Our veterinarians can treat a wide range of exotic pets, including ferrets. Ferrets can be a joy to share a home with, but they require lots of care, too. Boulder Veterinary Hospital recommends seeing your ferret once a year at minimum until they are four to five years old for their wellness exam, and a discussion of any questions or concerns you have about their health and needs. Once your ferret reaches five years of age, we recommend increasing the frequency of their visits to once every six months. This is essential for catching symptoms of illness early and providing timely treatment. Along with routine exams, we may also recommend blood work and ultrasounds to monitor your ferret’s health.
Ferret Care Instructions
Like dogs and cats, ferrets should be vaccinated against specific diseases. Ferret-specific distemper vaccines should be administered at eight weeks of age and boosted at twelve and sixteen weeks. A rabies vaccine should be administered to your ferret at sixteen weeks of age and then annually thereafter. Heartworms can also cause disease in ferrets, so a monthly preventive oral medication is highly recommended.
Ferrets are prone to developing adrenal disease, as well as cancer of the adrenal glands. This disease usually affects middle-aged to older ferrets and is characterized by hair loss and vulvar enlargement in females. A hormonal implant can be specially ordered and administered annually by our ferret veterinarian to decrease your pet’s risk of developing adrenal disease. Ferrets are also prone to developing dental tartar and gingivitis. Feeding a good-quality kibble diet and regular teeth brushing can reduce the frequency of recommended professional dental cleanings.
The human flu virus is also transmittable between ferrets and humans. If you are feeling the symptoms of a cold, try not to handle your ferret until your illness has passed. If you must handle your ferret, be sure to wash your hands thoroughly before and after handling and do not bring them near your face.
When purchasing a ferret, it is likely they will already be spayed/neutered and de-scented. Typically, they will have two tattooed dots on their ear to indicate that these procedures have been performed. If you have any questions regarding these procedures, please ask your veterinarian.
The following are critical to providing your ferret with a happy and healthy life:
- Quality ferret kibble
- A large, multi-level enclosure with ramps
- Absorbent, non-toxic litter
- Daily exercise
- Vaccinations against distemper and rabies
Ferrets are strict carnivores, requiring a diet rich in protein (30-40%) and fat (15-20%), and a small amount of fiber (2%). Good quality kibble brands include Wysop, Maxuri Ferret, Marshal Ferret Carnivore Plus (grain-free), or ZuPreem Premium Ferret Diet (without corn).
Kibble should always be available so your ferret can eat frequent meals throughout the day. In addition to kibble, cooked meat, poultry, fish, or hard-boiled eggs can be offered in moderation. Avoid diets high in fiber, carbohydrates, vegetables, or dog food.
Clean water should be available to your ferret at all times via a sipper bottle or dish that is deep and heavy enough to prevent spillage and tipping.
Recommended housing for a ferret is a well-ventilated wire enclosure with a solid bottom. The cage should be a minimum of 2’ x 2’ x 1.5’ for one to two ferrets and should have multiple levels to allow climbing. The enclosure should be kept away from direct sunlight, drafts, or cold/damp areas.
Provide your ferret with lots of bedding such as old towels, shirts, and blankets to keep them comfortable and allow them to burrow. Do not allow your ferret to ingest any of the cloth or bedding materials.
Bedding and litter material should be non-toxic, absorbent, and dust-free. There are many options available, from newspaper covered in hay, to commercial bedding and recycled paper products. Avoid wood shavings, wood chips, pine, aspen, and corn cob-based bedding. Bedding should be kept dry and clean at all times, replaced weekly and spot-cleaned in between full cleanings.
Many ferrets can actually be litter pan trained with the use of a small, low-sided pan placed in the corner of the enclosure, lightly lined with bedding. Ferrets will not cover their waste, making frequent cleanings extra important. Litter pans can also be placed in exercise areas to avoid unwanted soiling outside of the enclosure.
Ferrets require supervised exercise for a minimum of two hours per day in a ferret-proofed area. Toys should be available during playtime and frequent interactions should be made throughout the day to strengthen your bond with your ferret. Appropriate toys include cloth toys (without buttons), larger indestructible materials (hard plastic larger than a ping pong ball), and tunnels. Always monitor your ferrets during playtime to avoid any potential injuries from toys or aggressive behavior.
Ferrets are nocturnal but are able to adjust their activity schedule if needed. They are friendly and easy to handle but can bite if they become overstimulated or frightened. They might not do well in a home with young children or other pets such as birds, rabbits, rodents, or lizards.
All homes should be ferret proofed before ferrets are introduced into a new home. Ferrets are very curious and like to explore their environment and squeeze into narrow spaces. Any hole or space larger than 2” x 2” should be sealed off to prevent escaping. Ferrets should not be allowed in rooms with recliners or sofa beds. If your ferret is allowed in your kitchen or laundry areas, be sure to check your appliances before closing the door and/or turning them on.
Keep all items such as foam, rubber, electrical cords, hair ties, shoes, pipe insulation, headphones, etc. out of reach as these can be accidentally ingested. Make sure to remove potentially toxic or irritating substances such as plants, household cleaners, insecticides, or rodenticides from your ferret’s reach. Child safety outlets plugs are also recommended to protect your ferret.