Ferret Housing and Husbandry
Ferrets are very inquisitive and high-energy pets and often do best in groups of 2 or more. When they are awake, it’s like living with the Energizer Bunny, they’re ON! Ferrets need at least 3 to 4 hours a day out of their enclosure to explore and interact with their humans and furry family. Be sure to supervise the ferrets when they’re out exploring to keep them safe. Keep reading to learn all about ferret care, including housing, playtime, dental care, and more!
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Ferrets need large, tall cages since they like to climb and have good vantage points of their domain. Most of the ferret cages are made of metal bars. If the ramps in the cage are also metal bars, be sure to cover them with carpet or other material so your ferret doesn’t get a paw or leg stuck between the slots. Many ferret ramps are made of plastic to avoid this risk. If you have multiple ferrets, a spare room that is “ferret proofed” is a good option rather than a single cage.
Be sure there is plenty of soft bedding, such as CareFresh bedding (recycled paper) or layers of blankets to sleep on and hide under. The blankets or other bedding should be cleaned at least every other day to reduce the ferret odor.
At least 1 litter box should be in the cage and placed in the corner, as ferrets tend to prefer corner locations to use the restroom. The litter box can be filled with cat litter, just try to avoid the clumping type as this often gets stuck in the fur on the paws. Be sure to clean the litter box at least once daily.
Ferret hammocks are nice additions to their cage. This gives elevated, soft places to sleep. You may need to replace the hammock a couple of times per year if the ferrets start to shred them or the fabric becomes loose since the ferret can get their nails or limbs caught in loose string or fabrics. Be sure there is at least 1 additional bed than ferrets (for example, if you have 3 ferrets, have at least 4 beds available).
Ferrets do well with water bottles and ideally, each enclosure should have at least 2 water bottles present. Ferrets can drink from bowls, but often spill them, so water bottles can reduce the extra mess.
Exploring and Play Time Out of the Enclosure
Anytime your ferret is free to roam and explore, their human should be nearby watching. Ferrets are like forever puppies, high energy and always looking for trouble! Be sure you have locks or clips on your cabinets since ferrets can easily open these doors. Check for any holes in the walls, around the plumbing, or between cabinets - if a ferret can fit their head between something, the rest of the body will follow!
Ferrets are also well known for burrowing into furniture and getting into recliners, which can be fatal if the recliner is opened or closed when the ferret is inside. If possible, avoid recliners if you have ferrets.
Ferrets can easily climb baby gates, so if you want to keep them in certain parts of the home only, use Plexiglas gates or keep the doors closed. Be sure your ferret can’t squeeze under the door!
Ferrets will also climb onto furniture, bookshelves, and get on the windowsills. Ferrets have been known to push or tear open window screens to try to get outside.
Be sure to place multiple litter boxes around the play area for easy access. Ferrets can be litter box trained rather easily, but if they’re exploring and having fun, they may choose not to go in search of the litter box when they need to go.
If you have pets other than ferrets at home, be sure to closely supervise their interactions together. Since ferrets are fast-moving animals, they can easily trigger the prey drive in dogs and cats. Ferrets can also be dominant and nippy and pick on more submissive dogs and cats at home. Ferrets may try to break into birdcages or other rodent cages.
Ferret Dental Care
Zupreem makes a ferret-specific dental chew, Zupreem Dental Sticks for Ferrets, that can help keep their teeth clean.
Many ferrets can also tolerate having their teeth brushed at home using a toothpaste made for cats, such as CET Poultry Toothpaste. Since ferrets are small, using a gauze or exfoliating washcloth glove to brush their teeth may be easier and better tolerated than a toothbrush.
Ferret Ear Care
Some ferrets produce a lot of ear wax, which can lead to inflammation in some pets. You can use an ear cleaning solution made for dogs and cats and clean your ferret’s ears as needed if the wax seems to bother them.
Nail Care for Ferrets
Ferrets have fast-growing, sharp nails that tend to get caught in fabric. This can lead to torn nails, broken toes, or broken bones in the leg. Ferrets should have their nails trimmed every 1 to 2 weeks. Please see our article on ferret nail trims for more information and tips!
Bathing Your Ferret
Ferrets have a bad reputation for being smelly pets. In the US, most ferrets have been spayed, neutered, and de-scented before they’re available for sale. However, they still produce a slight natural odor from the oils on their skin. If your ferret is smelly, it’s likely from a dirty cage, eating a fish-based diet, or is ill.
Ferrets should be bathed once monthly, if even that often. Bathing, even with a pet-safe shampoo, can remove the natural oils on the skin, and then the body will respond and produce even more oil. This means more frequent bathing can make their oils and scent worse.
Ferrets often do like to play in water, and this should be allowed. Just avoid the shampoo!
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