Ferrets are extremely inquisitive, entertaining animals which are becoming more popular as pets. Ferrets are often kept outdoors as they can have an odour which some people find unpleasant but many are now kept indoors as house pets. Ferrets are carnivores and although ferret dry foods are available, a good quality kitten food is suitable. Raw meat can also be fed.
If you are thinking about a ferret as a pet, there are some drawbacks you should consider: Ferrets will use a litterbox, but they are more difficult to litter-train than cats. They are also diggers, and can put holes in furniture and carpets. They are very good at opening cabinets and getting into things and they love to chew up anything made of any kind of rubber so never leave them unsupervised!
Males tend to make best pets as they are a lot calmer, laidback and affectionate, Females can be quite highly strung and alot more energetic hence why favoured for working, along with their smaller size.
Ferrets have an undeserved reputation of being smelly. It is true that they have a distinctly musky odor about them, but it is neither offensive nor overpowering. This musky odor comes from their skin glands and is present whether the ferret is descented or not. While occasional baths are recommended, frequent bathing will not reduce the scent, and will likely make it worse as the skin will get too dry and the skin glands will produce more oils in an effort to combat the dryness. The routine removal of scent glands is illegal in the UK.
On the upside, ferrets are a lot of fun. They love being with people We highly recommend microchip ID's for ferrets. We see plenty of lost ferrets who could have been reunited with their owners if they had only had some form of identification. Collars and tags do not work well for ferrets, since they are so adept at removing them.
Some Common Diseasesof Ferrets:
- Adrenal Disease – this condition is caused by excess growth of the adrenal gland(s). Tumours can be benign or malignant. The adrenal glands are located near the kidneys and are responsible for releasing hormones such as cortisol (stress hormone) and adrenaline. The most common signs of adrenal disease in ferrets are hair loss, swelling of the back end in spayed females and weight loss. Unfortunately, over the last few years there has been an increasing number of ferrets seen with adrenal cancer who have needed major surgery to remove their adrenal glands.
To help prevent adrenal disease an implant can be given under the skin. If given around January/early February time the implant will last approximately 18-24 months and can be replaced after that. It is now recommended that this implant is given instead of surgically neutering ferrets. For any neutered ferrets we recommend placing the implant to help prevent adrenal cancer. This involves a 20 minute consultation where your ferret will be examined, given a brief general anaesthetic and the implant placed.
- Anaemia – It is extremely important that Jills are not left in season without being mated or brought out of season artificially with drugs as they will develop Oestrus-induced Aplastic Anaemia (Hyperoestrogenism) which can potentially be fatal. The long term exposure to oestrogen causes bone marrow suppression which leads to the anaemia. Mating with a vasectomised hob is another alternative.
- Hobs – usually require surgical neutering if they are to be kept as pets as this reduces their strong scent and the greasy fur that is produced by entire males. Performing the surgery until after puberty is important to delay the onset of adrenal disease. Suprelorin can still be used in castrated males to further delay or prevent adrenal disease. Vasectomised hobs can be used to bring Jills out of season (instead of hormone injection).
- Vaccination – Ferrets are very susceptible to Canine Distemper Virus which is a fatal disease. Dogs and foxes are also affected by the disease and ferrets can pick it up directly from these animals or indirectly by walking where an infected animal has been. Ferrets are given an annual Distemper Vaccine to prevent this disease, it can be given from 12 weeks old.