Ferrets make good pets for people who want a small, quiet and playful animal that is very responsive and loving toward its owner. Ferrets do require behavioral and litter training, lots of attention and high quality food. Because of their small size and curiosity, ferrets can get into everything and make quite a mess. Ferrets also live up to their name, which comes from Latin, meaning “little furry thief” — they have been known to steal keys, wallets, and socks and hide them.
Ferrets generally live seven to nine years. They can be trained to use a litter box, come when called, and other tricks.
As with any pet, people should read up on what ferrets are like and how to care for them before making a decision to get one. The Internet is an excellent source for learning about ferrets. One site that is very helpful is Ferret Central athttp://www.ferretcentral.org/.
Ferrets are not cage animals. They need to be able to run around, explore, play, and interact with you everyday. Owners must ferret-proof each room in which the ferrets are allowed, to keep their pets from escaping and to remove any hazards that could injure the ferret. Most owners find that caging ferrets when they are away or sleeping helps to keep their animals safe and out of trouble. A cage provides a safe and secure “bedroom” for the ferret.
However, keeping ferrets caged for days at a time without outside playtime will have a bad effect on their health and temperament. Ferret cages must be large enough for each animal to stretch, roll around, and stand up on its hind legs, and to keep the eating, sleeping, and litter box areas well separated.
Ferrets have a slight musky odor. Frequent bathing, however, is not recommended and will actually stimulate the production of a strong musky scent, some owners bathe their ferrets once every 4-6 months unless otherwise needed. Ferret owners can reduce odors by cleaning litter boxes daily. Providing clean bedding and high quality food, and keeping the ferret’s ears clean.
Things You’ll Need When You Adopt a Ferret
- A good cage
- Litter boxes. We recommend using recycled newspaper pellets or wood stove pellets for litter
- Water bottle
- Heavy food dishes or the type that will lock onto the cage. Ferrets like to rearrange their cage and dump over food dishes sometimes.
- Bedding material, such as tee shirts, sweatshirts, and flannel baby blankets. Ferrets love hammocks and fleece sleep sacks that can be made or purchased at most pet stores.
- Pet carrier for transporting to the vet or other places outside the home
Ferrets need a diet high in protein and fat. Read the labels of the food you plan to purchase. High quality KITTEN foods can be used because they have a high protein and fat content. Some recommended foods for ferrets are: Totally Ferret, Iams Kitten, Eukanuba Kitten, and 8 in 1 Ultimate.
Ferret Fun Facts
- Ferrets became legal to own as pets in Massachusetts on March 7, 1996. The law requires owners to spay/neuter their pets and keep them current on their vaccinations for canine distemper and rabies.
- Ferrets are domesticated animals and, therefore, cannot survive in the wild. They are totally dependent on humans for their survival.
- Many Europeans used ferrets to flush rabbits from their warrens into hunters’ snares. European immigrants brought the same practice to the United States and it had a devastating effect on native rabbit populations and the wild carnivores that depended on the rabbits for food. In order to halt “ferreting,” Massachusetts and other states banned individual ownership of ferrets shortly after World War I.
- Ferrets continued to be used for ratting aboard ships until the introduction of chemical poisons during World War II. They were also used in the aerospace industry to run electrical wiring through airplanes, in the fur trade, and as laboratory animals.
- Ferrets only became popular as pets in the United States in the 1970s. When a rabies vaccine was proven to be effective for ferrets in 1990, many states in which ferrets were previously banned changed their laws at the urging of responsible ferret owners and veterinarians.