Ferrets: The Happiest Pets
Happy, Happy, Joy, Joy
I have owned a number of ferrets, and even when I was in the worst mood, releasing one of these furry slinkies could make me smile. A ferret's whole life seems dedicated to either sleeping like the dead for 20 hours a day, or playing joyfully with anything that moves, crinkles, or can be snatched up in their teeth.
Their happiness is contagious to everyone, from the small child to the elderly great-grandparent. I dare you not to smile!
A Short History Lesson
The origins of the domesticated ferrets are unclear, though it is believed they are descendants of either the European or Steppe polecat. DNA analysis has determined that ferrets were domesticated about 2500 years ago.
The name "ferret" comes from the Latin word "furritis" and means "little thief".When you discover their penchant for stealing and hiding all sorts of objects, you'll realize it is the perfect name.
First Uses of Ferrets
Humans first use of ferrets appears to be for hunting rabbits and other rodents. The slim size and curious temperament was perfect for flushing quarry from it's hiding places. Ferrets are still used in certain areas of the world for hunting and controlling pest populations.
Ferrets are also used in medical research.
The main purpose of ferrets today is as a household pet. If you would like to own one, check your local, state, or countries laws and regulations.
- Albino: Pink nose and eyes, white fur.
- Black: Black eyes, nose and fur.
- Chocolate: Brown eyes, pink or tan nose, milk chocolate fur.
- Cinnamon: Brown eyes, pink or beige nose, reddish brown coat.
- Dark-eyed white: Black eyes, pink nose, white fur.
- Sable: Brown eyes, brown nose, and dark chocolate brown coat. This coloring is most similar to its wild ancestors.
Things to Consider Before Buying a Ferret
In the United States, most ferrets are neutered or spayed before being sold to the public. This practice ensures a happier, healthier, more docile pet.
Ferrets in the U.S. are also de-scented by removal of their scent-producing anal glands. They will still have a distinct odor, which can be lessened by bathing and frequent bedding changes.
Though ferrets sleep up to 18 hours a day, they still need room to exercise. Ensure they have adequate room in their cage to move around and play.
Ferrets have short digestive tracts, and need to eat and defecate frequently.
Ferrets are diggers. Do not let them out unsupervised or your carpeting or furniture may be clawed when your ferret attempts to go under a door or couch.
Helpful Ferret Hints
The ferrets I had loved their giggle ball. It is a hard rubber dog ball that "giggles" when you shake it. They would come running when they heard it. It was a quick way to round them up.
Make your ferret poop before letting it out of its cage. With a little patience, you can teach them that in order to come out and play, they need to poop. Return them to their cage every hour to avoid accidents. Make them "go" before letting them out again.
Ferrets love tubes! There is no need to buy the expensive tubes sold in pet shops. Flexible plastic pipes from the hardware store work just as well and are much more economical. I also rigged up runways made of this tubing in the ferrets' 3 tier cage so they could play when I was away.
Ferrets also love paper bags. I don't advise letting them play with plastic bags as they may choke or suffocate.
Do not leave small objects where they can reach them, or you will have to hunt for their hidey-hole. It is amazing the variety of items they love to steal.
But That Smell!
Even though ferrets in the US have been descented, they will still have have a slight odor. It may seem logical to bathe them often, but that strips the ferrets of the natural oils in their fur. A twice monthly shampooing should be fine. Use a gentle shampoo, preferably one made for ferrets. Also, their body temperature is higher than ours, so make sure the bathwater is not too cool.
The best way to combat the smell is too keep the cage and litterbox clean. I recommend a daily scooping of poop, and a weekly scrubbing of the litterbox.
A monthly scrub down of the cage will reduce the smell, as well as a weekly washing of all bedding and toys.
Feed your pet the proper food to ensure a long and healthy life.
What do Ferrets Eat?
A ferret's teeth should give you an indication of what its dietary needs are: those sharp little teeth are designed for tearing and eating flesh and bone. Ferrets are true carnivores, and with their short digestive tracts, they require a diet high in protein to meet their full nutritional needs.
I don't recommend feeding your ferret cat food unless it has a protein content of at least 30%, and a fiber content of less than 3%. Ferret's digestive systems are not designed to digest fiber or carbohydrates.
Some people do feed their ferrets fresh meat, and the occasional live baby mouse. With the quality of today's ferret foods, this isn't necessary. When checking the ferret food labels, make sure taurine is listed as an ingredient. This nutrient is vital to a ferret's heart health.
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Ferrets dance and "chuckle" - called dooking - when they get excited. The dance is a stiff-legged, side-ways dance with the tail bushed out.
Every time a ferret is let out of its cage, it will act like has been released from a life sentence. It will chuckle and run with wild abandon. Who could possibly not smile at such exuberance!
Adopt a Ferret!
- Ferret Shelter List
- Ferrets for Adoption - Search & Adopt a Ferret
Search Ferrets - View pictures, and read profiles of Ferrets for adoption near you.
- American Ferret Association: Ferret Shelter Directory
American Ferret Association, Inc. Home Page; Promote, Protect, & Provide for the domestic ferret
- Ferrets : The Humane Society of the United States
Cute and inquisitive, domestic ferrets aren’t rodents, but belong to a family of animals that includes weasels and mink. Check out our tips on how to adopt, care for and give a ferret a lifelong home. Also, learn how to help stop their commercial bre