The pet ferret in the United States is strictly a domestic animal
that has existed in captivity for over 3000 years. Contrary to
popular belief they do not exist in the wild, nor can they exist
in the wild.
Their closest living relative is the European Polecat.
Much controversy occurs when people begin to talk about the
suitability of ferrets as family pets. This is a subjective matter much
as those who may argue that a cat is a better pet than a dog or vice versa. The facts are that a young ferret, if
raised properly in a caring home with adequate supervision, is an affectionate and entertaining addition to the
household. Just as with any other pet there are advantages and disadvantages. The animals suitability and
personality, however, is a direct function of the owners’ care.
The ferret has been described as having a puppy or kitten personality that never quite grows up. In other
words they have three speeds; off, on, and overdrive. This latter speed invariably is what gives these little
pets problems with their owners. Just as with any other animal when they get overexcited it becomes the
owners’ responsibility to allow the animal to relax and calm down. The sweetest ferrets in the world will bite if
they get overexcited when playing, this is not out of aggression but a function of how, instinctually, ferrets play
with each other.
Unfortunately, humans as pet owners have much more tender skin than do ferrets. It is imperative that you
recognize when your pet is getting carried away and let him/her relax. Normally, they will begin to chatter and
have their backs arched. Because young children move quickly during play or may not recognize when their
pet is in this overdrive mode, Sailfin strongly urges that ferrets not be placed in homes with either excitable
children or those that are under the age of six.
Young ferrets like all young animals like to nip and wrestle. It is essential that you differentiate between this
stage and actual aggression. As young ferrets are generally very sensitive to scolding, a reprimand will
normally alleviate the behavior should they get too carried away. Should such behavior continue, a tap under
the chin will help in correcting the behavior. Ferrets normally get along very well with cats and dogs as long as
the cat/dog are also willing.
A young ferret may run into the same jealousy problems from other animals that any new pet would. Although
most animals will successfully work out their problems amongst themselves, it is important that a family
member be present when all the animals are out and playing to prevent harm from coming to the baby ferret.
The key is to introduce everyone slowly and make sure all the pets continue to get their fair share of attention.
Birds and small animals such as rabbits should never be left unattended with an uncaged, a Ferrets natural
instincts may take over with disastrous results.
A last note on ferret personality, if there is something to get into ferrets will find it. Any open vents, cracks in
walls, etc. are just too irresistible to be left unexplored by ferrets. Please be careful as quite often their
curiosity can often get the best of them. All in all, the ferrets loving and entertaining personalities make the
little bit of extra care well worth the time.
Most ferret owners agree that the best means of housing a ferret is a wire cage with a minimum of 30”x18”
x18”, with no wire grating on the bottom. Spot cleaning and the use of a dust free bedding makes your life
easier and their life healthier! Ferrets by nature, are exceptionally clean animals and will use either a small
litter pan or the same corner of the cage continuously. A dirty cage or dirty pan makes for very unhappy
ferrets. If a cage with grating is used, make sure half the cage has a solid platform to relieve pressure from the
feet. An absorbant material on the bottom will readily take care of any urine or stool odor if changed
frequently. Do not use a course or undigestible bedding material in a cage with a ferret, as they can become
impacted from ingesting the bedding, and never use cedar as it may lead to allergic responses from the strong
aromatics released. Processed newspaper beddings are among the best choice for litters that we have found
for both the animal’s health and the owner’s convenience. Clumping and scented cat litters are to be avoided
at all times as they may lead to digestive impactions and respiratory problems.
Aquariums are not considered adequate due to the activity level of the animal and the size restrictions of glass
tanks. The lack of proper ventilation also creates eventual health problems for the animal. Whatever style
cage is chosen make sure that there is space for a food dish, water bottle, and a sleeping area where your
new pet can curl up in a secluded nest area such as a covered box with a hole, an old sweatshirt, or a ferret
Ferrets should be allowed out of the cage whenever possible but should not be left unattended. They enjoy
these exercise and play times and look forward to being with their owners. As ferrets are never perfect with
finding a litter pan, several should be left out for easy access. All pans should be monitored and kept clean
continuously. Ferrets detest dirty litter pans and unlike cats do not bury their droppings.
NEVER feed a ferret table food, after you have to clean up the first time you will always remember why.
Ferrets are even more carnivorous than cats and as such have higher protein and fat demands than do cats.
The only foods solely researched and developed for your pet are ZuPreem and Totally Ferret by Performance
Foods Inc. We strongly recommend the use of either as the exclusive diet. Should you find the need for an
alternative diet we would suggest either Marshall Farms or Kaytee Ferret Diets.
Ferrets are best given the standard diet and consideration should be given to switch to a senior diet after the
age of four years. The food is best fed dry to help keep tartar scraped from the gums and teeth . If for any
reason these diets are unavailable, seek a high quality cat food with about 35% protein and low levels of ash
and magnesium as ferrets are susceptible to FUS. Small amounts of fruit (one teaspoon daily) or vegetables
may be offered as a treat but excessive amounts can lead to diarrhea. Use of foods high in sugars can lead to
eventual diabetes. Fresh water should always be available from a clean dispenser. If a bowl is to be used
keep in mind that ferrets are not opposed to playing in water.
There are not too many things that a ferret won’t play with. Several precautions should be kept in mind. If they
might be able to chew off chunks of plastic or rubber and ingest them the toy should be discarded, as ferrets
are known for developing foreign body obstructions. The best toys seem to be hard nylon chew toys
(Nylabone), rawhide, golf balls, or anything they can wiggle through such as PVC pipe of adequate diameter.
Remember ferrets have an incredible level of curiosity and quite often can find something they would like to
play with and chew on that is not safe. Make sure the house is ferret proofed to protect not only your pet but
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720 S Neil
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Sailfin Pet Shop, Inc.
720 S Neil
Champaign, IL 61820