The name ferret is derived from the latin furonem, which means "thief." Ferret owners can attest that this is a well deserved name. Ferrets will happily steal anything they can get their cute little paws on and hide it.
Ferrets come from the same family "Mustelidae" as polecats, badgers,
wolverines, sea otters, minks, weasels, and black footed ferrets.
Ferrets are curious, playful, and often very mischevious. They are not cats or dogs, and are by no means the pet for everyone!
Ferrets are intelligent, good-natured, playful, non-aggressive, non-territorial, and require a fair amount of attention. They are very active animals that enjoy company. They need a minimum of 3-4 hours daily outside the cage to play with their human! They should be caged when unsupervised, unless you have a safe, ferret-proofed, designated ferret room for them. (They are like two year olds!) Homes with ferrets need to be ferret-proofed. These animals are extremely inquisitive, agile, and get into everything. Recliners are dangerous. Dryer vents and ductwork are dangerous. Toilets with the lid open are dangerous, as are washers, dryers, and dishwashers! Poisons under the sink are deadly (and ferrets DO learn to open cabinet doors!)
Lifespan is 6-8 years on average. Ferrets maintain their playfulness throughout their lives. It is especially enjoyable to watch a ferret doing the "Dookie Dance" or "Dance of Joy" when it sashays from side to side with its mouth open bouncing all around the room!
They are very quiet. The only vocalizations they make are "giggles", a soft "honking" sound or "chuckles" during playtime. They may "mutter" or cry if in terrible pain. They sleep about 16 hours a day and are most active at dawn and dusk.The dark-eyed white ones and the ones with a blaze going up the face are often deaf. (No, they`re not ignoring you--and they do learn to respond well to sign language!)
Ferrets can be litterbox trained but do not have the 100% "hit rate" that a cat does. We usually tell people to expect 50%-60% out of the cage. If they miss the box, their accidents are usually in a corner. Yesterday`s News or hardwood pelleted stove fuel are excellent choices for litter. Please avoid clumping cat litter--and avoid cedar chips & pine chips. Ferrets` respiratory systems are fragile.
It is best not to smoke around these little guys because of their sensitive respiratory systems, and the fact that they have so many issues with cancer.
Ferrets do have a characteristic musky odor--even the ones which have been descented. Some people can`t stand it, others love to bury their faces deeply into the soft fur of their pet & inhale it LOL. Contrary to what you might think, bathing them more often will make them smell stronger, and it will also strip their skin & fur of precious oils, making them itchy. Try bathing no more often than every 6 months. Ferrets are very clean animals, by nature. (They wipe their hiney when they poo, and they wipe their faces after they eat.)
To reduce odor, wash their hammies, sleepsacks & cuddle cups at least weekly. Feed a good quality of food. Change the litter pan daily, and clean up any spilled food.
Ferrets & carpeting do not mix. The carpeting will hold odor big time, and it will yellow. (Rubber or foam padding is dangerous too, if they dig at the carpeting & ingest it. ) Hardwood or laminates are usually damaged. (Ferrets do not have 100% hit rate on the litter box!) Better choices for flooring in the ferret room would be linoleum or tile. (Much easier to clean!)
If you think you`ll need products to "deodorize" a ferret, please consider a different animal. Each animal has its own smell--and a ferret will smell like a ferret. Expecting otherwise is unrealistic, & unfair to the ferret, who cannot help it.
Ferrets need to have their nails trimmed, about every two weeks. Even the dark-colored ferrets have light colored nails, so the pink quick inside is visable. One needs to be careful not to cut the nail too short, or it will be very painful, & bleed! Cat claw trimmers usually work well.
We do not recommend ferrets to households with small children. Ferrets nip, just like puppies and kittens, and young human skin is tender. Ferrets must not be hit to discipline, or the nipping may become worse. Lots of love and patience is the answer. With children, there is also a strong possibility of the pet being injured. It could be stepped on, sat upon, or be let outside by accident. It could ingest objects that kids leave lying around, i.e. rubber bands, erasers, latex toys, remote controls etc. A ferret`s intestines are about the same diameter as the inside tube of a ballpoint pen, or the hole in a piece of macaroni. Intestinal blockages must be $urgically removed or the ferret will die a painful death.
It isn`t fair to make the ferret pay with its life for the carelessness of its human. However, many people aren`t willing to pay the cost of a life- saving surgery. Some won`t even take the animal to a vet. If you can`t afford a vet bill, please don`t get a ferret. They`re expensive. Please be responsible & plan ahead, if you`re thinking about getting a ferret.
Average lifespan of a ferret who escapes outside is three days.They cannot fend for themselves, like a dog or a cat. They starve to death, become dehydrated, become prey, get hit by cars, etc. One man was very unnerved, when he realized he had hit one with his lawnmower... Humans are supposed to protect their little pets.
Many ferret owners allow other pets in their homes to play with their ferrets.
Ferrets have no fear, and this can get them into much trouble. A ferret was brought to us, dying, because she had been attacked by a dog. The ferret died on the operating table. The dog had punctured her intestines. Our Melmin was mauled by a dog, and was blinded in one eye, and had his paw, leg, & shoulder broken. (It didn`t happen here!) We don`t advise dogs with ferrets--especially hunting breeds. Even a dog who has been great with ferrets all of its life can have a "knee-jerk" reaction, if a ferret nips its toe--and one second can be deadly...
Cats and ferrets can often be integrated. In fact, the ferret will usually have the upper hand, so they say. (Personally, I`m afraid of those claws!)
We do not advise combining ferrets with mice, hamsters, rats, rabbits guinea pigs etc. as well as birds. A ferret could cause harm, or even death to these animals.
Keep ferrets away from snakes & other reptiles which could harm or kill them.
Ferrets need a high quality, low fiber, meat-based diet, usually kibble with 34-50% (meat) protein, 18-22% fat, and 3% or less fiber. They need clean, fresh food and water available 24-7! (It is about 3-4 hours from "in" to "out") We do not recommend ferret foods or treats with pieces of dried fruit which can swell up after they`re ingested and cause life-threatening blockages. Raisins have been linked to kidney failure in ferrets. Ferrets are obligate carnivores. They are unable to digest fruits, vegetables or nuts, and get any nutrition from them. They get their energy from fats rather than carbohydrates. Avoid sugary treats and soft drinks.
Some good treats would be Bandits (any flavor) or ferret chew sticks (N-Bones)
Hairballs can cause blockages. Because ferrets rarely "cough up" hairballs like cats do, they should get laxatone, vaseline, or another hairball remedy weekly as a treat.This should help the pieces of fur to pass through, before they roll around in there, build up, and become too large to pass. We have taken in several very ill ferrets needing emergency surgery. Without the surgery, they would have died a painful death within several hours :(
Ferrets need yearly vet visits with a vet experienced in exotics. All vets are not created equal! Ferrets can develop health problems. It can be expensive.
NEVER give your ferret human medicine of any kind, without consulting a vet. Many medications, even gentle ones, are DEADLY to ferrets.
Health issues are very common in ferrets. Insulinoma (opposite of diabetes) is common--also adrenal gland disease. Lymphoma is another one...Ferrets can have heart issues. Often, quality of life, and time remaining on this earth, can be improved with proper medical attention & lifetime care.
The more time one spends with their ferret, the closer they become. Ferrets know their names, come when they`re called (if they want to!) and they so look forward to that special "come out & play" time with their human. They are God`s little clowns!
They require lots of attention and TLC as they age.
We do not adopt out to the general public. but we are happy to provide free ferret education.Our greatest hope is that by having a true understanding of the ferret`s unique characteristics & needs, an owner will be ready for the commitment & responsibility that a ferret will bring. We want it to be a good, lifetime match. Every ferret deserves a secure & loving forever home. Potential owners should come tour our sanctuary and see ferrets in all walks of life--maybe even volunteer for a while to determine if this is truly the pet for them.