FERRET scientific name – (Mustela Putorious Furo)
Ferrets were domesticated several thousand years ago. No one knows for sure when or where they started, but judging from ancient writings, they originated in Europe, Egypt, and/or Australia. They were first brought to the United States about three hundred years ago. Before coming to the U.S., Ferrets wer used for hunting rabbits or rodent control.
Here, they have become the third most popular pet, next to the dog and the cat. It is estimated there are between 5 and 7 million pet Ferrets in the United States today.
Male Ferrets will weigh between 3 to 5 lbs., and the females about 1 1/2 to 3 lbs. at maturity. They usually live about 5 to 10 years and will get 14″ to 16″ long. Their coat is soft and silky and they come a variety of colours.
Ferrets make a delightful pet mainly due to their curiosity. The word “Furo” in their scientific name means thief, which aptly describe this little animal. They think everything in the home is theirs. They love exploring and will “steal” things like shoes, socks, gloves, keys, etc. and take them to their hiding places. Because of their domestication, Ferrets no longer have natural survival instincts. It is therefore very important to supervise them, especially if taken outdoors. They will sleep alot, as many as 16 to 18 hours per day. This may partially account for their hyper activity when they are awake. Most Ferrets can be litter box trained.
You can’t get to big when it comes to a Ferrets cage. A minimum size would be 24″ x 24″ x 30″. It should be equipped with ramps, resting benches, a water bottle, soft bedding (some breeders say no shavings), a litter box, safe toys, and a food dish. If the cage has a wire mesh floor, it should be covered with a towel, a blanket, or a piece of linoleum, so it will not have to walk on the open wire. Ferret hammocks are ideal for these critters to sleep in.
Remeber Ferrets are carnivores and that they have very short digestive tracts. Because they are carnivores, they must have meat, fish, poultry as the first ingredient, rather than grain products. Food passes through their digestive tract in about 2 to 4 hours. Accordingly, meat protein is more readily absorbed. It cannot absorb the nutrients in vegetables quickly enough because vegetables have a more complex structure. Furthermore, a Ferret lacks a CECUM, (a pouch in the digestive system that digests vegetable matter). If it eats to many vegetables, the Ferret will not get the nutrition it needs. Protein should be at least 34% to 36%.
Ferrets will eat only enough to maintain their energy requirements. Another important ingredient for their diet is fat. They get their energy from fat and need fat for a healthy coat and skin. Their diet should be 14% to 20% fat.
Be sure to use a feed dish that cannot be tipped over. Feed should be kapt available at all times as Ferrets often choose to eat several times a day.
Lastly, keep Ferrets off sweets, candy, any alcoholic beverages, nuts, and dairy products. They love peanut butter, but make sure it’s not the chunky style.
SWITCHING YOUR FERRETS DIET …
Unless your Ferret is very young, a gradual change in diet is recommended. We advise using a 10/10 method to change over his or her diet. Most Ferrets will favor the diet that they were weaned on at 8 weeks. It is a good idea to offer several varieties of dry food while weaning so they wont get used to just one, in case your present food type becomes no longer available. Doing so will will allow you to easily change his food type if you have to. If your Ferret has been fed the same diet since weaning, the 10/10 method works well. The first day, add 10% of the new diet to his regular feed. The ratio will now be 10% new type, 90% regular feed. The second day, add 20% new type feed to 80% regular feed. The ratio will now be 20% new type, 80% regular feed. (and so on for 10 days). After doing this for 10 days, the feed will be 100% of the new diet and your critter should be well adjusted to the new diet.
Ferrets make wonderful pets for responsible pet owners. Ferrets require veterinary check-ups with annual vaccinations for canine distemper and rabies. They need food and water available at all times. Their letterbox requires daily cleaning. They need nail trimming and ear cleaning – usually every week or two. They need daily playtime to run about. You must check their play area to make sure there is nothing that could accidentally hurt them or that they could accidentally swallow. Ferrets need lots of love an attention, the more the better. They are a companion animal.
Like puppies or kittens, baby Ferrets require socialization and training. You need to teach them in a consistent manner what behaviour is expected from them.
In return for proper care and handling, Ferrets are mischievous merrymakers who are always ready to cheer you up with their antics. Their playful nature remains with them throughout their entire lives. They will amaze you with their persistence and ever-optimistic attitude. They are very intelligent and can be taught tricks like standing, rolling over, and coming on command.
Ferrets are very social, affectionate, and interactive animals. Many Ferret owners who start with just one wind up owning several because they can’t resist the Ferret’s charm.
ITEMS YOU’LL WANT TO HAVE……
CAGE – When you aren’t around to supervise your Ferret, the safest place for him is in his cage. The cage should be a place where he feels comfortable and secure. Cages are often placed in a central room so even when he is in his cage, he can see what’s going on around him and feel he is part of the family. The cage should allow free air flow (not an aquarium). To protect the Ferret’s feet, wire cage bottoms should be covered with carpeting or linoleum. If you think you might get more Ferrets in the future, plan ahead with a large enough cage.
HAMMOCK – Ferrets have very flexible spines. Many of them like to sleep curled up in a hammock. They are very cute.
BEDDING – Soft cloth like old T-shirts or sweatshirts make excellent sleeping blankets for Ferrets. Washing the bedding regularly will help reduce the Ferret’s musk smell. DO NOT use wood chips or wood shavings.
FOOD – For many years Ferrets were fed high quality kitten food, but now there are many high quality Ferret foods available. Since Ferrets are carnivores, look for a food with meat as its first ingredient. Good nutrition promotes good growth and health, so feed the best feed you can. Ferrets should be allowed access to food at all times.
FOOD BOWL – Ferrets are always playing with things. Look for a heavy bowl that will be more difficult for them to move and tip over.
WATER BOTTLE – Ferrets should have access to water at all times. Although many like to lap water from a bowl, many will also spill the water and play with it. A water bottle will ensure that they always have water available.
LITTER BOX(ES) – Ferrets should have a litter box in their cage (more than one if the cage size or number of Ferrets warrant it). You will also want litter boxes throughout the rooms your Ferret will be playing in.
LITTER – Ferrets are low to the ground and have a slick oily coat. Dusty litters and clumping litters can stick to them and cause problems. There are many litters now made from things like recycled newspaper or compressed plant fibres that are low in dust.
TREATS – Remember that treats are just that – small rewards. They should not be a large part of your Ferrets diet. However, they are good for bonding with your Ferret and rewarding good behaviour, learning tricks, etc.
SHAMPOO – Ferrets can be bathed anywhere from every few weeks to every few months. Bathing helps reduce the musk smell (although an important part of reducing the smell is keeping the Ferrets bedding clean and it’s ears clean). In the past, tearless baby shampoo was often used, but now there are several Ferret- specific shampoos available.
NAIL CLIPPERS – Ferrets need their nails clipped on a regular basis to prevent foot damage and to prevent them from accidentally scratching you.
EAR CLEANING SOLUTION – Ferrets need their ears cleaned on a regular basis. Ear wax build-up is smelly and can lead to health problems if not cleaned.
HARNESS AND LEASH – Ferrets can slip out of a collar, so you’ll want a harness that goes both around their neck and front legs.
CARRYING CAGE – A portable carrier to be used for bringing the Ferret to the veterinarian and other outings. Also can serve as a training aid by serving as a “time-out” cage for a misbehaving Ferret.
TOYS – Ferrets will entertain themselves with anything they can find. Ferret-safe toys don’t have parts they could accidentally chew off and swallow. Always monitor all toys for damage – accidentally swallowed pieces of things can lead to intestinal blockages. People are the best toys of all – spend time playing with your Ferret!