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Ferrets

Ferrets are growing in popularity as pets as they are fun, friendly, and easy to maintain. While ferrets sleep on average more than other pets, when they are awake they are very energetic and fun to play with. If you are looking for a pet which is not as common as a dog or cat, then ferrets make a great addition.
Below is a terrific introductory article where you can learn the basics and how to get started. You can help grow our learning community by contributing your knowledge to the article. Just click on the edit tab in the wiki article below.

Use the white subtabs above to navigate the other resources for having Ferrets as pets. We have a Ferrets forum where you can get your questions & doubts answered, a page with how-to videos, a page with the best handpicked links to other sites, and a page with the best Ferrets books and products.

Good Luck and Have Fun!
Duncan Davis

 

Introduction


One of the slowest hobbies to catch on in the pet industry has been the ferret. Perhaps it is because they are one of the newest pets on the market, being considered rare prior to the 1980’s, but the ferret is one of the most interesting small animals on the market right now and its popularity is quickly. Not only are they unique to the world of small animal pets, but Ferrets are great entertainers. They are very active and you will hardly ever see them not playing or scurrying about in their cages. You will have the best time having them around the house especially if you have kids who would love watching these little furry animals in action. In a lot of ways, their activity levels are a lot like puppies; they love to jump and play for short periods of time, and then it is time for a short rest. Quite similar to other small animals, ferrets are fairly inexpensive pets that only require the most modest accommodations, and if they are kept in good health, they can live up to ten years old. They are also especially great for small children because they will keep them entertained for hours with the distinct personalities that they have. This is one of the most entertaining hobbies to join right now, and if the trends with ferrets are the same with everyone, you simply cannot stop at having just one ferret.




Purchasing Your First Ferret


One of the most debated issues in North America right now is whether to purchase from a private breeder, a pet store, or an animal shelter. Here is an argument that is based on a few too many bad apples spoiling it for the bunch. But over the past ten to twenty years, there have been numerous cases of poor quality ferrets being sold by people thinking only of profit as their animals suffer from neglect. Thankfully, there have been numerous enthusiasts stepping forward to challenge pet stores to live up to the higher standards people expect from them. Because of the fairly new inclusion of ferrets onto the pet industry two decades ago, there has been a steady incline in the ferret population that has led to a handful of ferrets being surrendered to animal shelters. Although it is great if you can save a ferret from an animal shelter and give it a second lease at life, there is also nothing wrong with purchasing a ferret from a store or private breeder. The fact is that you will probably want a specific color of ferret that only a breeder or store can get you so a shelter is probably right out. You just have to remember that pet stores purchase ferrets from breeders and mark up the prices, so it would in fact be considerably cheaper purchasing a ferret from a breeder.




As a general rule of thumb, always try to purchase the healthiest ferret available. This is easily done by purchasing the largest in a group that has bright eyes and is active. Larger animals typically mean that they are being well fed and cared for. With ferrets, assuming they are well taken care of, they will generally all be of the same size and weight when you see them in a pet store window or in a group at a breeders residence. If a ferret is skinny and not active, then it is best to leave it be. It’s far too easy to succumb to a sick kitten pulling at your heart strings, but when it comes to cat illnesses, there is a steep financial cost to making a sick ferret well again. A healthy animal can live many years, and if you put in the time that is necessary, you will be rewarded in the long run. The last thing you have to remember is that ferrets have a distinct musky scent that is always present. Many people will descent their ferrets, but this does not change the day to day smell, but rather removes the glands that produce the strong scent when they are startled.




Required Equipment


Due to their unique nature, Ferrets do need a hand full of supplies that will ensure they are happy and healthy during their ten year life. It is through these supplies that you will spend the most money on ferrets, but compared to other pets, ferrets are one of the leat expensive pets on the market right now. The main thing that every ferret needs is an enclosure to spend most of the day. Since they sleep for a majority of the day anyway, its pen is generally the place for the ferret to sleep. But since ferrets love to jump, run, and play, it is crucial to have a large, multi-level enclosure. Since they do love to snuggle up and sleep in the most comfortable positions, ferrets love to cuddle up in a cozy baby blanket, a hanging hammock, or anything else they think is a comfy sleeping object.




A ferret is easily trained to use a litter box, since they prefer to urinate and defecate in the same corner of their cage. When placed in a new area, it is common for a ferret to mark the area with its droppings. After it gets acquainted to the area, it will naturally favor a certain location. A litter box filled with about one inch of non-toxic litter is placed there. Cat litter boxes are commonly used; additionally, pet stores sell small animal litter boxes marketed toward small rabbits and ferrets. Most pet stores carry safe litter that is easy to handle, clean, and absorbent. Clay based cat litter, scented cat litter and clumping cat litter should not be used with rabbits. It is also highly recommended to place litter containers throughout your house if you are going to be letting your ferret loose during the day. Since they are so focused on playing and exploring, they sometimes forget they have to go to the bathroom until it is too late.




Other than the actual cage, there really isn’t any other equipment that is essential. Most ferret owners will purchase a collar similar to that of a cat to show off the ferret’s personality. Same goes with the ferrets water and food containers that will always be present in their cage, a water bottle can also be used with ferrets. A good suggestion is to have dishes that lock into the cage to prevent tipping. Since ferrets can be rambunctious at the best of time, if you can prevent one spill, you will have time to clean up another. The other thing that isn’t necessary but your ferret will love you for is a large selection of toys. Since they love to play so much, it is a great idea to ensure they have a large variety of toys so they never get board and turn to your personal possession to use as chew toys.




A Specialized Diet


Ferrets are obligate carnivores, meaning that they require a carnivore diet to be healthy, and food passes through the digestive system of a ferret very quickly. Since ferret’s lack the ability to derive nutrition from plant materials, a ferret’s diet must be high in animal protein, high in fat, and low in fiber. Due mainly to the fact that Ferrets have only been considered domesticated pets for twenty years, they have unique feeding requirements, which are now finally being addressed by commercial pet food manufacturers with varying degrees of success. All foods, including foods intended solely for ferrets, are not created equally, so be careful what you are feeding your ferret. Like every other pet in the world, there is a high degree of research that should be done prior to taking a new pet home.




Since Ferrets have a quick metabolism along with a short digestive system, there is a need to eat frequently, which is typically every three to four hours. For this reason, it is best to have food available constantly, and in addition, most ferrets will eat only enough to meet their needs. This generally helps to prevent obesity since they will not overeat if allowed constant access to good quality food. Fresh, clean water is also a necessity at all times. If you are having a problem with your ferret gaining too much weight, check with a vet to rule out a medical problem, and your vet can also give you advice on meeting their diet needs while maintaining a good weight. Increased exercise is usually the best way to approach obesity once health problems are ruled out, rather than diet restrictions, and since ferrets love to play, play, play, exercise usually not an issue.




Dry foods are the most convenient choice, as they can be left available at all times without concern of spoilage. Canned ferret food can be given as a treat or supplement, but only occasionally. There are several ferret diets available now, and some are better than others. The one highly debated item, which is generally the same with all dry animal foods, is in regards to cat food is the inclusion of animal byproducts into the food. A majority of lesser quality foods support the fact that animal-by-products should be in all ferret foods. What is an animal-by-product? Think of a ferret food that has chicken-by-product in the ingredient list, and then imagine that the whole chicken has gone into making that ferret food compared to a food using chicken meal, which is only the actual meat of the chicken. The argument behind by-products is that in the wild, ferrets will eat the whole animal. This of course if absolutely true, but it not necessarily good for them to eat a whole chicken. These lesser quality pet foods are misleading because if makes it seem like you are feeding your pet chicken when you are actually feeding you ferret chicken and random parts of that chicken.




As the pet industry becomes more specialized, certain practices become obsolete, and one of these practices was to feed premium dry cat or kitten food, but that recommendation is now considered out-of-date. As the science of ferret nutrition improves, there is little doubt that premium ferret diets are the best to feed ferrets. If for some reason, you are unable to find a good quality ferret food, and also cannot find ferret food on the internet, then you may have to settle for cat food. If this is the case, then you have to purchase a high quality kitten food from a pet store. You have to use kitten food because is high in high in protein, but as your ferret gets a bit older, approximately 4 years old, switch to an adult food. Again, you must check labels, and pick foods with only high quality animal proteins at the top of the ingredient list, and make sure they are high in fat and very low in grains, sugar, and fiber. Avoid generic or "grocery store" brands at all costs, as these are typically very poor for ferrets.




Conclusion


Not only are Ferrets unique to the world of small animal, but Ferret keeping can be one of the most rewarding hobbies available to the largest group of people. Where most animals are not good for small children, Ferrets are the perfect choice because they are the perfect entertainers, they love the constant attention and can feed off of a child’s energy level, and they are in no way aggressive or violent towards humans. Plus due to their inexpensive equipment needs and actual cost of themselves, they are available to people of all walks of life, and if they are taken care of well, they can live a respectful ten year life. Perhaps the only downside to the animal is the strong musky scent that tends to throw people off. Even after they have had their scent glands removed, there is still a smell that is unique to the ferret, but at least they will not erupt with it when startled. With the help of a knowledgeable veterinarian in your local city, you will be able to ensure that your newest pets are as happy and healthy as can be. Should you run into other problems, there are also numerous ferret groups in cities and even more present on the internet than give you a hand in a moment’s notice. As far as hobbies go, the keeping of ferrets ranks at the very top of the most accessible and entertaining hobbies to join.