Ferrets

Ferrets

Monday, October 5, 2015 | NHS Behavior Department

Ferrets are carnivores that belong to the weasel family. They have been considered domestic for more than 2,000 years. They were originally used for hunting.

Housing

Ferrets should primarily be housed indoors with a cage large enough to allow for separate sleeping, eating and exercising areas, and include a litter box. The cage should not be in reach of any materials that can be chewed or ingested.

When allowed to play outside of the cage, they should be closely supervised. They are capable of squeezing into very tight spaces. Ferrets also have a tendency to urinate and defecate in corners.

Grooming

Ferrets naturally have a musky odor to them. Regular bathing is not recommended for your ferret despite this smell. Bathing should not exceed more than once a month and shampoo should be labeled for ferret use.

Feeding

There are a variety of commercial ferret diets available. Since they are obligate carnivores, any deviation from a stable, protein-based diet can be harmful. Do not offer your ferret any fruits or vegetables. Treats can include hard-boiled eggs, mealworms and small amounts of cooked poultry.

Concerns

It’s common for ferrets to experience seasonal hair loss. This usually occurs during spring and fall, and is a result of normal shedding cycles. 

These animals are crepuscular, meaning they will be primarily active at dawn and dusk.

Behavior

Ferrets are very intelligent and playful, and need many opportunities to explore and exhibit play. A variety of toys can be used to play with and enrich your ferret. Environmental stimulation is vital in ensuring mental and physical well-being of your ferret. Some ideas include:

  • PVC pipe tunnels
  • Scent-covered Ping-Pong balls in shallow water
  • Empty cardboard boxes
  • Box filled with material to dig (soil, sand, etc.)
  • Glue a bell inside a plastic Easter egg

Since these animals are carnivores, they exhibit many behaviors that are scent-oriented. They will explore their surroundings utilizing their nose. It’s not uncommon to see them search back and forth and follow a particular scent trail.

Ferrets are notorious for their ability to seek out and hide items. They will find an item of interest and take it back to their den to hide. This will usually be a small hole discovered in isolated regions of the house. Be sure you ferret-proofed your furry friend’s play areas!

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