Ferret Care Guide
The Species: Ferrets (Mustela putorius furo) is a common species which has been domesticated from the European Polecat, these animals can often be found as pets and can be tamed to make great companions. It is important to tame ferrets at a young age as they can often nip and have a painful bite when younger but can also become aggressive as adults if not tamed when younger. Adult Ferrets can have a much worse bite and can even lock jaw and latch on. Ferrets are often used as working animals usually for pest control, due to their natural hunting behaviours, they are easily trained to hunt rats and rabbits. Ferrets are social animals and should be housed in at least pairs to allow them to exhibit social behaviours.
Enclosure: Ferrets are large animals and extremely active meaning they need large enough enclosures. These animals can be housed inside or outdoors, for a pair of adults a minimum size indoor enclosure would be 80x75x160cm whereas a minimum size outside enclosure would be 85x50x145cm. For an indoor enclosure, they tend to be taller made of either metal or plastic however due to their destructive tendencies the safer material to use is metal. For an outdoor enclosure, they tend to be longer and made of a mixture of wood and metal, we would recommend securing the bottom of any outdoor enclosures with chicken wire or rodent mesh as they are very good escape artists. Ferrets should be fully cleaned out every 1-2 weeks including changing their bedding, and spot cleaning daily.
For indoor enclosures it is important to provide a substrate layer across the base of the enclosure which makes it easier to clean out, we would recommend either Back-2-Nature small animal bedding or wood shavings however other alternatives are also acceptable. It is also important to provide them with a litter tray to make cleaning out much easier. Ferrets love soft beds so it's key to offer a bed to them filled with blankets and other soft materials.
For outdoor enclosures, they come with built in dens and it is also important to provide substrate inside the dens to make sure that cleaning it easier to clean we would recommend the same substrates for the den as we would for indoor enclosures. With outdoor enclosures we suggest that it is also a good idea to add topsoil to the base of the enclosure to provide natural enrichment of digging. It is important to offer a bed to them filled with blankets and other soft materials inside their dens.
Ferrets' closest relative the European Polecat who naturally live in a variety of habitats including marshes, wooded areas, forest plantations, riverbanks, sand dunes and sea cliffs however are most commonly found in forest environments. It is important to make their enclosure as natural as possible to allow them to exhibit natural behaviours. Ferrets are often used as working animals to run through rabbit burrows or rat runs so it is important to offer lots of enrichment, decor and apparatus to explore, hides, hammocks, tubes and more are very good to use. Ferrets are incredibly intelligent and need a lot of stimulus to occupy themselves throughout the day which means they need different forms of enrichment, puzzles, treat finders, toys and many more are extremely important to give your Ferrets, the more full the enclosure is of enrichment, the better it is for your Ferrets. Ferrets should also have lots of exercise outside of their enclosure by either placing them in runs or taking them on walks on a lead and harness.
Heating: European Polecats come from many different habitats in the wild so Ferrets can happily live in most temperatures within your home or in outdoor enclosures. This means that they don't usually require additional heat sources however they do still have a temperature range that should be monitored to make sure they stays safe. Ferrets require a temperature range of 10-27 degrees celcius (50-80 degrees farenheight) but with maxiumum temperatures of 29-32 degrees celcius (85-90 degrees farenheight). If temperatures drop too low, adding a heat pad and if they raise too high, we would suggest taking them swimming.
Lighting: Ferrets do not need additional lighting however if being housed indoors this can be provided if you feel your Ferrets don't receive enough light throughout the day you can add additional lighting to an enclosure. UVB lighting is acceptable as long as the bulb provided does not raise over 12%, LED lighting is also a suitable alternative but with all lighting it is important to have them on for no longer than 12 hours a day to provide a natural day/night sequence. If any additional lighting is added to an enclosure, make sure that the rats have lots of places to escape the light in different hides and that the lighting is a safe distance from the cage to prevent them burning themselves. If being housed outdoors they don't need any additional lighting.
Humidity: With their relatives coming from a range of different habitats they still have a humidity range that they are comfortable with. For Ferrets they need a humidity range of 40-65%.
Diet: Ferrets are carnivores and predators by nature, this means they only eat other animals. Ferrets need high levels of taurine and can have dried or raw diets. For a dry food diet, there are many options out there, we recommend foods such as James Wellbeloved Ferret Food or John Merlin Ferret. Raw diets are also a good option as they are a much more natural diet to provide them with, these are often sold frozen and should be thawed out fully before feeding, recommended raw diets are poultry hearts, poultry liver, raw chicks and many more.