Essential Ferret Gear

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Filed in Small Animals, Ferret

Getting a ferret is like bringing a newborn into your house in the sense that it starts a chain reaction of purchases. Instead of strollers, cribs, and pacifiers, it's wire cages, water bottles, and toys.

Below is a general shopping list of new pet needs to help you get started in the wonderful world of ferret ownership!

Collar & Bell

The first two pieces of essential ferret gear you should purchase are a small collar and bell. The bell will let you know where your ferret is at any time. If you're a bird owner, it will also give your feathered friend a clue that a potential invader is nearby.

A small dog or cat harness is also handy. These small harnesses are preferable to leashes in that they secure the ferret to the leash by more than one point. Moreover, since the ferret is such a clever escape artist, a harness makes it far less likely the ferret will escape the leash of its owner.

They enjoy riding on your shoulders or in a pocket, but for safety when they are out in the open they should be in a harness with a leash attached. They can also be restrained by picking them up by the scruff of their neck. Just like a cat, they will stop squirming and remain.

Cage

When not freely roaming about your home, ferrets love thick, wire mesh cages complete with a small quilted bed. Most ferrets prefer to sleep within this relatively small, enclosed area. A cat or rabbit-sized wire cage or suitably size dog/cat crate works very well. (See related products below.) Ferrets nibble and any toxic paint or other coating may harm them. The best cages are plan metal or hard coated with some form of epoxy.

A ferret can be very comfortable in a cage made of chicken wire, but a thicker mesh is preferable. Ferrets are true escape artists and squeeze through any hole bigger than one-inch square. A floor should be provided so the ferret will not catch his claws on the mesh.

The floor should have a solid surface, like linoleum. This makes for easy cleaning and will not snag the ferret's claws. A pan under the flooring will make clean up quick and easy. The bedding and toys will not fall through a solid floor.

Never leave your furry friend in an aquarium, as he needs the social interaction and sense of being included in life in the house. The glass walls are not windows to your ferret. A cage of two feet by three feet by two feet high is generous for one ferret. Two or even three ferrets can share this enclosure.

When allowed free reign of the house they are often silent and secretive as they race about. Many owners find a cat collar with a bell helps to avoid stepping on the pet.

Food & Water Bowls

Food and water bowls need to be accessible at all times and should be very heavy as the ferrets tend to play in them and will knock over any lighter weight bowls. You should clean them every day, but do not use detergents. Soak the water bowl in hot water. If you are using ceramic bowls, be sure to let them cool down before reintroducing them into the ferret's cages.

Ferrets prefer to drink from bowls than from the water feeders that mice and other rodents use. They rest their front paws on the dish and lean into it. They tend to be fastidious, but can fall or jump into a bowl of water for play. Be sure to place something under the bowl to catch the overflow.

Throw away any fresh food after the ferret has had a chance to eat it so it will not rot in the cage. Dry ferret kibble will not spoil and can be left in the food bowl for a longer time. Remember that your ferret requires about 35% of his diet to be meat protein-based. Limit high fat treats that will lead to obesity in ferrets. Returning them to normal weight is not difficult as we can limit their fat intake and they will normally exercise during their play.

Litter Boxes

Ferrets can be trained to use a litter box, but it may take longer for your friend to catch on than a cat. They are not always as fastidious as the average house cat, but can be trained. Accidents do happen, however. Remember to empty their litter box every day.

Use of plain cat litter is recommended, not wood shavings or clumping litters. Shredded paper will not work as well for ferrets as for rabbits.

To Vitamin Or Not To Vitamin

A high quality ferret food that has been fortified with vitamins is necessary to maintain general health. A ferret can develop dietary deficiencies if feed the wrong food for too long. Check with your veterinarian for recommended supplements.

Hammocks & Sleeping Bags

Ferrets are adaptable to many types of furnishings. A ferret can easily make a bed of a folded T-shirt or there are specially designed beds for your pet. Pieces of old jeans can be suspended for a napping hammock.

Gnawing & Chew Toys

Like other small furry mammals, ferrets will chew. Natural wood sticks are best. Be sure they do not have access to painted wood or breakable plastics or rubber. Small objects can be swallowed and lodge in their intestinal tract.

Ferrets are not destructive to most furniture or clothing they like to chew on soft rubber especially. So be sure your ferret is protected from tennis balls, children's toy dolls and other objects that can be chewed and swallowed.

Younger ferrets will nip just like a kitten or puppy. They will outgrow this behavior after a few months. They are not being vicious, as nipping behavior is common to ferrets just as it is with puppies. They should not be left alone with small children or infants as they can bite.

Play Toys

There is no need for specially designed toy just for ferrets. Almost everything is of interest to them. Anything they can carry, roll around, climb in or rub against seems to entertain them just fine.

Now that your new friend has everything he needs to be healthy and happy, spend some quality time playing and socializing with him!

Irving Street Veterinary Hospital (San Francisco, CA | (415) 664-0191) materials were used as an information source for this article.

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