Caring for Rescued Ferrets

Have you ever seen a tornado? Have you ever wanted to live with one? If you answered yes, then a ferret is definitely the pet for you. Unfortunately many people purchase these cute, energetic animals only to find a short time later that they really do not have the time or energy to care for a ferret appropriately. This is where you come in. Hopefully you will be there to rescue the ferret and to take her into your home.

Before taking a rescued ferret home, be sure that you are willing to allow the ferret to run around your home with supervision during play times. A ferret will not be happy being in a cage 24 hours a day. Ferrets are extremely curious and want to investigate their surroundings. The play time must be supervised, however, as curiosity will not only kill a cat; it will also kill a ferret.

As ferrets sleep a lot during the day and play mostly at night, you might want to consider rescuing two ferrets so they can entertain each other while you sleep. (Of course you could quit your day job and become a writer). Otherwise, you will want to set aside time to play with your ferret just before sunset and just before sunrise (yes, I know how early that is). You will be well rewarded, though, for getting up so early as ferrets are extremely playful, fun animals.

When you bring your ferret home, you should have a cage in place for her. Never put your ferret in a glass aquarium. The moisture buildup in the aquarium can be deadly to ferrets. A multi-level wire cage is best. Do not line your ferret cage with cedar or pine chips. These contain oils that can harm your ferret. Also, your ferret should not walk on bare wire. Ferrets need a dark, cozy place to sleep with an entrance hole in the side. Old towels or cloth diapers make good bedding. Their home must be kept at a comfortable temperature. Keep in mind that fans do not help to cool a ferret as they cannot sweat or pant.

Heavy ceramic bowls are a good choice for food and water. Water bottles are not recommended as they may become blocked. Ferrets are carnivores and should be fed a high protein (30-40%, high quality and animal-based), high fat (20-30%) and low fiber (less than 3%) diet. Ferrets have a high metabolism and will eat every three to four hours so food should be available to them at all times. If you are unable to obtain ferret food, you may use cat food, but only a high quality food that meets the above requirements. Treats may be used in moderation (recommended are eggs that are hard-boiled or scrambled and bits of cooked meat). Ferrets have a sweet tooth, but should not be given sweets. Ferrets enjoy grapes, bananas, apples, melons, carrots, cucumbers, etc., and these may be given in small amounts as a supplement, but not in place of their regular diet. Do not give nuts or grain products.

A litter tray will need to be placed in one corner of the cage, or in one corner of the room if the ferret is loose in your house. Ferrets can easily be taught to use a litter box with praise and rewards. Shredded, recycled paper or newspaper is a good choice for litter. Do not use clay litter. Ferrets usually relieve themselves minutes after awakening so be ready with the treat.

Take your ferret to the vet a couple of times a year for checkups and once a year for vaccination against canine distemper. If your ferret will be exposed to other animals, a rabies vaccination is also recommended. All ferrets should be fixed before they reach sexual maturity as this will reduce their odor and prolong their lives. Once your ferret is fixed and descented, she will require a bath only every few months. Your ferret’s toenails should be cut monthly. Also, brush your ferret regularly.

When you allow your ferret out for playtime, if your ferret bites your finger or hand, do not jerk it away. Put your fingers on either side of her nose and pry her jaw open while saying, “No,” very firmly, and then place her back in the cage. She will quickly learn that this is not allowed.

Now have fun with your little tornado, and keep in mind that if you cannot sleep, watching a ferret play is much better than counting sheep.