Playful, active and loving, ferrets make great pets. But like any other companion animal, they have very particular needs that all prospective owners must take into account. So before you buy one, here are some things you should consider.
Ferrets are genial, intelligent animals. But at certain times of the day, they do get extremely active and require supervision so they do not get themselves into trouble. And while ferrets can easily amuse themselves when you are not around, they do require steady doses of attention and interaction every day to maintain both mental and physical health.
Ferrets have a slight musky odor that comes from a gland under the skin. But they also have a scent sac near the anus, and some of the scent is passed in the feces to help the animals mark their territory. Removing the scent sac will not curb the odor and can lead to medical problems. In general, neutered ferrets will rarely release their scent unless they become frightened. The good news is that whatever odor ferrets emit does dissipate quickly and can be treated with special solvents or left to evaporate on its own. Keeping litter boxes clean can also control any unwanted smells.
3. Male vs. female
Female ferrets are called “jills” and males “hobs.” An unaltered, unmated jill will stay in heat for six months out of each year, a state that will bring on behavioral changes as well as some physical ones. Additionally, the hormones involved can increase the risk of leukemia and stress-related illnesses. An unaltered male can become aggressive to other males, especially during breeding season. Unless you want baby ferrets (called “kits”), it is always wiser to spay or neuter your jills and/or hobs.
4. Litter training
Ferrets must be trained to use a litterbox. You do this by putting a corner box in your ferret’s cage and then gradually allowing your furry friend more freedom as it continues to use the box. Be prepared to keep a small amount of dirty litter in the box for a while to help your pet understand what that box is for. You can discourage your ferret from using other corners of his or her enclosure by covering them with bedding or food. Verbal praise, petting, and treats can help the learning process move along more smoothly.
Friendly as they are, ferrets are demanding pets for children who do not know how to take care of animals. If you have infants or toddlers, you will need to supervise both your children and the ferret very closely. If you have a dog or cat, you will need to introduce your ferret gradually to your other four-legged pals. Allow the animals to smell each other while providing encouragement and reassurance to all. Even after they begin to relax around each other, you’ll still need to monitor them to make sure they don’t fight. Feed all your animals separately and make sure your ferret doesn’t play with Fido or Kitty’s toys.
A ferret needs plenty of fresh water and a diet high in fat and protein. Since ferret food can be difficult to find, many owners substitute kitten food, which is higher in protein and fat than regular adult cat or dog food. If you choose this option, be sure to avoid fish-based cat food as this can result in increased odors. If you want to reward your ferret, give him or her a small piece of fruit although his must be done sparingly as a ferret is a carnivore and needs meat and fat. Never offer a human treat like ice cream to your ferret as it may be toxic or indigestible. This is not a full article on what to feed a ferret so you should do further research on this.
Ferrets need to see a vet on a yearly basis for their annual vaccinations and when they have a health problem you have noticed. After they are born, they require distemper vaccinations at 8, 11 and 14 weeks, rabies vaccination around 12–16 weeks and, of course, both distemper and rabies vaccinations yearly. You might need to have a vet clip their nails as well although this is something you can learn.
Both Wells Branch and South Branch Pet and Bird clinics can you help you with your ferret. Our caring vets can give your ferret the health care he or she needs. When your furry friend needs a routine check-up or more specialized attention, make an appointment with us.