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I want to adopt a ferret in addition to my dog and chickens.

Are there other concerns I need to know before adopting a ferret?

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  • I think the right answer here will depend on where you live and where you're getting your ferret from. Some health and behavior problems can be linked back to the breeder. As an example, check this question: pets.stackexchange.com/questions/9/… – Cuthbert Nov 8 '13 at 14:02
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This is a general answer, without taking into account breeder issues.

Your profile says you live in Lagos, Nigeria. I'm not familiar with any breeders there and American vaccination laws may not apply to you.

You do have it right in that ferrets will smell bad if their diet is poor. So it's important that you give them food that doesn't have fillers like grain and vegetables. They should be eating a high quality meaty diet. My four ferrets get a mix of raw Cornish hen, quail, chicken, lamb, beef, pork, rabbit, and the organs. It's a bit more expensive, but they're much healthier and more energetic with the raw meat diet. If you feed a commercial diet, try to avoid brands like Marshall and Kaytee. These contain too much filler and aren't good for your ferret.

Ferrets are diurnal and will often adapt to your sleep schedule. They spend most of their day sleeping, about 18-20 hours.

Ferrets are prone to heat stroke. You'll want to make sure that you have good air conditioner for the summer months.

Temperatures above 80 degrees Fahrenheit are uncomfortable for ferrets, temperatures above 85 can cause medical problems within hours, and temperatures above 90 can be fatal.

Some ferrets are climbers, meaning they will climb tall objects like their cage without a plan for how to get back down. Whenever they're out of the cage, they should be supervised.

You need to ferret-proof any rooms that they will be spending time in. Ferrets like rubbery things and can chew off pieces to swallow. Bowel obstructions are an expensive and often deadly problem with ferrets. I've also heard horror stories of ferrets clawing out of screen windows and falling. Ferrets are cunning and problem-solvers. If you don't want them to get somewhere, they will probably get there anyway.

Ferrets are prone to diseases like Insulinoma and Adrenal disease. Both of these can be painful and expensive to treat. A high quality diet can help prevent both of these. Even with high quality diets, many ferrets often experience some sort of health problems as they get older. Most ferrets sadly do not die of natural causes and are likely to suffer from some sort of health problem as they age. You should be prepared for the worst case scenario and expect to spend some amount of money on vet bills.

That said, you should be able to find a veterinarian who has experience treating ferrets and small animals.

Ferret vaccinations are a debated issue. I've had three of my ferrets given rabies and distemper vaccines. The fourth has received none aside from what he got at the Marshall farm. I'm afraid of potential reactions. Ferrets seem to respond more negatively to vaccines than other animals. I don't do yearly boosters for my ferrets. They stay indoors, so it's unlikely they'll get anything anyway.

studies have shown that many of the rabies vaccines we use give us longer protection.

It's up to you. Most states require yearly rabies vaccines, but the ferret police aren't going to come knocking on your door, either.

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In addition to d2jxp's excellent answer, I have a couple of other considerations to add:

Depending upon how well you "ferret-proof" your rooms, and how successful you are at litter training it, you can give your ferret full access to your house even unattended. However, I suggest you should not do so if he/she will be sharing space with the dog, at least until they have had time to get used to each other, and you are very comfortable with how they interact/play.

In the meantime, you can either confine the ferret to a specific room or rooms that the dog doesn't have access to, or purchase/build a ferret enclosure.

Ferrets seem to prefer enclosures that have multiple levels, to allow them to climb and give them space to explore and exercise.

Small hammocks, tubes they can crawl through, soft bedding, and places to hide in are all features to consider.

A small soft toy, such as a stuffed animal (be careful with this, if you decide to get one; be alert for signs that the ferret has been chewing on it, as the stuffing could cause a bowel obstruction if accidentally eaten) may be appreciated by some ferrets; others may prefer hard rubber balls (such as dog-safe "Kong balls". Just be careful if you do provide hard rubber toys; while these toys are designed to withstand biting and chewing from large dogs, ferrets have much sharper teeth, and can gouge out small bits of rubber, which could be very dangerous, even fatal, is swallowed. I would suggest keeping the balls for supervised play time, both to keep an eye out for any gnawing, and to keep the ball a novel toy.

Play time is important for ferrets, and a big part of the fun of living with a ferret, so the more ferret-safe toys they can play with, the better.

Long tubes they can crawl through are toys that most ferrets never seem to tire of. I would strongly suggest investing in a least a few.

Ferrets should have ready access to water. I suggest a no-drip water bottle attached to the outside of the cage, as some ferrets love to tip over water bowls.

My ferrets were much less prone to tip over their food dish, however, I still suggest a fairly heavy, wide, flat-bottomed bowl to minimize the chances of it getting tipped.

You should also invest in one or more corner litter pans. Ferrets prefer to back into a corner to excrete, and if you plan on litter training her/him, I suggest you get a corner pan for every corner they'll have access to. Don't forget to get litter to fill the pans with, too!

Be sure to go over any room that the ferret will have access to very carefully. Ferrets can fit through holes and gaps that you'd never guess would be big enough, and the tighter the squeeze, the more attractive the opening likely will be to a ferret.

Be very careful of letting the ferret near large appliances; one of mine decided that the insulation inside of my oven would be a good nesting place! It was impossible to get her out, so I had to wait until she came out on her own. In the meantime, I was terrified she'd chew through wiring or some other dangerous component.

You also want to be careful about furniture, particularly reclining chairs or rockers. Ferrets hiding inside can be caught in the moving parts. I've heard horror stories of someone sitting in their recliner, only to break the back of a ferret curled up inside.

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  • These are all very good points. For tubes, I use dryer tubes from Home Depot. They're about 5 dollars and much longer than the shorter ones pet stores sell. I'd just be wary of Kong balls. I don't let my ferrets have them because I'm too nervous about them biting off a chunk of it. – Cuthbert Nov 8 '13 at 15:26
  • @d2jxp Good point. I edited to add a disclaimer and warning. – Beofett Nov 8 '13 at 15:31
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There are a few things to consider.

Firstly to get some things out of the way. The thing about smell is not 100% correct. A lot of pet stores (especially in my area), remove the glands from ferrets that cause bad odor. So when I got my ferrets they were not smelling so bad (or maybe my nose simply sucks).

Now on to thing to consider.

1) Ferret love to chew everything that has electricity running through it(due to rubber insulating said electricity), so if you have ferrets consider rewiring things in your house so that all the wires run on walls rather than floor. That will also make things better for ferrets. My ferrets loved to use wires on walls as climbing tools and never bothered eating them once they were off the floor. I am not kidding do not leave any wires on the floor unless you want your ferret to be in a lot of pain due to rubber being stuck in digestive tract.

2) Hide all your writing utensils(especially pencils). The also enjoy eating them a lot. A swallowed rubber end from a pencil can kill your ferret very quickly unless surgery is performed.

3) Keep in mind that ferrets have very small digestive tracts, so anything they eat will come out very quickly, and they will be getting hungry very often. However it only happens only when they are awake. But due to that they do have good appetite, and if you notice that they do not eat rush to the vet asap.

4) Find a vet that KNOWS ferrets REALLY WELL. Your ferrets will get themselves into trouble as you learn how to take care of them, so it is important to know which vet to go to asap.

5) Males are dirtier than females, and are more hyper. Female ferrets do not smell so bad and go potty well and are easier to train. They also have obsession with stuffed toys, but are much less sociable and crazy. Males will sometimes have fecal matter stuck on them, will never sit still while awake, are easy to anger if you ignore them and are insane climbers.

6) They sleep a lot, but when awake you better pay attention to them or you will suffer very bloody fingers. Their teeth are sharp and they are not afraid to use them if you displease them. Think of them as spoiled 4 year olds who always seek your attention. It is your job to train them to not be spoiled brats and play nice.

7) They love cozy snug holes and can get stuck inside, so make sure to put pieces of wood into crevices around house so that they do not go inside. Especially beware of behind refrigerator. They will destroy the fridge within minutes if they get access to the back of it.

I think I have covered everything I experienced that is common and is not too ferret specific.

So just make sure to ferret proof your house before you get them.

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  • The smell thing could apply to intact ferrets. They're more common in other countries. When they're intact, they also get about 2-3 times the size of standard American ferrets. – Cuthbert Nov 8 '13 at 15:05
  • Even with the scent glands removed, ferrets can have a distinctive odor. It is much less noticeable when they have a good diet, clean litter, or when you live with them and are used to smelling them :) – Beofett Nov 8 '13 at 15:18
  • @Beofett Probably. The female had almost no smell to her (she also took care to groom a lot), the male smelled like poop half the time and normal the other times. Once it was so bad I had to bathe him even though I know it is bad thing to do, but the smell would make me want to almost retch. – Quillion Nov 8 '13 at 15:24
  • I don't think you need to apologise in your answer, it is a good answer and covers many issues. It is clear by how you write, that you are a dedicated ferret owner and that you care about your pets :) +1 – Yvette Nov 8 '13 at 15:47

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