Caring for ferrets is a lot of work, but their mischievous antics can provide hours of entertainment. The fuzz balls also known as carpet sharks can warm your heart with their curiosity and love. They are playful trouble makers, and they need some specific accommodations. Below I have explained how to make your ferrets feel at home.
Kids and Other Animals
Ferrets are fun pets, but if you have young children or other pets in the house, you need to remember a few things. Ferrets can coexist with children and make good pets, but you will have to be the primary care taker for the ferrets. They are not a good first pet for children to be primarily responsible for. Children should be supervised at all times while playing with the ferrets, as the ferrets are small animals. Children tend to be a little too “lovey” at times and may squeeze the ferrets a little too hard, resulting in injury for the ferret. The low attention span of children also presents a problem for ferrets as the children may forget about the ferrets and then hop onto the couch or a blanket, not realizing a ferret is underneath. Also, ferrets are not usually biters, but they do sometimes nip when playing. Children do not always respond well to this. Also, a bite or rough playing from another animal can harm the ferret. You should always consider your other pets’ personalities before bringing a ferret into the home.
Ferret Proofing Your Home
Ferrets are tricky little rogues, always sneaking into or out of things. They can slip under doors, open cabinets, some windows and cages. You’ll want to keep the ferrets out of your kitchen and laundry rooms. There are too many dangerous appliances and electrical cords that pose potential hazards.
A very handy thing to install, cabinet locks can keep your ferrets out of your cabinets where harmful chemicals are usually stored. Also, many cabinets cover piping, which goes through a hole into the wall. We recently had a naughty ferret get into a cabinet, go through the hole in the wall with the pipe, and end up trapped in the ceiling of the basement. We had a rough rescue mission ahead of us. We had to use a dremel tool, but how do you tell a curious ferret not to attack this screaming tool poking at it? So, we learned that cabinet locks are a good thing. Also, any door that has a gap under it that your big toe can fit under poses an escape route for a ferret. Snap bolts are a good way to keep ferrets in their cage if the doors of the cage do not come with locks on the doors.
Floor vents and air returns also pose a way for your ferrets to travel their way into trouble, especially loose vents on the floor that are easy to lift. You can use Velcro strips to make them harder to lift. You also want to remember to keep any fans out of reach of your ferrets.
Having ferrets is much like having toddlers, so get on your belly and look around before letting them loose. Attach electrical cords off of the ground so they are less tempting to bite. Keep plants out of reach. Ferrets will both taste the plants and dig in the soil. Some plants are poisonous. Intestinal Blockages are the leading cause for death in ferrets, so make sure there are no pen caps, balls of fuzz, plastic bags, string or other small items that are tempting for them to chew or swallow. Assume that anything and everything will be tasted.
If you’re letting your ferrets run loose, you’ll always want to check reclining chairs, between mattresses, blankets, rockers and foldout couches. Ferrets are excellent climbers and jumpers, so it is not hard for them to end up exploring one of these new places. It may help to have a designated play room for ferrets. If a ferret is missing, a good place to check is inside or behind couches or between mattresses. Anywhere that makes a good hiding spot, especially a warm spot or somewhere the ferrets can burrow. Also remember that although ferrets have no problem finding their way to high spots, they don’t always land on their feet. Like I mentioned in the other article, we lost a ferret when it decided to run up a friends arm to their shoulder and then dive off.
Buckets, toilets and bathtubs can be drowning hazards, even though ferrets generally love to swim. They can tucker out easily after being in the water for a while, so you’ll want to make sure to keep the toilet seat down. Also, another hazard in the bathroom, rubber mats and rubber doorstops are chewy favorites for ferrets. These are both huge blockage threats to the ferrets’ tummies.
If you have a fireplace in your home, you’ll want to make sure your ferrets don’t have access to it. There are all sorts of hazards, as there are usually things the ferrets can ingest and there’s always a risk of the ferret being curled up in there when you light a fire. Another potential hazard for your ferrets is the trash can. Not only do ferrets find their way in to them or tip them over, they will chew on whatever they find inside. A trash can with a lid that seals is an excellent way to prevent any trash troubles.
Setting Up a Ferret Home
Books and magazines about ferrets are an excellent way to get ideas for a comfortable and creative ferret home. You can buy cages at pet stores, in ferret catalogs or even a ferret shelter if there is one near you. You want to make sure that the cage is big enough for playing and being active. You’ll also want to make sure that there is enough space for their litter box to be separated from their food and play areas. You’ll also want to make sure that there is good ventilation. You do not want to put them in an aquarium or anything similar, as it doesn’t have enough ventilation. As I mentioned earlier, ferrets are quite sly when it comes to escaping, so you’ll want to make sure there are no small openings between wires and that there are locking secure doors. Chicken wire is not suitable to create a cage for ferrets, as their claws can get stuck on the wire and be ripped out. Something to consider when caring for ferrets is the time you will have to devote. Wood cages are impossible to completely sanitize, can be chewed and ingested, and treated woods have chemicals in them. . If your cage floor is made of wire, you’ll want to put something in the bottom of the cage like linoleum to make the floor easier on the ferrets paw pads. You may also want to think about a cage that is easier for you to clean. Cages with pull out trays are the easiest to clean.
The cages will need a litter box, water bottle (or two, maybe more depending on how many ferrets you have), bedding, and a food bowl. We use two corner litter pans that fit into the corners of the cage. There are different types of litter available, but the best choice for ferrets tends to be clay or scoopable litter, shredded newspaper or pelleted litters, which are made from plant fibers or newspaper.
Another good idea is to use either weighted bowls for food or bowls that you can attach to the side of the cage. Ferrets like to climb and may just climb right into their bowl, knocking it over. Water bottles usually work better for water loving ferrets, as they can’t climb into them and play in them. Bedding can be towels, or sheets cut up, as ferrets love to burrow and tunnel. Our ferrets love sleeping in their ferret hammocks. These hammocks stretch across the cage, attaching to the sides with snap bolts. We have four of these hammocks, and they provide more climbing options as well as sleeping spots.
Some ferrets suffer from cage stress, which is obvious by pacing back and forth, gnawing on the cage or tipping over the bowls and litter pans on a regular basis. This usually results from not having a good spot to hide. Providing plenty of bedding to hide in or even a nest box are a good way to give them what they need to feel safe. Just watch for gnawing if the nest box is wooden.
You’ll want to place the cage in a spot that has a moderate temperature. Ferrets shouldn’t be in temperatures less than 40 degrees and are also highly susceptible to heat stroke. So, placing them in direct sunlight is a bad idea.
Ferret Fun: Toys and Accessories
Remember, ferrets are very curious and need stimulation beyond their basic necessities. I’ve already mentioned hammocks and a dark place for them to hide, but there are other accessories that you can put into their cage to offer them some fun. There are exercise wheels for ferrets. You’ll want a large one, not the small ones designed for rodents. They need one that will not strain their backs. You can also put rubber stops (like on the back of bathmats) along the running surface of the wheel to give your ferrets some traction. Kim Schilling, in “Ferrets for Dummies” , also suggests that you can put sandpaper along the running surface to help your ferrets keep their nails trim.
As I mentioned in another article, ferret comes from the Greek word “Furonem” which translates as “thief”. They are known for deeming anything they want as a treasure, and stealing it away to keep for themselves. These little borrowers will deem some of your things as toys, but that doesn’t mean you can’t provide them with toys of their own. Tennis balls, cardboard tubes and boxes, paper bags, infant toys and hard rubber balls all make good toys. Anything safe that they can tunnel through is always appreciated, like a dryer hose. Noisy and squeaky toys are fun as well, including dangling toys that make noise, just make sure that any bells or other small items are very secure and that there is no risk of the ferret swallowing it. Our ferrets go nuts attacking their squeaky toy when we squeeze it. It is important to make sure that any plastic toys are made from thick hard plastic. If it looks like the ferrets are able to chew through the plastic, ingesting some of it, toss it. Foam is also a ferret no-no.
Some ferrets like to go on a walk on a leash. With ferrets, you will need a harness to attach the leash to. Most likely, you will have to train your ferrets to use them. They won’t like them at first. It’s something that holds them from their freedom! These are not ample for transporting them to the vet’s or other places, though. You’ll want a plastic pet carrier with wire mesh door (like used for cats or dogs) for that.
This should pretty much give you an idea of how to make a ferret feel at home. Once you bring him home, you’ll quickly adjust to caring for ferrets. Remember to clean the cage, food dishes and water bottles weekly (more if needed). Keep an eye on things. There are many other things to know about ferrets, such as how to train them, how to bathe them and how often, ferret games, and much more including understanding their silly antics such as the weasel war dance. The absolute best resource we’ve found is “Ferrets for Dummies” by Kim Schilling. She has more than twenty ferrets at a time and operates Animals for Awareness, which is a sanctuary for exotic animals. Remember, owning ferrets is similar to parenting. The absolute best thing you can do is learn what you can, do the best you can, and remember to have fun.