It is not too far in the past that "ferreting" was a popular country occupation. In rabbit infested areas the use of nets and working ferrets gave the younger generation hours of harmless fun and often a tasty meal for the family afterwards. As habits and trends change the pet ferret population has diminished significantly. So of course has the rabbit population since Myxomatosis swept the UK.
The ferret is descended from the wild European polecat but many generations of breeding in a domestic environment has made the ferret into a very intelligent and rewarding pet that will provide hours and hours of fun. They come in a variety of colours from pure white (albino) to polecat. Like all animals they will develop trust in their owners if handled in a friendly and sympathetic way and are given clean and comfortable living quarters together with a suitable diet. They are not vicious animals but must be handled carefully and there are times (particularly during the breeding season) when ferrets like some privacy.
Regular handling from an early age establishes confidence and ferrets will learn very quickly. They can even be trained to walk on a lead and will live to about 10 years of age.
Ferrets should not be left unattended in the house as they are able to squeeze into the smallest of spaces, please ensure they are unable to get trapped behind radiators or other small gaps. They have sharp nails which sometimes require clipping, please call for advice from our nurses on how to clip their nails to ensure you do not cut through their quick, as this will cause bleeding and pain to the ferret.
What About The Odour?
Ferrets do have a distinctive odour and the male of the species particularly so! However, clean bedding at all times and attention to hygiene will greatly reduce any unpleasant smell. Keeping their fur clean and free of any fleas should be a daily routine.
Their cage should be stoutly built about 4 feet by 2 feet, a depth of 2 feet and have a private nesting/sleeping area out of view. It should have a roof that is waterproof and legs to keep it about 3 feet off the ground. It should be in a sheltered spot. A nesting area is particularly important for any breeding ferret as they are very sensitive to having their young disturbed at an early age. Ferrets will be happier to be kept outside during the summer months but kept inside during the winter months, if this is not possible to have them inside during the winter months then you can place their cage in a shed or garage which will help, but please ensure they are put back outside when the weather starts to warm up, place their cage in a shaded area during the summer months.
Ferrets are very active and need time spent on a daily basis. They cannot be left like a hamster or a guinea pig unattended for any period of time. They are great escape artists and if left in a run on grass will dig a tunnel in no time! So NEVER leave unattended. They like to be on the move, are very inquisitive and of course their natural instinct is to hunt and "ferret about". If you are not prepared to spend time and take a great interest, ferrets are not for you! The time spent is amply rewarded as ferrets are affectionate, sociable, clever and fun. Lack of exercise and being confined to a small space for long periods of time is probably the cause of bad temper, nervousness and the reason why a ferret might not be averse to the odd painful bite. They are intelligent animals who do not like being neglected. With the right introduction they will happily interact with other family pets such as cats and dogs.
Ferrets are natural carnivores and there is nothing they love better than to get their face embedded in a piece of raw meat. Alternatively various brands of complete ferret food are available to buy, which is a dry kibble diet (this is ideal for the summer months). Under no circumstances should ferrets be introduced to sweet foods as tooth decay will result. Plenty of fresh clean water should be available at all times. A simple diet and regular meal times with plenty of exercise forms the basis of good health.
Previous advice was to neuter either castrate a male ferret (hob) or spay a female ferret (Jill) however research has shown that neutering ferrets can make them more likely to develop a condition known as ‘Hyperadrenocorticism.’ This disease is caused by changes to the adrenal glands located near the kidneys. These glands begin to overproduce hormones that lead to hair loss, weight loss, vulval swelling (jills), itchy skin and hyper-sexuality (even in neutered animals). Hyperadrenocorticism is not curable but is a treatable condition in ferrets. It is now recommended that the alternative for neutering is a hormone implant. These hormone implants are in a slow release capsule injected under the skin - which are placed under sedation/anaesthesia. Please contact us for more information.