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Education | Pet ownership

5 Top Tips For Ferret Care

From bathing to housekeeping, these are the things you need to know.

Photo by Yulia Vambold on Unsplash

The ferret is becoming a regular member of the family in lots of households. Also called fuzzies or carpet sharks, they love to be part of a family that has lots of space for them to roam around and get into mischief. Watch your houseplants especially!

You’ll often see me refer to “scruffing” your ferret. This is simply grabbing the ferret by the skin on the back of their neck like their mother would do to them as kits (babies). It doesn’t hurt them and it actually helps to keep them still. Most ferrets freeze when they are scruffed correctly and will instantly yawn. I’ve had 1 ferret that doesn’t ever yawn when scruffed and I have another that barely stays still when scruffed. It all depends on the ferret.

While there are tons of different care tips online regarding ferrets, after years of experience this is what I feel are the top 5 things a new ferret owner should know in no particular order.

1. BATHIES!

Some ferrets enjoy baths and some despise them. We’ve had 8 ferrets in our family (4 at a time, of course!) and I can tell you it’s about half and half. We’ve had at least 2 ferrets who actually swam around in the water like otters, but the others just sit there and shiver.

There’s mixed information online about how often to bathe your ferret. We typically bathe ours twice a year provided they don’t get into something. Bathing them more frequently can cause their coat and skin to dry out and it gives them more of their musky smell. Ferrets produce natural oils just like we do on our scalps, and bathing them too frequently can disturb the production of those oils.

How do we bathe our ferrets? Some like to do it in their kitchen sink, we like to barricade all 4 into the bathroom and bathe them one at a time in the bathtub. Make sure you have lots of towels down on the floor, you’re in for a treat when the ferret gets out of the bath!

Fill it up with tepid water, ferrets are like babies, too hot of water can hurt them. Place your ferret in the tub and splash some water on their body, keep it from getting in their eyes. Scruff the ferret and rub ferret shampoo into its body. Scrub scrub scrub! Then place the ferret back in the water to rinse all the shampoo off. Try to squeeze most of the water off the ferret and wrap them in a towel. Place the ferret on the floor in the towel and let them go crazy! They like to do this thing we call the vacuum cleaner where they rub their bodies all over the floor in a back and forth motion like when you vacuum the carpet.

Check out these ferrets getting their bathies!

2. NAIL TRIMS

Trimming the nails once a month (or more if needed) is important so when they’re itching they don’t injure or scratch themselves. Some ferret's nails grow at different rates than the others, especially depending on their diet. There are plenty of videos online regarding how to clip a ferret's nails. That’s how we learned as newbie ferret parents. The best thing to know is to watch for the ‘quick’ which is the pink part where the outgrown white of the nail stops and the inside of the nail begins. You don’t have to cut all the way down to the quick either. About 1/4 –1/8 inch away from the quick and you should be good. They need nails to help balance themselves like cats. If you keep up on the nail trims they will be easier to clip. It’s easiest to have one person scruff the ferret while the other clips the nails. This way you have one person calming the ferret and the other can concentrate on not snipping the quick and making the ferret bleed. IF you do cut too far down the nail into the quick, they make a quick stop powder that comes in most small animal nail clipper kits. Just dip the nail in the powder and it will stop the bleeding. Most likely you will have one mad ferret though.

3. EAR CLEANING

This is another that’s not a fan favorite! It should be done once to twice a month depending on your ferret. There are videos online of exactly how to do this too. Again, you just kinda learn from trial and error (without hurting your ferret of course). We use a ferret ear cleaner and massage a few drops into their ears. Let them shake their heads a bit to loosen up the wax and dirt. Then take a q-tip and gently swab the OUTER parts inside the ear. Do not push the q-tip into the ferret's ear canal as this can damage their ears! Again, with this, it helps to have one person scruff the ferret and hold its body because once that liquid hits their ears, they tend to wriggle around. Ferret ear wax tends to be a reddish-brown color. If they have ear mites, it will be a very dark almost black color.

Always be sure to give your ferret treaties after clipping the nails and cleaning the ears. They will be so happy it’s over and you will have a healthier ferret.

4. HOUSEKEEPING

Cage is key! I can’t stress enough how much I love my Ferret Nation Double Unit cage for my babies. It’s got just enough room for 4 fuzzies to live comfortably. Don’t forget the hammocks! You want lots of sleep options in your ferret's cage since this is where they will be spending most of their time. We also like to put old t-shirts and torn-up blue jean pieces into the cage for them to snuggle up in as well. Always pay attention to the ferret bedding and make sure the ferrets aren’t chewing and swallowing the pieces of clothing. This can cause a blockage really quickly!

Let’s dive into the litter box! No, not really, but let’s discuss it. Another topic of conversation on the ferret forums is what type of litter you use. One thing is known, DO NOT use anything that produces dust. You do not want clay-clumping cat litter. You want dust-free paper pellets! Any dust can bother their respiratory systems which is why you also don’t want to use the loose small animal bedding for hamsters for their cage either.

When we first started looking into ferrets, I loved watching videos on cage setups. I loved seeing how many litter boxes were in a cage and where/how many hammocks and tunnels were in the cage. It’s important to move the hammocks and tunnels to different spots inside the cage frequently as ferrets need mental stimulation. They get bored quite easily.

It’s also important to use an all-natural cleaning solution to clean out the cage trays. You should be scooping your ferret’s litter boxes daily and cleaning the cage floors weekly. Ferrets have a shedding season so you will definitely be wiping up a lot of hair along with litter they’ve scattered on the floor. They sometimes think the litter box is for digging and playing in. I told you they get bored easily.

5. DIET

This is a controversial topic amongst ferret owners. One that should have an article itself. When we purchased our very first two ferrets, Lu & Bella, we had no idea what we were getting ourselves into. We were first-time ferret owners and hadn’t been in the game long enough to make a personal decision of which food to feed: kibble or raw meat.

So, we decided to feed kibble. Our friend we grew up with always had ferrets around and his family fed their ferret's kibble. Then came the problem about which brand of kibble to feed them. It’s a mixed bag (HA!) online about the best kibble for ferrets. Most people go by the protein, fat, and moisture content in a bag of food. From our previous research, you add together these 3 things then subtract that number from 100 and that number equals the percentage of carbs, which the lower the better. I’m telling you, what you feed your ferret is a huge topic on the ferret forums. We finally settled with 2 different types of food and mixed them in case one or the other were to quit being in production (it’s been known to happen, recalls are a thing too!)

Today, we feed our 4 ferrets a raw meat diet. After much research into this subject and with trial and error, we found what our babies like and don’t like. So now they get a mix of different types of meaty bones and fatty meat products. The difference between their coats, health, and energy levels after switching them to a raw meat diet is remarkable. Not that I’m pushing it on you, but they are carnivores after all.

Taking care of a ferret is no easy task. They are quite different from cats and dogs and unique in their own way. A controversial pet in both keeping them and their care, but a great pet nonetheless. Ferrets are so much fun to watch and once you get one, you will fall in love with their little personalities.

What was your favorite tip? Share your ferret stories with me!

Exploring animal welfare, animal care, and the human-animal bond.

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Nikkole Writes

Nikkole Writes

Est. 1991 | Mental Health Advocate | Animal Lover | Spirituality | Freelance Content Writer from ILLINOIS — visit nikkolewrites.com

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