When thinking about bringing home a ferret as a family pet there are a number of considerations you will want to make. Some of the top items to think about before deciding on this pet are related to housing and safety for you and your new ferret.
Safety first, so remember ferrets are fragile. Pick them up by the scruff of their neck with one hand under their bottom, or with hands supporting both chest and hip areas. When making sharp or fast gestures, or pointing, know that you may get a quick nip because you startled them or prompted them to think of you as a food source.
Just like dogs are historically pack animals and prefer to live in cave type shelter with other dogs – or you – your ferret’s long-lost relatives lived in dens and he or she will want to live in that environment also. Setting up a new home will be easy when you plan in advance.
Avoid glass or plastic aquariums that do not provide adequate ventilation. Instead, choose wire or mesh caging that measures a minimum of 30 inches wide, 18 inches long and 18 inches deep. You will find that your ferret will probably prefer a multi-level home. Steps, stairs, shelves and climbing blocks can be used to create this effect. Check your cage to ensure that openings are smaller than 1×2 inches and make sure your furry friend’s cage locks securely so you don’t fast find out that you have an escape artist in your home!
Place a washable, flat surface over the cage’s mesh floor. Vinyl, linoleum or disposable carpet pieces will provide them comfort and still be easy to sanitize. You’ll want to locate your ferret’s cage in an area that’s very cool in your home and away from direct sunlight. When cleaning use mild detergent for hard surfaces, launder bedding and always sanitize all materials used by your ferret.
“You can save time cleaning a ferret’s cage by simply teaching the animal to use a litter pan,” suggests the Humane Society of the United States. “Find a small cardboard or plastic tray that is three to five inches high to serve as a litter box, and secure it to one side of the cage, away from sleeping and eating areas.”
Cats are fastidious with their hygiene, ferrets are not. Expect to empty their litter box often and rest assured that you will know they’ve made a deposit. Ferrets don’t cover their bowel movement as cats do.
Plan to provide regular care for your ferret’s ears because they will be susceptible to ear mites. Flea prevention, a continuous problem for dog and cat owners, will be an issue to discuss with your family veterinarian. You’ll also want to talk with your vet about possible respiratory problems that can be caused when using clumping litter and wood chips made of cedar or pine.
Play time will be enjoyable for you and your ferret when you provide interesting items for your ferret to use for entertainment. They are masters of climbing and crawling, and will enjoy paper bags, tubes, boxes, clothing items, hoses and other hidey-hole environments.
“Ferrets are social creatures who enjoy visiting with people, so let them roam frequently in a secure area outside of their cages. Although they have a great sense of smell and acute hearing, ferrets have limited vision, which means you should avoid sudden movements and speak in a gentle voice before approaching,” advises the Humane Society of the United States.