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Ferrets – Pet Planet Magazine


By on September 19, 2012

People have shared their lives with pet ferrets for thousands of years. This small member of the weasel family endears itself to owners with its fun-loving personality and silly antics. But ferrets have a serious side, too, and have helped people with various tasks, including rabbit hunting and laying electrical wires.

Today’s pet ferret provides companionship and often a bit of mischief for ferret owners. Ferrets are known for getting into places they shouldn’t, probably because of their intelligence and amazing, limber ferret anatomy. Ferrets are also known to be thieves that enjoy nothing more than stealing an insole, hiding a pen or running off with keys.

Pet ferrets are mammals like cats and dogs and, although they have some similarities to these other pets (like requiring a rabies vaccination), ferrets have very specific needs unique to their species.

Only one species of ferret is kept as a pet. It descended from European ancestors, and its scientific name is Mustela furo. Pet ferrets are available in various coat colors and patterns within the species. Note: The black-footed ferret is a wild cousin of the pet ferret, but the two should not be confused. Black-footed ferrets (Mustela nigripes) are the only ferret native to North America and have never been domesticated. In fact, black-footed ferrets are fighting their way back from near extinction.

Ferret Behavior

People have probably been trying to figure out ferret behavior since ferrets began being kept as pets a couple thousand years ago. Although pet ferrets are domesticated, much of their current behavior can be traced back to wild ancestors. Digging at the carpeting by a doorway? That might be because their wild ancestors lived in burrows. It might also be because the ferret is a very curious animal and wants to know what’s on the other side of the door!

Although some ferret behavior can be explained by instincts, domestication has changed other aspects of ferret behavior, at least for most ferrets. Today’s pet ferrets usually enjoy the company of other ferrets, something their wild ancestors outgrow when they reach adulthood. And although wild polecats, mink and other members of the weasel family are strong predators, pet ferrets seem to have lost the ability to hunt or survive in the wild.

So why does your ferret do what it’s doing? Our ferret behavior section gives you tips about ferret litter training, bite inhibition, ferret personalities, training, digging and more. You’ll wonder no more.

Ferret Housing

Where will you keep your ferret? Aside from wondering what to feed, the question of ferret housing is one of the most basic for ferret owners. Ferret habitats are what you make of them, with options including free-roam of a ferret-proofed room, a playpen and a roomy cage with lots of supervised out-of-cage playtime.

Unlike a dog or cat, ferrets can’t be allowed free roam of an entire house. It’s possible, but it would require constant ferret-proofing and no access to dangerous areas like a kitchen or laundry room or a child’s bedroom (for their safety and the ferret’s, young children should never be unsupervised around ferrets) . The problem is that ferrets are quite curious, delight in exploring and can fit into very small spaces; all of which can add up to disaster if a ferret gets caught in a reclining chair, fireplace, in a wall or worse.

Many ferret owners choose to provide one ferret-proofed room that their ferret can roam freely, either all day or during playtime. A roomy cage is another great option. Many ferret owners keep their ferret in a roomy cage when it can’t be supervised, usually during the day when the owner is away, and the ferret has playtime for several hours during the day when the owner is around to supervise.

But housing isn’t all about caging, it’s also about those all-important accessories, such as toys, bedding, bowls, litter boxes and more. Check out the latest ferret housing trends and get tips on keeping your ferret’s home clean and safe.

Ferret Health

All small animal pets are not created equal. Each seems to be prone to different ailments. Most ferret owners soon find out about adrenal gland disease, insulinoma, GI blockages, ECE and other common ferret ailments.

Like cats and dogs, ferrets can be vaccinated. A rabies vaccination is usually required by law in most areas of the United States, but a canine distemper vaccination can be done at the discretion of the owner after weighing the pros and cons.

Unlike cats and dogs, ferrets can catch the flu from people and vice versa. Also unlike cats and dogs, some ailments that are bad news for those pets aren’t so bad for ferrets. Mast cell tumors are one example, as these are usually benign in ferrets.

The differences in ferret health concerns and ferret treatments make it important for ferret owners to find a veterinarian who is knowledgeable about treating ferrets.

Find out what you can do to keep your ferret healthy and happy at any age.

Ferret Diet

Did you know that ferrets are obligate carnivores? This means they require a diet high in animal protein. Their digestive systems don’t absorb any nutrients from plants. Fat content should also be high.

Ferrets can also be picky eaters. That’s because they imprint on food within the first four months of life; after that, any food item introduced might not be recognized as food.

How often to feed ferrets is a subject of debate. Ferrets have a short digestive-tract transit time of four hours, so many ferret owners leave a bowl of ferret food available for their pet at all times.

Although fruits and vegetables are healthy food items for people, these are unnecessary in a ferret’s diet. As mentioned before, ferrets don’t have the ability to absorb nutrients from fruits or vegetables.

Ferret Interaction

Life with a pet ferret is both fun and challenging. From training to play to sewing for a bed for your ferret or joining in the ferret community, being a ferret owner opens a whole new world.

Can you train ferrets to do tricks? In the case of coming when called, such a “trick” can sometimes save a ferret’s life. Should an emergency like a fire occur, ferrets need to be found quickly.

Everyone thinks of ferret playtime, and we’ve got tips on toys, games and more. But have you ever thought about baking a cake in the shape of a ferret or making a ferret puppet? These, too, are part of ferret life, if you wish.

Another part of ferret life is participating in the ferret community, whether by joining a ferret club, helping out a ferret shelter, educating others about ferrets, going to ferret shows or more.

Yes, there are ferret shows. And these are fun events whether it’s a conformation show or a fun show. It’s a time for ferret owners and enthusiasts to get together to “ooh” and “aah” over cute ferrets, talk about ferrets and check out cool ferret products.

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