Ferrets are adorable, playful members of the weasel family that can make for fun, engaging pets. Today, our Middlesex vets share the best tips for looking after these smart, inquisitive animal companions.

Any new pet requires preparation, including learning their specific social, diet, habitat, and wellness needs.

Ferrets Are Social

Ferrets enjoy socializing and thrive with compatible companions or groups (though they must be spayed/neutered to avoid unwanted litters, among other health benefits). Ferrets are predators in the wild, so keeping them with other small animals is strongly discouraged (especially prey animals like rabbits).

Spaying/Neutering Your Ferret Is Vital

Ferrets, like cats and dogs, benefit from spaying or neutering. This is especially true for female ferrets, who are 'in heat' until they mate. Anemia and ovarian cancer can be fatal if your ferret is not neutered. Ferrets can be spayed or neutered between the ages of four and six months.

Ferrets Are Carnivores

Ferrets are obligate carnivores, meaning they must consume animal protein and products to survive. They require a high-fat, high-protein, low-carbohydrate, low-fiber diet, but your veterinarian will provide you with specific recommendations based on your ferret's specific needs.

Good foods to feed your ferret include:

  • High-quality commercial ferret food (high-quality commercial dry kitten food is also suitable)
  • Human-grade uncooked meaty weekly; these must be large enough that your ferret can't swallow it whole.
  • Ferrets can have very small amounts of fruits and vegetables as treats. They must be soft for easy digestion and must only be given on occasion. 
Below are foods that ferret owners must avoid feeding their pets:
  • Bread
  • Caffeine
  • Cake
  • Chewing gum
  • Chocolate
  • Grains
  • Candy
  • Milk and milk-based products (e.g. cheese, ice cream)
  • Xylitol

Ferrets Are Smart!

To thrive, your ferret needs daily play and interaction. By being watched while they explore outside of their enclosure, you can help them grow closer to you and any other ferrets they may have as friends. More enrichment should be provided, such as ferret-friendly toys, boxes, and plastic tunnels for them to rummage through and "burrow" through, as well as the rearranging of objects in their enclosure to keep their minds active.

Ferrets Need Routine Care

Ensure your ferret is receiving regular health checks from your exotics veterinarian, as well as their annual canine distemper vaccines, flea control, and heartworm and parasite prevention.

Keep an eye on your ferret's drinking, eating, and toileting habits, as well as their weight (gaining or losing). If you notice changes in their routine behaviors, contact your vet. Regularly inspect your furry friend's feet and coat for signs or injury, irritation, or parasites. 

Like puppies and kittens, ferrets are adventurous and fond of chewing, so it's important to make sure any dangerous objects are out of their reach. 

Due to their extreme susceptibility to heat stress, ferrets should always be handled with extreme caution when the temperature is high. The enclosure for your ferret should be located in a protected area that is well-ventilated, shielded from the sun, and protected from strong winds. They must always have access to a shaded area.

Ferrets Need Room To Stretch Out (Literally)

Because they are nimble, active animals who don't do well when cooped up, ferrets should have the largest cage or enclosure possible. A ferret should be able to turn around, walk, and extend their full length without difficulty in a space that is well-ventilated and big enough for them. A smaller sleeping space with pet beds will also be required. Ferrets also enjoy sleeping in tiny hammocks, much to the delight of many fans.

Luckily, ferrets are easy to toilet train! Provide a litter box filled with shredded paper, or cat litter made of recycled paper.

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.

If you need advice on caring for your fuzzy ferret friend, contact our Middlesex vets for more information, or to book annual vaccines and wellness checks.