Ferret Care for Beginners. Everything You Need To Know
5 facts about ferrets
Taking care of a pet is another responsibility you will be adding to your schedule. It should not be such a bad thing, right? Well, ferrets are good, active and very social pets. Below are five ferret facts that every ferret owner must know:
Ferrets are obligate carnivorous
These adorable little creatures are strict carnivores. It means that they will only feed on meat. This takes us back to their lives in the wild. Ferrets hunt small mammals including, mice, rats and even rabbits for food.
You must remember this when shopping for your new pet’s food. They will feed on foods high in protein and fats. Later in this article, we will look at the ferret diet closely.
Ferrets are healthy pets
A healthy domesticated ferret will enjoy a lifespan of up to 5-10 years. In some cases, ferrets have lived for up to 13 years. Ferrets are unlikely to get sick too often. However, I advise new ferret owners to take him for a checkup every year.
You should also keep an eye on any change in health or behavior in your ferret. It could be that your ferret is sick. Once again, we will talk about ferret health later in this article.
They are crepuscular
Wild ferrets are more likely to exhibit nocturnal character. On the other hand, the domesticated ferrets are not as active at night only. They will be active in early mornings and dusk. It is because we can adjust their sleeping patterns based on our lifestyle.
Well, your ferret could wake up early to eat and play in his cage. They will sleep for most of the day, 18-20 hours. Some ferrets can sleep for up to 22 hours a day. Ferrets sleep in intervals of 5-6 hours and wake up for an hour to play and feed.
Well, with time, you will be able to monitor his behavior and identify his sleeping pattern.
Ferrets are social and friendly
While these pets are self-sufficient, ferrets are also social and very accommodating towards people and even other pets. If properly introduced, ferrets can even become friends with other house pets.
You should also spend some time socializing with your ferret. For this reason, you should let your ferret out of the cage for a minimum of 4 hours. During this time, you can play with and pet him. Some ferret owners are so passionate that they will take a nap with their ferret!
Ferrets are members of the weasel family
Ferrets belong to the Mustelidae family, along with weasels and stoats. They come in different colors and will feed on a small mammal, as I indicated earlier. Just as weasels, ferrets are independent creatures. Even in the wild, they would not live with another ferret, or hunt together.
Ferrets are great hunters, swimmers, and climbers. When the food on the ground gets scarce, ferrets can also climb trees and swim across water bodies in search of food.
Well, there is so much more about ferrets that what I have listed down. That is a story for another day as I am about to dive into a comprehensive guide on ferret care for beginners.
We have selected the best items you will need for your Ferret at the end of this article.
Getting a pet is one of the most satisfying things in life. Ferrets are not only adorable but they are also intelligent and playful. You will learn that from the very first day you bring your ferret home. Speaking of which, below are some of the things you must keep in mind when bringing a ferret home:
Bringing a ferret home
Ferret care will begin immediately you bring your ferret home. You will need to prepare your home for the new furry guest. Below is a list of the things you are going to require to help bring your ferret home and settle in.
If you have a cat, you must understand that you need a pet carrier to bring him home from the pet store. The same case goes for ferrets. These pets can be fast and distracting. You will need to bring a pet carrier to carry him in.
I mean, you do not want him to start jumping all around when you are driving. This could end terribly for both you and your ferret.
Get an appropriate ferret cage
Your ferret is going to be living in a cage. It should be comfortable, secure and spacious. Well, even though they sleep for many hours, they still need a place to stretch and play when in the cage.
A wire mesh cage is going to be perfect for your ferret. The gaps should be small as ferrets are relatively small animals. They can fit in smaller places that you may not think they would. Well, you can always purchase a specific ferret cage to keep him from escaping.
You can go for a multi-level ferret cage. It is spacious and will allow you to install several food stations. It can also be stimulating for your ferret to climb to the upper levels.
Provide your ferret with a comfortable bed. You can always go for a cat bed or hammocks. These are excellent because ferrets love to burrow in fabrics to sleep. To make it comfortable, I would urge you to install carpeting on the floor of the cage.
Floor carpeting could be made of simple fabric. You could use ferret litter or simply use your old T-shirt. It will keep your ferret from hurting your ferret’s paws. However, you must also clean these fabrics or remove the ferret litter every few days.
It is important to keep his cage clean and hygienic. Therefore, you must also ensure that the ferret cage stays clean. Wash it with disinfectant every week. You should wash beddings and get rid of the used litter every 2-3 days.
Purchase food and water bowls
Well, ferrets have rather a fast metabolism due to their short digestive system. They, therefore, need to feed quite often. Purchase food and water bowls and install them in the cage. If you have a multi-level cage, it would be helpful to install the bowls on each level.
Because ferrets love playing with their food, the bowls should be heavy. He should not be able to tip it over to spill food. Also, ferrets love to swim. Getting open water gives them the chance to swim in their drinking water. It could lead to contamination and quite a messy cage.
Consider tying the food bowls to the walls of the cage. This way, the bowls will be safe and your ferret cannot be able to tip them over. Also, buy a pet water bottle instead of getting a water bowl.
Ferret litter box
Do not forget to purchase a ferret litter box. It is going to make it easy for you to clean after him. Did you know that you can train your ferret to use a litter box? Well, this should not take longer than a few weeks.
However, as with every other training, consistency is key.
A ferret litter box is a bit different from a cat’s. It should have a lower side and a higher side. Your ferret is short and will use the lower side to enter into the litter box. On the other hand, the higher sides will keep you from tipping the entire litter box over and spilling his waste on the floor.
Use dust-free litter, usually made from old newspapers. You will also find ferret litter in the pet store.
Purchase plenty of toys
Before we go ahead to discuss the ferret diet, I must mention that these pets are extremely playful. To keep them occupied purchase plenty of toys for your ferret. Consider stimulating toys such as tunnels and sandbox. Well, this helps because ferrets love to burrow. Do not be surprised when you find your ferret sleeping in the tunnel toy.
The good news is that some ferret cages will come with tunnel toys. Other toys that ferrets may enjoy include stuffed animals. Some ferrets get too attached to their toys and will not let you touch them.
Besides, you will need to get your ferret out of his cage for a few hours a day. During this time, I advise you to play with him. Not only is it a great way to socialize with him but also time to exercise him. You could also buy a remote-controlled toy car and watch him chase it in a ferret-proofed area of the house.
What do I feed for my ferret?
Feeding a pet tops the list when we are talking about ferret care. Well, it could be difficult trying to figure out what ferrets eat when you are a beginner. Well, I mentioned that ferrets are obligate carnivores.
You will most likely find ferret food in the pet store. If not, you can always order ferret food online to take you for a few weeks. In most cases, ferret food will be in the form of dry food. However, there are canned ferret foods in the stores as well.
Commercial ferret food is safe and is comprised of harmless ingredients. Before ferrets became such popular pets, people would use quality cat food. However, if you do not have an option, you should be careful with the ingredients used in the cat food.
So, what do ferrets eat?
Commercial ferret food is safe for ferret consumption. However, you may not always have this option. I suggest that you introduce different types of food for your ferret. This way, he will not act up when you do not have the exact type of food.
Other than ferret food, there are other foods that you can feed your ferret. For instance, you can mix it up a little and introduce a raw diet to your ferret. For instance, you can get him uncooked meat from your local butcher. The fresher the meat, the safer it is. Animal organs such as the liver and heart always work well.
Make sure that the raw meat is frozen before feeding it to your ferret.
Also, you may choose to feed him whole prey. This is not only healthy but very natural. Earlier in this article, I mentioned that ferrets feed on whole prey in the wild. At home, you can feed him frozen whole prey such as rats, chicks and mice. As with meat, you should make sure that the prey is pre-killed and frozen.
For play and training purposes, you should also have healthy treats at home. You can get ferret treats online and they are safe for ferrets. Alternatively, you can feed him an egg as a treat. It could be boiled, scrambled or raw. However, refrain from offering your ferret raw egg whites.
Also, do not feed your ferret too many eggs. They could be harmful.
How to feed a ferret
As I mentioned earlier, ferrets will need to feed quite often. Before you bring him home, ensure that you have also bought ferret food. Because of their fast metabolism, it might be difficult to plan a feeding schedule. In most cases, you will end up free-feeding your ferret.
If you are going to be away from home, I suggest you get a multi-level ferret cage. It will allow you to install two or three feeding stations. These will be enough to provide food for your ferret through the day.
Well, do not forget to leave clean drinking water for your ferret. Taking care of a ferret is not complicated, even for beginners. Your ferret will spend most of his day sleeping and he needs to find some food in his bowl every time he wakes up.
You can feed him other treats such as pieces of cooked chicken or lamb. These are especially important when you are training your ferret new tricks.
Are ferrets healthy?
It is only fair to understand some of the health issues you might be facing with your new pets. As I mentioned earlier, ferrets are generally healthy pets. If you are lucky, you could enjoy a decade with
However, this does not take away the fact that you will need to check in with your vet every year. If you have a ferret older than 5 years, then you might need to check in twice a year. Each year, ferrets need to be vaccinated against the ferret canine distemper.
Canine distemper is equivalent to the measles virus in humans. Therefore, this is not to be taken lightly, especially if you have other pets in the house. Each year, your vet should vaccinate your ferret against this deadly and highly contagious infection.
Besides, taking your ferret to these regular checkups will ensure that your vet catches any illnesses early enough for treatment.
The living condition of your ferret will also determine his health. It is the reason I insist on cleaning a ferret’s cage quite often. Also, ensure that he does not have access to small items in the house. Ferrets are known to be thieves of small items. Unfortunately, ferrets will chew and probably swallow these items.
As a result, you could end up in your vet’s office for intestinal obstruction. If you are not keen enough, intestinal blockage can lead to death.
Keep small items out of your ferret’s reach. Also, consider closing all the doors and cabinets before letting your ferret out of his cage.
Other illnesses that you will need to keep watch for include insulinoma, ear infection and other respiratory issues.
Grooming your ferret
As with all pets, you will also need to groom your ferret. This is one of the easiest things about owning a ferret. However, ferret care for beginners can be complex. Below, we are going to look at some of the things you must remember when grooming your ferret.
Now, I understand that the musky smell that may come from your ferret is not exactly enticing. However, bathing him too often will do more harm than good. You should only bathe your ferret once a month. Let us talk about this.
The slight musky smell will remain even after cleaning your ferret’s cage. This is because of their natural skin oil. However, bathing him sounds like a good idea but it will strip him of these oils. As a result, his body will overwork to make up for the lost skin oils. This will only make the smell worse.
Bathing your ferret
As I have mentioned above, restrict bathing to once a month. Pour some warm water in the sink, preferably the bathroom sink as opposed to the kitchen one. You do not want to contaminate your kitchen by bathing him there.
Make sure you bring everything you need before you dip him in the warm water. These could be his shampoo, brush, towel, ear cleaner, and cotton buds. Once you start bathing him, you cannot leave him in the water because ferrets can be quite unsettling.
Only use a gentle shampoo for pets, preferably meant for kittens. This will not irritate his eyes or nose.
Cleaning a ferret’s ears
As with bathing a ferret, only clean his ears once a month. While his ears can get quite waxy, cleaning his ears too often could also dry his ears out. It leads to an ear infection, which will cost you a trip to your vet’s office. It is best done right after bathing your ferret.
Once again, get a kitten ear cleaner. It is gentle and also effective. However, you should put the ear cleaner bottle in a bowl with warm water. This is meant to warm the ear cleaner before using it. Once it gets to a comfortable temperature, dip a cotton bud in the cleaner and let it absorb.
Holding your ferret steadily, insert the cotton bud deep into your ferret’s ears. You must be careful not to hurt him. Well, you will need 3-8 cotton buds before you can completely clean your ferret’s ears. If this is your first time, I suggest you ask your vet how to do clean your ferret’s ears.
Alternatively, have someone help you hold your ferret when cleaning his ears. Failure to clean your ferret’s ears will only contribute to the awful musky smell.
Ferret dental care
Grooming a ferret also involves dental care. Well, this is not always an easy task especially if you are a new ferret owner. Remember that dental care is important since ferrets will need to chew hard foods. Guess what? You can brush your ferret’s teeth!
You will need a soft toothbrush and ferret toothpaste. However, before you begin, you will have to introduce this to your pet ferret. Of course, he is not going to open his mouth willingly to let you brush his teeth.
Have you taught your ferret how to not bite? Well, if not, you might need to do so before you start introducing dental care to your ferret. If you have, you will need to use your fingers to make your ferret comfortable with brushing teeth.
Gently run your fingers in his mouth, without the toothpaste. Rub his gums and teeth for about a week. He will have gotten comfortable with having something in his mouth. Only then can you introduce ferret toothpaste, which is safe to swallow. Of course, your ferret has no idea whether he is supposed to spit it out.
Once your ferret gets comfortable with having toothpaste in his mouth, you can now brush his teeth gently. Some ferrets end up enjoying it. Not only will it leave his teeth clean but also stronger.
Trimming your ferret’s nails
Ferrets tend to grow long nails. Not only will he tear things up but it can get difficult to pet him without getting injured. Well, in the wild, long nails are important climbing up the trees. However, domesticated ferrets do not need to climb to higher surfaces.
You should trim your ferret’s nails at least twice per month. Use a small pet nail clipper. During this process, you must be careful not to cut beyond the visible pink layer. If cut, it could lead to a painful experience and your ferret could bleed out.
It is the reason I insist on bringing styptic powder. Use it to stop the bleeding if you accidentally cut through the pink layer.
Well, to keep him calm during this process, I suggest you retrieve a bottle of ferret ones. This is probably every ferret’s favorite treat. Put some ferret one on your ferret’s tummy. He will roll over and start licking it from his belly.
As he is busy doing so, pick the nail clipper and begin trimming his nails. Only cut slightly above the pink layer. If he finishes the ferretone on his belly and you are not yet done, add some more. He will be too busy licking it to care about you trimming his nails.
How to clean a ferret’s cage
Earlier on, I talked about cleaning your ferret’s cage. You must keep your ferret in a clean environment. Luckily for you, cleaning a ferret cage is an easy task even for beginners. You will need to take out his beddings and use the brush to get rid of the dirt.
Well, you should do this every 2-3 days. At the same time, do not forget to scoop soiled litter from your ferret’s litter box. Also, sweep away any spilled foods and remove the beddings.
Every week, you should clean the entire cage. Well, you might need to keep your ferret out of the cage and into a smaller one or simply keep him on a leash. Take out everything from his cage including beddings, toys and food bowls. These must also be regularly cleaned for hygiene purposes.
Use clean water and disinfectant to clean the entire cage. Make sure to use the brush to clean the corners before getting it to dry.
Wash his toys, food and water bowls using clean water. Rinse well before drying them and setting them up back in the cage.
Picking up and petting your ferret
Ferrets need to feel safe and loved, as with other pets. Well, there is no better way of connecting with a pet than holding them and cuddling them. However, you must be gentle when picking up your pet ferret.
Put your hand underneath his body, on his chest. Place the other hand on his bottom and lift him. Alternatively, you can scruff him, especially if he won’t settle down. You may place him on your laps or bring him to your chest.
This is a great way to connect and socialize with your pet ferret.