How to Care for Your New Ferret
Info provided by BOB from Norfolk, Virginia
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Ferrets are probably the worldís oldest pets. They were originally used for hunting for rabbits and for control of vermin.
Dogs and cats later replaced them as the family pet due mainly to the ferret's strong odor when they werenít spayed or neutered. The ferrets that you buy at a pet store are usually already spayed/neutered and de-scented. Ferrets are members of the Mustelid family. They are relatives of minks, weasels, mongoose, and of course, the black footed ferret. The ferrets that you buy at a pet store are not wild animals and are domesticated just like cats and dogs.
Ferrets get fleas just like cats and dogs. Your ferret can become anemic and die if the fleas are not removed from your pet. Ferrets should be given flea baths at least once a week if they become infested. There are several shampoos on the market made for ferrets or you can use a shampoo for dogs that contains pyrethrens. Itís also a great idea to use the product called advantage 9 for cats and kittens 8 weeks and older and 9 lbs and under. I use less than half of a 0.4 ml tube per ferret.
Ferrets can be trained to come when they are called by name but they are independent minded like cats and sometimes may not respond. If they donít respond itís usually because they have drifted off to sleep somewhere.
Pay attention to where they go when they are playing because it will make it easier to find them when they decide to take a nap. Shaking a can filled with treats will sometimes wake them up and cause them to come out and find you!
They will be easier to find if you withhold all food and water from their play area because that will teach them to be more dependent on you when they get hungry or thirsty. You can also place their cage on the floor with the door open and they will learn to go back to their cage to get food and water and will probably just fall asleep there.
How to approach your ferret to be picked up
Extend your hand to your ferret and let him approach you. Your ferret will bump your hand with his nose and usually allow you to pick him up. Pick him up slowly while carefully supporting his body with your other hand.
Clip those nails!
Ferrets rapidly grow sharp toenails on the front paws in between clippings. Pick up your ferret and grab him by the scruff of the neck. This will cause your pet to go limp and submissive. Make sure that your pet is only a few inches off a tabletop when you are holding him in this manner. A ferretís coat is slippery and they can easily cause you to lose your grip if they become afraid of the nail clipping. You can also try laying them on their back while holding on to the scruff of their neck when you are clipping their nails. I always place a folded towel on the tabletop and place them on the towel.
clippers work well for ferrets or you can use clippers made for ferrets.
Remember to be careful while clipping your ferretís toenails and to
avoid cutting into the quick. The quick is where the nerve in the
toenail ends and will be extremely painful if you cut into it. This will
make the toenail bleed and your ferret will hate you for it and remember
the bad experience. So please be careful! Give your buddy a treat when
you are done! The more fun you make the experience, the less trouble you
will have next time.
There may be a time when your ferret gets sick or just isnít eating enough. I found that the best food to use is the Marshall ferret food moistened with warm water and ľ teaspoon of FerreTone. I place the bowl of food on top of a folded towel thatís placed on a table. I scoop up some food in a spoon and let the ferret clean off the spoon.
Remember that a ferret has a very short digestive tract and food doesnít stay in the system very long. This is why itís crucial to the health of your ferret to feed him the best food that you can possibly obtain. Ferrets are carnivores Ė not cereal eaters. The diet should consist of mainly meat with the proper vitamins. This is why I highly recommend Marshall Ferret Food above any other brands of ferret foods. Do not feed your ferret dog or cat foods!
Ferrets are smart!
Ferrets arenít just intelligent. I consider them brilliant! Some ferrets actually will move the empty food bowl to the front of their cage to let you know that their bowl is empty. Some will even overturn their bowl if their food is fouled in some way before moving it to the front.
When playing with adult ferrets you are liable to find out that your pet will only nip at you very lightly on your bare skin but will purposely bite harder if gloves, blankets, or towels are protecting your skin. They actually know the difference and treat each case accordingly with no training! They are able to figure this out for themselves! They purposely make an effort not to hurt you! To me, this is brilliant!
How many ferrets should I buy?
Ferrets are very sociable and love their own company. You can buy one ferret now and pick up another critter in a few weeks and chances are that your new addition will be accepted and welcomed into cages shared by other ferrets. Itís best to keep them in even numbers and try to keep them at the approximate same age. Sexing doesnít seem to matter with neutered or spayed animals.
Since most ferrets are bought either spayed or neutered, breeding is a moot point. But there might be an occasion where you might obtain a ďcomplete animalĒ so here are a few bits of information concerning breeding.
Female ferrets must be bred when they come into heat, or they will quite possibly die because they are usually unable to come out of heat on their own. They can sometimes be brought out of heat with the help of hormone shots administered by a veterinarian if you donít have a male to do the job. This can get expensive and doesnít always work so itís best to get her spayed. If you have a breeding pair then it will soon get interesting after she gives birth to her babies. Baby ferrets are called ďkitsĒ. The Jill (mama ferret) takes very good care of her kits and she should be left alone for the first week or so. While she may have been friendly to you before she gave birth; she quite possibly may not let you near her new kits until they open their eyes which takes about two or three weeks. If you take it slow Ė she may change her mind and let you handle her kits, but keep your movements slow and steady. Be prepared to get nipped. Just donít interrupt them when they are nursing and you will probably be ok. I usually handle the Jill first and then gradually approach the babies.
Kits are very stinky when they are born. Itís a built-in inherited defense mechanism that causes potential predators to go elsewhere for a meal. The smell goes away in a couple of weeks once their coat starts growing in. Kits are also very vocal until they open their eyes. Once they can see whatís going on around them they quiet right down.
Ferret proof your home!
Seal up any holes where your ferret may enter. Ferrets can go into any hole that their head can fit into. Donít let all that fluffy fur fool you! Ferrets can get in to some very tiny places, so make sure any holes in the walls are covered or you will probably lose your pet!
Make sure before you sit down in your favorite chair that it is free from any napping ferrets. Ferrets have a habit of napping anywhere! They love to curl up in laundry baskets filled with clothes, and under the covers in your bed!
Children and ferrets
There have been a few reports of ferrets attacking infants. I have never had that problem and donít fully believe the reports, but anything is possible. Itís best never to leave any animal alone with a baby! All pets should be watched around young children!
I wouldnít recommend a ferret as a pet for children under the age of 10 unless the parent is willing to closely supervise the child. Ferrets are fragile critters that can be easily injured or killed in the wrong hands. Ferrets are good-natured critters, and I have never seen an angry ferret. All animals will bite if pestered enough.
Ferrets need exercise!
Ferrets are the type of pet that must have inter-action with their own kind and people. They are not like hamsters and gerbils that can basically stay in the cage all day. Ferrets must be allowed out of their cage at least two or three hours a day with the chance of spending quality time with you. BOB
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