Though domesticated for millennia, the quirky little ferret has only been popular as a pet for about 30 years. Although they resemble rodents, ferrets are actually members of the carnivorous mustelid family, alongside otters, weasels, minks, badgers, and wolverines.

Ferrets are extremely playful, active and good natured. They enjoy being played with and love the company of humans. For these reasons, they make wonderful pets. Ferrets love to run around free in and the home and can be taught to use a litter box.

Ferrets are generally quiet. The only vocalizations they make are chuckles and giggles during play and squeals or screams when threatened and sometimes cries when in pain.

Ferrets learn quickly and can be trained to come to cues such as bells or whistlers. They easily adapt to a harness and leash and love going on walks.

While most members of the mustelid family prefer to live a solitary existence, coming together only for mating purposes, ferrets prefer company. They are happiest when there is at least one playmate in their cage. A group of ferrets is called a “business,” and they can be very entertaining to watch.

Despite their popularity, there are many places where it is illegal to own a ferret, including New York City and the state of California. The most obvious risk is that pet escapees might form feral colonies and threaten wildlife. Laws regarding ownership ferrets vary from state to state. Before purchasing a ferret, check the laws in your state. The American Ferret Association is an excellent source of information on the laws.

Ferret Facts

average adult size: 13-18 inches (33-45cm)
average lifespan: 5-8 years
body weight: 1.0lb to 4.4lb
sexual maturity: 4-8 months
average litter size: The average litter size is 8

Feeding

Ferrets in the wild are carnivorous and in captivity, the ferret’s diet should mimic their natural diet. Ferrets can be feed whole preys, such as rodents, but most owners choose a commercial diet that lists chicken and other meats as the first three ingredients. Treats should also be meat based. Food that contains sugar, fruit and grains should be avoided, as they may contribute to illnesses.

Keeping your Ferret healthy

All ferrets need a yearly veterinarian checkup. However, ferrets over the age of 3 years old should be examined every 6 months, as they are at higher risk of diseases. While Ferrets are great pets, unfortunately, the incidence of cancer is higher than in other exotic pets. Many cancer can be managed if caught early. Other diseases may be prevented with regular veterinary visits, proper diet and housing.

Most Common Ferret disorders

  • Cancer
  • Gastrointestinal Disease
  • Foreign body ingestion
  • Cardiac disease
  • Fleas
  • Ear Mites
  • Urinary tract disease
  • Heartworm

How to keep your Ferret happy

  • Groom your ferret on a regular basis. Give them a bathe, trim their nails, brush their teeth and clean their ears.
  • Provide plenty of toys.
  • Have an average room temperature and humidity (avoid temps greater than 80 degrees).
  • Contain folded fabrics, such as sheets, for burrowing while sleeping.
  • Provide a constant source of fresh water.
  • Provide a litter box with unscented litter.
  • Contain cage furniture, such as hammocks, muffs and PVC pipes for tunneling.

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