what is a ferret?
The ferret is a small sleek fur-bearing mammal that belongs to the same Family as the otter, weasel, wolverine, and mink. Ferrets weigh from 1 to 5 pounds at maturity. Males are called hobs, females are jills, and baby ferrets are kits. Adult males are generally 2 to 3 times larger than females.
The ferret is a small furry mammal that belongs to the same Family as the otter, weasel, wolverine, and mink. The pet ferret is a domestic animal, just like the poodle our house cat. It is a sleek fuzzy predator weighing 1 to 5 pounds at maturity.
IS a ferret a wild animal?
The ferret is the domesticated member of the Order Carnivora, Family Mustelidae, and Genus Mustela. Unlike its cousins the otter, weasel, and mink, the pet ferret is not a wild animal.
Ferrets were domesticated by humans more than 500 years before the house cat. The domestic ferret should not be confused with the wild black-footed ferret (Mustela nigripes), which is a native of the Midwestern United States and is an endangered species. If it escapes outdoors, the domestic ferret can survive for about a few days.
do ferrets make good pets?
Like cats, ferrets are small, quiet, and easy to care for. Like dogs, they enjoy being with people. Similar to cats, they are quiet and do not need to go outdoors. The average lifespan of a pet ferrets is between 6 and 10 years. Ferrets have been known to retain their playful nature late into old age.
how smart are ferrets?
Ferrets are very clever. They can recognize their name and be taught to respond to verbal commands. They can be trained easily to use a litter box and can even be taught to do tricks.
do they bite?
Like kittens and puppies, young ferrets need to be socialized and taught what acceptable behavior is. A healthy, well-trained ferret should not bite. Ferrets actually have a lower bite rate than other household pets.
what about rabies?
Ferrets should be vaccinated with the USDA licensed rabies vaccine, IMRAB-3. It is approved for dogs, cats and ferrets.
what do they eat?
Unlike dogs or cats, ferrets are obligate carnivores: this means that 70 to 80 percent of their intake should be meat based. To maintain optimal ferret nutrition – and unless instructed otherwise by a ferret-knowledgeable veterinarian-- ferrets should receive a diet with:
Protein: 32 – 40% [First three ingredients listed should be meat, or meat-based]
Fat: 18% minimum
Carbohydrate: Avoid products with wheat, gluten, peas, and corn (if corn is listed among the first three ingredients)
The above requirements are met by most high quality dry, commercial ferret foods sold by pet shops, veterinarians, or feed stores. High quality kitten foods may also be acceptable- BUT READ THE LABEL. Ferrets should NOT be given dog food: it is not the correct nutritional formulation for ferrets.
Most ferrets will eat only when hungry, so dry food can be left out for them during the day. Fresh water should be available at all times. “Treats” should be given sparingly, such as oil-based supplements, or meat-based chews.
Ferrets should not be offered foods with carbohydrates or sugars, including fructose, such as fruits or vegetables. Dairy products, such as cheese can be given sparingly. Like other pets, ferrets should not be given sweets, in particular chocolate.
don't ferrets have an odor?
Ferrets have a natural, musky odor, which is reduced significantly after the animal is spayed (females) or neutered (males). Bathing and diet also have an effect on a ferret's odor.
Ferrets have scent glands, and can release a strong scent as a defense. These glands can be surgically removed. However, scent gland removal does not significantly affect a ferret's natural odor.
should ferrets be kept in a cage?
Ferrets are true companion animals, and they love to be out with their owners. However, they cannot be allowed to run freely without direct supervision. For their protection, ferrets should be kept in a ferret-proofed area of the house or in a cage when you are not at home. Ferrets should not be left in a cage for long periods of time.
Ferrets love company, and most owners have two or more ferrets at any time. Although they sleep many hours of the day, ferrets still require daily exercise and companionship to be happy and healthy.
do ferrets need to be "Walked"?
No. Ferrets can be trained to walk on a leash, but they can be very happy indoors and make great apartment pets. Ferrets should be trained to use a litter box. Litter can be paper or clay-based. Litter and bedding should not be comprised of aromatic wood chips, such as cedar or pine, because the oils from the wood can cause respiratory problems in ferrets.
how do ferrets get along with other pets?
Ferrets can get along quite well with dogs and cats, if properly introduced. As with any small animal, they should be supervised when playing with other, larger pets. Because they are predators by nature, ferrets should not be placed with rodents (rats, mice), or rabbits, and it is not recommended that ferrets be introduced to birds or reptiles.
what kind of healthcare does a ferret need?
Ferrets should undergo routine veterinary care at least once upon arrival to your home, and yearly or more often thereafter, depending on their age and health history. Ferrets require immunization against the Canine Distemper and Rabies viruses. Ferrets should also have a yearly dental checkup and cleaning if necessary, examination of the ears for mites, vaccine boosters, and an overall physical.
what kinds of health problems can a ferret have?
The greatest cause of death in pet ferrets is accidents. Ferrets are very curious and must be watched to avoid accidents, such as falls, and harm due to dryers, stoves, etc.
Ferrets love to chew on rubber and plastic which can cause a fatal intestinal blockage. Also, ferrets should be kept at temperatures less than 80 F degrees, as they do not tolerate heat well.
Ferrets are susceptible to Canine Distemper virus sand Aleutian mink disease. They are also prone to getting human respiratory infections (colds and influenza), and they can become infected from humans.
As with most mammalian species, a common cause of death in ferrets is cancer. American-bred ferrets have a high incidence of a pancreatic cancer called “insulinoma,” and lymphoma. As they age, ferrets also get enlarged adrenal glands (adrenal hyperplasia) and adrenal cancer.
do ferrets get fleas?
Similar to cats and dogs, ferrets can acquire fleas. These may arrive on them from the pet store or shelter, or from being boarded outside the home. Fleas may also arise from construction activities around their living quarters or a trip outdoors. Do check with your veterinary professional prior to using any anti-flea product. Never use flea collars or canine flea products, which can be toxic to ferrets. Please consult with your veterinarian for the appropriate dose of any medication. Knowing the weight of your ferret is important in giving the proper dose.
what about ferrets and children?
Children and ferrets can be wonderful playmates. A child should be taught how to hold and care for a ferret. Small children should never be left unsupervised with any animal, no matter how trusted the pet.
how much grooming and maintenance do they require?
Proper grooming and maintenance are vital for a happy, healthy ferret. Ferrets are naturally clean creatures, but their nails should be trimmed and ears cleaned on a regular basis. Baths can be given if necessary. Ferrets will shed twice a year and should be combed to remove loose fur. Dental hygiene is also important.
should ferrets be altered?
It is strongly recommended that ferrets be altered by 9 months of age.
Females (jills) may go into heat as early as 5 months of age and stay in heat unless they are bred or given a hormone shot. Jills that stay in heat can get an infection due to aplastic anemia, or suppression of bone marrow by their hormones. This condition is usually fatal.
Male ferrets (hobs) that are not neutered produce a strong odor that most people find unpleasant. Ideally, a hob should reach his full growth, usually around 7 to 8 months of age, before being neutered.
where can i get a ferret?
You can purchase a ferret from a pet store, or adopt a ferret from a Ferret rescue or shelter. You can also purchase a ferret from a ferret breeder.
what should i look for in choosing a ferret?
Look for an animal that has bright eyes, soft shiny fur, and a gentle disposition. Healthy ferrets are alert and curious
For more information, visit the allFerrets Resources page.