Take the best qualities of dogs and cats, wrap them up in a cute package, and you’ve got a ferret! These small, highly entertaining creatures are intelligent, curious, loving, and highly responsive to attention. Ferrets bond closely with their owners. They require daily stimulation in the form of play and social interaction, a healthy diet, and regular veterinary care.
- Domestic ferret: Mustella putorius furo
- Descended from the European polecat; native to most European countries
- Life span: 6 to 10 years
- Adult weight: 1.5 to 4.5 lbs (680-2040 gm)
- Usually neutered and descented by 5 to 6 weeks of age to prevent disease and reduce odor and aggression
- Quiet, friendly, and playful
- Can be litter box trained
- Can be trained to come to a squeaky toy or when called
- Sleep 18 to 20 hours a day and are most active in the early morning and evening
- Very inquisitive; like to explore and get into tight spaces
- Enjoy stealing items and hiding them; also hide food
- Require constant supervision when out of the cage to prevent injuries and ingestion of harmful objects or substances
- Consider creating “ferret-proofed” area for play: cover openings into walls, behind cabinets, and appliances
- High in fat and protein, low in fiber, carbohydrates, and sugar—ferrets are strict carnivores. It is best to feed a premium commercial diet prepared specifically for ferrets
- No dairy products, fruits, vegetables, or foods high in fiber, carbohydrates, or sugar
- Several small meals throughout the day
- Fresh water daily
- Single- or multi-level, open wire cage with solid floor designed for ferrets (Ferrets are escape artists! Make sure cage doors are secure and ferrets cannot squeeze through any openings in the cage).
- Place the cage in a quiet location and maintain a temperature of 60°F to 80°F (15.5°C to 26.6°C).
- Litter box that uses recycled newspaper products or aspen shavings as litter (Avoid cedar and pine shavings, which can irritate the respiratory tract, and clay or clumping cat litter, which may be ingested by ferrets). The litter box should be cleaned daily.
- Towel, hammock, blanket, or old shirt for bedding (Do not use tattered items that are unraveling, as these may cause strangulation. To limit musky odor, wash bedding frequently).
- Sturdy toys with no small parts that can be chewed and swallowed (Also avoid toys made of foam rubber, latex, or plastic that might be chewed and ingested).
- Complete physical examination every 6 to 12 months
- Consult a veterinarian with experience treating exotic companion mammals if you have any questions or concerns about your ferret’s health
- Annual vaccinations for canine distemper virus and rabies
- Annual fecal examination for parasites
- Examination for ear mites as recommended by your veterinarian
- Use of heartworm and flea preventives year-round
- Annual dental prophylaxis (cleaning and polishing)
- Routine blood tests and measurement of fasting glucose level as recommended by your veterinarian
- Trimming of toenails as needed
Common Medical Disorders
- Adrenal disease
- Ear mites
- Gastric ulcers
- Foreign body ingestion