Ferrets are very active pets, so a hutch should be approximately 120cm wide x 60cm wide per pet. They need plenty of exercise outside their cage and hutches and runs should be raised off the ground, placed out of the sun and sheltered from the rain and wind. In the winter, the hutch may have to be moved into a garage or outhouse.
Clothes, towels and T shirts, for bedding material, are better than hay, straw or shavings which can cause breathing problems and ferrets like burrowing in bedding, particularly in the winter months. Hutches should be completely stripped out and scrubbed, ideally once a week during the summer and more regularly during the winter when ferrets spend more time inside. Ferrets will also use a litter tray and this should be cleaned on a daily basis.
Ferrets are carnivores and require animal protein in their diet. The easiest option is a complete food specifically for ferrets, which provides all the nutrients in the correct amounts and proportions. Water must be accessible at all times and bottles are often easier to keep clean, however ferrets do appreciate being given a bowl of water occasionally so they can splash about and wash.
Female ferrets will come into season and stay in season until they are mated. If you don’t wish to breed there are two options. You can either bring her out of season and prevent related diseases by mating her with a vasectomised male (a hob) or get her neutered. Your vet will be able to advise you on neutering your pet.
Regular exercise is important to keep your ferret fit and prevent boredom, which could lead to behavioural problems. It’s therefore advisable to exercise pets in an outdoor run, the garden or the house as often as possible, but ideally for at least four hours a day. You can make this time as fun as possible by using boxes and tubes to make tunnels and hidey holes for them to explore. You can also hide small amounts of food so that they can spend time foraging.
Ferrets will groom both themselves and others, as it’s a social activity. You can also groom your ferret with a brush or comb, if needed. You should also check ferret’s eyes, ears, nose, mouth, bottom and claws daily.
Before attempting to handle your ferret, let him become accustomed to you by feeding out of your hand and stroking him. Once he’s happy doing this, gently grasp his shoulders with one hand, keeping your thumb under his chin and support him under his bottom with the other hand. It is best, once you have picked him up, to hold him against you or keep him on your lap. Ferrets have sharp teeth and are known to bite, so be careful!
Ferrets can live alone but prefer to be kept in social groups. A pair or group of three allows them to interact and perform normal social behaviours. Make sure that they are single sex groups or neutered, otherwise you could end up with a family! Under supervision ferrets can be kept with dogs and cats but not with rabbits or rodents.
Regular health checks
Your vet can carry out a ‘nose to tail’ MOT but you can play a role too by following the guidelines below to keep an eye on your ferret’s health, help him to stay in tip top condition and live a long and healthy life:
Look out for changes in your ferret’s food consumption, drinking and toilet habits. Does he have less energy or is he slower in getting up or jumping? Monitor your ferret’s faeces for colour and consistency
Rub your hands over your ferret’s body including his head, legs and feet to check for any lumps or bumps or anything stuck in his pads. Check your ferret’s coat quality and whether any dandruff or hair loss is evident. Is your ferret scratching, chewing or biting excessively?
Check your pet’s nose, eyes and ears for any abnormalities or discharge. Your ferret’s nose should be moist, the corners of his eyes should be free of discharge and his ears should be clean
Regularly examine your ferret’s mouth for signs of disease and overgrown teeth
Monitor your ferret’s body condition by running your hands over his ribs and backbone. If he is losing weight or is overweight, it’s advisable to take him to the vet.