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Old 01-31-2011, 12:37 AM
JessLough JessLough is online now
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Default So, you think you want a ferret?

A couple of us thought that it would be good to have a thread to direct people to, when they ask for information on ferrets while they are considering getting one. So, here is a bunch of important and general information, more info then you ever wanted to know

GENERAL INFORMATION

So, you think that you would like to have a ferret as a pet. Here is some information that will, hopefully, help you in deciding if the ferret is the right pet for you.

Ferrets are amazing pets, and lots of fun to have around. The best way I can find to describe the fun of a ferret, is if you take the loyalty of a dog, the independence of a cat, and add a little bit of special, and you get a ferret. There really is no animal that is kept as a pet that comes near the special bond of a ferret. Ferrets will make you laugh, will test your patience, and will just bring so much joy into your life. Beware – ferret math strikes! You my start with one or two, but you will end up wanting more.

For the most part, you will either love having ferrets, are you will hate it. I have never run into an instance where it was in the middle. A few key things to think about before choosing to get a ferret is that they are litter animals, have a short life span (7-9 years), likely will get sick come middle age, and are expensive for upkeep. We will talk about all that a bit later.

The time commitment is also a great one, which you have to think about. Ferrets need at least 2 hours a day out of cage, but most prefer more, especially if it is a single ferret. There is no guarantee that your ferret will get along with your dog or your cat, so you need to make sure you have a way to give the ferret running time away from your other pets. Ferrets should never be allowed to roam around small animals, or reptiles. Ferrets will gladly eat them as a snack, and with reptiles, it can cause huge problems and even kill the ferret.

If you want a pet that will sit there and cuddle with you, a ferret is not the pet for you. While some are cuddly, most will deal with cuddling for a few minutes, and then want to play. They sleep for majority of the day, but when they are awake, they are awake and wanting to play!

FOOD
Ferrets are obligate carnivores. This means that anything other than meat is not digested. Therefore, they do best on a high quality, grain free diet. Ferrets can eat either a high quality ferret food, such as EVO Ferret or Zupreem (they have a grain-free variety), or a high quality kitten food. When choosing food, there should be no fruits or vegetables, especially in the first 5 ingredients. If there is any corn, if should not be any higher than the 4th ingredient. The first 2 ingredients should be meat, with 3 of the first 5 being meat.
Ferrets need a diet that is high in protein, moderate in fat, low in fibre and carbohydrates. The suggested minimum for protein is 36%. Protein is important for both tissue growth and muscle repair. The suggest fat is 18-40%. Fat is important for heating the body, and providing energy – which a healthy ferret will have plenty of! Due to a lack of cecum to process fibre, the maximum amount a food should have is 3%. A low carbohydrate amount is very important in ferrets, as higher amounts of carbohydrates are thought to contribute to Insulinoma (which we will discuss later). The average is 34%, but the lower the carbohydrate level is, the better.
Ferrets can be put on a raw diet. The raw diet for ferrets is very similar for that of dogs, just smaller amounts of food is needed daily. Ferrets are able to eat bones, and should, for a balanced diet. They can eat prey model raw – rats, rabbits, guinea pigs, etc, or they can be fed the same meats that you would eat. Regardless of which, they need to be given hearts, livers, kidneys as well as a large variety of meat sources. Of course, feeding your ferret raw is thought to be best for them, if you can do it right and ensure they get everything they need.
Ferrets imprint on kibble at a young age. What that means, is the more they eat at a young age, the better. While it is possible, it is much harder to get an older ferret to eat raw or a new brand of kibble than it is a kit. It is suggested that as a kit, you feed a large number of different foods, so if one food is ever discontinued, you can switch without a problem. That said, it is always better, if you are feeding kibble, to have 2 or 3 kibbles mixed together, as not one kibble is perfect for ferret health. Ferrets are just so weird, that nobody is quite sure what they need in their day to day diet, they just have guesses.
All ferret owners need to know about something called Duck Soup. If you ever have a sick ferret (which you will at one point, I guarantee it), Duck Soup will be a life saver. There are tons of recipes out there, as not one recipe works for everybody. The most basic of recipes is:
1. The kibble your ferret is used to, soaked in water or chicken broth until mushy
2. Water
3. Canned feline A/D
4. Cooked chicken

Stick it all in a blender, add water until a soup consistency. You can freeze it in ice cube trays, and take out and thaw as needed. Alternately, if your ferret will not eat Duck Soup (which some will not, especially if you get them as older ferrets and they were not imprinted on it as a kit), you can get Gerber baby food, meat and broth (they have different varieties, chicken, beef and turkey) and feed them that. Duck soup or baby food are also good to get some weight on a ferret that is a little on the skinny side.

Treats should be given in moderation. Ferrets will eat either cat or ferret treats. Most treats out there for ferrets, are loaded with sugar, and really should not be fed very often. Many ferrets will take some dehydrated meat as a treat, which is much better for them. Not only is there no sugar, but it is a natural meat source that they will love. If they will take dehydrated meats as treats, you can give them all they like without worry.

You can find a chart here: Ferret Universe-Ferret Food & Litter that outlines the most popular foods that people feed their ferrets, and lists the top 5 ingredients as well as protein, fat, fibre and carbohydrate levels. It can help in choosing a food for your ferret. Keep in mind when looking at the chart, that many holistic cat foods are not listed, so take the list with a grain of salt. Mainly, it will help you to learn what to look for in a good food for your pet.
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Old 01-31-2011, 12:37 AM
JessLough JessLough is online now
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FERRET PROOFING

Well, if you have ferrets, it needs to happen. Ferrets are very mischievous animals that can and will get into anything and everything. Of course, this can lead to trouble. So, you have to be prepared to ferret proof your room or house. Pretty much, this means blocking off any way to the outside, blocking off any and all furniture, any pipes in the house, and moving anything off the floor that could be of danger.

My general rule of thumb is if you want to keep it, put it up high. Even then, they can and most likely will get to it. The determination of a ferret is like that on no other. Anything fewer than 4 feet high, that you want to keep, should be practically nailed to the floor, or else it will be moved. Shoes should be places up, until you want to have them dug into and played with.

Anything rubber should be moved out of reach, as ferrets love rubber, but rubber does not love ferrets. If a ferret chews the rubber and swallows it, it will create a blockage, which will unfortunately need to be corrected with surgery, which will easily run in the thousands.

TOYS

Ferrets need to be kept entertained and challenged, or else they can and will become destructive. So, they need toys. There are tons of toys in the market, and ferrets absolutely love baby or cat toys. When looking at toys, you have to keep in mind that any small parts WILL be torn off and will be swallowed, easily creating a blockage. Hence why baby toys are perfect, they are made for kids who will shove things in their mouth, therefore have no small removable parts.

Some example of toys that ferrets like are cat teasers, jingle bells, soft baby rattles, tunnels, and really, anything can be a toy for a ferret, as long as there are no dangers. If it crinkles or jingles, they will love it. They also love things like cat towers, and cat tents (there are some ferret tents on the market, too), and any with dangling items are always fun as well!

Most importantly, your ferret will want to play and interact with YOU. Most love if you lay them on their back, and “attack” their belly with your hand. Also waving your hands around and acting like a goof will get them dooking and dancing. You cannot worry about looking like a goof when you have a ferret!

A good way to calm your ferrets energy and calm their curiosity is to take them outside on a harness and leash. When you do this, you just have to be very aware of your surroundings, and be ready to snatch them up if you see a dog or cat coming. Walks will get yours ferrets brain working, and will wear them out quite fast.

Since ferrets are natural burrowers, they absolutely love tunnels. Dryer tunnels make great toys for ferrets, as they will just run through them all day if they could. They also sell cloth and plastic tunnels specifically for ferrets, as well as some for cats. The crinkle tunnels are always a huge hit, as they make tons of noise while they run through it!

CARE

For the most part, ferrets are fairly easy pets to care for and to keep happy. However, like any other pets, they have their own special care needs.

Nails need to be done every few days. All ferrets’ nails are white, so it is very easy to see the quick, and therefore very easy to clip. There are many different types of clippers out on the market. You can use any kind of them, whichever you prefer, or you can just use small human nail clippers. The main thing you want is stainless steel clippers, as they will stay sharp. Clipping a ferrets nails with dull clippers are not fun for you or the ferret.

Ears should be done about biweekly. Really, it all depends on the ferret and how much wax they build up. They have ear cleaning solutions on the market, which are great. Mineral oil also works well. Really, you just want something so the wax is loosened, and it is easier for you. You just clean their ears like a q-tip, you want to go just past where you can see, unless you are trained to do it further. You really do not want to be shoving it all the way down their ear, as you do not want to cause any damage. Wax should be a dark brown colour, any black in it could be ear mites and should be checked by a vet under the microscope. Do not worry if you find mites, it is easily treated and very common in ferrets. Any excessive scratching of the ears, or rubbing the head against the bars of the cage, is a sign of mites and should be checked.

Litter boxes need to be cleaned every day or two, depending on number of ferrets. Face it; if you own a ferret, you are going to be looking at their poop as though it was a present for you. Poops should be brown in colour and formed, any change should be closely watched, and brought to the vet if it continues for more than a day. Any black, tarry stools means a vet trip is in order, as it means blood in the poop. No clay or clumping litter should be used. Ferrets shove their noses in the litter, and any clay or clumping litter will stick in their nose and cause breathing problems. Yesterday’s News (or the like) is a good litter for ferrets, as is Wood Stove Pellets.

Ferrets should only be bathed two times a year, if they need it. If you over bathe a ferret, it will strip their coat of natural oils and they will make excess amounts of oils, and will stink. There are lots of ferret shampoos out on the market, and you want to make sure to use a ferret specific shampoo.

Ferrets do shed, just like other animals. They will shed twice a year, and their coat will be different for each season. They will also get fatter during the winter time, to keep warm. When your ferret is shedding, you should give them a supplement, called FerretLax, to be sure that they do not get a hairball. Ferrets cannot cough up hairballs. If your ferret gets a hairball, it will most likely need surgery, as they are not cats and cannot cough it up themselves.

The best cage for ferrets is Ferret Nation. As a general rule, the cage should be at least 3 feet by 4 feet for one ferret. It should also have multiple levels, as it is more fun for your ferret. The smaller the cage, the more running around your ferret will need, and the more destructive they can become, since they will get bored. Most of the cages on the market for ferrets are just too small to house more than one ferret; some are too small to comfortably house one ferret. Cages should have lots of bedding, hammocks, and blankets for your ferret(s) to sleep in. The general rule of thumb is a different sleeping place per ferret. Your ferrets will not always want to cuddle together, nor should they be forced to.

There are quite a few different supplements out there for ferrets. Really, other than FerretLax and FerreTone, they are all a waste of money, and filled with sugars so really should not be given to your ferrets very often. FerretLax is important during shedding season, and throughout the year once a week if they are not shedding. FerreTone is a fish oil, and is good for their skin and coat, and also makes for easy nail clipping (drop some on their belly, they will bend over and lick it off while you clip their nails).
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Old 01-31-2011, 12:38 AM
JessLough JessLough is online now
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WHERE TO GET YOUR FERRET

This is something that new ferret owners often make mistakes about. Often, they will go out to a pet store and buy the ferret there. Ferrets in a pet store come from ferret mills. They do not care about the health of the ferret, and are spayed or neutered and descented way too early. The early speutering is thought to cause some of the common health problems.

Most of the ferrets from pet stores come from a mill called Marshalls. These ferrets are identified by 2 dots on their ear – one to say they are fixed, and one to say they are descented. Marshalls is a horrible mill that just keeps breeding ferrets in not good conditions. They actually have 2 mills, one for ferrets for the pet stores, and one that breeds ferrets, pigs, and mongrels for labs.

So, where can you get a ferret from? Look in your area, did you know that there are dedicated ferret rescues? I am sure you can find one in your area, or if not, I bet your local humane society has some ferrets looking for a home. If you are in the states, there are also ferret breeders. You can buy ferrets from them, who will be sold on a spay/neuter contract so they are not fixed so young, and they will not be descented. Descenting is a useless procedure, that is unnecessary and invasive.

VET CARE AND DISEASES

Having a ferret knowledgeable vet is very important. It is very important you feel you can trust them, as they will be seeing your ferret, unfortunately, quite often. Before deciding on a vet, you should ask if they have any other ferret patients, meet them, have them meet your ferret, and just make sure you feel comfortable that they will give your pet the level of care you want.

Just like dogs and cats, ferrets need to go to the vet for annual check-ups. They also need to get vaccinated for rabies, and distemper if it runs in your area. The distemper is to protect your ferret; the rabies is to be sure that your ferret will not be destroyed if it bites somebody. The cost for the annual exam and shots is about $100, of course depending on your area it may be more or less. Annual exams are very important for ferrets, so they can catch anything that may be going on early.

Ferrets are, unfortunately, very prone to diseases. As ferrets only leave for 7-9 years, average 7 years, they are considered middle age once they hit 3 years old. Once your ferret hits 5 years old, they will most likely have a disease or two. I will take some time to describe some of the most prevalent diseases they can get.

First off, ferrets are the only domesticated pet that can catch anything you have. If you have the flu, or even just a cold, you need to limit your exposure to your ferret, or else they will most likely catch it as well. Same way going, if your ferret is sick, you can likely catch it from your ferret.

Gastrointestinal blockages are one of the main causes of premature death. Symptoms include, but are not limited to, not eating or drinking, vomiting, straining to go to the bathroom or not going at all, weakness and diarrhea. As soon as any of these symptoms begin, it is very important to take your ferret to the vet. Ferrets cannot go more than 4 hours without eating, and should not be expected to. If you suspect a blockage, do not try to treat at home with lax, as a ferret with a blockage can die within a matter of days. If you notice these symptoms, take a quick look around the area your ferret is ever running around – look in their stashes for partially eaten objects, look under couches or any other furniture for eaten fabric, look anywhere you can think of for a culprit – and run your ferret to your vet. If you found the culprit, take it with you. If the vet suspects a blockage, they will make sure it is with an xray or ultrasound, although blockages pretty much always mean surgery.

ECE, Epizootic Catarrhal Enteritis, is a very contagious virus, often called “green slime disease”. It can start with vomit, likely clear, and then continue with bright green smelly diarrhea. ECE is very serious, and can cause your ferret to become dehydrated, malnutrition or have ulcers. If you see more than 2 or 3 instances with vomiting or diarrhea, take your ferret to the vet right away. With the diagnosis of ECE, it is very important to keep your ferret eating (duck soup comes in handy) and drinking. Ferrets with ECE need to be given constant care and supervision. ECE can be shed for 6 months after your ferret seems to be clear of the disease.

Hypoglycaemia means low blood sugar. Severe cases of hypoglycaemia are life threatening, causing weakness and mental confusion, leading to seizures and a coma. There are many causes of hypoglycaemia, and the symptoms all depend on the cause. If your ferret goes into a seizure or coma, you need to try and get some sugar into him, via corn syrup on the gums, and get him to a vet right away.

Adrenal Disease is a very prevalent disease in ferrets, and is caused by a tumour or legion on the adrenal gland causing an overproduction of the hormones regulated by the adrenal glands. While the exact cause is not known, it is thought that spaying and neutering at an early age, and extended photoperiods may be the cause of adrenal disease. Classic signs of adrenal are hair loss or hair thinning at the base of the tail, on the feet, on his belly, in an obvious pattern or a patchy appearance. There is not a standard set of symptoms that a ferret with adrenal will have. Some common symptoms are hair loss, thinning hair, loss of appetite, lethargy, translucent looking skin, excessive scratching, sexual aggression and mating behaviour in neutered males (with objects, or other ferrets), excessive grooming in self or other ferrets – including ear sucking, swollen vulva in spayed females, difficulty urinating in males, weakness in back legs, increased thirst, increased urination, weight loss due to decreased muscle mass – with a potbellied appearance. Common treatments of adrenal disease include surgery, Lupron Depot Injections, and Melatonin Implants. However, none of these get rid of the adrenal, they just slow down the process.

Lymphosarcoma is the most common hematopoetic neoplasm in the ferret and the most common malignancy. While there's a fair amount of literature available on this disease, we actually know very little, and unfortunately, save few cases. There are two types of Lymphosarcoma, a rapidly progressive lymphoblastic form which shows up in ferrets under 2 years of age, and a more chronic lymphocytic form which affects ferrets 5-7 years old.

Mast cell tumors are the second most common tumor in the skin in ferrets. They have a flat, scaly appearance on the skin of ferrets, which may be associated with hair loss, but not always. Mast cell tumors in the ferret are invariably benign, and pose no significant health risk, other than that incurred with general anesthesia and surgery. The treatment is simple surgical removal. Since they rarely go into the skin, it is easy to just remove.

Insulinoma is the main cause of hypoglycaemia. Insulinoma is tumour(s) on the pancreas, causing issues with blood sugar. Insulinoma is commonly referred to as the opposite of diabetes. The disease is well maintained on medication, and a ferret can live a long life even with the disease.

It is very important to take your ferret to the vet at any signs of illness, as due to their size, they can get really sick really fast, and left alone, they will die. Vet bills are high for ferrets, as they are considered exotic pets, and surgeries easily run in the thousands, but for those who keep ferrets, it is fully worth it.

Well, I think that is all to mention! If you read all that, kudos to you! If you read all that and still want a ferret, just keep in mind that we are always learning new things, so you need to keep up to date with the latest news and treatments.
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Old 01-31-2011, 11:32 AM
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AWESOME! <3 I'm definitely going to be referring to this thread a lot. I cannot WAIT to have my own place so I can get ferrets.
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Old 01-31-2011, 04:31 PM
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I love my three ferrets, or "weens" as we call them! Life is better with them! We have a 3 bedroom place and one bedroom is just for my ferrets! You must have a lot of time for them and a big tolerance for poop cos they are constantly producing that! But they are worth it.
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Old 01-31-2011, 04:34 PM
JessLough JessLough is online now
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Quote:
Originally Posted by SailenAero View Post
I love my three ferrets, or "weens" as we call them! Life is better with them! We have a 3 bedroom place and one bedroom is just for my ferrets! You must have a lot of time for them and a big tolerance for poop cos they are constantly producing that! But they are worth it.
I think we need a picture thread, just in case you did not see last time
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Old 01-31-2011, 04:41 PM
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Haha! I'll get on that soon! I need to put photos of them up!!!
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Old 01-31-2011, 04:44 PM
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This is a fabulous thread! I really would love to get a ferret someday.
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Old 02-12-2012, 09:44 PM
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Somehow yes, I did think I wanted a ferret. Then Mushu came along and crushed the world. And makes me yell "Oh, what have I done?" every time he preforms one of his shenanigans.
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Old 02-12-2012, 09:54 PM
JessLough JessLough is online now
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You love Mushu. I ask myself what have I done wih taking in Rennie daily
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