What they will need
Indoor ferrets require a large, spacious multi-level cage of at least 3ft by 3ft. Additional ferrets will require two square feet per animal. So a pair would ideally be housed in either a 64inch deep by 3ft wide cage or a rectangular indoor rabbit cage of 4-5ft by 2ft by 2ft. A third ferret will require a 6ft minimum cage size.
An outdoor ferret can live in hutches or similar dimensions but must have a securely sheltered sleeping area. Some ferret owners prefer to build an aviary type enclosure with lots of toys and furniture for the ferrets to play and sleep amongst.
Ferrets will require a cosy, fleece-lined bed or hammock to sleep in. Hanging hammocks are best as they conform to the ferret’s shape when they curl up in it. Better still is a hammock with a pouch where the ferret can sleep, curled up inside. Alternatively, a nest box filled with a fleece blanket can be used or a simple cat bed. Either way, the ferret needs to be able to get inside or under the bed to sleep. Groups of ferrets will snuggle up together, curled around each other in impossible positions to sleep and share each other’s warmth. In winter they even sweat from their shared heat.
Indoor ferrets need a sheet of linoleum or newspaper in the bottom of their cage but loose type substrates such as wood shavings are pointless as the ferret will gather it up and push it out the cage. They may also roll in it, and dance about with it on their fur outside of the cage. They will use their litter tray to poop and pee in so don’t worry about the base of the cage.
Outdoor ferrets can live on a substrate of wood shavings, recycled cardboard litter, or wood pellets. Straw or hay is also useful as bedding but ferrets will not eat it. Fleece blanket or vet bed in their sleeping area will be cosier than straw or hay.
Ferrets need a litter tray in their cage and also a second one in the room they play in would be useful. A good litter such as Felipure or Nulodour is essential as ferret poop has a strong scent. Ferrets will learn to use a tray very quickly but have a specific way of pooping. They back into a corner, reverse in, lift the tail and poop up against the corner of the litter tray then move back out, turn round, give the poop a good, long sniff and then move away from it. They do not bury their poop as cats do. Poop is best removed as soon as possible. It is advisable to slope the litter up against the back of the tray. Also always allow the ferrets a good ten minutes after waking or eating before they are let out of the cage as this reduces the likelihood of accidents in young, learning ferrets. Ferrets never poop or pee where they eat or sleep so the tray should be at one end or corner of the cage and the food and bed at the other.
Ferrets are an obligate carnivore which means that they can only eat meat. Their diet should consist of either fresh, raw, red and white meat, or a good quality kibble specifically developed for ferrets. Being an obligate carnivore means they are unable to digest much complex or simple carbohydrate which results in large, smelly, sloppy, or grainy poop which is green or orange when fed on a diet made with cereals and vegetable derivatives and only minimal meat derivatives.
A good diet therefore is either Select Ferret or even More Cat Chicken 1-7 years which has a higher meat ingredient level and suits their digestion and health requirements better.
A diet based on 80% kibble and twice a week feeding of raw chicken wings, beef mince, frozen defrosted mice and chicks with an occasional raw egg is ideal and keeps the diet entertaining. Ferrets are highly intelligent and a single diet item becomes boring in the long term. A raw chicken or red meat bone provides necessary chewing which keeps their teeth clean once a week.
Do not be tempted to feed your ferret on a diet that might include, wet or tinned cat food, dog foods of any kinds, fruit, fish or anything based on cereals of grains such as popcorn, small mammal treats, breakfast cereals, candy, or chocolate, even if they find it themselves and try it. Remove it from them.
Treats used for ferrets can include Beaphar Malt treats which aid in digestion or any meat-based cat treats. Any treat advised for small animals including ferrets should be avoided.
Ferrets are biologically Celiac and consuming complex carbohydrates, fruit or sweets can lead to a surge in blood sugar levels which causes a disease called Insulinoma, or Cancer of the Pancreas.
Freshwater should be available at all times.
In winter Ferrets will eat considerably more food and will gain an additional third bodyweight along with a double thickness coat. This is a natural defense against the cold of Winter and a diet should not be imposed. The weight will naturally drop off again in Spring.
Toys and Entertainment
Ferrets are hunters of small mammals and birds, so any toys they are likely to enjoy are mainly cat toys. Mice and balls, or fish or birds on strings initiate the natural hunting response and can provide hours of entertainment. Toys should be alternated from time to time otherwise the ferrets get bored of them, or may decide to stash them when you are not paying attention.
A selection of tunnels and tubes, a minimum of 6-inch diameter and any length will provide great fun and joy for ferrets who would naturally go down rodent or rabbit tunnels in search of food. Do not give ferrets toilet roll tube to play with. They can and probably will get stuck inside them leading to a vet visit to remove them. Playtime with more than one ferret leads to ferrets interacting with each other and sometimes co-operative play and working together to figure out simple problems. Ferrets also love cushion type beds or cat igloos to play and rest inside during playtimes.
If your ferret is a Hob, he may appear more energetic during certain times of the year than the gills do. If this is the case then lead training is a good way to entertain him and burn off excess energy. Special ferret harnesses are available through Pets Corner’s small animal section in small, medium and large. A vest type harness fits more securely, but some large Polecats may require a strap harness.
The harness should be fitted a few times during playtime in the house, but once happy enough to run on the harness and lead, the ferret can be taken outside and walked up and down the pavement. Remember a ferret outside will have hundreds of distractions to contend with, including sights, noise and especially scents that will fascinate him. It is important to be patient with him at this point and not drag or pull him along. Once he is happy with the situation he will run along beside you quite happily. Never allow a ferret free run off the lead outside and when walking never allow him to explore under, between or into cracks, holes and fence posts as they can easily escape and be lost.