What is a Ferret? It is a very close and silly relative of the weasel, polecat and the mink. Ferrets are also related to otters, skunks and badgers. They are all part of the Mustelidae family. The scientific name for a ferret is Mustela furo. Furo is Latin for thief. Also See-What’s the science behind mink and coronavirus?
Ferrets are not related to rodents. They are carnivores. In fact, wild ferrets enjoy a tasty mouse. All Mustelidae have various scent glands for marking and protection. Most reknown is the skunk. While the ferret cannot spray, it can mark its territory or emit a smell when frightened. Today, most pet stores sell ferrets that have been descented. The anal scent gland is surgically removed when they are neutered or spayed. While ferrets have various scent glands throughout the body, the anal scent gland seems to be the main culprit. Both male and female ferrets are also surgically altered so that they cannot reproduce. This has the added benefit of reducing certain hormones in ferrets and in turn leads to a further reduction in their scent. Therefore, the descented animal’s smell is no more an issue with a ferret than it is with a hamster, dog or cat.
There are both wild ferrets and domesticated ferrets just as there are wild cats and domesticated cats, wild dogs and domesticated dogs. In North America, the wild Black- footed ferret is an endangered species. However, while it is a ferret, it is biologically and genetically different from your run of the mill pet ferret. The ferrets you see in your local pet store are domesticated and have been especially bred so for perhaps two thousand years or longer. Your pet ferret is not wild and would most certainly die if let loose in the the wild. A pet ferret may kill a mouse if it comes across one, but it not longer possesses the instinct to eat it.
The pet-store domesticated ferrets are most closely related to the European polecats which have the same number of chromosomes and similar colorings. Ferrets can be cross-bred with the European polecat and have fertile offspring. This lends credence to the theory that they are indeed very closely related. One common theory is that the pet ferret is really just a domesticated European polecat. Sort of like a German Shepherd being a domesticated version of a wolf. It is the fact of domestication which makes all the difference, not the difference in appearance of the animal.
Ferrets were thought to be first domesticated by the Egyptians to control rodents around 1300 B.C. However, they were probably displaced by cats which were domesticated shortly thereafter. While hieroglyphic records depict a ferret-type animal, some argue that this animal was actually a mongoose. Also, ferrets are not really hot or warm weather animals and can easily get heat stroke. So unless the weather in ancient Egypt was much more temperate than it is today, ferrets probably did not come from the pharaohs.
Today’s domesticated pet ferrets, the lineage that you will find in todays pet stores, probably came from the Romans and later Europeans who used the ferret in hunting. “Ferreting” meant the chasing of small game from their holes. The painting on the right is from a French book know as The Book of the Hunt written by Gaston Pheobus, around 1389 a.d. It demonstrates the hunting of rabbits with ferrets. The man in the green sleeves is placing a muzzled ferret into a rabbit hole. The rabbit’s exits have been covered with nets. Ferrets are most adept at tunnel-hunting but are susceptible to larger carnivores above ground. They are knowm to kill game twice their size. They were also used by farmers to rid barns of rodents and mariners to control rodents on ships. What rodents weren’t killed by ferrets were frightened from the barn for months due to the ferrets’ scent. Rodents are deathly fearful of the ferret’s scent. Queen Victoria had ferrets in 1875. Ferrets also appearing in the Arnold Schwarzenegger movie “Kindergarten Cop.” Ferrets were used in rodent control in the U.S.A. until they were displaced by chemical poisons and traps. Ferrets were even used by Boeing to run wires through tight spaces in aircraft assemblies. Strangely, in 1999 Lt. Co. Blaisdell came to the U.S. Space Commands rescue when it was having trouble wiring its new missile warning center. The good Lt. Col. recalled the aircraft exploits of ferrets long ago and volunteered his ferret named Misty. Misty ran wires for computers in conduits at the the Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado in areas that no humans could access. The ferret apparently worked for strawberry Pop Tarts.
While commercial and hunting uses for ferrets have disappeared, ferrets seemed to explode in popularity as pets once someone figured out how to descent them back in the 1970’s. Once the odor of the ferret was controlled, the ferret became a pet you could keep in you house without stinking it up.
Female ferrets weigh from 1.5 pounds to 2.5 pounds. Males are much larger in comparison, weighing from 3 to 5 pounds. Male ferrets are said to be more “lap ferrets” while females are notorious for being fidgety. Ferrets come in a variety of colors such as sable, albino white, cinnamon, silvermit and black. There are also many color permutations such as white paws, bibs around the neck, stripes on the head or back and colored tips of the tail. In the old days, albino ferrets were bred because they were particularly easy to spot and retrieve when used in hunting.
Ferrets reach adulthood rapidly in around six months and live an average of 6 to 8 years. The age rule for ferrets is 1 year of a ferrets life = 12 years of a human’s life. Ferrets retain their playfulness throughout their lives. But the older a ferret gets, the more likely it is that he will like to sit in your lap. Young ferrets are very fidgety, old ones are more likely to be cuddled.
Adult ferrets sleep around 15 hours a day. They usually coordinate their sleeping habits to conform to their owner’s schedule. They will awaken when you’re ready for breakfast and go back to sleep while you’re out at work. They will awake and be ready to play when you get home again.
Ferrets love to play. They will play with you, another ferret and usually another pet. They love to be chased and to chase you. They enjoy playing tug-of-war, running in tubes of pvc piping, jumping on blankets, hiding behind throw pillows, chasing small fuzzy balls, attacking squeaky little cat toys and in general, being very silly. They are also somewhat uncoordinated. When a ferrets gets excited and begins to dance and jump in little circles of joy, don’t be surprised if he jumps himself off of a sofa or runs zig-zaggedly into a wall. Fortunately, they usually aren’t phased by this.
All ferrets seem to like to steal whatever they can drag away, either in their teeth or by dragging something like a shoe with their paws. Even things as big as a boot. They like to hide whatever they steal. They usually just put things they find interesting in a place that they consider safe and convenient for themselves. They usually have one or two stashes in your home. Once you find them, you can find anything that turns up missing.
Ferrets are also relatively intelligent for having such silly small brains. They are able to solve problems which interest them. For example, how to get into the cabinet to drag away all the rolls of paper towels. However, this ability to get into and open things can be a problem, so see the section on ferret-proofing. Ferrets have good memory and know where they put things, like a squirrel remembers where he buries a nut. If you move a ferret’s “possession,” it won’t be long until they are back where your ferrets thinks they belong. Ferrets can also develop special attachments to certain toys. Female Ferrets can develop attachment to toys and goes crazy over her squeaky sound of toy as a panicky mother of the toy. Males do not seem to care for squeaky noises.
One of the great things about ferrets is that they love to explore and are so curious, they especially love a ferret tunnel because they will want to know what is at the end of them, even if it is just the same room or another level in their cage they still love the journey through the tunnel.
If you are looking to create your own ferret tunnel or ramp then one of the best things to use will be plastic drain pipe/guttering it is perfect size for your ferret, if you do use this make sure the edges are not sharp, sand them down and also because they are slightly slippery you will need to make sure the angle of the pipe is not very steep or your ferret will not be able to climb up it! The great thing about a ferret tunnel you build yourself is that no one else will have them, but also you can build them around your ferret, no one knows more about your ferret than you!
MALE AND FEMALE STEREOTYPES
Like most other species of animals, male and female ferrets display certain characteristics that one might call stereotypical. For instance, females are quick to rise from a slumber whereas a male tends to lounge a little before finally getting up. Females spend more time making sure toys and other ferret possessions are in order. Males are less picky.
Females spend a lot of time house cleaning, moving about, checking the territory and making sure toys are in the correct place. Males, on the other hand, have more extreme states of activity. Males are lazy most of the time, but when it’s time to get active, they’re more rambunctious than the females.
Females dance around the home on their toes like cats while the males have heavy steps and stomp like small dogs. Female ferrets get very possessive of squeaky toys as if they were crying babies. Males could care less about the squeaking and often move away. Females are fairly fidgety and usually do not like to be held for extended periods of time. Males are far more likely to accept the pampering.
Females feel more delicate when being held while the males feel heavier and more muscular. Females consume less food and water and also produce less waste in your litter box than males. Males require a little more cage space and definitely a large litter box. Males need a larger litter box not just because of their size, but because of the way their anatomy is.
Females are neater and less messy than males when it comes to using the litter box. Females generally pile fecal matter while males usually do not. Males and females also pose differing logistic and security concerns. Males can get to places females might not because they are stronger climbers, higher jumpers and can open or move heavier items. But by the same token, since females are generally smaller, they can squeeze into places males might not be able to.
THE BOTTLE-BRUSH TAIL
When ferrets are nervous, scared, upset, or exploring new territory, they often exhibit a characteristic known as the “bottle-brush tail.” When this occurs, ferret tails get really big and puffy and the hair sticks straight out in a most silly fashion. But fear not. This is a normal ferret reaction to environmental stimuli and does not mean your ferret is sick. It usually lasts only a few minutes and then the tail will return to normal. It’s probably good for a ferret to get excited once in a while like this. It makes them feel all wild and silly.
Ferrets require a high protein diet and plenty of fresh water. Protein levels should be at least 33%. The protein should also come primarily from chicken or poultry. Steer clear of food that lists fish meal as its first, second or third ingredient. Ferrets are not big fish eaters. Minks are. Many so-called ferret foods are nothing more than an adaptation of mink feed. This is not acceptable for ferrets.
When purchasing look for products that have at least 35- 40% protein and 18-30% fat, 2% fiber, need to contain 21 amino acids, less than 7.0 % ash level, and good carbohydrate ingratiates such as rice flower or brewer’s yeast. Also, take into consideration some ferret foods are made with poorly processed frozen fish, and your ferret will not eat it. Some ferrets are so finicky they will refuse to the point of starvation. High quality ferret food is usually more expensive than higher quality cat food, but ferrets eat minimal amounts of the food, which brings down the overall cost. Ferrets that are feed with healthy diets do not need to take supplements.
Ferrets also can be given meats such as turkey cold cuts. Many ferrets will not even try real meat. They can also be given moderate amount of cereals and grains and some fruits and vegetable like, raisins, banana slices, bean sprouts, bland Cheerios, goats milk and cooked egg. Ferret do not digest vegetables or grains well and onions are poisonous to ferrets.
What one ferret may love another may turn up her nose to. Their diet should also be supplemented with vitamins such as Ferretone or Ferretvite by 8 in 1 products. Remember that treats are just that, treats, and ferrets should be given them in very small amounts only.
Ferrets eat many small meals a day due to their short digestive tracts. There should always be a supply of food in a bowl for them to eat on their own schedule. Feeding them dry food helps keep their teeth in excellent condition. Canned food tends to go bad too quickly for the feeding habits of ferrets.
Ferrets should never be given any chocolate as you will find your ferret vomiting violently all night or perhaps dead. Chocolate is very toxic to ferrets. They are also lactose-intolerant, so do not feed them milk, ice cream, cheese or other dairy products, no matter how much they beg. Ferrets can ingest goat’s milk since it contains little lactose. Things made from goats milk should be fine for your ferret. Do not feed your ferret dog food or sugary sweets.
A ferret has to eat at least twice a day in order to gain the calories needed to sustain a healthy life. Remember ferrets are small animals so their portions should be small too. If they are fed a moist ferret diet the food is only good for about forty five minutes, soon after the food should be removed. You might also want to consider a dry pellet diet. A dry pellet diet is longer lasting and can be left in the cage all day. Dry pellets also help to clean the ferret’s teeth. Ferrets on dry diets must have fresh water all the time. Ferrets prefer to drink from a dish rather than a water bottle, but if water is given in a dish it should be changed a few times a day to ensure purity.
Giving your ferret treats in not a necessity, but can be useful with housebreaking your ferret. Cooked eggs and meats are the best choice of snack. Avoid fruits they are high in sugar, candy, dairy products such as ice cream and milk, nuts and nut products; these products will cause nutritional problems. Some health problems include malnutrition, obesity, tooth decay, diarrhea, intestinal blockage, insulinoma, and hypoglycemia. Treats may also cause your ferret to refuse its normal daily diet, so use treats sparingly.
Litter training of a ferret is not very difficult. Ferrets are natural latrine animals. They instinctively use a particular area as a toilet. Even young ferrets at the age of 3 weeks already demonstrate this instinct. Ferrets prefer to keep food, sleeping and play areas separate from the bathroom area. This makes the employment of litter relatively easy for ferrets. You can use regular cat litter and even recycled paper litter. Litters with lots of masking perfumes and scents are not recommended. Ferrets are suspected of being a little averse to such smells and it may in fact discourage them from using the litter box.
You should never use clumping clay litter with ferrets. First off, young ferrets may tend to play with the clumps. Secondly, and more importantly, when clumping litter is accidentally ingested by a ferret after cleaning himself, it expands in the intestines of the ferret and may cause obstructions that could lead to your ferret’s death. Also stay away from cheap litter that has a lot of dust, powder and small granules in it. It may cause irritation to your ferret’s sensitive areas and lungs. You can use the new clumping litters that are made from wheat or corn because they are digestible and they clump nicely for easy clean up. The only drawback appears to be that at certain times of the year, the edible clumping litters can attract ants. If that occurs, just switch back to clay litter for a few months.
Most young ferrets at the store will already demonstrate the litter box technique. However, many stores just fill a ferret cage with wood shavings. The ferrets end up using a corner or two and it looks bad. Never fear. Once you get a ferret home and put a litter box in his cage, he will use it. You may have to encourage him to use it in the initial stages. Here a few tips.
1) Ferrets have two iron rules they always follow and if you follow them you will easily litter train your ferret. One, they never eliminate near their food or water. Two, they never eliminate in their bedding. For a new ferret, it is a good idea to have the litter box on one end of the cage. Put the bedding right next to the litter box. On the other side of the bedding place the food and water bottle. Do not leave your ferret any play area because it may end up an unintentional litter box. To the left is a good example of a trainer cage. This may seem restrictive, but it works. It even works for older ferrets that need to be retrained. Once you are sure your ferret uses his litter box routinely, you can expand his area or move him to a bigger cage. A restrictive cage like this is not acceptable long-term housing for a ferret.
2) Ferrets demonstrate a backing-up-into-a-corner motion with their tail up over their hips when the need to go. If your ferret is not in the litter box, pick him up quickly and place him in the box. Don’t let him out until he goes. A young ferret may have difficulty identifying what is a litter box and what is a play area. It is useful to leave a little excrement in the box so that he can smell it and know that this is a good place to go. This is not necessary for established ferrets.
3) Ferrets use their sense of smell for many things, including going to the bathroom. A ferret will often smell an area to see if it is used for a bathroom. If it smells like a potty stop, a ferret will likely reuse that spot. So if your ferrets makes an accident outside of a litter box, clean it up and remove the odor. Ferrets have a powerful sense of smell, so odors must be diligently removed. White vinegar works well with a little club soda on most surfaces including carpeting. Bleach can also be used if it is a problem spot on a hard surface or cage. You should try to remove the bleach after a few minutes with a damp paper towel or cloth. There are other cleaning agents on the market including enzyme type cleaners. Always keep in mind that any cleaning solution other than white vinegar can be harmful to your ferret if he comes in direct contact with it. Try to remove the cleaning agents before your ferret walks on it with his soft paws. Carpet spots can be very effectively cleaned with a portable steam cleaner.
4) Ferrets do not like dirty litter boxes. They will turn their noses up at it and may not use it until you clean it out. Or perhaps they will even throw some of their toys or blankets into the litter box as a protest. For one ferret, you should scoop excrement every day or two and change the litter entirely when needed.
Ferrets do need to be let out of the cage everyday for exercise and recreation, both for yourself and the ferret. If you are going to leave your ferret out, it must be litter-trained again. A ferret, once outside of the cage, will not likely return to the cage to use the litter box. Instead, the ferret will look for suitable spots around the house. Some of the ferret litter boxes sold at stores are far too small for your ferret. It should be large enough so that a ferret can be completely inside of the box and even have plenty of room to turn around inside the litter box. On the right is a typical corner litter box for outside of the cage, although it is a little on the small side. There is some plastic runner under it to help protect the carpet and it makes for easy clean up of litter trackings. On the left is a larger, tupperware-type container turned into a very good litter box with a lid. Several holes were cut into the sides to allow ferret access and several hole on top to allow air circulation. Every corner is a potential bathroom for a ferret. Here are some tips to prevent accidents around the house.
1) Keep a close eye on your ferret for the first few weeks that he is allowed out of the cage. At the first sign of trouble, pick up the ferret and place him in the litter box. Again do not let him out until he goes. Once he goes, you can relax for a while.
2) Place a litter box in a convenient spot for both you and your ferret outside of the cage. When a ferret has to go, he usually can’t make a long trip to a litter box. Position the litter box in a corner of a room so that no matter what silliness the ferret is in to, it will not have to travel too far to get to the litter box.
3) Do not give the ferret too large an area to roam. The further a ferret has to travel to a litter box, the harder it is to train him to use it regularly. When your accidents are at a minimum in a particular area, you may try to expand your ferret’s roam zone.
4) Discourage the use of corners as ferret bathrooms by placing immovable objects there. Books, furniture, playhouses, etc…Perhaps at a future date you can remove the objects.
Ferrets will make an accident on your rug once in a while. Maybe once every few weeks, months or longer if they are well-trained. This is an unfortunate fact all ferret owners must accept. They simply are not as reliable as most cats. Fortunately, ferrets accidents are relatively small and easy to clean up. Ferrets are also occasionally known to make a doo-doo in the middle of your rug when they are upset. That might be their way of saying you need to spend more time with them.
If you are going to be away from your home for more than 24 hours, you should put the ferret back in the cage. You can leave a ferret or two locked in a cage for two or three days if you are away for a weekend. However, you better let them out when you return and make up some lost quality time. If you are going to be gone for a longer period, have someone visit at least every other day to check up on the ferrets. The food and water should be attended to and the litter must be changed. The ferrets should be allowed out of the cage for at least an hour during that time.
Potted plants are a large and silly invitation for ferrets. Ferrets are natural diggers and cannot be trained not to dig. It would be like trying to get a fish not to swim. If you leave a ferret alone with a plant, you will find a pile of dirt and a dirty but happy ferret. So how do you stop a ferret from digging in your plant? Move the plant to another room or put it on a high plant stand. If the planter is big enough, you could cover the top of the plant soil with colorful decorative gravel. Each piece of gravel or rock should be at least one and a half to two inches long. Put a two inch layer over the soil. This looks nice and the ferrets hate to put their paws on the rocks.
All ferrets teethe when they are young. When ferrets teethe, they are trying to relieve the pain and discomfort of their teeth growing in. It is not a sign of viciousness. Young ferrets need soft, yet firm things to grind their teeth and gums on. They will slowly stop teething by the time they are around four months old.
A plastic toy, a finger and the rubber sole of a shoe, have all been victims of the teething process. Ferrets can also painfully attempt to teeth on the metal wires of a cage if there is nothing else to teethe on. Young ferrets will teethe, which creates a danger that a young ferret will ingest something that will cause an intestinal obstruction. The Super Chew is perfect for young ferrets to teethe, gnaw and slobber on. Ferrets seem to enjoy the taste. If a piece breaks off and is accidentally ingested, it is safe for a ferret’s digestion. The same thing cannot be said of rubber or plastics. Providing a safe teething toy is a necessity. If a ferret can teethe sufficiently, he will be less likely to teethe on you or something dangerous. Once a ferret is grown, he will no longer require a teething toy.
Ferret-proofing the home is essential if you have a ferret. Due to their incredible curiosity and fearless nature, they will, if given the opportunity, get into anything. Your ferrets must not be allowed into your cabinets where they can get into your cleaning agent, garbage, poisons, etc. They can open a cabinet by lying on the floor and working the door with their paws and claws. Ferrets are not rodents and therefore do not chew on things like wires or furniture, but they will taste soap, detergents and poisons.
You must make certain your ferret cannot get under your stove, behind the refrigerator, between your washer and dryer or in any large appliance. They can find their way to a motor or fan belt and end up dead. They might end up stuck under your stove and you might not know he’s there. Fortunately, most appliances are low enough that an adult ferret cannot get under it. But care must be taken to insure they cannot get behind an appliance where an opening might lead to the internals. The answer sometimes lies in using duct tape, wood and plastic.
If a ferret observes you entering another room and closing the door, the ferret is sure to try to follow you. If you have wall to wall carpet, he may scratch at it trying to dig into the other room.
Also a ferret can jump higher than a two-foot wall and drag himself over it.
Holes! – Anything bigger than 4 inches square. Especially holes that can lead into an heater or appliance of any kind – washer, drier, refrigerator, etc. You can block openings with mesh like chicken wire, just make sure it is securely attached. Be sure to check for holes that lead into your walls near the floor boards. Check the interior of closets and cabinets (check under sink near pipes) as well – ferrets are perfectly capable of getting inside these.
Upholstery – Ferrets will rip a hole in the mesh cloth lining the bottom of a box spring and the underside of your couch (also underneath the seat pillows.) In both cases you will want to block access. You can replace the flimsy fabric, take the feet off your couch, or add a layer of well secured wire/wood with holes drilled in it. Just make sure that whatever you add allows the normal flow of air as otherwise your bed and couch will not be able to compress as designed.
Cabinets and drawers with dangerous objects inside – no open chemicals. You can try child proof locks but many people find these will actually open a little bit before they catch, allowing your ferret to sneak inside.
Plants – Some house plants are poisonous if consumed.
Anything your ferret can try to eat – plastic shopping bags, paper, electrical cords, small objects, anything chewable…many of these kind of items will appeal to your ferret but can result in harm – poisoning, electroshocks, or indigestible blocks in the digestive system.
Water – full bathtubs, buckets of water, open toilets, etc. Ferrets can climb in but most cannot climb back out.
ONE OR TWO FERRETS?
A common question is whether to buy one ferret or two. There are both positives and negatives to this argument. Two ferrets cost twice as much. Not just the purchase price which is around $110.00, but also food, litter, and vet bills. They also require a larger cage which can accommodate two ferrets comfortably. Two ferrets get into twice as much trouble. However, two ferrets is the way to go if you can afford it. Ferrets are not like dogs. While they will bond with humans, they still need ferret companionship. Ferrets are very communally-oriented animals.
A group of fish is called a school, a group a whales a pod, a group of dogs a pack, and group of lions a pride, a group of geese a gander and a group of ferrets is called a business.
Having two ferrets helps keeps them from being bored and depressed if you’re not home all day. Ferrets enjoy each other’s company and almost always get along. Ferrets enjoy sleeping in a pile and playing special games only ferrets can play. Ferrets love to wrestle, bite and chase each other in mock combat. They are only having fun and get great exercise when this goes on. While humans can play many games with ferrets, there are certain natural ferrets games only ferrets can play. One ferret game is “fanging.” This is a silly game where two ferrets face each other in a tight space with their mouths wide open as if to chomp down on each others’ nose. They twist their little heads and roll around trying to “ferret out” the other ferret.
Having two ferrets is not only rewarding for the ferrets, it is also rewarding for the owner. Once you see for yourself two ferrets playing one of their silly games, you will never regret getting two. It is simply one of the funniest things to watch.
FERRETS AND OTHER PETS
Ferrets will kill your birds, hamsters, mice and insects if they can get to them. However, ferrets can easily coexist with cats and some dogs. The most important factor is whether the other pet has a friendly disposition. New ferrets and other young pets have the best chance to bond over time but that is not the necessarily the rule. An established pet may accept a ferret into your home, but it is rare they will really bond with your ferret. Very territorial animals and ferrets should not be placed together. A ferret can handle its own with a declawed cat, but a dog must be friendly and trustworthy to have around ferrets. Ferrets learn their place in most instances and if a cat does not like your ferret, the ferret will not harass the cat, usually.
You should not allow ferrets and cats to share the same litterbox. Cats may use a ferret litter box from time to time so the box should have a lid and holes in it so only a ferret can get in and out easily.
What kind of ferret you end up with will largely depend on how you raise your ferret. One that is neglected and kept in a cage in the garage will never develop bonds with humans nor show affection to his captor. You hear stories about someone’s ferret that would always bite and had to be kept in a cage. Well, if you were kept in a dirty cage, beat all the time and kept sticky because no one want to bathe you or clean your cage, wouldn’t you be a little unfriendly? Just remember, in the year 1997, there were over 320,000 reported dog bites in the United States.
A ferret that is raised with love, shown plenty of affection, kept clean and healthy, played with and allowed adequate time out of his cage will return your efforts. You must start young with your ferret in your raising and training. Young ferrets are easier to train than older ones. You would do the same for a dog or cat, so why wouldn’t you do it with a ferret? Ferrets are very intelligent and learn quickly. Just because they are small, do not assume you should treat them like hamsters. Ferrets can be taught to do simple tricks like this one that understands “up” for a raisin.
Young ferrets should be discouraged to nip at human hands. They do not know that if they bite us too hard it hurts. Ferrets have very thick skin and bite the living tar out of each other without much fuss. This is part of their sibling play behavior. By biting you, they are really just playing. Young ferrets do not have the aggressive instincts that an adult may have. When handling a ferrets that is nipping, it is useful to firmly pat his head or hind quarters while saying “NO!.” Scruffing, or the holding of a ferret by the loose skin behind the neck, has also been shown to be effective. Do not beat the ferret. After a few times, the ferret usually gets the hint that biting your hand has its repercussions and will stop. If you allow your ferret to nip as a youngster, it will probably do it when he is an adult. Put an end to it once and for all. Another alternate option you may want to try is putting a little ferretone or lanotone on your finger and letting the ferret lick your finger. You may find that you ferret finds that licking your finger is more enjoyable than nipping it. Also see-Ferret Biting.
When a ferret is young, you should spend as much time with him as possible. Play with him, give him treats, and refrain from beating him for accidents. Remember, ferrets are small, so a spank may seem like a brutal attack to them. If you are going to punish your ferret for misdeeds, only pat lightly on the hind quarters or scruff him. Negative reinforcement has been shown to be a useful technique in training of all animals, including people. A very useful punishment is to grab your ferret immediately and put him back in his cage and lock it up. Ignore him for ten to fifteen minutes. Ferrets do not like to be ignored. Another useful approach may be to encourage good behavior, such as giving a treat when he runs across the room just to use the litter box. You should always remember that ferrets seem to have short attention spans. So if they do get into trouble, punishing them or rewarding them even only a few minutes after the fact will not have much effect. Your ferrets will simply not connect the behavior and your reaction. You must punish or reward immediately. Likewise, an extended stay in jail for your ferret will not have much effect since the ferret will have forgotten why he is in there after a while.
Ferrets love toys. Whether it is the furry toy mouse you bought at the store for them or making their own toys (like unrolling a roll of toilet paper all over your house). Ferret toys should be first and foremost safe for them. They should not have small pieces on them that can break off and be swallowed by a ferret.
Do not give a ferret a latex dog toy for a ferret will likely chew small pieces off and swallow them. This runs a very serious risk of intestinal obstruction. Latex toys are not durable enough for ferrets. Also, do not give your ferrets toys filed with catnip. While it does not make ferrets “high,” it may not be safe for them. Other great toys are fuzzy things on the end of strings, tubes, an old pair of pants, small soft balls, and small toys that squeak and jingle.
One of the most important aspects or characteristics of odors is their smell. This odor comes from its glands that it has throughout the body and that produces a characteristic unpleasant smell substance.
The objective of that smell, is not other than to identify each other, and thanks to that smell, they can distinguish themselves and know who is who when they live in a group.
It is usually said that the cause of the bad smell is the anal glands and that if it is operated the odor problem is solved. But this is not true, they are NOT the cause of the bad smell.
The characteristic smell of ferrets comes from a series of glands that are distributed throughout your body and that produce an oily substance with an unpleasant odor. The purpose of this substance is none other than to identify each ferret with his personal brand. Although it may seem to us that all ferrets smell the same, this is not the case. Each ferret has its characteristic smell that other ferrets can distinguish.
This fragrant brand is a signature with which the ferret points out which is its territory to other ferrets.
Unlike other animal species, the glands that cause this unpleasant odor are not perianal, located at the base of the tail, but are distributed throughout the body surface at the subcutaneous level.
How can i avoid the smell of ferrets?
The answer is in no way. There are ways to reduce the odor of ferrets, but you can never make it disappear completely, the only option is to make this smell as less intense as possible. There are several ways to reduce the smell intensity of ferrets, which must be used together to achieve maximum reduction
Clean your cage
Each day, wipe the surface of the cage with a cloth, to eliminate the body odor of the floor ferret and the floors. It is advisable to clean the cage daily, or every 2 days, at the most.
And every 5 days or once a week at the most, do a thorough cleaning of the cage cleaning all the floors, toboggans and toys that our ferret can have inside the cage. Almost always he usually smells more the own cage than the ferret, so it is important to keep it always clean. If we keep the ferret’s cage clean, we will reduce the smell a lot.
Have your toilet clean
We have to remove the feces of our ferret every day. It is even recommended twice a day. You can do it by getting up in the morning and last hour of the day.
This is something that is done relatively quickly and we eliminate the first odor focus from the cage.
Clean the ears of our ferret
The ears of our ferret can also smell a little when they have a little accumulated wax. The cleaning of the ears should be done every 15 days at the most, being recommended every week in ferrets that produces a lot of wax.
The cleaning of the ears
It is very important, not only because of the smell, but because if we let our ferret accumulate the wax in their ears, it could suffer some infection in the ears.
There are other aspects that also tend to influence the smell, such as heat. The whole males and females (not castrated), when they enter the heat, give off a greater smell than during the rest of the year. This smell is much greater in males during heat
Ferrets need to bathe. Otherwise, they will begin to stink. Adults should be bathed about every two weeks. Use a shampoo such as Johnson & Johnson Baby shampoo. You can spend the extra money on ferret shampoo, but they are not really any better and they are more expensive. Ferrets’ eyes are sensitive to soap just as our eyes are. When you get soap in a ferret’s eye, he cannot tell you his eye hurts. He will just seem difficult to handle and squirm. You can use a tear-free shampoo to avoid that. . Human baby shampoo is tear free and gentle enough for a ferret’s sensitive skin.
Some recomended ferret shmpoo are Marshall Tea Tree Oil Ferret Shampoo, Fancy Ferret Coat Brighter Shampoo and Fancy Ferret Creme Rinse- It is recommend for darker ferrets as it helps to protect their natural coat with chamomile.
First of, ferrets can smell worse straight after being washed, this is due to their sweat glands secreting a stronger scent whilst either being anxious or excited when they have their bath or are washed with shampoo. Something a lot of ferret owners like to do is wash their ferret in purely water which is said to help them in being clean whilst not generating as bad a smell when they have been washed. But the smell does not last long and ferrets love to be clean.
All ferrets will hate their first bath. However, after a few baths, they can became very tolerant of water. In fact, when they hear the water running in a tub or shower, they may come running as if to say, “we want a bath.” You can fill your tub up with a couple inches of water and put your ferret in it for a bath. Just make sure he can touch his toes on the bottom. You can take a shower with your ferret or you can wash him in a sink. It is best to bathe your ferret in an environment in which he cannot escape, like inside a shower or a deep tub. Once the ferret realizes he cannot get out, he will give up and take a bath. This might take a few trips to the tub though.
Get you ferret thoroughly wet and then put some shampoo in your hands and work it into his wet coat. Take care to avoid the eyes and try not to get water in the ears. Lather your whole ferret, the back, stomach, rear end, tail, and don’t forget around the neck. Rinse him. Ferrets will shake sort of like a dog to get the water off. However, ferrets dry themselves on the ground by rubbing. All you have to do is put a towel or two on the ground, and your ferrets will rub himself on it, crawl inside of it and roll around on it. This should be done in an area like a bathroom tile floor. Otherwise your ferret will just go off and dry himself on the carpet or sofa. You will see that ferrets love to be clean. They are especially spunky and playful following a bath. After a bath, you will find out how crazy and silly a ferret can be.
Ferrets need very little grooming. Since they do not shed all year long, you do not have to brush them to remove shedding hair.
However, ferrets do shed their fur twice a year: once in the spring and once in the fall, when they shed much of their fur during about a three-week period. The old fur is replaced by new shorter fur which will eventually grow out. They can make a mess on your furniture during this “molting” period. Ferret hair gets all over the place. A remedy for this is to pick up the ferret over a garbage can or take him outside during this period and pluck him like a chicken. The old hairs come out easily in clumps. That way you can remove much of the old hair before it gets on your sofa. The ferret doesn’t mind too much except when you pull on some new hair which does not come out so easily. Don’t pull too hard and don’t pluck your ferret so there is no hair. Just remove the loose ones.
Ferrets need their nails clipped every three to five weeks. Ferret nails are not retractable like a cat. Furthermore, as a ferret’s nails get long, they can split or crack and get caught in carpeting or blankets. This could make for a very painful experience for your ferret. Pick up some nail clippers for a small animal at your pet store. Ferrets do not sit still for nail clipping so you will need to distract him while you cut his nails. Put some ferretone or similar treat in front of him. A liquid which he cannot scamper off with is preferable. While he is eating and licking, cut each nail, paying most attention to the front nails. Carefully examine each nail before you cut. You can see a small vein in each nail. Make sure you cut below the vein in the nail and not the vein. Otherwise your ferret will experience pain and may bleed for a while. But if you do cut the nail too close, it is not the end of the world. Your ferret will be fine in a few minutes.
Ferret ears should also be cleaned a few times a year. Use a soft cotton swab soaked in hydrogen peroxide diluted with water and gently wipe the inside of your ferrets ears. There is a slot inside the ear near the bottom of the lob which accumulates a lot of dirt and grease. Make sure you hit this spot. Slide the swab in the slot, and gently turn the swab a few time. You may notice dark brown/red or blackish and yellow stuff stuck to the swab. Continue using new swabs until the ear is clean. Never try to put anything inside of the ear canal. Ferrets hate to have their ears cleaned no matter how much you bribe them. You will have to hold your ferret securely. You will probably need to scruff your ferret, which is the grabbing and holding of the loose skin behind the ferrets head around his neck. When this area is securely held, either by you or another ferret, your ferret will submit and become lame. It may even yawn as a sign of its submission. This is an instict left over from when the mother ferret would grab and hold her babies.
Being alert too symptoms of sickness enables you to get treatment faster.
We will be looking at the most prevalent ferret diseases and what might happen if your ferret does get sick. Of course if you notice anything unusual seek advice from your Vet as soon as possible.
Let’s take a look at some common ferret diseases and there related symptoms…
Ferret Disease 1 – Epizootic catarrhal enteritis (bit of a mouthful) This is a viral disease that’s particularly common in North America. Common indicators: Little energy, greenish excrement, having no appetite.
Ferret Disease 2 – Diseases of the endocrine system Often caused by a tumor that is affecting the adrenal gland. Common symptoms: Being sick and diarrhea, drop in body mass, Black stools.
Ferret Disease 3 – Digestive system problems Ferret diseases of the digestive tract can often come from improper feeding. Using a good nutrition and dieting strategy will significantly help your ferret avoid digestive difficulties. Common symptoms: Looking dazed and salivating more, seeming weak, lack of responsiveness, struggles to pass urine (esp. Males)
Ferret Disease 4 – Lymphoma This is a cancer in organs such as bone marrow, lymph nodes, liver and spleen. Common symptoms: Swellings, weight loss, weak legged
Ferret Disease 5 – Parasites This will usually occur in two different ways. This can be either inside or outside, such as Heartworm or mites. Common symptoms: Scratching ears, ears containing brown residue, seeing ticks or mites on your ferret, diarrhea, Mucus stools
If you see any of the above symptoms, or any unusual symptoms for that matter, it’s important to get your Vet’s advice as soon as possible.
And after that? A vet will check your ferret and try to find out what’s wrong.
Common ways of diagnosing ferret diseases
Many of the ways commonly used to diagnose ferret health problems are the same as those used with humans. Your animal health specialist has a number of ways to diagnose, such as testing bodily fluids, using X Ray scanners, and ultrasound machines, as well doing a hands-on check-up. If your ferret turns out to be sick then your Vet will inform you of the recommended treatment
Common types of treatment for ferret diseases
If you do have a sick ferret your Vet may use a number of interventions to help them. These include using medication, surgery, radiotherapy or chemotherapy, or good old rest and heal approaches.
Some ferret diseases are more common than others. Being early to spot signs of illness is crucial, you should then be able to take action in the way so your ferret get’s good help. Ferret Care and great ferret dieting is an absolute must when it comes to long-term ferret health.
Ferrets need a cage and various other areas to nap or relax in outside of the cage. The more ferrets you have, the bigger the cage needs to be. Here you see the two cages combined into one. Perfect for two ferrets. Within the cage, you need a food bowl and a water bottle. A two-story cage is a must. The litter box goes in one end of the bottom of the cage, the water and food go at the other end of the bottom of the cage. The second level should have sleeping and play areas with things such as a bag or some sort of soft, partially enclosed area. The cage should be some sort of wire cage with a wire bottom and a tray. The better ones have epoxy-coated wires which makes the wires feel softer. Ferret feet get sore from too much exposure to wire-bottomed cages. The carpeting really helps make the sleeping quarters more pleasing to them. Why not carpeting on the lower level then you may ask. Well, when ferrets eat, food often falls around the food bowl. Water also drips and spills. If you have carpeting, food and water will just sit on the carpeting and rot instead of falling below the wire bottom of the cage to the tray. The same is true of the litter box area. Litter is tracked out of the litter box and will fall below the wire floor. It’s just not healthy for carpeting in a cage to have litter and food particles laying around where ferrets are exposed to it. As a compromise, you might want to put a small plastic mat next to the food bowl to make feeding a little more comfortable for them. The ferret cage should have at least one door which can be left open or latched open. Ferrets often return on their own to their cages to eat and sleep and need access to it any time they get out of the cage. You may also want to cover the cage with a blanket or big towel on cold nights. Place the cage where the ferrets will get some sun light, but not too much, and it also should not be drafty.
Outside of the cage, ferrets like nap sacks like the one on the right. It’s machine washable and nice and snugly. Bags and tubes with the warm sheepskin-like interiors are very popular with ferrets, as are enclosed cat houses. If you are lucky to find a ferret house, it makes for a better hangout. Ferrets are burrowers, not climbers by nature. Ferrets prefer their private places to be in secluded, out-of-the-way areas, like behind sofas, in the corners of rooms or even inside of drawers. You will likely find a ferret’s own toy collection inside one of these silly ferret hideouts.