Length: 50cm including 12cm tail
Weight: 0.6 – 1.8kg
Lifespan: Up to 10 years (average 6 years)
Indoor or Outdoor: Both (although bear odour in mind when deciding to keep a ferret indoors)
Domestic Varieties include: Ferrets vary in colour but the most common are sable and white
Do you already own ferrets or are you interested in these nimble trouble-makers? These small creatures are becoming more and more popular. These funny, friendly animals can be a joy to have in your home, but they do require more commitment than most small pets. They need to be tamed and handled in the right way to be safe to interact with humans and require consistent care and attention on a daily basis. If you have enough time and energy to devote to ferrets they make very entertaining and loving pets but they are no ordinary pets, therefore, you need to take a few points into consideration before making this purchase.
Top tips for adopting ferrets
Ferrets like company, so it’s best to buy them in neutered pairs. They can get stressed if they are left alone, but it is possible to own a single ferret if you are prepared to devote a lot of time to socialising it. Always adopt from a reputable breeder, who will have spent time handling and socialising young ferrets from birth, or you can also adopt from specialist ferret rehoming charities. Be very careful if you suspect that the breeder you are buying from keeps the ferrets in mixed-sex groups – you may be coming home with a pregnant female! Best to look elsewhere. Before buying your ferrets, have the cage and equipment ready. Find a space for the cage that is away from direct sunlight, draughts and radiators. Arrange a time to look at the ferrets first and select your own from those available. A healthy ferret should be bright-eyed, alert, curious and playful. Check its ears, nose, eyes, bottom and sexual openings to make sure there is no discharge and that everything is clean. Unless you plan to breed ferrets, it is best to have them neutered.
Ferrets are very curious and playful, so they need at least 2-3 hours to run around and be active every day. With that in mind, it is also advisable to buy more than one ferret. If left unattended, they will be exposed to some dangers in the home so it is better to keep them in a cage when you are not there. The cage should be at least 1.5m x 0.8m x 0.8m and even bigger if several ferrets are kept together. Along with a food and water bowl, the other essentials for the cage are a litter tray, a sleeping den, blankets to snuggle up in, a hammock as well as toys for climbing and playing.
Settling in at home
All animals find moving house stressful and they will need time to adjust to their new surroundings. Allow your ferrets to settle into their new home undisturbed, with all of the essentials like bedding, food and water. Ferrets respond well to stimulation and exercise, so they need to be handled and played with every day, as well as allowed to explore. If you plan to let them explore in your home, try to set up an area that is ‘ferret safe’, with protected electrical cords and sockets, and nothing that they can nibble upon like house plants, furniture or carpets. Ferrets are escape artists so the area will also need to be escape proof with special pet gates and any holes above 2.5cm in diameter blocked up. Ferrets love to play, so if you provide them with lots of fun toys they are much less likely to make mischief of their own. Ferrets are vigorous chewers so any toys that you give them need to be able to withstand a lot of abuse without breaking up into small pieces that might injure or choke your pet. You can take your ferrets for a walk in the garden or in the park – always on the lead of course!
Ferrets are not rodents but rather predators! Their diet is very meat-heavy so the protein content should be over 30% and should come from meat, not grain. There are three possible diets for ferrets:
- Dried food: there is special dried ferret food but also high quality dried food for kittens can be suitable for ferrets.
- Wet food: ferrets love wet cat food, Animonda is an example of high quality food suitable for ferrets.
- Fresh food: a diet consisting purely of meat will lead to deficiencies so fresh food must be a high priority in the ferrets’ diet.
Be aware that:
- Peppers, cucumbers, rice and cat treats should be high up on the list for ferrets.
- There should be sufficient water provided in a water bowl.
Caring for your ferrets includes cleaning out the toilet tray every day, swapping the sleeping blankets regularly and cleaning the food and water bowls. Ferrets clean their own fur but you can help them out during the moulting season in spring and autumn by grooming them with a soft brush. You can ask an experienced ferret owner or your vet to show you how to clean their ears and clip their nails.
Visiting the vet
Ferrets should receive vaccinations every year, especially against rabies and distemper. The 5-in-1 vaccination is recommended which is also common for dogs.
Before purchasing a ferret, you should research the characteristics and needs of ferrets in detail, not just by reading about them but also by talking to ferret owners. Different clubs and groups can also be good sources of information.