October 11, 2012

How to Take Care of a Ferret: Beginner’s Guide

Filed under: Ferrets — Dr. Amber Reed @ 11:45 am

Anyone who has encountered a pet ferret knows that these creatures are smart, friendly, and very curious. However, unlike the cats and dogs that many of us had as children, how to care for a ferret is not something you’re likely to have learned from friends or neighbors.

This guide offers a brief overview of how to take care of a ferret properly.

Ferret Exercise and Attention

First, it’s important to recognize the commitment that you are making to your new pet. On average, ferrets tend to live between six and eight years when in good health.

Ferrets are extremely outgoing, curious, and playful creatures that require a great deal of attention from their owners. Many ferret owners keep a pair of ferrets in order to provide a constant companion for these sociable animals.

Ferrets have very active metabolisms, so although they spend about 18 hours a day asleep, they wake up briefly every three to four hours to eat.

Due to the insatiable curiosity of ferrets, you will need to closely supervise your pet to prevent any injuries. Make certain to check appliances, closets, and so on to ensure that the ferret does not become trapped accidentally. Your ferret needs to be able to roam free within your living quarters, and it should be caged only when this is required for immediate safety reasons.

Ferret Sleep and Litter Training

Your ferret will need a quiet, dark place where it can sleep. Ferrets enjoy burying themselves in bedding materials such as old sweaters or towels.

Your ferret will also require a litter box to be placed in a sheltered corner near its nest. Just like cats or dogs, ferrets need to be litter trained in order to know what to do. This is a process that can take several days. Ideally, you can build up to the point where your ferret has a small litter pan available in each room.

All litter materials will need to be refreshed every day.

Feeding a Ferret

Ferrets enjoy playing with their food and are likely to attempt to tip over their water and food bowls. It is best to buy bowls that cannot be tipped. If this is not possible, another alternative is to place a mat beneath the bowls to catch spills.

Your ferret will need an open water bowl rather than a water bottle. Water bottles can damage their teeth for one, and does not let the ferret wash its own face.

Make sure that you keep plenty of fresh water and food available to your ferret, whose quick metabolism requires feeding at least every four hours. Ferrets should be fed a quality dry food for ferrets or kittens, avoiding foods that contain high amounts of oil or fish meal (which can make your ferret smell bad).

As a treat, you can offer your ferret many types of fresh vegetables or fruit, such as cucumber, bananas, grapes, carrots, or apples. Ferrets also appreciate dog biscuits.

Keeping a Ferret Healthy

To maintain your ferret’s health, regular veterinarian visits are a must.

You will need to take your ferret for annual vaccinations, including canine distemper, as well as frequent checkups. Although dental cavities are a rarity for ferrets, it is possible for them to break a tooth during rough play, so a dental exam is also a good idea.

Your veterinarian will also encourage you to have your ferret spayed or neutered to protect its health and avoid a musky pheromone odor. An occasional bath with baby shampoo will take care of normal odor build-up after the animal has been fixed.

Some owners choose to have their ferrets de-scented, which involves the removal of an odor gland similar to that of a skunk, although this procedure is optional.

September 13, 2012

Are Ferrets Good Pets?

Filed under: Ferrets — Dr. Amber Reed @ 11:50 am

Ferrets are active and curious creatures. Their loving and playful nature makes it easy to bond with them. They are very adorable and have mischievous eyes. Previously, they gained negative publicity and are still banned in some states due to injury concerns by ferret bites.

The American Veterinary Medical Association stated “It is also recommended that no ferret be left unattended with any individual incapable of removing himself or herself from the ferret.”

Is a Ferret Right for You?
Ferrets are expensive, high-maintenance pets. Do not go for a ferret as a pet if you think you cannot afford one. Giving them adequate time and attention is essential as their physical and mental health depends on it.

They like playing with their owners. They are very energetic at certain times of the day and would like to come out of their cages and play. You should have the time to supervise them. They are intelligent and make interesting companions.

It is not advisable to have ferrets as pets around small children. Ferrets might harm them in their playfulness.

How Much Does a Ferret Cost?
Ferrets can be bought from a pet store for up to $200 but you can adopt them for less than $100. Make sure the ferret you buy looks healthy and active. It is advisable to purchase a ferret that is between eight to sixteen weeks old, though it is better to wait until the ferret is at least twelve weeks old.

Ferrets release a musky odor. It is better to find a de-scented and neutered ferret to avoid the smell.

For best health, ferrets need to have a large cage so they can freely climb and play. A ferret cage can cost about $500. Their other needs include a litter tray and scoop, food dish, and water bottle. Some old blankets, or specially made sleeping bags, are also needed to give them comfort. Ferret-safe toys and tunnels are also necessary to keep them busy.

What to Feed a Ferret
Ferrets require lots of fresh water. Their diet should be high in protein and fat.

Many ferret owners feed cat food to their pets because ferret food is not widely available. Dog food is not recommended for your pet as it may fill up your pet without fulfilling its nutritional requirements.

It is best to purchase specially formulated ferret food.

Moreover, treating them once in a while is a good idea. It brings a variety to their diet and you can enjoy the amusing show they put up to get their treat.

Rolling over, begging and other such tricks are quite a sight when you treat your ferret.

Can You Train a Ferret?
Yes, actually.

Ferrets are intelligent creatures and can be easily trained. You can litter-train them using reinforcement techniques like verbal praises or little treats.

Also, they must be trained not to bite or nip. Young ferrets as pets will not be able to distinguish between aggressiveness and playfulness. It is your responsibility to gradually train and tame them. The more attention and care you put into training, the more effective it will be.

They also need exercise to release their energy, taking them to a walk in the park with a ferret-sized leash and a bit of training can help you both enjoy a leisurely evening stroll!

September 14, 2010

An Introduction to Pet Ferrets

Filed under: Ferrets — Dr. Amber Reed @ 8:57 am

In recent years, ferrets have become an increasingly popular pet.  They have been domesticated animals for somewhere around 2000 years and were first brought to North America as pets around 1700.  Still, some regions do not recognize ferrets as domestic animals with regards to the law and keeping animals in captivity.  Moreover, not all ferrets have been domesticated and the black footed ferret is often confused with its domestic cousin.  Because ferrets are related to badgers, wolverines, otters, and weasels, some people think they will not make good pets, but this is simply not true.  They are highly adaptive animals with a playfulness that makes them an excellent pet.

Generally speaking, ferrets live between 6 and 8 years but can live up to 12 years.  Males are slightly larger in length and weight than females but behaviorally there are few differences.  In North America, most ferrets have been spayed or neutered but if you get a pet ferret that is not, it is highly recommended to have the procedure for health and behavioral reasons.  As they are predators, ferrets sleep around 18 hours per day and they tend to be more active at dawn and dusk.  However, ferrets are well known for changing their sleeping patterns to adapt to their owners.  They are very playful animals with poor eyesight but excellent smell and hearing.

If you are interested in getting a pet ferret, you may have heard about their smelly reputation.  Ferrets certainly have a distinct smell but this musky odor is not particularly strong so you should not find it offensive.  Regardless of whether your ferret has been de-scented, their skin glands release this musky odor.  Moreover, while bathing is important, it will not eliminate their smell.  Finally, while ferrets make good pets for children, it is best not to expose them to very young children.  Being relatively small, ferrets do not enjoy rough play and small children often do not understand their own strength.

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Disclaimer: CritterCures is an educational resource, and all information herein is strictly for educational purposes. It is not intended to diagnose, treat, prevent, or cure diseases, nor is it meant to replace the (prescribed) treatment or recommendations of your veterinarian or healthcare provider. Always inform your veterinarian or healthcare provider of any products that your pet are taking, including herbal remedies and supplements.