First Time Owners: How To Care For A Ferret
First Time Owners: How To Care For A Ferret
Often overlooked amongst seekers of a small pet, ferrets are incredible companions and could be the next best addition to your family. Ferrets are, however, a fair bit of maintenance and could catch beginner first-time owners by surprise. To properly care for your pet ferret, as well as protect your home from ferret mischief, check out the tips below!
Super Basic Supplies
- Cage: Large and Multi-platformed
- Appropriate Food: Bagged specialty ferret kibble or raw meat
- Food and Water Dishes: Heavy ceramic dishes, not plastic
- Ferret Tunnels & Hammock
- Toys! But no rubber, no foam, and no choking hazards.
- Potty pads for the bottom of the cage, not wood chips
Ferret-Proof Your Home
Ferrets are playful and curious little beings. There are a number of steps a new owner should take to assure the safety of both their pet and their belongings.
- Cover the underneath of furniture with a non-chewable material.
- Don’t allow entry to rooms with appliances or chewable wires.
- If you wouldn’t let a child have it, don’t give it to a ferret. Small objects that could cause digestive issues or be choking hazards should be kept out of reach of ferrets.
- Hide cleaning supplies or other chemicals in non-accessible drawers and cabinets
- Always close the toilet seat! Ferrets are proficient swimmers, but they can get stuck.
- Just double-check. About to run a load of laundry? Going to fold up your recliner? Just check. Ferrets have been known to wiggle into washing machines, the mechanics of a La-Z-Boy, and other household items.
This may surprise those who see ferrets as sweet little angel babies (and they can be), but ferrets are avid carnivores. Their wild kin are hunters and don’t waste anything when they consume whole animals.
To meet key nutritional needs, raw meat is the best choice for maintaining your ferret’s health through diet. Items like turkey necks, minced beef, rabbits, chicken, and lamb hearts are all good picks. If you can bear it, ferrets will also thoroughly enjoy whole prey like mice.
Ferrets have a complicated digestive system, and do not absorb nutrients effectively. It is important to NOT feed your ferrets fiber, and strictly limit their intake of carbohydrates. A diet high in carbs can lead to disease in ferrets. This means even vegetable protein, found in fruits and veggies, should be kept to a minimum.
Like any new animal pal, make sure your ferret’s are up to date on their vaccinations. Owners should be consistent with yearly check-ups up to the age of four, and twice per year check-ups after that. Speak to your vet about blood and urine results, to make sure the food you’re feeding your pet is not contributing to any ailments like insulinoma. Ferrets are also vulnerable to dental issues, so keeping taps on their oral health and watching for signs of oral decay will be especially necessary in their senior years.
Ferrets typically live for 5 – 10 years. This is a slightly strange figure, as the gap is so large. Experts, like L. Vanessa Gruden, executive director of the Ferret Association of Connecticut, claims 10 years is no longer a likely life expectancy for ferrets, and various factors in North American ferret breeding have shortened their lives. Some will claim the window can be slimmed down to 6 – 9 years.
Attitude & How To Control It
Ferrets are super smart and sociable and can be taught a wide variety of tricks once you’ve built a trusting relationship. In this way they are similar to rats, in that these characteristics lead to the need for companionship. It is beyond recommended, as in basically a necessity, that you purchase or adopt ferrets in pairs or small groups.
Play between ferrets may appear aggressive, with nipping and baring of teeth, but it is completely natural. This behavior, however, must not extend to humans. A technique called “scruffing” is your best bet in curbing biting in ferrets. If the habit comes up, gently pick your ferret up by the scruff of its neck and pinch its mouth closed with your fingers. As long as you are exercising this technique with care and patience, it will not cause any pain or harm to your pet. It is simply to reinforce your dominance and calmly indicate to the animal that this behavior is not tolerated.
Children & Ferrets
Speaking of nipping and biting… To the dismay of many, ferrets and young children do not mix. Although ferrets engage in “fighting” behaviour playfully, a child on the receiving end will not perceive it that way. This can lead to the injury of both the child and the animal, as a frightened or surprised kid may drop or hit a ferret if bitten unexpectedly. Some advise waiting until children are 10 years old, while some even recommend 13 years and above. Take into account the emotional maturity and physical dexterity of your child(ren) before introducing a ferret into the home.
Evaluate your lifestyle and living situation before welcoming a ferret friend into your home. As with other animals like dogs, be prepared to curb undesirable behaviour in their kithood. If you’re on the fence about whether a ferret is the right small pet for you, take a look at our list of 5 Adorable Small Pet Options for Beginners to compare.
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