How to Keep a Pet Ferret

Ferrets

Polecat Ferret
Polecat Ferret
Polecat Ferret
Polecat Ferret

So you think you would like to have a ferret as a pet but want to know exactly what is involved and how to care for it properly. This is a very important consideration as your ferret can live to be up to 9 years old.

Firstly my advice would be to get a minimum of two ferrets unless you are going to keep your pet indoors. They are very gregarious creatures, and will be lonely if left in a hutch or pen outside on their own.

Your next decision will be whether or not to get males (Hobs) or females (Jills). Well, hobs are easier for a couple of reasons. Firstly they tend to be more friendly than the Jills, and secondly you won't have the problem of having to mate them regularly, (which you do with Jills). The problem with the female reproductive system is that her season can last from 4 to 6 months, and if she doesn't mate very early in this season she can easily die from a vaginal infection, anaemia brought on by the constant flow of blood to her uterus or a bacterial infection brought on by her weakened immune system. There are several ways around this problem, the easiest being to get her spayed at around four months old. Not so good alternatives are to get her mated with a vasectomised hob, or have your vet give her the 'Jill Jab', both of which will bring her out of her season safely.

Ferrets Asleep

I suggest getting a pet ferret of either sex neutered as soon as possible because it reduces the strong odour they give off as much as anything else. It can also help to calm them down and make it easier to handle them.

Be aware that ferrets do require a lot of love and attention. Regular (daily) handling ensures they don't start nipping people. You will soon fall in love with their endearing little personalities. Ferrets play much the same way as kittens do and will happily chase toys you drag along the floor or jump up in the air to get to toys you dangle above their heads. In addition to this they will get everywhere, and I mean everywhere in your home. They can squeeze under the tiniest gap below a door to get into another room, and often the first you know about where they are is when you hear their little feet thundering across the ceiling of the room above you. When they get tired they will fall asleep in the most bizarre places and in the strangest positions. I used to find mine flat on their backs, fast asleep under our sideboard. If there is more than one ferret asleep they will usually pile in on top of each other to a degree you are sure the lowest in the heap will suffocate, but they never do. They simply adore having a hammock to sleep in, and two or three will cram themselves into one when they want a snooze.

Cages

Possible Cage for a Shed or Spare Room.
Possible Cage for a Shed or Spare Room.
Indoor Cage
Indoor Cage
Indoor Cage
Indoor Cage
Litter Tray
Litter Tray

Housing for your ferret is also very important. These playful pets like a lot of room to move about and simply cramming them in a wooden hutch with mesh at the front is totally inadequate. If kept outdoors ideally they should have a large pen with a draft-proof warm wooden sleeping box bedded deeply with hay or straw. The pen should be interesting and full of ramps, toys and hammocks etc. There are numerous toys for ferrets available online, and there is good reason for this.

If kept indoors a large cage including several levels is a minimum requirement, plus plenty of exercise running around your home whenever possible. You will need to ferret-proof your home to a degree by putting suitable protection around wiring and spraying bitter apple type sprays in places where this is not possible.

Whether kept indoors or out, ferrets always tend to do their business in a corner which they will back carefully into. There are corner shaped ferret litter trays on the market and you can use normal cat litter in these. It certainly makes keeping their home clean far easier.

Feeding your ferret is also a skill in itself. It is essential due to the nature of a ferret's digestive system that it always has access to food. Going for even a short period of time without food can cause their organs to begin to shut down, so make sure they never run out. There are various good ferret foods on the market such as James Wellbeloved and for an added treat you can buy, fresh meat of any kind (except sausage mince), e.g. chicken wings, beef, lamb, chicken necks, rabbit etc., from your local supermarket, or butcher and offer this as a bonus. It is highly amusing to watch the little chaps running up and down all their ramps carrying a rabbit cube in their mouth, and gradually storing it all in their sleeping area. Ferrets have a fur and feather digestion, so can easily eat and digest an entire rabbit with the skin on if you know a local farmer who shoots them. Do not be tempted to try to make your ferret vegetarian, it is essential for them to have meat to survive. (Remember to clean out their sleeping box at least once a week to avoid uneaten stored meat starting to go rotten).

Always ensure fresh water is available, especially if your ferret is on solely a dry diet. For real treats you can give them some kitten milk, an egg yolk (no white) or fruit and vegetables if they like them.

Never give them chocolate, fish based biscuits, cooked bones, salt, dried coconut, leather hide chews, sausage mince or dairy products.

Ferrets in Harness

Parasites on ferrets are also a consideration, and they will need to be treated in much the same way as a cat to avoid parasite problems such as fleas, lice and ticks. There are products your vet can sell you that are designed for ferrets or kittens and will control most parasites (e.g. Frontline). Your vet can also provide you with wormer (e.g. Drontal) for your ferrets, as they are susceptible to most of the same worms as dogs and cats.

Vaccinations Although many people say they do not bother to vaccinate their ferrets, I strongly recommend you vaccinate them against canine distemper once a year.

Your ferrets can also catch, or pass on the human flu virus, so stay away from them if you are ill. If they become ill and show external signs such as nasal discharge or breathing problems, keep them warm and take them to your vet as soon as possible.

Bathing your ferret can be done around every two months, but not more frequently or they may suffer with dry skin. This will help keep their natural odour down to a minimum, plus they seem to really enjoy it. Use a very mild shampoo such as baby shampoo or pet products.

Nails will need clipping fairly frequently as they grow very fast. I found human nail clippers the easiest to use, but do be careful to avoid the nerve running down the centre of the nail. It is often easier to get a second person to hold your ferret by the scruff of the neck (as they instantly go limp), whilst you cut each of their claws.

Ferret Racing

So you still want a ferret

Great, you are in for a load of fun. You can even buy them little harnesses and take them for walks. Okay, so you may have to have to put up with their rather strange odour, but it is well worth it for the rewards they can offer in return, and for someone who can't have cats for some reason, they are equally as entertaining and playful. You can also take them to country fairs and enter them in ferret races which they seem to genuinely enjoy. This sport involves them being released in one end of a long drainpipe, whilst the competitors are also released into equal length pipes. The winner is the first ferret to emerge out the other end of it's pipe. (see pics)

Good Luck and enjoy your new friends.

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Comments 28 comments

Rochelle Frank profile image

Rochelle Frank 7 years ago from California Gold Country

They are really adorable, though illegal in our area. (There is a concern that feral ferrets could become a nuisance and compete with native animals.)

You did a good job of explaining the joys, as well as all of the special knowledge that is needed to have one as a pet.


Patty Inglish, MS profile image

Patty Inglish, MS 7 years ago from North America

I like the way ferrets run- sort of like an accordian action. :)


mistyhorizon2003 profile image

mistyhorizon2003 7 years ago from Guernsey (Channel Islands) Author

Thanks Rochelle for popping by. A shame they are illegal where you are as everything I know about a domestic ferret says they will quickly die of thirst and starvation if they escape into the wild.

Hi Patty, yes they do have a cute running action just like an accordian. Thanks for commenting. :)


starrkissed profile image

starrkissed 7 years ago from Arizona

I love them :) I used to have an albino one named Benny when I was younger, but my grandma got rid of him. =[ I've been wanting one ever since, but my fiancé keeps saying no. I'm sending him the link to this so he can read about them.


mistyhorizon2003 profile image

mistyhorizon2003 7 years ago from Guernsey (Channel Islands) Author

Good idea Starrkissed, and thanks for commenting. I hope you get your ferret and your fiancé agrees to it :)


wanrey profile image

wanrey 7 years ago from Canada

great post really enjoyed it ,reading all ferret hubs as son has just aquired 2 they are 7 months old are they now full grown by this time?


mistyhorizon2003 profile image

mistyhorizon2003 7 years ago from Guernsey (Channel Islands) Author

Hi Wanrey, Thanks so much for your lovely comment, and I wish you and your son every success with your new pets. At about 6 months old your ferret is considered to be an adult and is fully capable of reproducing etc. This means your two ferrets at 7 months old are definitely mature and are unlikely to get much larger apart from possibly in the same way a 40 year old mantends to 'fill out' bodily, in a way a 25 year old lad has not yet. Hope this helps. :)


ferret litter 6 years ago

In deciding to have ferret as a pet, it is important that you know the ways on how to take care of this. Every owner must take good care of their ferret because they really deserves it.


mistyhorizon2003 profile image

mistyhorizon2003 6 years ago from Guernsey (Channel Islands) Author

I totally agree 'ferret litter', they are lovely pets that should be treated responsibly.


Karen N profile image

Karen N 6 years ago from United States

They are so cute. But it sounds like owning a ferret is a big responsibility, and not to be taken lightly.


mistyhorizon2003 profile image

mistyhorizon2003 6 years ago from Guernsey (Channel Islands) Author

It is a bit like deciding to take on a larger pet such as a cat, as they need quite intensive looking after, but are very rewarding Karen.


ferret training 6 years ago

It is really important that you already know more about ferret before you buy or adopt it. The owner should know what are the things needed by a ferret so that the ferret will be satisfied and have the longevity of life.


mistyhorizon2003 profile image

mistyhorizon2003 6 years ago from Guernsey (Channel Islands) Author

I believe every pet should be thoroughly researched before it is adopted of purchased by the new owner. It simply isn't fair on the animal otherwise.


Empire Formula Review 6 years ago

Yes, I agree on you. The owner should make a research first about ferrets before they buy or adopt a ferret. That would be fair.


mistyhorizon2003 profile image

mistyhorizon2003 6 years ago from Guernsey (Channel Islands) Author

Absolutely, and the same applies to any pet in my opinion.


AliciaC profile image

AliciaC 5 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

It was very interesting and enjoyable to learn about ferrets from your hub. Several different types of pets have been part of my family, but I’ve never owned a ferret. They sound like they would be playful and fun pets, just like my cats. I do have one question. Are pet ferrets affectionate towards humans?


mistyhorizon2003 profile image

mistyhorizon2003 5 years ago from Guernsey (Channel Islands) Author

Hi AliciaC, if you handle them more or less on a daily basis from a young age they are very affectionate towards humans. Whether or not it is the standard rule I found males to be more affectionate than females, and less complicated as you can simply have them castrated if you only have males, whereas getting a female spayed in order to avoid the problem of having to mate her every time she is in season, is naturally a more expensive and more complicated operation. I would certainly consider them as pets again in the future.


John Ascroft 5 years ago

Ferrets are sometimes displaying odd behavior. But they are fun to take care. Interesting to know about different breeds of ferret.

John Ascroft

ferret-care-interview


Jasmine  5 years ago

I have 3 ferrets not been spayed yet and they are 9 month they are all girls they are also in season what would be the best thing to do to make them come out of season !


mistyhorizon2003 profile image

mistyhorizon2003 5 years ago from Guernsey (Channel Islands) Author

Hi Jasmine, this is very important. You will need to borrow a vasectomised male and allow them to mate with him. This will bring them out of season without getting them pregnant. Call a local ferret club who will be able to put you in touch with someone who has a vasectomised male. Aternatively borrow a male and allow them to get pregnant by him, rehome or sell the babies, but then get your females spayed so you don't have the problem again in the future.

A third option may be to speak to your vet and see if they carry any drugs that can be given to bring the females out of season immediately.

It really is vital you do one of the above, as if you don't there is a risk of the females getting very nasty infections that can kill them.

Good Luck.


QT 5 years ago

Hubpages:

All Topics > Pets and Animals > Rodents > Ferrets > How to Keep a Pet Ferret

Ferrets ARE NOT rodents!!


mistyhorizon2003 profile image

mistyhorizon2003 5 years ago from Guernsey (Channel Islands) Author

I 100% agree with you QT, ferrets are not rodents, unfortunately no-one told Hubpages this when they came up with the topic catergories, so to get to ferrets, I had to first accept rodents as a subcategory.


Xigris 4 years ago

I had a pet ferret years ago as a teenager and he was just wonderful! I had had no experience whatsoever and no plans to adopt a ferret when one day I was buying horse feed from a local stables; a man had brought in a young ferret as he'd caught gypsy boys drowning them, this was the only survivor :-(. The stables couldn't keep him and so rather impetuously I said I'd take him. Not really the best policy with animals but he was soooo sweet and I'd had a variety of hamsters, cats, rats, rabbits, guinea pigs, horses and at one point a starling who'd been attacked by a cat (she made a full recovery) so I thought what the heck! Freeway was fabulous; completely friendly, he never bit anyone, and was cuddly and lovely all his life. He loved raw eggs and going to the woods on his harness. The only things he ever showed any aggression to were German Shepherd's ankles. Short man syndrome I reckon! He lived to a ripe old age before he succumbed to heart failure. When my little boys are older I may well consider getting them ferrets as pets, so much more entertaining than hamsters or goldfish! You wrote great articles, Misty! Please can you write one on how to stop small boys from bashing the c*** out of each other? Thanks in advance!!! X


mistyhorizon2003 profile image

mistyhorizon2003 4 years ago from Guernsey (Channel Islands) Author

What a nice story Xigris, and what a happy ending for your little ferret after having had such a narrow escape. Sounds like all your animals have had a wonderful home in their lifetimes.

Wish I could help on the 'small boys' hub, but that might be a little out of my league. Getting them involved in a hobby is good, e.g. fishing, growing plants etc. Perhaps you could sign them up for a martial arts class like Judo or Karate, or a sport like boxing, and then they can bash the c*** out of each other in a controlled environment. Just a thought ;)


afriqnet profile image

afriqnet 4 years ago from Nairobi Kenya

Hi Mistyhorizon2003,

Your article is Amazing

You mentioned about Vaccination for ferret pets I would also like to second you since Canine Distemper is a serious condition that can cause death of your Ferret. I would also Highly recommend vaccination too.


mistyhorizon2003 profile image

mistyhorizon2003 4 years ago from Guernsey (Channel Islands) Author

Thanks afriqnet, I am so pleased you are willing to back me up on my advice to potential (and existing) ferret owners :)


carol 4 years ago

when can u put the male polecat back with the mother and her young.


mistyhorizon2003 profile image

mistyhorizon2003 4 years ago from Guernsey (Channel Islands) Author

I would wait until the babies are weaned from the female and therefore big enough to look after themselves. Just bear in mind you don't want to risk inbreeding between the male and his offspring, or male offspring and their mother, so you might want to have the babies neutered to avoid this problem. Otherwise you should look at re-homing the babies to avoid this being a problem.

Try to keep your ferrets in 'same sex' groups to be on the safe side.

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