Overview of Ferret Care
Owning a ferret is one of the most rewarding experiences you will encounter! These little fuzz balls will provide you with unconditional love, and all they ask for in return from their human parents is to be treated responsibly and with respect.
It cannot be stressed enough that before you decide to acquire a ferret, you should read books, visit shelters, talk to current ferret owners, etc. All too often a ferret (or other pet) owner, decides they no longer want them and they are abandoned, set loose outside (which is a death sentence), given away, etc. Unfortunately, there are way too many shelters out there that are over crowded with ferrets from owners who decide they don't want them, don't want to pay their medical bills, etc. No pet should be acquired UNLESS you are going to take on the full responsibility of owning and caring for them for life!
A baby ferret will need a distemper inoculation
at about 8 weeks of age, a booster at 11-12 weeks of age, with
the final booster at 14-16 weeks, then vaccinated annually.
The yearly rabies shot should be given at 12-13 weeks of age(two
weeks between the distemper shots). These shots are not
a luxury, they are a necessity! Full grown female ferrets
will range on average between 1 - 2 lbs, while the male will
range from 2 - 4 lbs. You can expect your ferret to live about
9 years, while retaining their activeness most of their lives.
It is also important to note that ferrets are susceptible to
certain illnesses as they age which will require medical intervention,
most notably Adrenal Disease and Insulinoma,
so as a responsible pet owner you should be prepared for these
expenses as well.
Ferrets and Humans
Ferrets are not the pet for everyone and special consideration should be given when small children are around (especially infants), dogs, cats or other pets. It is important to understand that ferrets are NOT rodents nor are they cage animals. They need quite a few hours out of their cage on a daily basis to burn off their high energy by romping around, interacting with each other as well as their human companions. The antics of the ferret will surely keep you laughing for hours on end, as will their relentless curiosity and energy.
When you are having company over, or have small children, be responsible and either keep the ferrets in their cage or keep a very close eye on them. Children not knowing will always go to grab the ferret and pull their fur, as well as pick them up incorrectly. Visitors might think they are cute and want to hold them, but to a ferret this is a new huge super person they don't know or are unsure about, who might harm them. In both cases your ferret might nip (bite), not out of being vicious, but simply
to protect him/herself from something they know nothing about, including new odors. If your ferret accepts your visitors, they might try and play with them, which could startle a person who doesn't understand ferrets. Your little fellow might run around dancing and dooking and take a nip in order to invite play, and your visitors not understanding might turn around and hit your little fuzzy, which is very inappropriate, as this shows the ferret people cannot be trusted or that they are abusive.
Just to re-emphasize, it is best to keep them caged while guests are over, or keep a very close eye on them. Your fuzzie is counting on YOU to protect them at ALL times!When playing with your ferret it is important to keep in mind that they are used to playing rough with each other and might not adjust to our sensitive skin, which is not done on purpose. When and if this should happen, it is extremely important that you NEVER hit your ferret, as this will just teach them that humans can not be trusted and will hurt them; the end result will be a ferret that does go around biting people which is not what you want! The proper way to train and teach your ferret is to scruff their neck, loudly say "ouch" or "no", and drag them on the ground a little just like their mother would do when teaching them, but do NOT be rough with them! Another option would be to spray your hands with bitter apple, which most ferrets hate the taste of. Another option would be to place nutrical/laxatone on your hand which they usually love, and will teach them you are made for kisses not teeth.
Bathing your Ferret
Constant bathing of a ferret is not necessary and
will strip the oils from their skin/fur. Frequent bathing will
cause the ferret to produce more oils (replenishing what was
lost), which often results in your ferret having more of an odor.
The most effective way to cut down on any odors (and this is
on an individual basis....I own 8 and there are no odors) is
to constantly keep all of their bedding clean and washed weekly.
If you must bath your fuzzy, make sure it is with a shampoo labeled
for use on ferrets or you can use a baby shampoo. If your ferrets
love bath time as mine do, let them indulge, but do not use shampoo.
Introducing a New Ferret
It's important to realize when adding a new ferret to the family, there is a possibility the new addition might not integrate with your existing ferrets, and you should be prepared for separate caging requirements as well as play time. Introductions should be made slowly with short periods of controlled exposure so they can get the smell of the new one. It would be very beneficial to bath all ferrets first so they have the same smell, reducing any fighting. Your new addition should be housed separately for the first few days switching the bedding between the cages to once again get them acquainted with each others odor.
In a controlled environment you should gradually
increase the amount of time they mingle together until you are
pretty sure there are no excessive fights. Being dragged by the
neck, hissing, dooking, war dancing, rough housing, etc. is all
very common and should not be interrupted. They are working out
their pecking order of the family and all will hopefully be fine
in a few days. Separation should occur whenever the rough play
gets way out of hand and blood is drawn, one is trying to run
away without coming back when given the chance, poops and/or
urinates out of fear, etc.
While ferrets are very social creatures, there is no guarantee they will all get along. Before increasing the size of your family, consideration should be given, and you need to be prepared to accommodate caging and playtimes. Any ferret you bring into your family should be for life.
Ferret Play Time
When ferrets are out and about playing, they will
generally play pretty rough with each other, and can easily be
mistaken for fighting. It is important to realize that ferrets
have very tough skin and it is normal for them to play very rough
with each other, nothing to be concerned about. You can generally
tell if your little fuzzie starts to get out of hand by the sounds
they make, as well as if they keep running back for more or run
the other way. It is important to break up any extreme rough
play/fights immediately if a ferret has drawn blood. When this
happens it is important to separate the two for a while until
they calm down.
Ferrets love playing and running through tubes,
playing with small jingle balls, etc. Some ferrets love being
squirted with a water gun and will immediately begin dooking
and war dancing. If your ferret doesn't enjoy this, please don't
continue to do it. Ferrets also love a dig box which can be filed
with rice (NOT INSTANT, as that will expand
if swallowed), dirt, starch peanuts (make sure they are safe
biodegradeable), kidney beans, etc.
If you have the area, they will love going outside
and digging/playing in the dirt, making little holes which of
course will require a bath afterwards. If you try this, always
make sure your ferret is on a secure leash.
Dick Bossart has written an excellent resource for both new and seasoned ferret owners covering a wide variety of topics titled "The Ferret Owners Manual", which is available for download. You will need the latest version of Adobe Acrobat Reader to view the manual.
Click here to download the free version of Acrobat Reader
The well being of your ferret is 100% up to you. Give them the love, attention, training, medical attention and safety that they count on us to provide for them and you will be greatly rewarded in return with their love, affection, loyalty, etc. They certainly deserve only the best!