The Mustela putorius furo, or ferret, is an adorable member of the weasel family. They make good pets but require proper care and understanding. Here are some tips to keep you and your ferret happy:
Consult with your veterinarian Bring your new ferret to your veterinarian for a thorough checkup, inoculations and care advice. The vet will do tests and probably take a stool specimen. Have your vet show you how to clean the ferrets ears, clip its nails and care for its mouth and teeth. Regular checkups will help you catch any problems early.
Feeding your ferret Maintaining proper ferret nutrition is easier today thanks to the availability of high-quality ferret food that give it the best chance at a healthy long life. Consider rotating different brands of food so that your ferret doesn’t get too finicky. Food and water should always be freely available. Ask your vet for suggestions on good ferret chows and the occasional treats. Young ferrets require softer food, so add water to the ferret chow to help them chew it.
Toilet training With a little effort, you can teach your ferret to use a litter box. They are naturally clean animals that like to use the same place for their toilet needs, usually a corner location away from their other activities. You can facilitate their litter box training by having multiple boxes, including one in their cage. Discourage them from using the unwanted locations by placing food or toys there. Restrict your new ferret’s roaming perimeter until it masters the litter box, and then you can expand its range.
Controlling odor You either like the smell of ferrets or you don’t. Your reaction to the musky smell should help decide whether a ferret is right for you. Of course, you should keep the litter boxes clean to cut those kinds of odors, and it helps to wash the ferret’s bedding frequently. Clean their ears to prevent smelly wax buildup. A neutered ferret is less odiferous.
The well-groomed ferret Keep your ferret looking dapper by clipping its nails, cleaning its ears, and brushing their coats. An occasional bath is a good idea, but don’t overdo it. It’ wise to feed your ferret some hairball remedy when it has its semi-annual molt — your vet will recommend a good one. Grooming a young ferret will acclimatize it to handling.
Play nice Although they are domesticated, ferrets are still animals and their play can be a little rough if they aren’t properly socialized. You can teach them to treat you as a human rather than as another ferret by responding gently and calmly to play. If they get rambunctious or nip at you, lift them by the scruff of the neck as a form of discipline — that’s how mother ferrets do it. Let them lick treats from your hands and offer them toys to play with.
This old ferret house Cage your ferret when you aren’t around to supervise it. Give them a nice big wire cage with food, water, blanket, toys and litter box. Cover the cage floor with material to keep their feet comfortable. Wood chips in the cage are not recommended.
Ferret safety You should ferret-proof its surroundings to keep them out of areas where they don’t belong. These are very inquisitive animals and swallow all sorts of things, sometimes causing an intestinal blockage. Clear the area of smaller objects and make sure the ferret doesn’t chew on large objects that might break apart.
Vary your play Keep things interesting for your ferret by varying your games and toys. You should set aside time every day to play with your ferret, and you can entertain them with an empty box or a dishtowel. Older ferrets need less exercise, but young ones require a few hours a day of vigorous play to maintain optimal physical and emotional health.
Patience Ferrets, like dogs, cats and other pets, will sometimes “make mistakes” — do things you don’t approve of. Treat it with respect and patience, gently correcting unwanted behavior. Above all, shower your pet ferret with lots of love. A well-treated ferret makes a unique pet that will return your love and make you laugh.
As you can see, most of these tips are just good common sense. Team up with your veterinarian to help ensure your pet ferret has a happy, safe home.
Dr. Paul has a strong interest in avian and exotic animal medicine and surgery, as well as small animal internal medicine and surgery.
He has provided services for numerous breeders, kennels, aviaries, and mini zoos.