Ferrets are playful, mischievous, entertaining little animals who can bring endless enjoyment to a family. They are cuddly, interactive, spunky pets who can be great for owners who have time to take them out of their cages every day and play with them. Before you bring one of these little balls of energy into your home, there are a few things you should know.
1. Ferrets Get Into Everything
They burrow, dig and chew on everything — especially when they’re young — and they often steal and hide items in stockpiles in closets, under beds or in any secret place they can find. Foreign objects that are swallowed can lodge in their gastrointestinal tracts, potentially leading to obstructions. Electrical cords are also a potential hazard.
2. Ferrets Need Lots of Exercise
While ferrets certainly love to take naps, in between their snoozes, they’re generally running, tumbling and skidding across the floor. Young ferrets love to chase toys, nibble on toes and generally get underfoot. If they aren’t allowed out of their cages, they tend to overeat and become obese.
3. Ferrets Need Friends
Generally, ferrets are social creatures who usually seek out the company of their human family or other ferrets. For this reason, many ferret owners end up getting more than one. Of course, like other types of pets, not all ferrets like all other ferrets. Also ensure that each ferret has equal access to food, toys, and hiding and sleeping places, so that they don’t fight over resources.
4. Ferrets Are Illegal in Some Places
Before you adopt or purchase a ferret, check on local laws.
5. Ferrets Should Be Vaccinated
In many of the states in which ferrets are legal, the law requires that they be vaccinated for rabies. Also, since ferrets are very susceptible to the deadly canine distemper virus. They should receive vaccinations against this virus. Just like puppies, baby ferrets should get a series of three distemper vaccines three weeks apart starting at 2 months old; they should get their first rabies shot at approximately 4 months old. After that, they should get annual booster vaccines against both rabies and distemper viruses for life, even if they are indoor pets. Even though your ferret lives indoors, you can track the virus in from outside on your shoes and clothes. Your indoor pet can also come in contact with wildlife, like bats, which can carry the rabies virus.
6. Ferrets Are Prone to Serious Diseases
Ferrets sold in stores in the United States generally come from one of two very large breeding facilities. As a result, they are extremely inbred. While inbreeding can help select for desirable traits like great temperaments and attractive coat colors, it can also increase the chances for developing certain diseases. The majority of inbred ferrets in the United States ultimately develop diseases such as adrenal gland tumors and a type of pancreatic tumor called an insulinoma. These illnesses can occur in ferrets as young as 1 year old. Older ferrets can also develop heart disease and dental disease, just like dogs and cats.
7. Ferrets Smell Musky, Even When They’re Descented
Ferrets are born with scent glands near the bases of their tails. The glands are typically surgically removed by the breeder’s veterinarian when the animals are very young, before they are sold, or they would probably never sell because they smell so musky.
8. Ferrets Are Carnivores
Wild ferrets typically hunt for and eat rodents and rabbits. Ferrets are exclusively meat eaters and are unable to digest plant material. Breeders or store clerks who are ignorant of this fact inappropriately recommend feeding ferrets fruits and vegetables. Instead, ferrets should be fed high-protein food that is moderate in fat and low in carbohydrates. Several commercially prepared kibble diets are made specifically for ferrets and readily eaten by them.
9. Ferrets Get Hairballs, Just Like Cats
Ferrets typically shed a lot of hair and can ingest this hair as they groom themselves. If they ingest a great deal of hair, it can wad up in balls in their GI tracts, leading to potentially life-threatening obstructions. To help prevent hairballs from forming, ferrets should be brushed several times a week and, if shedding is excessive, given hairball laxatives manufactured for either ferrets or cats by mouth once or twice a week.
10. Ferrets Need Annual Checkups
Just like cats and dogs, ferrets should be checked by a veterinarian every year. Since ferrets commonly develop certain diseases, diagnosing these conditions early and implementing treatment sooner can help ferrets live longer and happier lives. All ferrets should be vaccinated annually, and ferrets older than 3 years should have blood tests conducted annually. After 5 years of age, ferrets ideally should be checked every 6 months, as they tend to develop several of the diseases they are prone to by this age.
If you would like to have your ferret examined and vaccinated please contact Meadowlands Veterinary Hospital at 2011-646-2008 or visit us at http://www.meadowlandsvethospital.com
We also work with several rescues and shelters who have many wonderful ferrets looking for a wonderful family to be a part of!