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M & S Ferret Haven

Ferret Basics

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Ferret Basics

Latin Name                           Mustela Furo

Length                                   Male   17 - 23 inches

                                               Female  13.5 - 22 inches

Weight                                   Male   2.5 - 5 lbs. (avg)

                                               Female   1.5 - 3 lbs (avg)

Life expectancy                   5 - 8 years approx.

Sight                                      Short sighted, sees movements

Hearing                                 Very acute

Smell                                     Highly developed

Tactile sense                       Whiskers are very sensitive

Jumping                                Vertical: usually not more than 2ft.

                                               Horizontal: can be as much as 3ft.

Swimming                             Good, but not all ferrets enjoy water

Digging                                  Excellent diggers

Climbing                                No problem with enough grip

Hob                                        Intact male

Jill                                           Intact female

Gib                                          Neutered male

Sprite                                     Spayed female

Kit                                           Young ferret

Teeth                                      30 Baby and 34 Adult

Ribs                                         15 Pairs

Heart Rate                             200 - 400 Beats per min.

Respiration                            33 - 36 Breaths per min.

Blood Type                            All ferrets have the same

Domestic ferrets, or Mustela Putorius furo, are rapidily becoming one of the most popular pets next to cats and dogs.  An estimated 5 to 7 million ferrets exist in the united states alone.  Domestic ferrets are distant cousins to the Black-footed Ferret, and are descended from the European polecat.  However, unlike their wild ancestors, that cannot survive on their own outdoors.  Ferrets are generally legal everywhere in the United States except California and Hawaii.  We suggest you check your local city and county ordinances to see how they apply to ferret ownership.
Is a ferret a good pet for a child?
Many people have both children and ferrets without problems, but there is a large difference between having both children and ferrets and getting a ferret for your child.  Ferrets require a lot of attention and care that most children are just not able to provide.  We do not recommend ferrets for households with children under the age of 8. Edit Text

How do I introduce a new ferret to my established ones?
Dominance fighting is normal in ferret introductions.  It can range from no fighting at all, to all out war.  Usually friendship is established in a few weeks, but occasionally it may take 6 months to a year.  If you can, take your current ferret with you when you go to pick up a new ferret so that he can choose his own new friend.  If possible make sure the first introduction takes place in an area that neither ferret has seen before, not just an unused room in your home but preferably someone else's home.  If this not possible, try putting bitter apple on their necks to discourage biting.  Always supervise the ferrets together until you are 100% sure that they will get along.  Expect  mild tussling, but if one ferret starts drawing blood, separate them immediately, and try again at a later date.  Remember the established ferret must not feel like they are being replaced do not ignore them for the newer ferret. 

How do I ferretproof my home?
Ferrets love to worm their way into any little little hole.  If they can push their head through a hole their entire body will go through it.  Crawl around every square inch of your home to look for holes near the floor and under cabinets, especially in the kitchen and laundry area.  Even holes inside cabinets just in case.  Also watch out for heaters or furnace ducts.  Recliners and sofa-beds are extremely dangerous, many ferrets have gotten crushed in the levers and springs underneath.  Even regular couches can be dangerous if the ferret digs or crawls his way into the springs or stuffing.  Next, look around the area your ferret will be playing in.  Keep in mind that many ferrets are excellent climbers and jumpers, and they can find complicated routes to places you never thought they could reach.  They can also open cabinets doors, and crawl up from behind into drawers. Believe me, I have taken mine out of drawers more times than I can count!  Ferrets love to chew on sponges, eraser, shoe insoles, foam earplugs, silly putty, foam rubber, styrofoam, insulation, rubber door stoppers, and anything else spongy or springy.  These these will cause intestinal blockages.  Toilet paper rolls and paper towel rolls are a problem because ferrets can get their head stuck in them and choke or suffocate.

What will I need to take care of my new ferret?

Food for your ferret

A food dish (preferably a heavy ceramic one, I use the ones for birds that screw into the side of the cage)

A water dish (also heavy ceramic or as above one that attaches to the cage) or a water bottle

Litter boxes and litter

Bedding (not wood shavings)

A cage (the bigger the better)

Ferret shampoo

Pet claw clippers (infant nail clippers work also)

Toys (ferretproofed)

A veterinarian (preferably familar with ferrets)

Linatone of Ferretone and Bitter Apple
If your in Paris I suggest going to Pets Unlimited for your supplies. Shawn, Christy or Valerie will provide you with anything you need. We recommend using Dr. Keith House for you ferret veterinarian. He's our vet and he's wonderful with the ferrets.

What kind of cage should I get?
Cages should be made of wire mesh for ventilation.  Aquariums are not recomended because they do not provide enough ventilation and will make your ferret feel isolated.  Wood cages are not recommended because the wood can soak up urine and other liquids, so cleaning is nearly impossible.  If you are planning to keep your ferret caged most of the time, the cage should ample roaming room.  If you'll only be using the cage temporarily, such as vacuuming or going on vacation, 1x2x2 is sufficent for one or two ferrets.  In the cage you'll want some sort of bedroom.  A ferret won't be very happy sleeping on the open floor of a cage.  Old towels or old T-shirts make excellent bedding.  Do not use wood shavings.  A box or basket makes for a comfy bed providing it is well padded with bedding.  Wire floors are very hard on your ferrets feet, so cover all flooring with bedding, carpet remnants, or vinyl.  Food dishes need to either be anchored or very heavy, and water bottles are suggested for cages.  We also suggest securing the litter box if it is movable.  Hammocks, tunnels, and ferretproofed toys are also suggested.  Also, be sure your cage door fastens securely, perhaps even add wire or a twist tie closures in loose corners.

What should I feed my ferret?
When looking for a good ferret food, check for these requirements on the back.  The key ingredients are fat and protein.  The food needs to have 30-35% protein (32-38% for young ferrets the age of 4) and 15-10% fat (18-22% for young ferrets).  The first ingredient should be animal protein, preferably chicken or poultry, no fish, and at least 2 or 3 of the next few ingredients.  We recommend Totally Ferret Marshalls Premium Ferret Diet or Mazuri ferret food.  As you ferret gets older, Marshalls Ferret Senior or Totally Ferret Senior.  Dog and cat food is not acceptable food for ferrets.

Should I give my ferret any supplements?
Linatone and Ferretone are two very popular vitamin supplements.  However, no more than a few drops a day should be given, since they are high in vitamin A, which can be very harmful in large doses.  Laxatone or Petromalt, which are hairball remedies are also very strongly recommended, since ferrets are so very fond of eating things that can cause intestinal blockages in them, (which are life-threatening).  For these simply follow the directions on the bottle. Edit Text

What are good treats and what should I avoid?
Just about anything can be given: fruits, Bandit Treats, (found at most pet stores), Cheerios, and veggies are the most popular, but some ferrets can go wild over the most unusual things.  Ferrets cannot digest fiber, so limit vegetables or fiber foods to small amounts.  Ferrets may also enjoy Furovite that can be found at most pet stores.  Ferrets are lactose intolerant, so cows milk and ice cream should be avoided.  Goats milk and soy milk are acceptable however.  Ferrets should not be given chocolate or anything high in sugar.

What kind of litter should I use?
Clumping litters are not recommended since they can get into the ferrets nose or rectum, clump, and cause problems.  Wood chips are not recommended for the same reasons as bedding.  Very dusty litters are not recommended since the dust can cause respiratory problems in ferrets.  Litters that are recommended are: Compressed wood pellets (wood stove pellets) that disintegrate into sawdustwhen wet, newspaper pellets, sheets of newspaper, or corn cob litter.

Should I use wood shavings as bedding?
No!  Many pet stores use cedar or pine shavings as bedding, but it is not recommended.  Cedar in particular has been associated with allergies and respiratory problem in various animals, including humans and ferrets.  Pine and other wood chips also produce a fair amount of dust, which is not good to breathe.  Futhermore, your ferret would much rather have an old towel or T-shirt to cuddle up to.

Does my ferret need to be neutered, descented, and declawed?
All ferrets in Texas have to neutered, and descented for sale.   They are not required to be declawed, but can be , (Not recommended).

What vaccinations will my ferret need and when?
Canine distemper: Fervac-d or Galaxy-D.  Kits should get three shots, four weeks apart. with the last one no earlier than 14 weeks.  Two is not enough ,  Then a yearly booster shot.  Kits bought from a pet store will generally only have had the first, and still need two more.  Ferrets with unknown vaccination of any age will need two shots three weeks apart, and then a yearly booster.

How do I train my ferret not to nip?
A ferret which has been well treated and bred to be a pet should not bite or be vicious, but ferret play does include mock combat, and kits won't know how hard they can put their teeth on you without hurting you.  Just remember ferrets are not malicious, they just need to learn what behavior is acceptable. Edit Text

In all cases, positive reinforcement (giving treats) works much better than punishment.  Nose flicking is instinctive, but the ferret will learn to associate your hand with pain and you want to avoid that.  Alternatives include, try using a signal he already understands such as a high pitched yelp, give him time out in a cage or ignore him for a few minutes.  (Ferrets hate this) Cover your hands (or other body part) with bitter apple or bitter lime, just don't get it in YOUR eyes or mouth - it's hard to get rid of that awful taste!  Most ferrets hate the taste of this, and will soon learn that you tasted bad.  Scruffling while you say NO to him will mimic the mother and tell the ferret that you are the boss and you don't like what he did.  Saying no very loudly while doing this will also teach the ferret to associate NO with being in trouble.

Any advice on baths, ears and nail clipping?
Some ferrets love baths and swimming other hate it, depending on your ferret it can be a wonderful treat for them. Frequent bathing can tend to dry out ferrets skin,  In addition, to compensate, the ferret will secret oils that contribute to his smell.  We recommend only bathing a ferret once a month.  Ears should be checked at the vets for ear mites, and cleaned once a month.  Your vet can tell you how to safely clean them.  Nails should be cut once every other week.  Cut the nail just longer than the pink line inside it.  Be very careful not to cut that, since the ferret will start bleeding and decide that claw clipping is a very bad thing.  If this happens just use Short-Cut Styptic Powder(available at your local Pet Store) or in an emergency you can use regular flour to stop the bleeding.  To hold ferrets for cutting we recommend one person to scruff the ferret (hold the loose skin at the the back of neck) and another person to do the cutting.  This assures that the ferret will not move to much or apply furotone to his chest - this will keep him busy while you clip.

Can my ferret tolerate extreme temperatures?No.  When it comes to cold weather, a ferret can be acclimated in the same manner as a dog or cat.  However, ferrets cannot sweat or cool themselves down in any way.  Ferrets are at risk of heat stroke at temperatures above 85 degrees.  If you have no way of keeping the temperature below that, we suggest cold packs in the ferrets cage, fans and anything else you can do to keep your ferret cool.

My ferret trembles a lot.  Is this normal?
Generally, yes.  Ferrets normally tremble for two reasons.  First they often shiver right after waking up, in order to raise their body temperature.  Second, they shake or quiver when excited or frightened.  For a young kit, this could be all the time, since everything is new and interesting.  For older ferrets, a bath or even a good scolding could prompt trembling.

Is my ferret really just sleeping?
Most often, yes. ferrets sleep quite a bit, even kits.  A two to four hour playtime, followed by a several hour nap is typical.  Ferrets sometimes tend to be sleeping with their eyes partly open, and they sleep very heavily, often not waking even when picked up.  Ferrets will readily adapt to your schedule, and if you let them out to play at certain times everyday, they will adjust so their playtime matches yours.
Ferrets are sociable animals.  They will become attached to you, and will suffer if not handled and played with on a daily basis.  Ferrets get along with cats and dogs, however, we reccomend supervised encounters for the first several monts until you are 100% sure that neither the ferret nor the cat or dog will hurt each other.  Ferrets are not like a hamster or a gerbil.  They need plenty of room to run around in, if only for a few hours each day.  Ferretss can also catch human colds and the flu, so if you are sick, try not to handle your ferret much, because once they catch it, it can oftern progress to pneumonia and death if not treated with antibiotics.