FAQ

Find answers to the following questions:


How long do ferrets live?
Do ferrets bite
How much time does my ferret need outside of the cage?
Are ferrets rodents?
Should I vaccinate my ferret for canine or feline distemper?
Should I use cedar or pine chips as bedding in my ferret's cage?
What is the proper food to feed a ferret?
What should I feed my ferret as a treat?
Why is my ferret losing his fur?
Are ferrets wild animals?
Do ferrets get along with dogs?


How long do ferrets live?

Ferrets can live up to eight or ten years of age.

Do domestic ferrets bite?

    
Any domesticated animal has the potential to bite if it feels threatened.  Ferrets are no exception.  However, for some reason domestic ferrets have wrongly gotten a bad "rap" in this area.  Domestic ferrets generally do not bite (unless they have never been handled by humans- this is rare in the United States).  However, if a ferret has been abused, mistreated, or is sick or injured it may bite.  One could say the same thing about a dog or a cat.  There are many more dog and cat bites on record than ferret bites.  
    
What is often mistaken for biting is the way a ferret may "nip"  when it is young or playing.  Ferrets like to play rough, especially when they are babies, and may nip at your toes, hands, ears, chin, lips etc. to entice play. They are not trying to hurt you, they are just playing with you as if you were another ferret.  Ferret skin is thicker than human skin, so the nip may seem too hard and feel like a bite.  You should encourage "gentle mouthing"  behavior, as this is the main way a ferret will interact with it's environment when playing.  Gentle play and a sharp "no" if the ferret nips too hard (sometimes coupled with a gentle "scruffing" or a nip deterrent like Bitter Apple),  is a good way to end the behavior.  Nipping too hard is a behavior that can be broken with patience and training.


How much time does my ferret need outside of the cage?

Ferrets should be allowed as much supervised "outside of the cage" time as possible.  You should give your ferret at least three hours total of play time per day.  This doesn't mean they need three or  four consecutive hours.  Ferrets sleep a lot and will usually adjust to your schedule quite well.   For example, I would let my ferrets out to play for an hour before I went to work, and then when I got home I would keep them out until I went to bed.  Ferrets will usually play for about an hour and a half before getting tired and wanting to nap again. It helps to have a "ferret proof" area in your home where you can allow them to play safely.


Are ferrets rodents?

No.  Ferrets are members of the weasel family (as are otters, polecats,  etc.).  Ferrets were actually domesticated centuries ago,  in part to rid barns and homes from rodents.


Should my ferret be vaccinated against canine or feline distemper?

Ferrets should be vaccinated against canine distemper on a yearly basis (following initial boosters).  Currently there is a distemper vaccine called FerVac-D that has been approved by the USDA for use on ferrets.  A number of ferrets have had adverse allergic reactions to this vaccine, so you should observe your ferret carefully after the vaccination (see Vaccination Information).


Should I use cedar or pine chips as bedding in my ferret's cage?

No.  Cedar and pine chips will cause respiratory problems in ferrets.  You should use a ferret specific "pelleted" recycled paper litter in litter boxes.  The bottom of your ferret's cage should be covered with soft fabric or a throw rug for comfort (see Housing Your Ferret).


What is the proper food to feed a ferret?

Ferrets are strict carnivores and should be fed a high protein (at least 34%), high fat,  ferret diet.  A poultry variety is preferred, since ferrets do not digest fish very well.  Grocery store brands of kitten food should be avoided.  The first ingredient should be poultry or poultry by product and not grain or corn meal.


What should I feed my ferret as a treat?

Ferret specific, meat based treats or premium cat or kitten food can make a nutritious treat.  Soft, small pieces of fruits and vegetables will generally not harm your ferret, but they should be given very sparingly (ferrets do not digest vegetables or fruit very well).  If given in large quantities,  vegetables or fruit can cause your ferret gastrointestinal upset, a possible blockage, and malnutrition.

Ferret vitamin supplements and amino acid supplements, such as Ferretvite and Ferretone are good treats when used in moderation (they contain vitamin A and can lead to vitamin A toxicity if used in large quantities).  Treats that contain sugar should be avoided.  A piece of sugar free cereal is also acceptable from time to time (see Ferret Nutrition).


Why is my ferret losing his fur?

If your ferret is over the age of three and the hair loss begins at the base of his tail and continues up his back and flanks,  it could be adrenal disease (see Adrenal Disease).  Take your ferret to a veterinarian as soon as possible.  Ferrets will occasionally loose the fur on their tail during shedding seasons, but the hair loss is confined to the tail and black heads are usually present.

Allergic reactions to fleas, mites, fungal infections, shampoos or detergents can also cause sporadic hair loss.  Only your veterinarian can make a proper diagnosis based on all of the symptoms.


Are domestic ferrets wild animals?

No.  Domestic ferrets have been domesticated for over two thousand years.  They were primarily used to hunt rabbits and keep rodents out of barns in the early days. Most pet store ferrets are so domesticated that they have lost a lot of their natural instincts.  If a domestic ferret accidentally gets out of the house, it will usually die within a few days from dehydration and starvation or it will become prey to wild animals.


Do ferrets get along with dogs?

Ferrets can possibly get along with some breeds of dogs.  It really depends on the dog's personality and the behaviors the dog displays.  For example, if your dog likes to chase small animals, a ferret will just seem like something for your dog to chase.  If your dog kills or chases squirrels, birds, cats etc.,  dog / ferret interaction is not a good idea.  Hunting dogs and terriers can also have problems with ferrets.  Dogs can kill ferrets. Ferrets are very hyperactive and can irritate dogs and cats.

Ferrets do like to play rough with other animals and don't seem to have natural fear of them. However, if you have a dog that is gentle with other animals and has been exposed to small animals without incident, your dog may accept the ferret.  Just be sure to give them an adjustment period and introduce them slowly.  

Keep your ferret in the cage and let your dog go  up to the cage to sniff and check the ferret out.  If your dog seems fine with the ferret, you can take the ferret out of the cage, hold the ferret and let your dog sniff it.  It's not a good idea to let the ferret loose around your dog in the very beginning.  The dog may see the ferret as a play toy or as prey.