Pet Care - Ferrets

Ferrets

Ferrets were originally domesticated from the European polecat. It isn't clear exactly when this took place, but it was somewhere around 2,500 years ago. Originally they were used to hunt rabbits and other rodents. Hunters would send then ferret into the rabbit burrow and chase them out while the hunters waited.

Diet

Unlike other small mammals kept as pets that consume a plant based diet, ferrets are carnivores. In the wild they eat rabbits, mice, rats and other small mammals. Domestic ferret biology is no different than their wild cousins.

Ferrets require a diet that is a minimum of 30% protein and 18% fat. Meat based protein is preferable to vegetable based diets because ferrets are able to utilize meat based protein better.

Clean, fresh water must always be available.

Housing

Ferrets are best kept in cages. There are a number of ferret cages on the market, or a small dog crate with narrowly spaced wires can be used. Ferrets are escape artists, so make sure the cage is sound and well constructed. Many of the specialty cages for ferrets have multiple floors with ladders and slides to provide a source of activity while the ferret is caged.

Handling & Care

To properly hold a ferret, slide your hand under it's chest and gently lift while supporting the hind end with the other hand. Ferrets can be a bit nippy, so be sure to handle it regularly to keep it tame. Best results are achieved when starting with a young ferret and handling it daily so it becomes accustomed to being handled. Ferrets are very intelligent and if they start to bite you can discipline them with a firm "NO" command. With a bit of time and dedication, ferrets can be taught a variety of tricks and commands. They can also be taught to use litter boxes.

Special Considerations

Ferrets are very active, inquisitive, and curious creatures. They need regular interaction and should be provided with plenty of free time out of the cage. Ferrets enjoy playing with toys, hiding, and climbing. They can fetch and learn other tricks. When allowing your ferret time outside the cage, be sure to keep a close watch. Without supervision they will invariably get into some sort of mischief.