Taking care of a ferret and having one can brighten up your days but it also might be more than what you're used to. If you’re a pet lover, you’re probably already familiar with the requirements and responsibility for keeping a dog or a cat. However, ferrets as pets are different.
These cheerful little creatures are actually considered exotic animals, although there are records of them being domesticated as early as 2500 years ago. This should be a good reason for you to consider your capabilities and dedication before you decide on adopting a pet ferret.
To help you figure out whether or not you’re ready to take care of a ferret and everything that having a ferret involves, I give you my ultimate guide on how to care and raise a ferret!
How To Take Care of a Ferret
Taking care of a ferret is unlike anything you’ve experienced before. If you have the illusion of chilling with your favorite TV series while petting your ferret – forget it!
Just like any other pet, ferrets have their ups and downs. Even though they're differently kept, it's nothing more or less complicated than other pets. The only important thing is that you know what you're doing. Like this, everything will be fine, you will be prepared, and you'll know what to expect.
Having Ferrets as a Pet
Ferrets have two modes.
The first one is sleeping, usually most of the day. And the second mode is a tiny little full-blown energy monster! In this second mode, your ferret will need all of your attention since it will want to play, jump, and run around your home.
Before purchasing a ferret as a pet, you need to ask yourself the following questions:
You have to understand that ferrets as pets are much more different than cats or dogs. Purchasing or adopting a ferret without any knowledge and without doing some research is a big mistake.
If you’re familiar with ferrets’ way of life and the necessities and requirements for keeping a ferret, they can be an incredible addition to any household. They’re loving, cheerful, and will bring joy to your everyday life.
You can also take this short quiz on whether you should get a ferret or not
How Much Do Ferrets Cost?
Depending on the type of ferret you choose as well as their family like, they can cost anywhere from $50 to $300.
As a responsible owner, I would recommend that you avoid purchasing ferrets from breeders and ferret mills. Instead, adopt a ferret in need or purchase a ferret which is not the product of excessive and unnatural breeding.
Not only is this more humane, but it will also ensure that you’re getting a healthier and happier ferret.
And one last word of warning when we're on the topic of costs – know that the cost of actually buying the ferret is not the only expense associated with owning a ferret. You will have many additional costs (just like you would for any other pet) including vaccinations, food, cage, ferret-proofing your house, toys, vet costs, carriers, etc.
How Long Do Ferrets Live?
On average, most ferrets live 6 to 8 years. Unfortunately, ferrets are susceptible to a couple of diseases that shorten up their lifespan. These diseases are usually Lymphoma, Insulinoma or Adrenal Disease. Most ferrets suffer from one of these diseases.
However, if you’re lucky enough and take good care of your pet, it can reach an old age of 10 or even 12 years old.
The longevity of your ferret lifespan is mostly out of our control. However, we can definitely do our best to prevent possible threats. The most important thing is to make sure that your ferret has a safe environment, a clean and constant supply of water, and the right type of food.
Genetics and breeding also play a role in the lifespan longevity of a ferret. For example, while US ferrets live only 5 to 8 years, European ferrets tend to live longer due to better breeding practices and care in general.
Additionally, when a health problem occurs, and you notice that your pet ferret acts differently, visit a vet as soon as possible. Like this, you will protect your ferret’s health before something serious happens.
Are Ferrets Good Pets?
If you’re equipped with the right knowledge, tools, and space, YES! When kept properly, ferrets as pets can become the most loving and fun creatures to have around.
Some ferrets might need a while to get used to your home and the people in it, but once they’re familiar with their surroundings, they will become happier and more affectionate.
A word of warning – be especially careful if you have other pets in your house because bad things can happen. If you already own a pet that’s larger than a ferret, they can hurt or harm it (accidentally or not). On the other hand, remember that ferrets are carnivores, so they will see any smaller animals in the house as prey.
If introduced early on, ferrets can actually make great friends with other pets in your home. However, make sure that also the other pet returns this friendship. If you’re planning to keep the ferret in an area with other pets, introduce them slowly and carefully, and always be there to supervise this friendship. Until you’re completely sure that both sides are peaceful and playful, as opposed to aggressive or jealous, do not leave them alone!
In short, if you are thinking of getting a ferret while you still have other pets in your house, think of a way to separate them into completely different areas. Otherwise, you might not like what happens next.
When it comes to children, ferrets as pets are pretty safe to play with. Still, there are a few small things you need to consider.
Number one – teach your children to be gentle with the ferret. Ferrets are small animals, so any rough handling can cause serious damage.
And number two – ferrets can actually bite, just like dogs and cats. So, you must make sure that your ferret is trained not to bite or scratch before engaging in children play.
One more thing to know before we tell our verdict on this question, ferrets who aren’t de-scented or de-sexed will cause problems. Male ferrets who aren’t desexed will release terrible smells throughout your home (An air purifier might help with this.) While females in heat that aren’t being bred will have a lot of hormones circulating through their system. These hormones can actually kill them if you don’t do something about it. Desexing or hormonal injections are all viable options.
One more piece of “smelly” news – ferrets have anal glands that become active when your pet ferret is startled, nervous or agitated. Which is used as a defensive mechanism but most ferrets that come from mills will sometimes have these glands removed at a young age to remove the smell. But contrary to popular belief, the smell/scent is mainly produced by the oils in your ferret skin AKA sebaceous secretion.
As opposed to mice or hamsters, ferrets aren’t meant to be kept in a cage the whole time. Even though you will need a ferret cage as a safe habitat for your pet when you’re not around, ferrets must be let out of the cage and allowed enough space to play and jump around. Be prepared for this obligation.
And finally, ferrets, just like any other pet, will require vet visits and checkups. And much like dogs, you will need to litter-train them. This might take a while, but it should definitely be done.
With all these things considered, ferrets as pets are incredibly loving and playful additions to any household. When they’re kept in a safe, warm, and loving environment, ferrets are incredibly affectionate, playful, and happy little things.
Ferret Food & Diet
Knowing the ferret food chart is one of the first things to do before you adopt this precious little animal in your home. The food and diet of a ferret can influence their health and quality of life significantly. Many diseases that ferrets are susceptible to can be caused by feeding them improper food and treats. This is something that can definitely be prevented by learning what’s good and what’s not for your furry friend.
What Can Ferrets Eat?
Since diet is such an important part of a ferret’s health and well-being, I'm going to tell you what to feed a ferret to fulfill their dietary needs.
Ferrets belong to a group called obligate carnivores. A carnivore survives and should be fed only and exclusively with meat!
Being a carnivore is associated with being a predator. Which is why I’ve mentioned being careful if you have other smaller animals in the house which the ferret might see as prey.
When it comes to the best type of food for your ferret, there are a couple of options to choose from. Many people have concluded that feeding them a raw diet works best for them. However, there are also many pre-formulated ferret foods out on the market, usually in the form of dry food (pellets), canned food or treats. Making sure that these pre-made food options are based solely on meat, meat products is crucial.
What to feed your ferret will also depend on what’s healthy, as well as your ferret’s taste buds. Dry ferret food will keep their gums and teeth in check and give them the proper amounts of protein they need. On the other hand, wet canned food can be good for hairballs but should be given less often.
Many times, you will have to mix things up when it comes to ferret food choices. If you’re in the majority, your ferret will be a picky eater. Mixing things up once in a while will make it easier for you to switch foods without the fear of your ferret refusing to eat. It’s a well-known fact that ferrets “imprint” on their food in their first year of life. This means that if you wish to feed them different types of foods, you must introduce them all early in the ferret’s life. Otherwise, it will be very difficult to convince your ferret to eat a type of food he’s not used to.
As a rule, ferrets will eat small meals, but they will eat often. This is due to their short digestive tracts. Besides, always keep fresh water next to the food bowl, since ferrets usually drink together with their food.
To conclude, dry ferret food in the form of pellets together with occasional raw or cooked meat treats is the best way to feed your ferret. Also, respect the following rules: high meat content, grain-free, corn-free, low/no carbs, high protein, high fat. You’re good to go!
Can Ferret Eat Fruits?
No! Ferrets should not be given fruits or even vegetables since these two food groups contain carbs, sugars, and fibers – things that your ferret cannot digest.
Feeding ferrets with fruits and vegetables (or carbs and sugars in general) can contribute to the development of diseases such as Insulinoma.
Plus, your ferret won’t get any nutritional benefits from fruits and vegetables, so they only thing they can do is harm your ferret’s sensitive digestive system.
Treats for Ferrets!
While chocolate or chips are our favorite snacks and treats, ferrets should never eat our snacks! No matter if you choose a commercial ferret snack, cooked chicken, or other meat parts or organs, remember that it should always be only meat and proteins.
Carbs, sugars, chocolates, salty crackers, chips, cheeses, dairy products… All of these are NOT appropriate snacks for your ferret.
Valid ferret treats can be commercial snacks made especially for ferrets, cooked meat, meat pates, meat baby food, scrambled eggs, high-quality carb-free cat food…you get the gist.
Sometimes on rare occasions, you can give your ferret an egg yolk or a whole egg, which will also help them pass any fur balls that might be stuck in their system.
If you wish to stay on the safe side by purchasing a pre-made snack for your ferret, there are many options to choose from, my favorite is freeze dried chicken breast from Whole Life.
Best Cat Food for Ferrets?
Just like ferrets, cats are also carnivores, which means they also thrive on meat and proteins and shouldn’t be fed carbs. Taking this into consideration, it’s logical to conclude that ferrets can also eat cat food.
Nevertheless, not every cat food is suitable for a ferret. As a general rule, ferrets need much more protein than an average adult cat, which means that adult cat foods might not be the most optimal food choice for your ferret.
If you have no other choice or if you cannot find ferret food currently, your best bet is to feed your ferret, kitten food. Kittens need much more protein and fat in their diets, which makes this food much better for a ferret than an adult cat food.
Another thing to be careful of is the ingredients in the cat food. Most commercial cat foods do contain grains, corn and other “filler ingredients” which are basically carbs and your ferret won’t be able to digest. So, make sure that you purchase grain-free and carb-free high-quality kitten food in order to satisfy your ferret’s dietary needs.
And finally, while cats love fish as the base of their food, ferrets will prefer chicken, beef or lamb-based food options.
Generally speaking, as long as the food meets all the nutritional needs mentioned before, it doesn’t really matter if it’s cat or ferret food! High-quality cat food can sometimes even be better than low-quality ferret food.
To make sure that your ferret’s diet is the best possible, choose a product with high protein content and zero/low carbs.
Dr. Elsey's clean protein Chicken Formula Grain-Free is a great cat food for your ferret if it's unavailable or you can't find it anywhere. Then go for Wysong Ferret Epigen 90 Digestive Support, both are great!
Can Ferrets Eat Dog Food?
Just like adult cat food, dog food does not contain enough proteins and fats to satisfy your ferret’s needs. Plus, dogs might be able to digest fiber and carbs, but ferrets aren’t.
Dog food is not a suitable and healthy choice for your ferret. If you do wish to get something other than a ferret food, aim for high-quality and grain-free kitten food.
If for some reason, you’re struggling to find ferret foods or appropriate cat foods, then opt to cook some fresh meat for your ferret instead of switching to dog food. Raw food options are a popular choice among st owners of carnivorous pets. This is much healthier than any dog food you could find.
Vitamins & Supplements
Usually, a healthy and balanced food will be enough to keep your ferret in optimum health. However, if you feel that your ferret isn’t eating enough or is a picky eater, providing vitamins and supplements can be an incredibly important thing to do.
Vitamins and supplements can help increase the appetite of your ferret, thus gaining some weight and increasing energy. However, if you have a ferret with any type of medical condition, always ask your vet before giving him any type of vitamins or supplements on your own. Some vitamins might improve, while others might worsen certain conditions – and we definitely don’t want that!
You might have heard of Ferretvite, but it's not healthy and is full of sugar. Most vitamins out there which are made specifically for ferret aren't healthy if you read the ingredients. So go for something like salmon oil or coconut oil, a good choice would be something like the Grizzly Wild Alaskan Salmon Oil.
Ferret Cage & Habitat
For your ferret to be healthy and happy, you might need to make a few changes in your home.
Even though ferrets do need a well-equipped and spacious cage, they shouldn't be kept solely in the cage. No matter how big the cage is, ferrets are too curious and playful to be held captive. For this reason, you will need to let your ferret out of the cage at least a few hours per day – the longer, the better.
To ensure that you take proper care of your furry pal, I will explain you in details everything there is to know regarding ferret cages, habitats, and other important points to remember.
A ferret’s cage is where he will spend most of his life. They eat there, sleep there, play there, litter there, and drink there. So, you need to make sure that it’s nice, large, clean, and comfortable. The health, mood, and overall attitude of your ferret can greatly depend on their cage and how they’re kept.
Some of the most important things to consider regarding ferret cages are the following:
One simple rule – the bigger the better! The inside of the cage should be roomy enough to have space for sleeping, food and water, and a litter box. All of these things should be separated from each other. This is why a large cage with multiple levels (3 levels is ideal) is the best for your ferret.
For example, you could place the food and water bowls on the top level, the lounge or sleeping hammock in the middle, and the litter box at the very bottom. Plus, consider that you will need space for a few toys in there. And finally, the number of ferrets you have will also matter. One ferret will need a smaller cage than three ferrets kept together.
Another extremely important thing is your ferret’s safety. You will want to make sure that the ferret cage is safe enough for your pet and that there’s no danger of injuries or escaping even when you’re not around. To ensure this, make sure that the cage doors are safely closed and locked in a way that your ferret won’t be able to open them.
Next, make sure that the space between the bars is not too wide so that the ferret can slip out. And finally, make sure that you cover all levels with solid platforms (in case they’re covered with metal bars) so that ferrets don’t hurt their fragile feet. And finally, make sure that you place the cage in a safe area, not exposed to other animals, heat or cold sources, etc.
The last feature of your ferret cage should be quality. The last thing you want are cages which break easily or are damaged easily. First of all, low-quality cages can hurt your ferret in many different ways.
Second, your ferret can easily escape from there. And finally, the last thing you want to do is purchase a new ferret cage every couple of months. The best ferret cages will be made out of quality materials, and they’ll be safe, resistant, and ferret-proofed.
I also see many people asking for cage a recommendation, save yourself the time and get a Ferret Nation cage, a lot of people and myself included have it, and we love it! Although its a bit expensive but I assure you, you won't have any regrets. The cage is spacious for your ferret to roam in and most important, it's super easy to clean as well!
As I've mentioned before, ferrets will sleep long hours. Actually, they sleep most of the day. To make them as comfortable as possible, you need to decide well on your choice of bedding.
Some ferrets will love sleeping in their hammock, no matter what else you’ve put in there. However, others will prefer different bedding options.
Basically, any soft material will be a good option for bedding. Whether it’s an old T-shirt, a towel, a soft carpet piece… all of these things are great options. The only warning here is to make sure that the bedding you place doesn’t contain any zippers, buttons or any other type of decorations that the ferret can ingest.
And the last thing to know regarding ferret bedding is to make sure that the bedding space is separate from the litter box.
Food & Water
Above, I’ve already explained the type of food that is appropriate for ferrets, which is basically proteins only – meat and eggs (no dairy products).
Now the question is – where and how to place the food?
Food and water should always be placed next to each other because ferrets always drink water when they’re eating their food.
But, both food and water should be separated from the litter box, for obvious health reasons.
Knowing how playful and mischievous ferrets are, you also need to make sure that both the food and the water bowl are held safely in place. You don’t want your ferret to dive into the water bowl or knock over the food plate. The best way to prevent accidental spills is by safely attaching both bowls to the cage bars.
Even though ferrets can eat cat foods and do have similar dietary needs as cats, they are more similar to dogs when it comes to litter. Your ferret will not learn instinctively where to do his business. Instead, he has to be trained to do so.
Every ferret cage needs to have a litter box inside. Usually, such boxes are placed separated from the sleeping, food, and water area. For example, place the litter box on the very bottom of your ferret cage.
Because of your ferret’s physique, his litter box should have at least one low side, so that your ferret can go in and out without any problems.
Another important thing when it comes to litter boxes is the type of litter you choose. Some wood shavings such as pine or cedar contain chemicals which can irritate the ferret. The safest options for litter are recycled newspapers or paper shavings, alfalfa pellets or wood litter pellets.
Avoid using cat litter because it releases dust which can irritate your ferret’s sensitive respiratory system.
Ferrets are energetic, playful and unfortunately, easily bored. A happy ferret should see his cage as an adventurous and interesting place to be, instead of a boring captivity. Trust me, this will prevent many escape plans and attitudes!
For this reason, you will need to make the cage fun and entertaining. Use hammocks, ropes, strings, tunnels, slides, balls, and so on. Make sure that the toys you use are ferret-friendly and they don’t contain anything that your ferret can chew or ingest.
Similar to placing bedding, the sleeping area of your ferret can be his hammock, a soft piece of clothing, an improvised bed, and any other cozy material you can think of.
Again, make sure that there aren’t any zippers or buttons that your ferret can ingest.
Needless to say, the sleeping area of your ferret should be further from the litter box. Additionally, avoid using the same materials for litter as you do for bedding since your ferret can easily mix them up.
If you enjoy having your ferret outside of its cage for most of the day (that’s awesome, btw), then make sure to create his own sleeping area outside of the cage as well. This can be anything from a comfortable pillow to his own favorite sofa.
Remember that a ferret’s habitat shouldn’t be just his cage. Ferrets which are kept exclusively in a cage are miserable and unhealthy.
In nature, ferrets always choose dark or cold places to hide and sleep, and they usually live in places where they can find enough food to survive. Such places can be farms, forests, barns, etc.
Kept as house-pets, ferrets should still be given similar conditions which will make them as happy and healthy as possible.
The main thing is to have a good-quality, roomy and a fun playful cage. Then, to always have fresh food and water. And finally, to make sure that your ferret can go out of the cage to play and spend his energy.
It’s best if you supervise your ferret when he’s out of the cage to avoid any mischief and trouble. Use this time to cuddle and spend some quality time with your ferret. Ferret-proofing the area of your home where your ferret will run free is also a must – we will talk about the best way to do this a bit later.
All ferret lovers who are thinking of getting themselves a little furry rascal should know that ferrets can suffer from a variety of health issues. On top of that, ferrets' playfulness and curiosity often cause many unexpected "accidents."
The reason for this poor health of ferrets is still a controversy, although it’s not surprising considering the treatment that ferrets get in large ferret farms. As time went by and these large factories were inbreeding and spaying ferrets too early in their life, generation after generation of ferrets started being susceptible to many different diseases.
Some of the most common ferret health problems are unfortunately cancerous, and are the following:
Insulinoma is also known as a pancreatic tumor. This tumor produces too much Insulin which causes seizures in ferrets. To understand better, think of Insulinoma as diabetes in reverse. Basically, ferrets suffer from low blood sugar, and they are gradually losing energy and become more and more lethargic.
This is one of the most common health concerns for ferrets. The worst thing is that it cannot be cured at all, only controlled to some extent.
Lymphosarcoma or lymphatic cancer is another common disease in ferrets which can, unfortunately, end badly. The treatment is chemotherapy – something that many vets aren’t specialized or willing to do on such small animals like ferrets.
Adrenal disease means that your ferret has a tumor in the hormone-producing adrenal glands located on top of the ferret’s kidneys. These tumors can cause hair loss as well as hormone imbalances, which, in turn, can cause additional problems. Aside from being complicated to remove, adrenal tumors can metastasize and become fatal.
Aplastic anemia is usually a problem in female ferrets in heat whose hormones are wreaking havoc in the body. Hormonal injections, mating, and breeding (not recommended) or spaying the female ferret are the best ways to prevent this from happening.
Aside from the above-mentioned fairly common diseases, there are others just as serious that might affect your ferret at some point. Some of them are Aleutian disease, common colds, Green slime disease heatstroke, skin tumors, parasites, ingesting foreign objects or poison, bank injuries, Distemper (a horrible and fatal disease which has no cure), etc.
Everything that you would normally do for a cat or a dog, you should do for a ferret. Ferrets will also need brushing, showers, and even nail cutting.
When you're cutting the nails of your ferret, make sure that he's entertained with something so that he doesn't pay attention to what you're doing. For example, place some tasty paste treat on his belly so that he licks it and lets you do your thing. You should always be very careful not to cut too close to the vein because things might get bloody and painful. Although it's nothing serious, this can be a huge trauma for your ferret, and it will be a hundred times harder to cut his nails in the future. There are specialized nail clippers for this purpose which will make the whole procedure safer and easier for both you and your ferret.
Next, it’s the ferret showers. Try not to make this too often so that you don't damage your ferret's skin and fur. Most of the time you'll only bathe them twice or thrice a year.
And you won't shower but bathe your ferret.
This entails filling your tub with warm water (not lukewarm, but warm) not more than just some centimeters so that your ferret's head is still out of the water when he's standing up. Next, shampoo your furry friend and once you're done, wash all the shampoo off of him very well. When it comes to drying your ferret, you can do half the job, but your ferret will finish drying himself by rolling around.
If you feel up to the task, you can try cleaning your ferret’s teeth with a specialized toothbrush and toothpaste for pets. If not, bring your ferret to a vet for a professional service.
And finally, the last thing that ferret grooming includes is cleaning of the ears. Even though this sounds dangerous, ferrets’ ear canals are shaped in the form of the letter L, so you cannot really harm them.
Video of how to groom your ferret
Video of how to bath/wash your ferret
Ferret Proofing Your House
We’ve already talked about keeping a ferret always in its cage is neither healthy nor humane. It’s not up to me to tell you how much time your ferret needs to spend outside. Even asking that question represents that your expectations might be unrealistic.
To be honest, ferrets have to be outside of the cage as long as possible. The more, the better. Now, to ensure your ferret’s safety when they’re out roaming free in your house, there are some steps that need to be taken to ferret-proof your house.
Knowing that ferrets are incredibly curious and mischievous little thieves that often get themselves into accidental troubles, you have to ensure that your home is safe for them.
First of all, remove any dangerous items or objects that might be trouble for your ferret such as toxins, cleaning liquids, latex materials, rubber, sponges, sharp objects, tiny items they can ingest, etc. Also your important stuff, they love to steal!
Next, be prepared that you might need to actually baby-proof your apartment. Ferrets are pretty smart little creatures, and they're able to quickly figure out how to open things and enter a forbidden space or area. For this reason, baby-proofing your house might be the safest option out there.
Last but not least, if you wish to separate the area of access for your ferret from the rest of your house, you will need to purchase a ferret-proof gate.
Whether you choose to place your ferret in a playpen or simply separate the area with a fence type of a gate, make sure it’s safe enough and meant for smaller animals like ferrets.
Now there isn't gate specifically designed for ferrets. But I use Marshall's Deluxe Play Pen as a gate and also as a play pen. You could easily DIY a gate with just cardboard and tape it to your doorway but its up to you!
Awesome Ferret Groups/Community/Forums
To finish off this guide, here are some great ferret resources/community where you can ask questions or just share your ferret pictures, but remember to read and follow the group rules!
- Ferret Forum- Forum
- Holistic Ferret Forum - Forum
- Ferrets For Life - FB Group
- Ferret Lovers Community - FB Group
- Ferret Care & Support - FB Group
- Ferrets Galore - FB Group
- Ferret Owners <3 - FB Group
- F.A.A - FB Group
- Ferrets Lovers Unite - FB Group
- Ferret Academic Learning Center - FB Group
- Ferret Care & Better Support - FB Group
Ending The Guide
Here's a great video rundown
I hope this guide helped you learn more about our little dooks and how you can take care of them!
If you find this guide useful, please share it with your friends and let them know 🙂
If you have any questions, ask me in the comments below, I'll do my best to reply!