Simple Guide: From Acquiring To Caring For Ferrets
Ferrets are cute, affectionate, playful, curious and sociable animals. There are various types of ferrets (based on their colors) that include: Albino, Black Sable, Black Sable Mitt, Blaze, Champagne, Chocolate, Chocolate Mitt, Cinnamon, Cinnamon Mitts, Dalmatian, Heavy Silver or Pewter, Panda, Light Patter, Medium Pattern, Sable, Sable Mitt, Siamese, Siamese Mitt, Striped White, White with Dark Eyes. Caring for ferrets is quite easy.
The most common are sable, albino-colored and dark-eyed white ferrets.
See more detail and images on these different types.
Ferrets have special terminologies.
JILL– A female ferret that is not spayed
SPRITE– A spayed female ferret
HOBS– unneutered male ferrets
GIBS– neutered male ferrets
KITS– Baby ferrets
Some countries and certain states consider keeping ferrets as pets illegal, therefore, check whether your state allows keeping ferrets.
Ferrets will live for 8-12 years. Some slightly more years (not guaranteed) WITH PROPER CARE!!!!
Where do I get Ferrets?
Where Can I Get A New Ferret?
- From A Trusted/ Reputable Pet Store.
- Reputable Ferret breeders.
- Reliable Adoption Agencies/ Rescues.
It is up to you, but Breeders are recommended. Why?
The minimum recommended age to acquire a young ferret is 4-6 months old. They will have been spayed or neutered before then. You can always get an older one if you want.
Can A Ferret Live Alone Or Does He or She Require A Companion?
Is It Okay to Get One or Do I Need More Than One Ferret?
Give your ferret a companion. Get at least 2 ferrets. When alone they will not be happy. Also, bond with them, they like it. They are sociable.
If you do not want kits (baby ferrets) have your males neutered or females spayed. Another option is to have only females or only males.
A Ferret is Suitable for What Age?
Ferrets are not suitable for very young children. 12+ years is okay. They will nip when mishandled and they also get underfoot- can get stepped on.
Ferrets are a flight risk and tend to make a dash for an open doorway.
Keep them away from other pets in the house.
Is A Ferret Nocturnal?
Ferrets are most active at dusk. They will spend approximately 18 hours of a day asleep in dark enclosed areas. The other time they will be playful, explore and burrow, they really like burrowing under their bedding.
It is recommended to keep your pet ferret indoors.
Outdoor ferrets DO NOT live for long. They demand that some conditions be met to live comfortably, for example, giving monthly heartworm preventative like ivermectin.
Ferret Cage Options
The cage should be well ventilated, have a solid floor, be escape-proof (ferrets are escape artists-if they can fit their heads, their bodies will fit) and big enough to accommodate two ferrets. Place the cage away from sunlight. They get heatstroke in hot environments. Ferrets also do not like high humidity!
#1. Ferret Nation Cages or Critter Nation Cages are recommended by most ferret owners. These cages are the easiest to clean. Double is preferred. They may be pricey, but are the best for ferrets. If you are tight on budget, get a single first and then you can add on another single on top. See video on cage organization.
This is another option you can go for if you find it affordable. It can fit a number of ferrets. See a short clip.
#5. Other individuals make DIY ferret cages. Here are a few videos for practical understanding.
Caring For Ferrets (Recommended Ferret Bedding)
When determining what material to use for bedding various factors are considered:
- Safety to your pet
- Characteristics of your pet (does she/he like to burrow)
- Ease of cleaning (Do you mind regular cleaning? What cleaning works for you?)
- Your financial situation (what can you afford for your pet)
- Hygiene in the cage
#1. Fabrics are recommended. Since ferrets can be litter trained, cleaning will be very easy as they will not really soil the fabric. They are also safe to use for your ferrets as they do not pose any respiratory risk from dust.
Cheap ferret fabric bedding:
- Old t-shirts,
- Baby blankets,
- Sweatshirts and
- Pillow cases
- Anti-Pill Fleece fabrics/ blankets
You may have googled and seen nice neat Ferret Nation Cages. These have utilized fleece liners/ pillows which are mostly used in CNC (Critter Nation Cages) or FNC cages (Ferret Nation Cages).
When using fleece bedding in your pet’s cage, in the litter pan/ box/ tray use:
- Yesterday’s News Unscented Recycled Paper Pellet Cat Litter
- Hardwood wood stove pellets (good and cheap)
- Back 2 Nature bedding (good but expensive)
- Marshall Ferret Litter, Bag
If you intend to use substrate bedding in your ferret nation or critter nation cages, get some metal bass trays made for your cage by the bass equipment company. The trays offer a place to pour the substrate.
When using the Ferplast Ferret Cage you can use either fabric or substrate bedding without having trays made as it has deep plastic floors. However, you will need to be extremely careful on the substrate you use as ferrets are illness prone. Get one that is not dusty. Note that the cage will be messy.
Here are some recommended substrate bedding materials:
#2. Fitch bedding in the cage floor and in the litter pan use Back 2 Nature bedding, hardwood wood stove pellets, marshall ferret litter or yesterday’s news.
#3. Boxo bedding in the cage floor and in the litter pan use Back 2 Nature bedding, hardwood wood stove pellets, marshall ferret litter or yesterday’s news.
If you prefer using substrate bedding, be on the lookout for extreme scratching, sneezing, welts or scabs and loss of fur. If you see these, take your ferret to a ferret savvy vet.
Ferret Cage Accessories
Very important. Pet Tents and Hammocks/ Canvas Backpacks, hanging cubes, sleepy barrels, sleep sacks and floor cubes. You need a number of these to be switching out weekly or when needed. Some good recommendations are:
- Twin Critters Handcrafted Ferret Cave Bed – Tunnel for Ferrets
- Kaytee Fuzz-E-Floor Sleeper Small Animal Hammock
- Niteangel Tunnel Hamster Hammock for Small Animals, Tunnel Tube Rat Ferret Toy
- Ferret Hammock – Cotton Sleeping Nest for Small Animals – Pet Cage Swinging Bed & Nap Sack – Warm Cashmere Inner Lining for Winter – Durable Canvas Mat – With Rings & Spring Hooks – Machine Washable
- Marshall Pet Products Hanging Monkey Hammock for Ferrets
- Niteangel Luxury Unilateral Closed Ferret Hammock, Hanging Soft Bed Sleepy Comfortable Pad for Small Animals
- Sheppard & Greene Ferret Cage Bed Camp Tent
- Hamster Cotton House Cage Hammock Cozy Warm Hut for Small Animals Hanging Bed Toy for Guinea Pig Ferret by Awtang
Small hard balls, cat teaser toys swinging on strings attached to poles, washable cat bags and crinkle tunnels. DO NOT get soft rubber or soft latex. Recommendations are:
- Marshall Pet Products Pop-N-Play Ferret Ball Pit Toy
- 4 in. x 10 ft. Corrugated HDPE Drain Pipe Solid with Bell-End
- Flex-Drain 51910 Flexible/Expandable Landscaping Drain Pipe, Perforated, 4-Inch by 12-Feet
- Ferret Toys–Set of 8
AVOID clay litter pans!!! Plastic is okay.
- Marshall Ferret Litter Pan HIGH BACK one is recommended. You will have to find a way to lock it to the cage to prevent your ferrets from moving it. See image below (credited to ocferrets) for an idea.
Always place it at the corner. That is where ferrets like going to help themselves. You will also notice that ferrets will back up at the litter pan and smear some of their poop on the wall. To make cleaning easier, you can place a newspaper like shown in the video below:
What to put in the litter pan?
Pelleted litter is recommended. Many ferret owners use:
- Yesterday’s news cat litter. It is absorbent, non-allergic, has long tray life, dust-free and environmentally friendly.
- Hardwood Wood Stove Pellets. Be careful when choosing these. Avoid Softwoods, for example, Pine or Cedar.
- Back 2 Nature bedding
- Marshall Ferret Litter, Bag
A water bowl is recommended.DO NOT use a water bottle. They limit the water intake of your ferret. Get bowls that you can secure to the cage. A good example is:
Ceramic is always preferred to avoid knocking over. You can also get dishes that you can secure to the cage. A good example is:
Ferrets are not cage pets and that is why they should not be left in there for long. They need to be let out for exercise, which they need in abundance. Your ferrets should be able to explore, forage, play, hide and rest in their cage. If they are unable to do this, they become depressed and a mess in the cage looking for a way out. Getting a bigger cage will at least cater for some of the time they need to be out, but this is not a substitute for letting them out.
You will have to ferret proof your house. They jump a lot and can break their legs or bones. Ferrets also chew and swallow things that can cause obstruction in their digestive system. They will also steal and stash things.
FERRET PROOFING YOUR HOUSE
DO NOT underestimate your ferret. If their head can fit the rest of the body will.
If you let your ferret free roam in your house you will need to ferret proof on:
Latex, foam, rubber, rubber bands, sponges, Styrofoam, cotton swabs, pen caps, fabrics, carpet, mattress, furniture (especially reclining chairs), cleaning chemicals, cosmetics, kids toys, entertainment areas (cables and cords), office equipment, electricity contact, cooling and heating systems, windows and doors, human food, food scraps, gaps or holes in the wall, pools, unfriendly pets (cats or dogs), heights (high areas that could hurt your ferret when he or she falls off), house plants and bins, fire places, under mattresses or under beds and cabinets, breakable glass, dangerous/ unsafe/ faulty ferret toys, toilets, very young children, couch springs, subwoofers, vacuum cleaner hoses, dishwashers, washing machines and drains.
Also, mind how you walk to avoid stepping on them, dropping or placing something heavy on them.
If you do not want to let your ferret free roam in your entire house, get a ferret room just for them in your house or we recommend:
GETTING A PLAY/ EXERCISE PEN
See how a playpen makes it easy. In this video, the playpen should have had a cover below to avoid the ferrets coming out.
Here are some playpens you can think about getting:
Here are covers:
- Marshall Pet Products Small Animal Play Pen Floor Mat choose between for an 8 or 11 panel.
You can also take your ferret for out-of-doors strolls, but be careful of predatory animals. Get a ferret leash. We found great reviews on this leash, though not good for small/baby ferrets.
See small clip walking ferret.
- Fresh Water-Get WATER BOWLS. If you give water through water bottles, you will be limiting their water intake. You may notice your ferret dip his or her head in the water. This is normal, do not worry, it’s called Snorkeling.
What do ferrets eat?
FERRETS NEED PROTEIN:
The most recommended diet is raw meat. Try and get fatty meat, not entirely fatty, but with speckles of fat. This greatly improves their health, look and gives them energy.
How do you feed these meat?
Assuming you have the ferret nation, we would recommend having the feeding area/kitchen area bedding stripped out to avoid dirtying your fleece. This will prevent a huge mess.
Ferret-World gives a good feeding schedule:
|Monday||Edible Bone – Chicken necks or wings, turkey necks or wings, quail, rabbit, ribs, duck neck or wing tips, Cornish game hen among others||Edible Bone|
|Tuesday||Whole prey raw food- Mice, chicks, rats, quails (preferably dead not live)
|Muscle meat- (any meat without bone) examples are: Heart meat, chicken, gizzard, lamb, goat, duck, elk, venison among others|
|Wednesday||Edible Bone||Heart- fatty hearts like a lambs heart|
|Thursday||Edible Bone||Edible Bone|
|Friday||Edible Bone||Muscle meat|
|Saturday||Whole prey raw food- Mice, chicks, rats, quails (preferably dead not live)
|Sunday||Edible Bone||Organ meat- liver, kidneys, pancreas, lungs, brains among others|
This schedule answers the question what can ferrets eat? And shows you how you can vary up these meats. You do not have to follow it as it is. Just mix it up, however, it works for you.
You can also give:
- Fatty acid supplements are also recommended but not really necessary if they are getting enough fat from meat.
AVOID dairy, fruits and vegetables. Carbohydrates are NOT GOOD as well. Kibble ingredients may also not be that good for your ferrets.
Do Ferrets Smell?
Many people avoid ferrets because of their smell, but this can be controlled.
- Keep a clean cage– see cleaning section
- Having your males neutered or females spayed also controls smells and is healthy for females. For females, if left unspayed, your Jill (unspayed female) may die.
- DO NOT Descent!!
Can Ferrets Be Trained?
YES! Ferrets can be litter-trained. During training DO NOT let it out of the cage. It takes about 1-2 weeks to train.
Place the litter pan in one corner, then place his or her water bowl in the other, food bowl in the other corner and finally the sleeping area on the last corner. This is for the 4 corner ferret nation cage that most ferret owners use. Your ferret will not help him/herself where he/she drinks, eats or sleeps.
Cleaning Ferret Cage
Caring for ferrets (cleaning their cage)
Clean out the litter pan frequently, daily is recommended.
The entire cage should be cleaned after 3 to 4 days, once a week or when needed.
When using fleece fabrics:
- Remove your ferret(s) from the cage
- Take out the accessories
- Remove fleece or fabrics, hammocks and cubes. Put in laundry basket to wash later. You can machine wash the fleece and fabrics. Either sun dry or machine dry. DO NOT use scented detergents or any kind of softeners!!! DO NOT use dryer sheets!! You can use unscented free and clear detergent like All Liquid Laundry Detergent, Free & Clean.Also, add in white vinegar.
- Wipe down surfaces, cage walls, toys and trays with water and white vinegar with a clean rug and make sure they are dry. The ratio of mixture water to white vinegar 50:50.
- Put in clean fleece or fabrics and put back the accessories. (Have a number of fabrics or fleece to switch out each week).
- Clean water bowl and replace water and add some food.
See cleaning videos.
Bathing your ferret
This is not a must and should NOT be overdone!!! At least 3 times in a year. This is mostly for those ferrets that roll in their litter. Use warm water and use a cup of milky substance derived from blended regular unflavored oatmeal. You only want the milk and not the oats themselves. See instructions on making an oatmeal bath here.
Do Not scrub roughly, just soak, or gentle massage for five to ten minutes. You will have a clean, very comfy ferret!
Here are a few videos on bathing your ferret:
Travelling with Your Ferret
Before thinking of travelling with your ferrets, think of getting a pet sitter or letting a family member or friend take care of him or her.
If you are going to the vet or moving house, then here is what you need to do:
This video says it all. Make sure you watch it; it is very detailed.
Here are the travel cages mentioned in the video and more:
If you are going for a short distance and will take less time a smaller travel cage is okay, for example,
- Two-Story Barn (2s-Barn)
- AmazonBasics Two-Door Top-Load Pet Kennel
- Catit Design Cabrio Multi-Functional Carrier System (Amazon.com)
- Catit Design Cat Cabrio Carrier Warm Flight and Airline Approved (Amazon UK)
- Favorite Dog Cat Rabbit Two Door Top Load Car Travel Vet Visit Pet Carrier
- Yvettevans Portable Airline Approved Pet Kennel Cats Travel Cage Car Travel Vet Visit Dogs Carrier Crate Outdoor Kennel
- Petmate Two Door Top Load Kennel
If you are travelling with many ferrets that need extra space or you will be travelling for a number of hours you can get a larger travel cage, for example:
- Hagen Zoozone Indoor Guinea Pig / Rabbit Cage
- Zoozone Habitat, Medium, Blue
- Zoozone Habitat, Medium, Pink
If you are going on holiday get a friend or family member to look after your ferrets or hire a pet sitter.
If you frequent somewhere, for example, your grandma’s for a couple of days you will require to have another ferret cage where you are going.
Ferret Health and Vet
What to look out for when getting or caring for a ferret
Ferrets are prone to illnesses and injuries. It is important to SAVE on vet expenses. Maybe like $40-$50 a month for 1 ferret.
It is VERY IMPORTANT to have a FERRET SAVVY VET if you are planning on getting a ferret and keep in touch with him or her.
Jills (Unspayed Females) will suffer from Aplastic Anaemia when Oestrogen build up in their body. It is, therefore, important to have them desexed or spayed.
A MUST vaccinations are:
- Canine Distemper
Healthy ferrets will have:
- Clear moist bright eyes
- Nice plump nose
- Clean ears
- Good (non-smelly) breath
- Pink moist gums
- White teeth
- Full soft shinny coat(fur) WITHOUT bald spots or black specks (if you spot any, it may be fleas)
- Pink pads on their feet
- Should be active and alert, playful and inquisitive
- Normal brown consistent poop (not too runny not too hard)
- Clean genital area and anus
- Normal body temperature 37.8-39.4 degrees Celsius that is 100 -102.9 degrees Fahrenheit
- Considered normal breath- 33-36 breaths a minute
- Normal heart rate- 200-400 beats per minute
Unhealthy ferrets will have:
- Squinty eyes or Crusty eyes
- Discharge in their eyes, nose, ears, genitals or anus
- Dry nose
- White/ inflamed gums
- Bad breath
- Loose poop or too hard poop
- Brittle or soft nails
- Lack of appetite and not drinking as well
- Weight loss
- Not pooing
- Limping or dragging feet
- Tender to touch- crying or moaning
- Excessive scratching
- Having problems chewing food or swallowing
- Having trouble stretching or curling