Although ferrets might still be considered unusual pets by some people, they are actually not difficult to keep. As long as you can provide them with an adequate cage, the best ferret foods and enough space where they can play, ferrets are some of the cutest small pets. These furry creatures haven’t always been seen as friendly pets, but their popularity is definitely growing.
When deciding to get a certain pet, it’s advisable to find out as much as possible about the specific needs of that pet. Ferrets require a certain type of cage, they have specific dietary requirements and particular traits that should be taken into account. And, of course, if you want your ferrets to live as long as possible, you need to keep an eye on their health.
What is the best diet for ferrets?
The most important trait of ferrets when it comes to food is that they are carnivores, which means that you should offer them a diet that is based on meat, with high protein content. Protein should represent up to 40% of a ferret’s diet. In their natural environment, wild ferrets catch their prey and that is why they have strong jaws and teeth.
Protein levels should not be too low or too high in a ferret’s diet. Too many fats are also bad for them. As far as lactose, as well as carbohydrates found in fibers and starches go, ferrets can’t digest them. Therefore, ferrets should be fed mainly with store-bought ferret nuggets, that provide the adequate protein ratio and other nutrients. You can also add treats to the basic menu.
Ferrets could also benefit from a diet that is entirely based on raw meat, as long as you can provide them with whole small animals, so that they can also get the nutrients from bones and organs. However, commercial ferret food is more convenient and it’s recommendable. Keep in mind to avoid all dairy products and starchy food such as bread, pasta, rice or potatoes.
Due to their high metabolic rate and active nature, ferrets digest their food relatively fast and prefer to eat small portions, but often. Wild ferrets have up to ten meals per day. You can do the same for your ferret pet, by offering them their entire daily meal at once, so that they can gradually eat it throughout the day. Or you can feed them small portions, several times per day.
Food servings should also be adapted for your ferret’s age, weight and overall health. Never give him or her too many treats or in large quantities. Protein-based treats are preferable, such as small pieces of cooked meat, boiled eggs or store-bought cat treats. You can also supplement their diet with vitamin mixes and oils, especially when you are training them.
Don’t forget about providing daily fresh, clean water for your ferrets. They can drink either from water bowls or water bottles with sipping tubes. Make sure the bowl is sturdy enough so that they don’t tip it over or that they know how to use the drinking tube.
Another important thing when it comes to ferrets is that feeding time should also be fun for them. Remember that their wild counterparts are predators and that is why ferrets can become bored and disinterested if they just receive a plain portion of food. Try to make feeding time more exciting for them, by hiding the food in some tunnels so that they need to search for it.
How to provide the best housing for ferrets
Ferrets are not just cute furry creatures, but also active and curious animals, that require sufficient space. If you want your ferret pets to be happy, their housing should be as similar as possible to their natural environment. Wild ferrets usually create a specific type of housing, that includes a place where they can eat, a place where they can store their food, a separate bathroom area and also escape holes.
Therefore, you should, first of all, provide your ferrets with a spacious cage or something similar. Cages that are specifically designed for ferrets need to have multiple levels and also different places that can become their designated sleep areas. Hammocks are great for ferrets, especially the ones that are big enough so that they can all sleep together.
Other than hammocks, you can provide your ferrets with platforms to climb on, tunnels to explore and other items that help mimic their natural environment, such as plastic tubes and pieces of paper or cardboard.
Remember that ferrets also love to nest. Whether their bedding is made of shredded paper or even blankets made of fleece, it helps them create sleeping areas where they can nest.
The ideal enclosure for ferrets should be very well ventilated. Make sure the bedding is never wet or dirty. Keep the cage away from direct sunlight and, preferably, on a high, stable surface. Also, it should have a solid floor, because wire floors hurt their paws over time. Ferrets can have a designated latrine area or can be trained to use a litter tray, like cats.
Hygiene is very important for ferrets. Their cage should be cleaned daily and they must have dry, clean bedding, as well as fresh water and food. Remember to keep the feeding area and the bathroom area separate. Ferrets are quite messy when they eat, so it’s a good idea to put some extra layers of paper in the area where you place their food bowls and water bottles.
No matter how spacious their cage is, ferrets always need a separate area where they can be free to exercise and roam around. Ideally, you should allow them to be out of the cage for several hours, every day. Just make sure that the room where they exercise is ferret-proofed, because they can easily become trapped somewhere or chew something they shouldn’t.
How to keep ferrets healthy and happy
Ferrets can live up to 10 years if they receive the adequate food and care. Ferrets need food that is adapted to their dietary requirements and need housing that allows them to display their specific natural behaviors, including hiding, playing or foraging. They love to play with toys and they love to explore different areas.
You can place a large box in the room where they are allowed to play, fill it with dry material such as soil or rice, and let them forage and dig in whenever they want to. Another good idea would be to set up a small container with fresh water at room temperature because they love to play with water. Just make sure that the water level is not too high.
Ferrets alternate between intense activity and deep sleep. Although they are so active and playful when they are awake, ferrets also need a lot of sleep and they can sleep for 20 hours per day. They become more active as the sun sets.
Similarly to other pets that are social animals, ferrets prefer living in pairs or in groups. Don’t keep your ferret alone, especially if you do not spend most of the time with him or her. Ferrets love to socialize, play and cuddle together. In large groups, there could be occasional displays of aggression that you need to keep an eye on.
Regarding their health, you should also follow a vaccination plan for them, especially if you intend to take them outside for a walk, on leashes.
When it comes to their weight, keep in mind that ferrets naturally put on weight before wintertime and revert to their previous weight during spring. However, ferrets are also at the risk of becoming overweight or malnourished and this can be the sign of a more serious health condition.
If you want your ferrets to stay in shape, offer them plenty of room to exercise and allow them to play as often as possible. Also, make sure to give them the right amount of pellets or nuggets, so that they have a balanced diet.
Every ferret has a different personality and also different characteristics that could make him or her more vulnerable. After getting used to your ferret pets and knowing more about them, you will be able to tell when something doesn’t look right. Other than the obvious injuries or red flags, lack of energy, loss of appetite or hair loss can also indicate health problems.