Ferrets make wonderful pets for the right owners. Pet ferrets are playful, energetic, and incredibly smart. However, they do require a lot of care and supervision.
Here is a complete guide to owning ferrets, including how to choose a pet ferret, setting up proper housing, diet and nutrition, training and playtime, health and veterinary care, and more.
Choosing Your Pet Ferret
There are a few things to keep in mind when selecting a ferret. Most pet ferrets are descented males that have been neutered. Females are typically more aggressive. You want to pick an active, healthy ferret with bright eyes, a glossy coat, and clean ears. Avoid ferrets that seem lethargic, thin, or have discharge coming from their eyes, nose, or ears.
Kits (baby ferrets) are very cute but require even more supervision and training than adult ferrets. An adult ferret between 1-3 years old is ideal for a new owner. Know that ferrets purchased from pet stores rather than breeders are more likely to develop health problems. Be sure to find an exotic vet before bringing home your ferret.
Ferrets require plenty of room to run and play. A large multi-level cage is ideal, with each pet ferret requiring a minimum of 2 cubic feet of interior cage space. The ferret cage should have solid flooring and horizontal bar spacing no wider than 2 inches to prevent escapes.
Bedding like recycled paper or cloth bedding works best. Avoid cedar and pine shavings. Ferrets also enjoy sleeping in hammocks, tubes, and tunnels. Place the cage in a temperature controlled area away from drafts, direct sunlight, or anything the ferret could pull into the cage.
Pet ferrets should be allowed 4-6 hours per day outside of the cage to exercise and explore supervised “ferret-proofed” areas. Never leave a ferret unsupervised outside of their cage as they will get into trouble! Ferret-proof by removing hazards and blocking access to narrow spaces.
Ferret Diet and Nutrition
Ferrets are obligate carnivores meaning they require a very high protein diet. High quality cat or ferret kibble should make up 75-80% of their diet. Avoid foods with grains, soy, or too many plant proteins.
The remaining 20-25% should be animal-based proteins like cooked meat, eggs, or high quality wet cat food. Do not feed them sugary fruits or vegetables as ferrets cannot digest them. Ferrets need constant access to clean, fresh water.
Treats should be healthy like chicken, turkey, or freeze-dried meat. Avoid treats with artificial colors or preservatives. Ferrets love to stash away food, so monitor their weight and limit portions to avoid obesity.
Pet Ferret Training and Playtime
Ferrets are very smart and can be trained. Start young with basic commands like their name, “no”, “come”, and “litter box”. Use positive reinforcement and lots of treats. Be patient and keep training sessions short.
These cute pets require lots of playtime. Good toys include tunnels, cardboard boxes, ping pong balls, and safe chew toys. Rotate toys to keep things interesting. Ferrets enjoy interacting with their owners through games like hide and seek or chase. Supervise play to avoid accidental bites or injuries.
Never play rough by grabbing their legs or tail. Ferrets may nip when overstimulated. Squeak “ouch” loudly to signal that biting hurts. As a last resort, scruff them firmly by the loose skin on their neck until they become docile. This mimics their mother disciplining them as kits.
Ferret Health and Veterinary Care
One big consideration with ferrets is their short lifespan of only 6-10 years. Make sure you are ready for this commitment. Ferrets also have some common health issues to be aware of.
monitors ferret’s weight and overall health. Annual vaccinations like canine distemper are recommended.
Ferrets are prone to dental disease, adrenal disease, and insulinoma cancer. Watch for symptoms like lethargy, hair loss, weight loss or gain, seizures, or bloody stool. Immediately contact your exotic vet if any of these develop.
Spaying/neutering is strongly recommended to prevent reproductive cancers. Provide yearly de-skunking even if descented as ferret oil glands often grow back. Trim nails every 2-4 weeks to prevent injury. Clean ears monthly using only approved ferret ear cleaners.
Pet Ferret Ownership Considerations
Ferrets can make great pets but do require a lot of time, space, effort, and supervision. They are not low maintenance! Do thorough research to see if a ferret is the right pet for your home.
Be prepared for their energetic nature, potential messes, biting, veterinary costs, and short lifespan. Never purchase on impulse or give as a surprise gift. Exotic pets like ferrets are wonderful but not appropriate for everyone.
Finding a Ferret Breeder or Rescue
If you’ve weighed the pros and cons and decided a ferret would be a good fit, the next step is finding one! There are a few options:
- Pet stores – Often not ideal as ferrets here tend to have more health issues. But sometimes you can find healthy ferrets. Ask lots of questions.
- Breeders – Reputable ferret breeders focus on health and temperament. Look for recommendations online in your area. Make sure they screen for genetic issues and provide health guarantees. Visit their facility.
- Shelters/Rescues – Many unwanted ferrets end up in shelters and ferret specific rescues. Adoption fees are often lower but health and history may be unknown. Great option for saving an abandoned ferret.
- Online/Newspaper ads – Sometimes ferrets are rehomed directly by their past owners. Ask for vet records and meet the ferret. Be cautious of any red flags.
Wherever you get your fuzzy new friend, be sure to see them interacting in-person before adopting. Hold them and play to get a sense of their personality and health. Then get ready for the fun and adventure of ferret ownership!
Supplies for Ferret Ownership
Once you select your ferret, you’ll need to stock up on all the essential supplies before bringing them home. Here’s a Ferret Supplies Checklist:
- Ferret Cage/housing
- Quality ferret or cat food
- Water bottles/bowls that attach to cage
- Litter boxes + litter (paper-based)
- Hammocks, tubes, toys
- Ferret-safe harness + leash
- Nail clippers + styptic powder
- Deshedding tool
- Ear cleaner + cotton balls
- Treats (for training)
- Ferretone/Salmon oil (for skin/coat)
- Puppy training pads (for accidents)
- Ferret safe cage cleaner
- High-quality cat shampoo
- Baby gates (for playtime)
Shop at pet stores or online for specialty ferret items. Be wary of household items not deemed ferret-safe. Things like laundering bedding and litter box maintenance will be an ongoing cost. Budget for routine vet exams and potential medical issues too.
Once prepped with all the must-have gear, you’ll be ready to welcome your ferret into your home and heart!
How much time do ferrets need?
Ferrets are very active animals and require a lot of attention and playtime. They should be let out of their cage for at least 3-4 hours per day to run around and explore.
Are ferrets good with children?
Ferrets can be good with children, but they should always be supervised when interacting with them. Ferrets have sharp teeth and claws, and they can bite if they feel threatened or scared.
Are ferrets clean animals?
Ferrets are relatively clean animals, but they do require regular grooming. They should be bathed every few weeks and have their nails trimmed monthly.
What are the health risks associated with owning a ferret?
Ferrets can be prone to certain health problems, such as adrenal disease, insulinoma, and dental disease. It is important to take your ferret to the veterinarian for regular checkups.
How long do ferrets live?
All other factors being constant, ferrets have a lifespan of about 5-10 years.
How much do ferrets cost?
The cost of owning a ferret can vary depending on where you purchase it, its age, and its breed. However, you should expect to spend at least $100-$200 on the initial purchase price, and then another $50-$100 per month on food, litter, and vet care.
What kind of food do ferrets eat?
Ferrets are carnivores and need a diet that is high in protein and fat. A good quality ferret food is essential for their health.
What kind of cage do ferrets need?
Ferrets need a large cage with plenty of space to run around and play. The cage should also have a hiding place where they can feel safe.
What kind of toys do ferrets like?
Ferrets love to play and explore. They enjoy toys that they can chew on, dig in, and climb on.
Is it legal to own a ferret in my state?
Some states have restrictions on owning ferrets. It is important to check your state’s laws before getting a ferret.