How to Care for Your Angora Ferret
Are you thinking about getting your own Angora ferret or do you already have one of your own?
This article is for current and future Angora ferret owners who want to learn how to take care of their unique pets. Although not totally different from cats and dogs, ferrets have characteristics that are uniquely their own. Read on and find out how to live in harmony with your ferret(s)!
This article will cover the following topics:
- Facts about the Angora ferret
- The Angora ferret as a pet
- How to choose an Angora ferret
- Health, care, and feeding instructions
- Ferret hygiene
Facts About the Angora Ferret
A relatively new breed, the Angora ferret was originally introduced by a Swedish breeder who noted the extra-long fur of his ferrets. However, it was after he sold his stock to a fur farm that the Angora ferret known today came to be. The fur farm worked towards creating a ferret with longer fur, as opposed to long-haired ferrets.
Angora ferrets and ferrets, in general, are a popular choice for a pet nowadays. Having the uniquely combined characteristics of a cat and dog, these animals are wonderfully responsive and bond well with their owner. They're playful and loving with seemingly boundless energy and quick intelligence.
Angora ferrets come in all shapes and combinations with black and white being some of the most common. You'll find that they come in the following colors:
- Black sable
- Dark-eyed white
Their life span can be anywhere from six to ten years depending on how well you care for the animal. You will find that pet store ferrets typically have a shorter life span because they are neutered before they are even sold to their new owners. Early neutering prevents ferrets from developing all of their hormones, thus causing more problems in the long run. Of course, there's also the risk that the ferret was improperly bred through breeding farms.
However, an ethical breeder will sell a ferret that's not neutered or spayed. They will recommend that the procedure is done around one year old so that all the hormones develop. Ferrets that are taken care of like this have a longer life span.
Legality of Keeping a Ferret
Unfortunately, not all states allow ferrets as a pet. Even if they do, there are regulations that must be followed. In most cases, the regulations are no different from that of a cat or dog. In others, however, special rules are set forth for the ferret owner.
For example, Hawaii and the District of Columbia both consider ferrets illegal. California requires that a permit first be issued to the prospective owner before a ferret can be kept as a pet. Colorado, on the other hand, allows them.
Angora Ferret Versus Other Breeds
Long Haired Ferret
Two to four inches of fur
Extra fold in nose
Tuft of fur outside/inside nose
May have undercoat
The Angora Ferret as a Pet
Ferrets were originally bred for their fur. As time went on, however, they began to be highly regarded as pets.
It's not really surprising that the Angora ferret is loved—considering the many personality characteristics that make it perfect for the typical pet lover. Here are just some of the characteristics you should know about the Angora ferret.
Angora ferrets are unique and cannot be likened with the two other popular household pets: cats and dogs. Although each ferret has its own distinct personality, you have to keep in mind that they're playful and inquisitive with a strong tendency to bond with their owners. At the same time, however, they're nimble and more than capable of climbing the counter and fetching food from the cabinet. Hence, a ferret has the quality of a wonderfully loyal canine but with the agility of a cat.
They're not high-maintenance as most Angora ferrets will happily chill out in their cage after being given the requisite amount of time to exercise. Some Angora ferret owners like to give their ferrets room to roam, which means that they're rarely kept inside the cage.
If this is how you intend to care for your ferret, bear in mind that everything has to be ferret-proof. Nimble and quick-minded, having a ferret is like having an inquisitive toddler with a gold medal in gymnastics. Hence, everything has to be locked, sealed, and kept out of paw's way.
Interaction With Children
As with all pets, it's important to supervise every interaction with children to make sure that neither is harmed. Overexcited ferrets will bite and scratch so children should be warned against surprising them or pulling on their tail and fur. Overtime, Angora ferret owners should be able to figure out whether their pet ferret would do well in the company of certain people.
Like cats, ferrets are wonderfully easy to house train, including teaching them how to use a litter box. It takes time and patience to train a ferret but no more so than the typical cat. Later on in this article, you'll find out how to train your pet.
You should be prepared to ferret proofing your home in the same way you would baby-proof your house. This means keeping closets closed, blocking all holes where the ferret is big enough to slip in, and keeping all of your food and valuables in a safe place. Ferrets can be incredibly clever—plus they have the dexterity of a contortionist. You might be surprised how they can still fit in a tiny hole. As a rule of thumb, all holes bigger than .5 by one should be blocked.
When it comes to exercise, ferrets can be quite demanding. Unlike dogs that need to be walked for an hour a day, ferrets need at least two hours of playtime. The good news is that you don't have to take them outside to do that.
For the most part, ferrets play in the same way cats do. You can use a ball, yarn, or a toy tied to a string and let your ferret go wild. If you have two ferrets, they can happily entertain each other during the day.
Give your ferret a toy to keep them entertained, especially if they're the only ferret in the house. Cat toys work but note that they might not last as long. Ferrets can be quite unforgiving during playtime and will bite and rip apart toys until they're completely destroyed. Opt for durable toys.
Ferrets don't exactly smell bad, but they do have a powerful odor that leaves no doubt that a ferret lives here. It's a strange combination of musk that can be minimized by cleaning the ferret's cage on a routine basis—as well as his litter box.
Interaction With Other Animals
A multi-ferret household shouldn't be a problem as ferrets are sociable and love to play with other ferrets. As a general rule, however, it's not a good idea to leave your ferret with animals of a different species. It requires training both breeds before they can be allowed to play with each other.
Angora ferrets are unlikely to hurt a dog or cat, but the same is not true in reverse. Cats enjoy their downtime and will likely hate the energy high of a ferret. On the other hand, a dog can be equally energetic but will treat the ferret as a toy that can be bitten without regard for their own strength. While dogs are generally trainable, you'll need a gentle breed if you want to mix the two.
Other pets, however, are best separated from ferrets. If you own fish, mice, rabbits, hamsters, and other small pets, it's best to skip ferrets completely. Angora ferrets are carnivorous and won't be able to resist eating something smaller than they are.
Cost of Owning a Ferret
Since their popularity, the purchase price of Angora ferrets has gone up, with prices ranging from $65 to $250, depending on the color, gender, and breeder you're getting them from. It stands to reason that quality breeders will charge more since they're offering a genetically healthy ferret.
Like dogs, ferrets require vaccination for certain health issues such as parasites and rabies. Spaying and neutering should also be part of your long-term plan. Food, housing, and various other costs typical of owning a pet must also be factored in. Accordingly, vaccinations should cost around $150 while neutering/spaying cost depends on the veterinarian performing the procedure. Vaccinations are done yearly.
Breeding the Angora Ferret
While anyone can breed two adult ferrets, not all breeding attempts produce healthy kits. You'd want to make sure that the adult ferrets are healthy and that they are not closely related. In order to achieve number two, you'll have to undergo genetic testing, which should be available through your veterinarian. If you're not willing to undergo this procedure, it's best not to breed.
Spring is mating season with females being sexually mature around four months and males sexually maturing at eight months. When they're ready, encouraging them to mate is a simple matter of putting them in the same enclosure together for a few hours. Note that ferret breeding might seem violent, but this is perfectly normal. The two should not be separated as the male's penis is like a hook and may cause damage if pulled out mid-sex.
You'll know if the mating is successful after two weeks. She will start to become bloated and will remove hair from her stomach area to prepare herself for labor. Since it only takes 42 days for the kits to be born, you should get ready as quickly as possible. Pregnant ferrets eat more but will not be as energetic.
Prepare a separate cage for the pregnant ferret even before she gives birth. Once the kits come, keep her and the babies in a safe environment away from other humans and animals. Scared and anxious ferret moms will eat their babies so be careful! Always have food and water for the mommy ferret as she will need it when nursing the young ones. Ferret litters can be big, with as many as ten in one go!
How to Choose an Angora Ferret
When buying an Angora ferret, it's important to keep several things in mind. Here's what to look or when buying one.
Of course, chances are you've already bought your Angora Ferret before reading this article. If so, find out what you can do to properly care for your new pet.
Age of the Ferret
You can get a kit (young ferret) or an adult, depending on your personal preferences. A kit can be taken home as early as eight weeks, although you may find that some of them are being sold at just five weeks. As with dogs, young ferrets offer more room for training and are likely to grow up more affectionate with their owners.
If you don't want to spend money however, you can obtain an adult ferret or one who is still young but has been let go by their owners. Due to the sudden popularity of ferrets as pets, there has also been an increase in ones being put up for adoption. Check your local pet center to see if any are available.
Check the Breeder
If you choose to purchase a kit, take a good look at the breeder. Angora ferrets at a pet store may seem cheaper and more convenient, but you might be surprised at how much their health maintenance will cost in the long run. Ideally, your Angora Ferret should be purchased from a reputable breeder.
Male or Female
Female ferrets (called Jills) and male ferrets (called Hobs) aren't that much different in their early years. Once they hit puberty, however, you'll notice that male ferrets are more aggressive, especially in the presence of female ferrets in heat. Unlike dogs, female ferrets are in heat for six months during the course of a year, which means that you'll notice lots of uncharacteristic behaviors. This is why it's usually better to neuter or spay a ferret, regardless of the resulting hair loss in the future.
Gender also matters when it comes to scent. Ferrets typically have a scent sac below their anus that helps mark their territory through their feces and urine. Males, in particular, have a stronger scent and are likely to mark their territory, especially if they are not spayed or neutered. Fixed ferrets are less likely to spray their urine all over the home.
How Many Ferrets Should You Get
If you intend to get more than one ferret, bear in mind their genders and how the reproductive process will work. Of course, this will not be a problem if all of them are spayed or neutered. Angora ferrets that are no longer intact during their kit years will not grow into the typical hormonal development and will be less likely to have behavioral issues. Being social animals, two ferrets or more in a household is acceptable if they're all the same gender or are all fixed.
Marks of a Healthy Ferret
Here's what you should look for when buying a ferret:
- Playful and alert
- Bright eyes
- Clean and erect ears
- Smooth and supple movements
- Clean nose and mouth without any discharge
- Clean anus
- Clean sexual opening
- Pink and clean paw pads.
- Healthy coat of hair
It stands to reason that if your ferret suffers from any of these problems, then they might be having some ailments that require medical attention. Be very observant of your ferret, whether they're new or have been with you for a long time. Activeness, eating habits, and stool are some of the most accurate indicators that something is wrong.
What Kind of Food Should I Feed My Angora Ferret?
Ferrets aren't your run-of-the-mill pets, which means that feeding them isn't always as simple as running to the nearest pet store to buy specially formulated food.
Fortunately, when it comes to their diet, Angora ferrets are remarkably similar to cats. Hence, you can actually feed them cat food after making sure that the food is high in protein. Primarily carnivores, angora ferrets also love chicken or turkey treats to supplement their staple diet of pellets.
You should never feed an Angora ferret with dog food. This includes doggie treats since there are certain ingredients that dogs can tolerate but the Angora ferret is incapable of digesting. Vegetables and grains are just some of the things you should never let your ferret eat.
How to Choose a Brand
The brand of cat food you feed your ferret isn't really as important as the actual content of the food. Check out the ingredient list—protein should be the highest top ingredient. Ideally, the protein source should be chicken, turkey, or lamb. Do not buy anything that lists vegetable and grain as a nutrient source.
The next thing to check out would be the size and shape of the food pellets. They have to be rounded instead of edgy since Angora Ferrets aren't very good chewers. Edged pellets can be painful if it hits the roof of their mouth. Fortunately, many cat food pellets are of the same size.
How Often to Feed Your Ferret
With their highly energetic lifestyle and quick metabolism, Angora ferrets need as many as eight small meals a day. Due to the frequency of the feed, some owners simply allow all-day access to the food so that their pets can eat whenever they want.
If you want to stick to a portion routine however, you can serve pellets in accordance with the serving suggestions of the product. Just find out your Angora ferret's weight to find out how much you should give them and divide that by eight.
How About Treats?
Treats are great and will be helpful if you intend on training your Angora ferret for hygiene or entertainment purposes. Again, you can't offer them any dog treat since this might not agree with them. Cat treats, on the other hand, are perfectly fine. In the same vein, you can choose to offer your ferret some chicken or turkey meat as treats.
What About Portion Sizes for Treats?
When it comes to treats, you need to be more circumspect about what you offer. Carrots and apples should be cut into small pieces before giving them to your ferret. A good rule of thumb is to cut fruit so that it's as small as a raisin.
What food should not be given?
Chocolate and milk are two food items that should never be given to ferrets. Chocolate can be fatal to them while milk can cause diarrhea. As a rule, never give them any food that isn't good for dogs. When it comes to fruit, very small portions are best.
Ferret Health Issues
Angora ferrets are prone to certain health issues that need to be solved as soon as they become evident. While veterinary intervention is always a good idea, there are some problems that you can address on your own. Here's a rundown of the most common health issues.
Hair Loss or Alopecia
Characterized by hair loss, either partially or completely, alopecia in Angora ferrets may be connected to several issues. Note that older ferrets are more likely to lose hair and that this is perfectly normal due to the aging process. Ferrets between the ages of three to seven are more prone to alopecia. The same goes for spayed or neutered ferrets. If none of the above conditions are true, you should consider the following causes:
- Allergic reaction
- Bacterial infection
- Immune problems
- Nutritional deficiency
Treatment depends on the underlying cause of the problem. Parasites are enough to be dealt with by owners. For other causes, however, you will need to consult a veterinarian.
Diarrhea may be a symptom in itself or indicative of eating certain foods that the ferret shouldn't have eaten. Here are the common causes:
- Viral infection
- Bacterial infections
- Food poisoning or eating too much food
- Metabolic issues
Treatment depends largely on the cause of the problem. Food issues clear away on their own, but the rest require additional intervention. Rehydration is the first order of business, ideally through fluids and electrolyte replacements. Antibiotics, antifungal, and anti-parasitic medication might be recommended by your vet.
A ferret's vomit might offer a clue as to what the cause is. They may throw up fluid with a bit of yellowish coloring, which is bile. The food may already be digested and come out in large chunks with mucus. In many cases, vomiting is accompanied by black stool.
Also, pay attention to the ferret's activities before vomiting. They might be experiencing nausea, which is characterized by a lot of salivae, pawing of the mouth, and/or licking the lips.
Causes of vomiting include:
- Dietary changes: You might want to switch to a different food type. This cause is likely if you've recently changed their food or offered them something new.
- Bacteria found in raw meat: Make sure to thoroughly cook meat before serving it to them.
- Eating a foreign object or indigestible matter
- Eating something they're not supposed to eat
- Reaction to a vaccine
If the vomiting is a one-time thing, then there's no need to visit a veterinarian and have your pet checked out. If it happens often, however, it might be indicative of something else. Ferrets that vomit often also experience rapid weight loss and should be given nutrition through other means.
Ferret owners who note frequent vomiting are advised to take a careful look at the timing and consistency of the vomit in order to give an accurate description to the vet. Treatment is different for vomiting as opposed to regurgitation, thus the need to make a distinction between the two.
Fleas in ferrets are no different than fleas in dogs. Signs of flea infestation include:
- black grainy residue in the skin, specifically inside the ears,
- constant scratching
- red patches as a reaction to the bites
- Visual confirmation of fleas.
If left undiagnosed and unresolved, a flea infestation can lead to anemia that would be harder to treat. This is why ferret owners are advised to treat it as soon as possible. This can be done by using a flea shampoo and ensuring that your ferret is given frequent baths. You may also get anti-flea medication or a vaccine, but this requires speaking with a vet.
Other health problems of ferrets stem from genetic problems, usually occurring due to bad breeding practices.
- Adrenal Disease: Tumor in the adrenal glands that can cause baldness, lack of energy, swelling of the sexual organs, and hormonal issues.
- Cancer: As with people, cancer in ferrets is best treated through chemotherapy. This can be difficult, so most owners opt for euthanasia.
- Allergic conditions: This may be triggered by various food items or exposure to certain chemicals. Symptoms are fairly similar to those of humans.
Ferrets taken at a young age should at least have distemper vaccinations even before ownership is transferred. If you're not the breeder, make sure to check the pet's papers to find out what vaccines were already administered. Additional vaccinations will be given at 11 and 14 weeks of age. Anti-rabies is given at 12 weeks. After these, annual vaccination shots are necessary.
Keeping your ferret's cage clean is important if you want to keep your home smelling perfect. In the same way, maintaining your ferret's personal hygiene should be the top priority in order to keep him happy and healthy. But how exactly do you do this? Unfortunately, there's no such thing as professional ferret grooming—unless your vet's office is heavily advanced. The good news is that you can do all this yourself with some ordinary tools to help you along the way.
Baths should be given once a month. Fortunately, ferrets also keep themselves clean through licking so unless you allow your ferret to roll in the mud outdoors, there's really no need to give them a bath often. Here's what you should know about ferret baths:
- Their normal body temperature is 103 degrees, which means that a cold bath is usually not a good idea. Your bath water should be slightly hotter than what you would like for yourself.
- Use ferret shampoo to gently massage the body of the animal. It's best to be really gentle around the head area since shampoo can get into their eyes and irritate them. Typically, you'll find ferret shampoo available in the pet shop. However, this isn't always the case. Acceptable alternatives are:
- Use baby shampoo because these shampoos are often tearless and gentle. They also smell great and will, therefore, leave your ferret smelling like a baby for the next few days.
- You can also use dishwashing soap if you find any fleas on your ferret. Without fleas, however, you can skip the dishwashing soap entirely, especially since some of these soaps aren't exactly gentle.
- A generic pet shampoo should also work wonders for your ferret. They come in large quantities and cheaper to buy. If you have more than one pet in your house, this would be the ideal choice.
- Dog or cat shampoo would also be a good choice, but it shouldn't be your first. The composition of cat and dog shampoo may vary from one product to another so make a point of examining the product before buying. Always opt for the ‘tearless' shampoo to guarantee eye safety.
- Your ferret may be uncomfortable about the whole thing, so make sure to comfort them during the bath through careful massages, even as you lather the shampoo all over their body. Keeping your pet comfortable will gradually help him get used to it so that in the future, baths won't be as hard as they are.
- Once done, carefully rinse the ferret and dry him with a towel. You can also try using a hairdryer to properly remove all the water from ferret hair.
- Note that after a bath, ferrets will work themselves into a frenzy by rolling around the floor and scrubbing their bodies on the carpet. This is a perfectly natural reaction since they hate being wet and would like to dry themselves quickly. Unfortunately, the action can cause them to become dirty soon after they've been cleaned. To prevent this from happening, line your ferret cage with some carpet and keep him there for an hour after the bath. This way, he can dry himself without getting dirty.
Ferrets should have their teeth cleaned twice a month if you feed them a mix of soft and hard food; if you just offer hard food however, once a month will do just as well. Use a baby toothbrush with soft spindles to help you navigate your Angora Ferret's small mouth and teeth. You can also use the specialized toothbrush for cats and dogs with an extra-long handle.
You'll find a specialized ferret toothpaste online if you want to make sure that your ferret gets a proper cleaning. If you can't find any, however, cat toothpaste will do just fine. Do NOT use dog toothpaste or toothpaste meant for humans since they are toxic to ferrets. If you can't find any, simply brush their teeth using a mixture of water and salt.
After brushing their teeth, offer your ferret a treat. This helps him become more compliant for next time. Note that like cats and dogs, ferrets aren't happy when their teeth are brushed and will resist the action. You'll have to be both persistent and gentle. Once they realize that fighting is worthless, most will allow you to brush their teeth.
Angora ferret nails can be long and painful when used with too much force. While ferrets do not try to hurt their owners, their long nails can cause damage to the rest of the house—especially the curtains and the furniture.
Your ferret will hate having his nails tripped—most ferrets will resist having their feet held. This is why it's usually a good idea to train your ferret into "feet holding." This is when you hold one of their paws in your hand while giving them a relaxing massage without any other agenda but to keep them calm. This helps them stay relaxed when you eventually have to cut their nails.
Here's what you should do:
- Grab a cutter specifically for cats and dogs. Human nail trimmers often cut too high and thus can cause damage to the ferret. You'll find that cutters specifically made for pets are a good investment and cost very little. If you have multiple pets, you can use it for all of them.
- Check your ferret's nails and locate that little red line inside the nails. The color may not always be deep red, but you should be able to locate it inside the nail. The goal is to NOT trim as far back as this red line. Whenever you trim, you have to make sure that you're steering clear.
- If your ferret is especially uncooperative, you might want to trim his nails little by little. For example, you can do one paw for one session and then give him a treat afterwards. After a few hours, you can do the other paw and offer another treat. Doing this also helps with the training so that your ferret eventually becomes comfortable with the process.
What if the nails start to bleed?
If the nails bleed, that's because you trimmed beyond the red line, or you simply trimmed too much. Grab some baking soda and put it in a bowl. Place your ferret's bleeding nail in it to stop the blood flow. This should happen in as little as three minutes. Wrap the nail in tissue paper and give it time to heal. Postpone trimming of the other nails as well.
This is one body part that many ferret owners forget about. Remember though that their ears are highly sensitive and thus require frequent cleaning, especially if they harbor any fleas. Parasites love the cavernous space of the ears, making it important to constantly check and remove anything that might be lurking inside it. Cleaning ferret ears are best done once a month.
- Use a q-tip to clean their ears but don't jab too deep inside the ears. Clean only as far as you can safely see and wipe the wider area of the inner portion of the ear.
- You can use baby oil to help speed up the cleaning process. Water will work just as well if you're not sure about the quality of the baby oil.
- Take note of the color of the dirt you get off the ears. Brown is perfectly normal but black can be a sign of flea infestation. Black pellets are basically flea poop and are a sign that your ferret is harboring some renters.
Since ferrets don't shed much, you don't have to brush their coat as often as you would a cat or dog. Of course, constant grooming helps spread their natural oils, allowing their coat to gleam, shine, and look healthy. For shedding purposes, however, you only need to brush their coat every two weeks or so. Once a week would also be perfect just to make sure that your furniture is free of fur.
Just grab a brush specifically made for ferret fur and brush away. It might be best to do the brushing outdoors to avoid fur all over the house. If you can't find a specialized brush, you can use a hairbrush or the same brush used for dogs and cats.
Ferrets Require Proper Care and Socialisation
Like all pets, Angora ferrets require love, patience, and attention for them to grow and thrive in your care. Keep in mind that these special breeds require a special kind of care, but they will also give you lots of love back.
Bear in mind that ferrets are for life, so please don't just leave your ferret at the nearest adoption center should you realize that owning one is not for you. This is why it is strongly recommended that you first learn as much as you can about the breed before pushing forward.
- "Summary of State- And Territory-Level Ferret Regulations". By American Ferret Association, Inc. Retrieved on 2017, May 13
- "Pros & Cons of Ferrets as Pets". By Pets on MOM.me. Retrieved on 2017, May 13
- "What Do Ferrets Eat? A Guide to Feeding Your Ferret". By PetMD. Retrieved on 2017, May 13
- "Bathe Your Ferret, How to". By Doctors Foster and Smith. Retrieved on 2017, May 13
- "Diseases A-Z: Ferret". By PetMD. Retrieved on 2017, May 13
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.