How to Take Care of a Ferret

Ferrets are friendly, playful animals and popular modern-day pets. However, it hasn’t always been this way—up until World War II, they served as deterrents for rodents trying to get inside grain stores.

Despite this, ferrets are surprisingly fragile creatures who require attentive care to maintain their health. In this article, we’ll cover everything you need to know about how to take care for a ferret so that your furry friend remains happy and healthy.

Ferret Indoor Cages

You want your ferret to feel happy in their home, so choosing the right indoor cage is essential. Ferrets are climbers and love to roam. Therefore, their cage should be multi-level and as big as your space allows.

Another vital component to ferret cages is that they contain solid ramps and shelves.

Ferrets’ paws are fragile and can get stuck in mesh fabric, so solid material prevents injuries. 

Other factors to consider when purchasing an indoor ferret cage is space for toys and a toilet area. It’s best if the doors are large so that it’s easy to clean the cage and take your ferret out for playtime. 

There are various ferret cages on the market, ranging from basic pens to cages equipped with accessories like hammocks and food bowls. The best ferret cage for your situation will depend on your budget and the accessories you already have.

Read.. “How Much Do Ferrets Cost

Ferret Runs and Playpens

An excellent way to promote your ferret’s active lifestyle is by purchasing a ferret run, which attaches directly to their cage, or a playpen, which is a larger enclosed area that’s typically separate from their playpen.

In either case, ferret runs and playpens allow your ferret to explore and indulge in their curiosity without you needing to stay vigilant over their whereabouts. 

Ferret owners often favor ferret runs and playpens over letting their ferret run loose in their home.

Ferrets are naturally curious, and studies show that the more you handle a ferret, the more curious it becomes.

For this reason, if you let your ferret run freely in your home without using a ferret run or playpen, you may find yourself chasing your ferret down narrow holes or through those piles of belongings that you’ve wanted to organize.

What do Ferrets Need in Their Cage?

Providing your ferret with essential items in their cage will encourage happiness and ensure comfort. Below are items that every ferret needs in their cage:

  • Bedding, such as a towel, blanket, or hammock.
  • Litter box filled with newspaper or aspen shavings.
  • A water bottle or bowl.
  • A food bowl. 
  • Toys, ramps, and tunnels or pipes.

What do Ferrets Like to Sleep On?

Ferrets love cuddling in warm, soft spaces. If you have the money to spare, purchasing a ferret hammock is an excellent option for giving your ferret a good night’s sleep.

A hammock keeps your ferret off the ground, offering it more room to roam. It also helps with cleanliness since it keeps it away from its food and litter box.

When tying your ferret’s hammock to its cage, you can use clips or string.

Ensure your ferret’s paws won’t get caught in whatever you use since they’ll probably try to climb on it. 

If you don’t have a hammock, old towels or clothing are also excellent ferret bedding choices. Make sure to change beddings regularly to reduce the smell of your ferret.

Ferrets enjoy sleeping in warm environments up to 80 degrees Fahrenheit. So, regardless of the type of bedding your ferret sleeps on, their cage should be in a warm area. 

Heated Pet Beds for Ferrets

You already know that your ferret loves a warm environment. In fact, it loves it so much that you can purchase a heated ferret bed.

Doing so is especially ideal for your ferret if its cage is in a colder area or if your ferret is sick or elderly.

Note that ferrets should never live in an environment under 60 degrees.

With heated pet beds for ferrets, you can toss the bed in the microwave. After around five minutes, open your ferret’s cage and place the heated bed under its bedding. 

It’s important to make sure your ferret’s heated bed remains covered with thick material. Otherwise, it could burn your beloved pet.

Often, heated ferret beds come with a cover to offer peace of mind.

Disposable Ferret Beds

Ferrets are notorious for having a strong odor. Their stench originates from their anal glands, which in the wild allows them to mark their territory.

For this reason, some ferret owners prefer to use disposable ferret beds.

One of the best ways to make disposable ferret beds is by using old clothing or towels.

If you run out of your clothes to use, try stopping by a second-hand clothing store—your ferret won’t mind if their bedding is out of style!

Nonetheless, disposable ferret beds are an expensive option throughout your ferret’s life. Therefore, consider washing your ferret’s bedding once per week to reduce foul odors and waste (read.. how to stay healthy around your pet ferret).

Do Ferrets Require Water?

Well, YES! Like any animal, ferrets require a constant supply of water. You can choose to supply your ferret with water either via a water bottle or bowl.

Some say ferrets prefer using a water bowl, although both have their advantages.

When it comes to water bottles, it’s easier to keep them clean. On the other hand, your ferret may drop food and other items into their water bowl. 

Bacteria and algae build up on both water bottles and water bowls. You should make a habit of washing the bottles or bowls with soap and water every day.

Water bowls make it easier to scrub away these harmful substances than water bottles. 

Tap water containing fluoride and chlorine will not harm your ferret. However, using filtered water is ideal.

You should also make sure to offer your ferret water that’s room temperature. Ferrets don’t like cold water, so they’re more prone to dehydration.

Ferret Food

When considering how to look after your ferret, feeding them a well-balanced diet is likely on your mind.

Ferrets are strict carnivores and require a diet filled with fat and protein.

Fruits, vegetables, and foods high in sugar and carbohydrates are bad for your ferret’s health.

According to PetMD, ferrets have a high metabolism. Therefore, in the ideal world, they should eat 8 – 10 small meals per day.

That’s not a realistic feeding schedule for the average pet owner, so food pellets are a great way to ensure your ferret receives proper nutrition with fewer feedings.

Ferret pellets should be smooth, small, and oval-shaped. The reason being is because triangular-shaped pellets may jab the inside of your ferret’s mouth.

Besides feeding your ferret pellets rich in fat and protein, you should also consider giving them hairball prevention treats.

Hairballs occur when ferrets self-groom. However, they cannot regurgitate the hair like cats do, leading to a costly veterinary bill.

Bob Church’s Chicken Gravy

There are different ways to make Bob Church´s Chicken Gravy. This is not the only way to do it!

Ingredients:

  • 1 whole roasting chicken
  • 1 Tube Nutri-Cal
  • 4 Eggshells
  • 2 Tablespoons fine wheat bran
  • 1 Tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 Tablespoon FerreTone
  • 1 Cup ferret kibble
  • 1 Cup fat trimmings (uncooked)

Cut the chicken up into parts. Then use a cleaver to break the bones so that they will go through the meat grinder.

Time for the grinder! You don’t want to add all the fat and skin at once – this might actually block even the best meat grinder. Add eggshells together with the chicken parts and let the grinder do its work.

Add water until you have a thin puree. Cook approx. 25 minutes until it has a creamy, thick, gravy-like consistency.

Now add the rest of the ingredients and mix well. Portion it accordingly and put it into the freezer. To serve, defrost and mix water to it until you reach the desired consistency.

What Are Ferrets Allergic to? 

Ferrets are sensitive animals, so you’ll likely encounter them sneezing now and then during their lifetime. Ferrets can be allergic to the following items:

  • Litter
  • Dust and dirt
  • Laundry detergent and fabric softener

You should avoid litter that’s dusty and prone to mold. Examples include cat litter and corn cob litter. Since ferrets love to keep their noses to the ground as they smell their surroundings, they’re also prone to allergies from dust and dirt.

If your ferret has allergies, try changing the detergent and fabric softener you use, as this could solve the problem. Unscented products are ideal.

Allergies aren’t the only reason you may find your ferret sneezing; like humans, they can catch viruses like the cold and flu.

They also sneeze when they want to spread their scent.

Are Ferrets Allergic to Aubiose Hemp Bedding?

Ferrets aren’t typically allergic to aubiose hemp bedding. In fact, aubiose hemp is one of the best kinds of bedding to use due to its excellent absorbency and because it undergoes dust extraction.

Ferret Toxic Litter Advice

There are numerous litter options on the market, but not all of them are safe for ferrets. Below are harmful or toxic litters to ferrets:

  • Wood shavings, as they may contain toxic essential oils. Cedar and pine shavings are especially devastating to a ferret’s respiratory tract.
  • Corn cob litter, which is dusty, prone to mold, and causes blockages if consumed.
  • Clay and clumping cat litter. Your ferret may try to eat it, and it can expand inside their body, creating loads of health issues.
  • Silica-based litter, since it may cause silicosis, stiffening the tissue in your ferret’s lungs.

Since many ferret owners assume they can share their cat’s litter with their ferret, it’s worth reiterating that this is a poor choice if the cat litter is in the clay or clumping variety.

Not only will clay and clumping cat litter send your ferret to the veterinary office if consumed, but it also sticks to their paws and face, causing discomfort.

Safe Ferret Litter

There’s plenty of safe ferret litter to choose from, and one of the biggest pros to look for is low dust content.

Paper pellets, wheat-based litter, and corn-based litter are all excellent choices.

Paper pellets are ferret owners’ go-to choice due to high absorbency, low dust, and odor control. They’re also heavy so that your ferret won’t track them around when it steps out of its litter box. 

Wheat and corn-based litter are easier to clean because of their clumping properties. However, some ferrets may be prone to eating them. 

It’s important to clean out your ferret’s litter box frequently.

According to Ferret.org, owners who don’t clean their ferret’s litter often struggle with their ferret using places outside of their litter box. 

To help with cleanliness and reduce odors, consider laying a newspaper on top of clean litter.

In this case, you can change out the newspaper daily while only needing to switch out the litter every 5 – 7 days.

Is Wood Poisonous to Ferrets?

Softwood is typically poisonous to ferrets. Examples include pine and cedar, which contain hydrocarbon phenols. These toxins create respiratory and liver damage over time. 

It’s also best to avoid Aspen. This hardwood is sometimes used in ferret enclosure structures.

Ferret Enclosure Substrate

Before you set up your ferret’s cage, consider lining the bottom to make cleaning easier. Linoleum and newspapers are two excellent options. 

Avoid any loose linings, such as wood shavings, as they are messy and may be toxic to your ferret.

Can I Use Cat Litter for Ferrets?

Generally speaking, it’s best to avoid using cat litter for ferrets. Clay-based and clumping cat litter is especially hazardous since it can wreak havoc on a ferret’s health if ingested. 

That said, corn-based cat litter is safe for ferrets. Nonetheless, your ferret might consume it, so it’s best to stick with a paper-based pellet.

Ferret Litter Box Tips

Ferrets are clean animals and quick learners, so they’re easy to potty train. However, it’s your job to make sure it’s a comfortable environment to entice them to use their litter box.

Ideally, you should have one litter box in the cage per ferret, plus an extra box for good measure.

Consider drilling holes in the litter box and attaching them to the side of the cage so your ferrets can’t use them as toys. 

You should also make sure your ferret’s litter box is low-walled. Place the litter box in an area that’s away from their sleeping and eating area.

Most of all, be patient. Your ferret will learn, but it takes time for them to be potty trained.

Pooping in the Wrong Place

Realizing your ferret always poops in the wrong place is frustrating. Your ferret may go to the bathroom in the wrong place because they look for smells of where they last defecated. 

If you find your ferret suddenly pooping in the wrong place, it may also be for other reasons such as a new pet in the home, smoking in the house, or losing a companion ferret. 

Regardless of the reasoning behind your ferret pooping in the wrong place, there are some strategies you can try to get your furry loved one back on track. They include the following:

  1. Douse the places you don’t want your ferret to poop with vanilla essence. 
  2. If there’s a single location your ferret defecates in, rearrange their cage by putting their litter box in the place where they always go.
  3. Physically place your ferret in the litter box, especially before taking it out to play and during play. Always praise your ferret when it poops in the correct place.
  4. Always use positive reinforcement; never punish your ferret for bathroom mistakes. 

Additionally, the Ferret Association of Connecticut recommends potty training your ferret using rewards.

Ferrets are intelligent, so they’ll soon learn to associate treats with pooping in the correct spot.

Baby Gates for Ferrets

If you’re the brave soul who’d like to give your ferret reign of your home instead of setting up a ferret run or playpen, your ferret is a lucky guy or gal!

However, before you open up your ferret’s cage, consider whether there are areas of your home that you don’t want your ferret to access—or that could be downright dangerous to them.

In cases like these, baby gates are an excellent option.

When selecting a baby gate for your ferret, you’ll want to ensure that the gate contains vertical bars.

Otherwise, your ferret will scoot right over horizontal ones. You also need to check that the bars have small distances between the spaces so your ferret can’t squeeze through.

Most commonly, people choose to put baby gates around their kitchen since many kitchens have holes that ferrets can escape through.

You should make sure the space in your home is free of breakable items. Also, block small spaces where your ferret can hide.

Regardless of where you set up your baby gates, make sure your ferret has access to a bowl of water and litter box.

You can also leave it some toys, but let’s face it—to a ferret, exploring the house is like one gigantic toy.

Ferret Shampoo and Bathing

It’s tempting to bathe your ferret often since they have a musky odor. However, frequent shampooing removes natural oils.

Not only will this leave your ferret with itchy, dry skin, but its body will overproduce oils to make up for those lost.

In doing so, your ferret will develop an even more pungent odor.

The good news is that ferrets are clean animals by nature. They groom themselves often and shed twice per year.

During this time, you should comb your ferret to help remove loose fur. Since ferrets can’t regurgitate hair like cats, you should feed them treats specializing in hairball prevention.

Ferret-World recommends bathing your ferret under the following conditions:

  • When your ferret gets muddy or messy of any kind, that requires a bath for proper cleaning.
  • If your ferret needs a flea/parasite treatment.
  • If your veterinarian recommends it.

While it’s best to avoid frequent full-body baths, spot bathing is healthier for your ferret if they get dirty.

Additionally, instead of frequent bathing, aim to improve your ferret’s health by brushing their teeth and trimming their nails every month.

You can also try the following to reduce your ferret’s musky smell:

  • Change its litter daily.
  • Wash its bedding at least once per week.
  • Feed it a diet high in protein and fiber to keep its coat shiny.
  • Spay/neuter, as this reduces the size of the smelly sebaceous glands.
  • Keep your ferret in a humid environment to promote healthy skin.

Ferret Tubes

Ferrets love to play and hide in tubes, so purchasing tunnel addons to your ferret’s cage is an excellent idea to promote a healthy lifestyle.

You’ll have plenty of ferret tunnel options from which to choose. Flexible vinyl tunnels can stretch to twenty feet or more. If possible, try to purchase a clear tube so you can watch your ferret race up and down it.

When it comes to vinyl tubes, you’ll want to keep an eye on your ferret, as some may try to chew through the fabric.

Another fun type of tunnel for your ferret is the crinkle tunnel. As its name implies, these tunnels make a crinkling noise when your ferret runs through them.

Since ferrets are curious creatures and respond well to sound, they’ll enjoy this sensory experience. 

Consider placing a small piece of bedding inside or near the tunnel to give your ferret more comfort and entertainment. That way, it can burrow inside with it.

Regardless of the kind of tunnel you choose, make sure to wash it regularly. Also, ferrets can get bored with their toys.

Therefore, it’s helpful to rotate toys, including the tunnel types, to keep your ferret happy and engaged. 

Ferret Cage Cleaning

When considering how to take care of a ferret, cage cleaning is likely at the forefront of your mind.

It’s an integral part of owning a ferret—ferrets are clean creatures, and their bodies are sensitive to health issues that can arise from dirty cages.

Below are cleaning habits you should implement daily:

  • Clean the litter box or remove a top layer of newspaper coverage. 
  • Throw away uneaten food and wash the bowl with soap and water.
  • Wash the water bowl or water bottle with soap and water.
  • Take out soiled bedding and replace it with fresh bedding.
  • Check for toilet accidents and clean them up if you find them.

Furthermore, you should perform the following activities every week as part of your ferret cage cleaning regimen: 

  • Disinfect litter trays and replace them with fresh litter.
  • Run bedding and cloth toys through a washing machine.
  • Disinfect plastic toys and the inside of your ferret’s cage with a bleach solution.

A bleach solution is an effective way to rid your ferret’s environment of harmful bacteria. Just be sure to rinse the surfaces with water when you’ve finished. Brushes are also helpful for scrubbing small spaces in your ferret’s cage.

Ferret Toys

One of the best parts about owning ferrets is watching them play. Luckily, there’s a variety of toys you can choose from—many of which aren’t specifically for ferrets. 

Aside from the typical ferret toys and tunnels, below are other toy options you can offer your pet:

  • Tennis balls
  • Cat toys
  • Baby toys
  • Rope to play tug of war
  • Socks tied in a knot
  • Empty paper bags

Yes, the options are practically limitless. However, make sure to assess each toy’s safety. For example, rope toys should be tightly wound so that pieces of string don’t detach and get lodged in your ferret’s throat.

Similarly, check the toys for small parts that can easily fall off. Ferrets are surprisingly strong, and they may accidentally swallow something they shouldn’t.

Choosing toys with hard plastic is ideal.

Ferrets love to burrow and hide. Therefore, they’ll love anything with holes that they can crawl through.

You can even cut holes in empty milk jugs and set up an obstacle course. 

As with humans, ferrets tend to lose interest quickly. Therefore, you should try to rotate your ferret’s toys once per week to ensure they stay entertained. 

Ferret Harnesses and Leads

Taking your ferret outside is a great activity, and you can do so by training them to wear a harness.

When purchasing a ferret harness, look for an H style, as ferrets tend to slip out of collars easily.

In regards to material, choose a nylon harness with plastic buckles. You should avoid purchasing a harness with metal pieces since they can heat up if the sun is out and cause discomfort for your ferret.

Also, avoid Velcro since it isn’t very sturdy if your ferret pulls.

When securing your ferret’s harness, you’ll know it’s the right tightness if you can slip your pinky underneath the harness.

As with dogs, ferrets need training before being able to walk on a leash. It’s best to start this process in the house.

From there, you can move outside to a contained area such as a garden. Always praise your ferret with words and treats during the training. That way, they’ll associate their harness with a positive experience. 

Ferrets and Rubbish

And now, we’ve come to one last point about how to look after your ferret—managing their waste. Depending on where you set up your ferret’s playtime, you may need to set up an additional litter box.

Try to place the litter box in a corner, and always keep it in a consistent spot, so your ferret knows where to find it.

Since your ferret will associate being out of their cage with play, they may be especially inclined to assume that their litter box is a play toy.

Therefore, setting the box on a cloth for easy cleanup afterward is a great strategy.

A Final Note

Ferrets bring loads of joy and laughter to households throughout the world. After reading this article, you should have a strong sense of how to take care of a ferret. The most important parts to remember are ensuring you keep their cage clean, provide them with lots of toys, and give them positive reinforcement and love.

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