Congratulations on your slinky new pet! Ferrets are playful and energetic little critters that make fantastic interactive little pets. With a little love and some basic care, your new jill (girl) or hob (boy) could live for 7-12 years! Outlined here are a few tips and hints to help you give your ferret the best care possible.
Ferrets are strict carnivores and should ideally be fed a high quality dry ferret food; which is available from many pet shops. If you don’t have access to this however, a high quality kitten food such as Hills or Eukanuba can also be used. Ferrets should have access to their dry food at all times. DO NOT FEED YOUR FERRET MINCE! Ferrets can also occasionally be given whole foods such as mice, rats, quail (all bought frozen from pet shops of course) or raw chicken wings or necks.
Fresh water should be available at all times.
Ferrets are intelligent, active and playful animals, and have individual personalities. Some are more affectionate, whereas others are more independent. They can get along with cats and dogs but this should be supervised at all times. Younger ferrets may need to be trained not to nip during play. This can be done by firm “no” or “gentle” followed by a gentle scruff or spray with a squirt bottle. Ferrets may also be harnessed trained to walk outside but this usually takes time and positive reinforcement.
Ferrets can be both indoor and outdoor pets. Any enclosure must be escape-proof and be able to shield the animal from the elements if they are outdoors. Ferrets are sensitive to extremes of temperature and can be prone to overheating especially in summer. Their enclosure should consist of a food and water bowl, a clean place for them to sleep and a litter tray (yes they can be litter trained but should have one nearby at all times as they wont use it if its too far away!).
Ferrets are inquisitive creatures and should also have access to ferret-proof toys for stimulation. They must always be supervised when they are let out of their houses as they have a penchant to chewing what they shouldn’t and getting into tight spaces.
Routine and Preventative Health Care
Unless you are intending on breeding your pet ferret, all ferrets should be desexed at around 6 months of age. In fact, if an undesexed female ferret comes into heat she will stay in heat unless she is either bred or dies of aplastic anaemia (not producing blood cells) caused by elevated hormone levels. Desexing really is a matter of life or death when it comes to female ferrets!
Descenting (removal of their scent glands) surgery is considered outdated and will not reduce the ferret smell. Desexing may reduce the strength of the odour but they will always have a slight musky scent to them to some degree.
Ferrets should also be wormed and vaccinated. Ferrets should be vaccinated at around 7-8 weeks initially with a booster shot given 4 weeks later and then annually thereafter. This is to protect against the deadly distemper virus; which almost always kills any ferrets who contract the disease. Ferrets should also be given worming/ flea treatment products monthly, and your vet can advise you on this further. This is especially vital to protect against heartworm.
Remember, ferrets are susceptible to the same stain of influenza (the flu) as humans so you should try and minimize contact with your ferret when you’re sick.
Good luck with your new pet. If you have any further questions or concerns please feel free to call us here at Tamworth Veterinary Hospital on (02) 6766 3988.