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How to Take Care of a Ferret (Care Sheet & Guide 2021)

Ed Malaker

Ferrets are very popular pets in America and around the world. It’s easy to take care of, has a reasonably long lifespan, doesn’t cost a lot to keep alive, and is quite entertaining to watch. However, if you have never owned a ferret before, you probably have many questions, like where to get one, how much it costs, and what type of home it requires. We’ve assembled a short guide to help answer these questions and more so that you can see if these animals are right for you and your home.

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Ferret Facts

  • Ferrets are the third most popular pet, according to the American Ferret Association.
  • Ferrets belong to the Weasel family that also includes polecats.
  • People used ferrets for many years to keep rodents out of grain stores.
  • The term “ferret out” comes from their ability to crawl into tunnels to chase out rodents for hunters and trappers.
  • A ferret’s heart beats 200 – 250 times per minute.
  • A group of ferrets is a business.
  • Ferrets have a cone-shaped head, long tail, and a pear-shaped body.
  • Ferret’s fur is usually brown, black, white, or mixed.
  • Ferrets usually live about eight years.
  • Very few ferrets were pets before 1980

Do Ferrets Make Good Pets?

Ferrets make great pets, as evidenced by their extreme popularity. It’s the most popular animal besides cats and dogs, and there is a good chance that you’ve known someone with a ferret in your lifetime. It’s a cuddly animal that doesn’t mind if you carry it around and pet it. It’s clever and curious and loves to explore whenever it gets a chance. It’s master at getting out of its cage and getting around all sorts of barriers, so you will need to take extra care ferret-proofing your home. Unlike cats and dogs, these pets won’t come when you call them, so you need to be careful they don’t get away, or they can get lost.

Ferrets are typically most active at dusk and dawn when light levels are low, but they will also be active at other times of the day. It will require some time out of the cage every day to stimulate its mind and get the exercise it needs, but this is a great time to play and bond with your pet.

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Where Can I Get a Ferret?

Due to their extreme popularity, you can find a ferret in most pet stores. In most cases, if they don’t have a ferret in stock, you can order one that will arrive in a few days. However, unless you live in a rural area with a limited population, there are likely several pet stores you can visit in a single day, and there’s a very good chance you will be coming home with a new pet ferret.

holding ferret_Nadezhda Manakhova_Shutterstock
Image Credit: Nadezhda Manakhova, Shutterstock

How Much Does It Cost To Own a Ferret?

  • You should set aside at least $100 – $200 to purchase a ferret, and there are several other fees you should consider.
  • The cage will likely cost you at least $100.
  • You will likely need to purchase food and water containers separately, and it will also need a bed or a hammock.
  • A leash and a carrier are also required so you can safely take your ferret out of the house.
  • You will need to purchase several items frequently, like food, treats, and toys.

In total, your initial cost will likely be at least $400, with another $100 – $300 spent yearly.

What Kind of Home Does My Ferret Need?

Most ferrets live in a large cage. Inside the cage, you will want to keep a litter pan and train your pet to use it so the cage will be easier to clean. Ferrets prefer to use the cage corner as a bathroom, and most litter pans will accommodate this setup. You will also need a food bowl and a water bottle along with a bed or a hammock where your pet can sleep. Most ferret cages will also have ramps and platforms that your pets can use to explore their environment. Even though ferrets sleep most of the day, they like to get plenty of exercise while awake and will appreciate the ramps if you are busy. It needs plenty of space, so expect your cage to be around 50-inches tall.

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Image credit: Pixabay

What Should I Feed My Ferret?

Ferrets are carnivores, so they need a diet high in animal protein. These animals also need plenty of fat and very little fiber so they will not be chewing hay like a rodent. They eat frequently, so you will need to keep food available so they can feed every 3 to 4 hours. Ferrets tend to eat what they need, so you don’t need to worry about them becoming obese, which is extremely rare in the pet kingdom. A dry commercial ferret food is the best choice because you can keep it available without worrying about spoilage.

A constant supply of water must also be available at all times so your pet can stay hydrated. Change the water frequently to keep it fresh as many bottles change the flavor, which might discourage your pet from using it.

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How Do I Take Care of My Ferret?

Feeding

As we mentioned earlier, keep food available around the clock so your pet can eat at its leisure. You don’t need to worry about it becoming overweight. You will also need to keep a constant supply of fresh, clean water.

Socialization

Ferrets are extremely friendly and love to spend time outside their cage. It will be excited to meet all of your friends, and it will let you carry it around and pet it.

holding ferret II_Mitskevich Uladzimir_Shutterstock
Image Credit: Mitskevich Uladzimir, Shutterstock

Exercise

Most experts recommend setting aside at least one hour per day to let your ferret roam around your house to get the exercise it needs to stay healthy and happy. Ramps and platforms in the cage will also help your pets stay active when they can’t get out.

Toilet Training

As we mentioned earlier, it’s possible to train your ferret to use the litter box. The training is very simple and only requires you to put the box in the corner of the cage, fill it with litter, and place a small amount of a used litter inside so the ferret recognizes it as a bathroom. This trick will save you countless hours of cleaning.

Temperature

Ferrets can easily suffer from heatstroke in temperatures above 85-degrees. Since this temperature is possible in many parts of the United States, most experts recommend having a plan in place to keep them cool. Usually, an air conditioner is all that is required to keep the temperature manageable.

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Image credit: amayaeguizabal, Pixabay

How Do I Know If My Ferret Is Sick?

Diarrhea

Diarrhea is one of the most common illnesses your pet is likely to face. It’s a sign of a gastrointestinal problem that results in loose feces that is usually green and slimy. Several strains of bacteria can cause diarrhea, some worse than others, but the condition usually clears up in a day or two. If not, call your vet to have your pet looked over.

Intestinal Foreign Bodies

Another problem common to ferrets is intestinal foreign bodies. Ferrets love to chew things and eat nearly anything they can fit in their mouth, including plastic, rubber, and foam. These objects can block their digestive system, causing a life-threatening situation.

Cancer

Unfortunately, ferrets often develop cancer early in life and will require yearly examinations from a vet so you can catch it early if it affects your pet. Every ferret over three will need yearly bloodwork and x-rays to keep them healthy.

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Conclusion

Ferrets make wonderful pets, and they aren’t hard to raise. The initial cost of the large cage can put some people off, but it’s a one-time purchase that will also be suitable for any other ferrets you might get in the future. Yearly upkeep is not that expensive, and routine maintenance is not as difficult as it is for other cage animals. Ferrets can use a litter box, and they don’t require a constant supply of timothy hay.

We hope you have enjoyed this short guide and found it helpful for answering your questions. If we have helped convince you to get one of these wonderful pets, please share this guide to caring for a ferret on Facebook and Twitter.


Featured Image Credit: Daniel Steinke, Pixabay

Ed Malaker

Ed Malaker is a veteran writer who has contributed to a wide range of blogs that cover tools, pets, guitars, fitness, and computer programming. When he’s not writing, Ed is usually performing DIY projects around the house or working in the garden. He’s also a musician and spends a lot of time helping people fix their guitars and composing music for independent films.