Ferrets: your day-to-day guide

Ferrets are fast becoming a popular pet with families who are looking for a fun, mischievous and affectionate pet.

Ferrets may not be for first-time pet owners, but they certainly suit many families if cared for properly. You’ll have hours of fun and be rewarded with lots of cuddles from these cheeky little creatures.

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What to feed your ferrets

Ferrets are carnivores, so they need a diet that has plenty of protein in it to help them stay fit and healthy. A good quality, complete dry ferret food will provide them with all the nutrients they need. But you can also offer your ferrets a variety of tasty treats:

  • Raw eggs
  • Tinned cat food – but only poultry or game meats. Don’t feed your ferrets fish as they can’t digest it properly
  • Boiled chicken off the bone
  • Lactol milk (a fortified milk supplement, available from supermarkets and pet shops)
  • Ferret vitamin and malt paste, a tasty vitamin supplement
  • Raw meat that has been safely and correctly obtained, e.g. chicks, pheasant and rabbit. These can be obtained from most reptile specialists and will need defrosting safely

Ferret paste is a useful tool when training your ferret or putting their harness on. It’s also very useful for distracting them during a nail clipping session.

Ferrets and water

Make sure your ferrets have access to fresh, clean water at all times. Ferrets can be quite prone to dehydration during the summer months. Try providing a shallow, children’s paddling pool or fill a cat litter tray with clean water. Your ferrets will enjoy splashing around in it and rehydrating as they play.

Ferrets can be rather mischievous when it comes to their food and water bowls. Ideally, always use heavy ceramic cat or dog bowls. Dry food can be placed in feed balls, which ferrets love. Feed balls make feeding more exciting and encourage their natural instinct to hunt and work for their food.

Handling your ferrets

Ferrets are very sociable. As well as the companionship of other ferrets, they also love to socialise with their owners. Your ferret can become very bonded and attached to you, making playtime an eagerly anticipated part of their day.

Regular handling and interactive play sessions will encourage your ferrets to form a lasting bond with you and your family. It’s always better to handle your pets when you are in a relaxed and confident frame of mind as ferrets are very sensitive and will detect tension. Excited, happy ferrets will fluff their tails up like bottle brushes and jump around your feet and legs. This is sometimes called their weasel dance. When they are tired, they’ll enjoy gentle cuddles, and they’ll snuggle up to you.

How to pick up your ferrets

When going to pick up your ferrets, remember that they are short-sighted and react to sudden noises and smells. Always talk to them calmly so they are aware of you. If your ferrets are well socialised, you will be able to pick them up with one hand under their armpits and then bring them into you. Always do this calmly and confidently to avoid a sneaky nip from your cheeky ferrets.

If your ferrets are still being socialised, you can encourage them into a cat carrier rather than picking them straight up. Or use a towel to cover your hands to protect you from nips when you pick them up around the armpits.

If your ferret is wriggling lots or trying to get up to mischief, place both hands under their armpits to gently swing them side-to-side and stroke the body downward. This will relax them.

Walking your ferrets

Ferrets love to go for walks – just be prepared for some funny looks from passers-by! You will need to buy them a secure harness and a lead. Ideally, the harness will be similar to a dog harness with two sections, and will clip together. Most are adjustable and will need to be fairly tight to prevent your cheeky ferret wriggling free.

Keep a very close eye on the ferrets while you’re walking them. They may try to escape the lead as they romp in the grass. Avoid taking ferrets out into public areas if they aren’t fully socialised and tolerant of being picked up quickly or passers-by trying to stroke them.

Lastly, stay safe around dogs when out for walks. If you spot a dog approaching, always lift your ferret up – it’s impossible to know how someone else’s dog will react.