How to Care for Your Ferret

Ferrets are members of the weasel family, and their mischievous personalities make them amusing and interesting pets. So what’s the best way of looking after these inquisitive and intelligent animals?

From food to housing, enrichment to health, RSPCA NSW will help you keep your ferret friend happy and safe with our six-point guide. Remember, if you have any concerns or questions, speak to your veterinarian.

Companionship

Male ferrets, called hobs, need to be kept by themselves, or they will fight. However, females, called jills, are very sociable, and will enjoy snuggling up together. You should always separate ferrets of the opposite sex if they aren’t desexed.

In the wild, ferrets are predators, so do not mix your ferrets with any other small animal species.

Desexing

Desexing your ferret is vital. This is particularly important for female ferrets, who remain on heat until they mate. Not desexing your ferret can lead to complications including anaemia and ovarian cancer, which can be fatal. It can be performed from the age of four to six months old.

Diet

Ferrets are carnivores. They need a diet which is high in fat and protein, and low in carbohydrates and fibre. To ensure your ferret stays happy and healthy, you should feed him:

  • good-quality commercial ferret food or high-quality commercial dry kitten food
  • human-grade raw meaty bones each week. These will help keep his teeth clean. They must be large enough so that he cannot fit an entire bone in his mouth or swallow it whole. Check with your veterinarian first that bones are suitable for your ferret. Never feed your ferret cooked bones.

You can also occasionally give your ferret very small amounts of fruits and vegetables as treats. These must be soft and easily digestible, such as melon and pears. Never feed your ferret the following:

  • bread
  • caffine
  • cake
  • chewing gum
  • chocolate
  • grains
  • lollies
  • milk and milk-based products, such as cheese and ice cream
  • xylitol

For more information about feeding your ferret, please click here.

Enrichment

Your ferret needs time to play every day, and will enjoy exploring outside his cage. This is also an opportunity to bond with you. Make sure you supervise him so he doesn’t injure himself.

You can also make his space more fun by providing him with objects such as boxes and plastic tunnels, and regularly rearranging the objects in his cage.

Health

Your ferret will need regular health checks and yearly canine distemper vaccinations. He will also need regular flea control, heartworm and worming preventions. If you notice any changes in his drinking, eating, defecation or urination habits, or if he gains or loses weight, speak to your veterinarian. You should also regularly check his coat and feet for signs of irritation, parasites and sores.

Ferrets are inquisitive and like to chew, so make sure he cannot chew or swallow dangerous objects in his cage or around your house.

Ferrets are very susceptible to heat stress, which can be fatal. Make sure his cage is kept in a sheltered area which is well ventilated, and kept out of direct sunlight and strong winds. He must always have access to adequate shade.

For more information about preventing heatstroke, please click here.

Housing

Your ferret’s cage should be as large as possible. It must be well ventilated, and big enough so he can stretch out, turn around and walk easily. He will also need a small, cosy sleeping area. You could also provide him with a hammock.

Ferrets are easily toilet trained, so provide him with a litter box with recycled paper cat litter or shredded paper.