Ferret Fact #1: A ferret’s average lifespan is 6 – 8 years.
This means you will need to plan to care for your ferret for a minimum of 6 years. Some ferrets live to be 9 or even 12. When you bring a fuzzy into your home, it depends on you and bonds with you. There are many ferrets who are surrendered or abandon who simply die of a broken heart (better known as shelter shock) when their human leaves them or decides that he or she doesn’t want ferrets anymore. If you know that in 3 years you are going to college, or you aren’t sure if your new landlord will allow ferrets, then a fuzzy isn’t the pet for you. Use the time until you will be able to provide a ferret with a forever home to brush up on your ferret knowledge and become a ferret expert! You’ll be a better ferret parent for it in the long run.
Ferret Fact #2: Ferrets can be very expensive pets.
Ferrets may be small, but the cost of caring for them is definitely not! Keep in mind that in addition to the cost of food, litter, toys and bedding, you will also have vet bills to pay. They require annual vaccinations (rabies & distemper), and if you only have to go to the vet once a year with your vet, you’re a lucky ferret owner! Ferrets can have a lot of health problems, including medical emergencies that require immediate attention. One of the most common life threatening problems with young ferrets is blockages, which can easily happen when they eat things they shouldn’t (bedding, rubber, pieces of human food such as nuts or granola ). Blockages are dangerous and usually very expensive to remove. Ferrets are also very susceptible to various cancers, and it’s rare when a ferret makes it to the end of its life without getting Adrenal disease, Insulinoma or Lymphoma. Many people start a savings account when they purchase ferrets to help with those emergencies. If you know that you have money set away in case of emergency, then necessary medical care won’t be delayed. If you don’t think you can afford to put a little money away each week or each month, then a ferret probably isn’t for you.
Ferret Fact #3: Ferrets are NOT rodents.
Ferrets aren’t rodents; they are in the family Mustelidae, along with weasels, mink, badgers, wolverines, skunks, sea otters and polecats. Their scientific name is Mustela putorius furo, or just Mustela furo. Since they aren’t in the rodent family, their needs are very different from that of rodents. For example, ferrets do NOT have teeth that continue to grow, so please don’t give them wood to chew on! They don’t need it! Ferrets are carnivores, and their diets should be full of meat and other animal proteins with very few carbs. They don’t eat hay, fruit, veggies or other treats that are great for our rodent friends. They cannot be left in cages like hamsters, and in fact require at least 2 hours a day of human interaction out of the cage, though 4 or more is preferable. They are NOT a good pet for a young child, as their care requires a responsibility that young children just do not have. If you do want to get a ferret for your child, be prepared to pick up the slack, as proper daily care is crucial to a ferret’s health and socialization.
Ferret Fact #4: Ferrets are carnivores.
As mentioned previously, ferrets are carnivores, but what does this mean? It means that they have canine teeth like cats and dogs. It means that most of their nutritional needs are met by animal proteins, therefore their diet and most of their treats should be meat based. Food should have no less than 34% protein and 20% fat, and it should contain taurine (which is why dog food doesn’t provide the proper nutrition). Fiber intake should be kept to a minimum, as ferrets don’t have a cecum, the body cavity where fiber is digested. Non-meat treats should only be given in moderation, and this includes nonacidic fruits, cereals (low salt and low sugar only), and eggs (cooked only, no raw). Never ever give your fuzzy alcohol, sugary drinks and foods, drinks with caffeine, nuts, or chocolate. Many ferrets are lactose intolerant, so dairy products can cause diarrhea.
Ferret Fact #5: Ferrets have a musky odor, but keeping their surroundings clean easily keeps that odor under control.
Like other carnivores, ferrets are born with scent glands, but most ferrets are descented before being sent to pet stores for sale. Descented ferrets do still have a musky odor to them, but it’s very faint, and not at all comparable to their skunk cousins in the wild! Contrary to what you might believe, bathing your fuzzy is not the key to keeping that odor at a minimum. Over-bathing your ferret will actually dry its skin out, which will cause an overproduction of oil, which in turn will cause a stronger smell. Bathing should be done only 3 or 4 times a year. The key to keeping ferret odors mild is to keep the ferret’s environment clean. Litter boxes should be scooped daily, and cleaned thoroughly with a solution that neutralizes odors once a week. Bedding should be washed once a week or more. Odor neutralizing laundry detergents can be very helpful in eliminating tough smells. Ferrets will rub themselves up against the bars, depositing oils, so the cage itself should be cleaned and wiped down very well about once a month. Clean their ears as needed, usually about once or twice every couple weeks. When ear wax builds up, it can give a ferret’s head a decidedly unpleasant odor!
Ferret Fact #6: Ferretproofing is vital to your ferret’s safety when it’s out of its cage.
Since fuzzies need at least a few hours out of their cages each day to play, you will need to have a ferret friendly space in your house. If you are going to let them run around in your living space, it’s imperative that you make sure the room is as “ferretproofed” as possible. Ferretproofing is an ongoing process, but there are a few steps you can take to start.
- If your ferret’s head will fit through a space, it’s very likely that the rest of your ferret will fit there as well. Get down on your hands and knees and look for small spaces that your ferret could get into.
- Make sure all cabinets and drawers are firmly closed, and put some kind of latch on easy to open drawers and doors.
- Make sure your ferret has no way to climb up onto tables or high shelves
- Make sure there are no items the ferret could ingest that could cause a blockage (soft rubbery things like remote buttons, cables, etc)
- Cut off access to rooms, such as the kitchen, that contain lots of dangerous appliances.
- Don’t put recliners in rooms where your ferrets go (they could be crushed inside the chair).
Needless to say, this isn’t even close to a full list of what should be ferretproofed, but it’s a good start. Your ferretproofing skills will develop over time anyway as you see what naughty places your fuzzy finds most fascinating!
Ferret Fact #7: Ferrets are very social creatures.
Ferrets need companionship, whether it’s your companionship or that of another ferret. Left alone in their cages without human or ferret interaction, ferrets will become depressed, destructive, and sometimes even ill. It’s important to allow your fuzzy ample time out of its cage every day, 4 hours at the minimum. You should play with your ferret at least 2 hours every day, more so if it is an only child! This will also help to socialize it. Ferrets that bite and aren’t friendly as they grow older are fuzzies that haven’t been handled enough. If you have a space in your house that is ferret friendly, let your ferret run around as much as possible. Ferrets that get a lot of time out of their cages to run, play and interact are healthier and happier!
As you can see, ferrets are very unique little creatures! If you keep all of these important facts in mind when you get your fuzzy, you’ll be a great ferret parent!
Dooks to all!