mourning and depression.
Are ferrets hypoallergenic?
Yes, ferrets are hypoallergenic. They don’t produce much saliva and they don’t give off dander, so it is a perfect option for those allergic to dander.
How hard is it to own a ferret?
They are fun to own but they require a lot of attention as well. As friendly and sociable animals, they need playtimes and time outside the cage. Ferrets need supervision when out of the cage because they are quite playful and can be destructive at times.
Why are ferrets flexible?
Ferrets have specialized and unique spine structures. They have a very long vertebral column that can spread out when they enter holes underground. Additionally, they have strong back muscles facilitating their agile movement. Ferrets are also known to be good sprinters as they can easily change directions while running.
A fitness junkie and a cosmopolitan traveler, Kathy is the mom of peppy baby Malaya and mixed beagle Holly. She’s a capable businesswoman who balances work with living a wanderlust life with her hooman and fur babies.