Two small ferrets in a basket together for a cute portrait.

Ferrets-What You Need To Know

Ferrets can make wonderful companions but, as with all pets, it is vital potential new owners are aware of their specialist needs.

These wonderful creatures have been domesticated pets for thousands of years, proof of this has be found in Egyptian tomb hieroglyphics! The ferret’s ancestry originate in parts of Europe, Asia and North Africa and the average life span is between 5-10 years. As they have no inherent fear of humans this means they can formulate very strong bonds with their owners and are generally friendly in familiar surroundings.

Male ferrets are called “Hobs” whilst the female is known as a “Jill”. The average litter size is around 8 though can be significantly higher. Babies are known as “kits” and all ferrets are born white. Their adult colour starts to come in at around 3 weeks old.

Colourings are as follows;

  • Albino – has white to cream guard hairs, white to cream undercoat & red eyes.
  • Dark-Eyed White – has white to cream guard hairs, white to cream undercoat.
  • Champagne – has tan guard hairs, white to cream undercoat, burgundy eyes.
  • Cinnamon – has light red-brown guard hairs, golden to white undercoat, burgundy.

Ferrets are carnivores and require meat protein and fats, they are not built to digest fibre. It is a common misconception that ferrets can just eat dog or cat food. However a ferret fed only dog food will die of malnutrition, whilst cheap quality cat foods do not contain enough nutrients and will leave your ferret very hungry. Good premium quality cat food, however, can be nutritionally adequate and pellets designed for ferrets are now available and are the preferable option. Pellet diets also aid with teeth plaque build up which is just as common in ferrets as it is in domesticated cats and dogs. Avoid sugary fruit snacks, these are not needed and can lead to health complications.

When ferrets are asleep, they can give the impression of being lifeless, even dead. This is known as “ferret dead sleep” and no matter what owners do to wake their pets up – nothing seems to work which if you don’t know about it can be very worrying! When ferrets go to sleep, they go into a very, very deep sleep so they can recuperate from all the excitement of their waking, playful hours.

Ferrets can be bought as sole companions but some do prefer the company of other ferrets, this depends upon how much time the owner has to devote and interact with them. Ferrets like to be kept busy and are very sociable animals. It is important to discuss this with the breeder or your vet prior to adopting. Usually breeding pairs are best matched and no more than 4 ferrets should cohabitant at any one time, providing they have a good group dynamic.

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