Greetings and salutations, mammals, it is I your local Ferretmeister here again to present you with some important information as it relates to April 2 which is known as National Ferret Day.
Rather than get with the technical information about ferrets I’ll just point you to mythbri’s highly informative post on them, or at least their wild ancestor.
But in the spirit of what national ferret day is all about this post is going to focus on the more important aspects of those lovable cat snakes/dook noodles/carpet sharks/limo rats/fuzzbutts/etc (we ferret fans have a lot of names for the little cuties) which is basically everything important about owning them and ensuring they have happy lives which means plenty of “dooking” (the noise they make when happy and excited and playing) for us to experience with them.
Rather than jump right into things I’m instead going to address the two biggest misconceptions about ferrets and one of which is very important to know.
1. Ferrets are not dangerous.
Despite my having referred to them as carpet sharks up above they are no more dangerous than your average house cat. I’ve seen numerous people on the Odeck and io9 attempt to libel ferrets and portray them as vicious animals that should be destroyed on sight and never allowed into a home but suffice it to say that any cases you hear or read about involving harm to a human can all be traced back to one thing that such libelous bastards intentionally overlook, the root cause is always neglect and usually as a result of one of two things or combination of both: either not feeding their ferrets at all and/or leaving incredibly young children unsupervised around them.
If you don’t feed a dog or cat it might resort to extremes to sate its hunger, the same holds true for ferrets. But when dogs or cats do it we note the neglect and address accordingly.
And the same holds true for leaving young children unsupervised around any animal, it’s something you can do but you definitely shouldn’t do and mostly because young children don’t know how to treat animals and that holds more true for small animals like ferrets. Probably more so in the case of ferrets, as among themselves they routinely play rough or at least it seems that way to the average human eye and anyone who has owned two or more ferrets at once can back me up on this. But ferrets are far tougher than they look and among any proper “business” (the name for a group of ferrets) there is rough housing that is either playful or establishes the hierarchy of the group. I mention the rough housing because even among their interactions with people they tend to not realize until properly taught that we are not built the way they are. Where as a playful or slightly rough housing type bite between two ferrets will cause no harm the same bite might leave a mark or even draw a little bit of blood when done to a human, as such it is important to teach them what’s acceptable for play and what isn’t and when ferrets do something wrong they can be shown the error of their ways through the use of “scruffing”. Scruffing is the act of grabbing them by the scruff on the back of their neck and holding them that way until they yawn, which is their way of acknowledging your dominance. Scruffing traditionally takes place between mothers and their kits and in more extreme cases includes the added step of dragging them on their behinds across the floor for a moment to emphasize the point that they did something wrong.
2. Ferrets do not smell any more than dogs or cats.
A common source of “erroneous, erroneous on all accounts!” with me regarding ferrets is the belief that they smell bad. While being mustelids it is true that they have a certain musky scent proper ferret care means they smell no worse than any dog or cat you’ve come across throughout your life.
However, if they are not cared for properly then you can rest assured they may develop a slightly more noticeable scent.
The reason for their natural scent is due to the oils in their fur, much like cats ferrets bathe themselves through grooming of themselves usually by licking, biting, or occasionally and rather “aww, that’s adorable” seemingly human like grooming that involves the use of their fore paws (and most often this is seen when they’re cleaning their heads and faces). As most people are unaware of these things though they do the single worst thing any ferret owners can do and bathe them regularly. This is a no no because when they are bathed through more “traditional” means (like in the sink) the naturally produced oils are stripped away and this in turn causes their bodies to overproduce them and much more quickly to compensate and that in turn causes them to smell even stronger than they did before.
Ferrets should not be bathed more than once every three or four months, barring any necessary bathing when they really get into something and end up looking like a mess. And if they are being bathed never use shampoo! But if you really must then find something ferret specific and safe, there are options out there but I’d personally just use regular water alone.
Additionally, change their bedding! I know some people are like myself and have had free roaming ferrets sans cages with the exception of the “you’re on time out, buddy” one (not that it matters because I had a ferret who could somehow break out of his cage and I still over a decade and a half later have no clue how he did it because it had two latches that you had to push towards each other to then pull down the bars that locked into the cage itself and prevented the door from opening at all) and because of that bedding isn’t as big an issue since the ferrets will sleep wherever they feel like but for those who keep them in cages, please, change the bedding otherwise that’ll add to their smell. And while I say “change” that definitely also means wash their bedding because they’ll naturally prefer whatever they normally sleep in and you’ll likely end up swapping it back in eventually.
And now that those two points have been address, the latter of which also covers how to properly bathe them and the reasons for why I can move onto other things.
Ferrets are obligate carnivores, put simply it means that much like when I place orders anywhere they too tell them to “hold the rabbit food”. While most people don’t necessarily raw feed their ferrets plenty do and in general that’s best for their overall health and well being (and surprisingly it also helps alleviate some of that “smell” associated with them), but there are various ways to raw feed your fuzzbutts. You can either buy them prey like small mice (either live or dead) and let nature do its thing or you can prepare something like that seen in the screenshot above.
Of course if all that is too much work then you can always buy them something more traditional. However, and I can’t stress this enough, do not buy them an ol’ cat food! That was something that was recommended to me when I was all of 5 or so years old and got my first ferret (Gypsy, may she Dook In Peace) and for the time that was fine because ferrets were still not a very common pet and as such there wasn’t anything specifically made for them but nowadays there’s no reason to buy them cat food and in point of fact it’s bad for two reasons. One it doesn’t have everything they need as obligate carnivores to meet their dietary needs and because most people just buy cheap not only does it not do them any health favors but it also makes them smell kinda funky and is likely the leading perpetrator behind the belief that they smell bad.
Seen here is Joey, the trained ferret, showing off all the tricks he can do (for treat rewards, obviously).
Additionally, as I partially mentioned in the first pic of this post ferrets can be easily bribed with treats so buy accordingly.
Something else worth mentioning is that ferrets pretty much stick to whatever food source they are first fed and in quite a few cases will refuse to eat literally anything else, so it’s important to mix things up whatever route you go and even provide them with both (raw food and kibble) so as you have options they’re used to should you have difficulties procuring one or the other at any given moment for whatever reason.
Some owners who go the kibble route purchase three or more types from various companies and then mix them, this is done on the off chance that any one company stops producing the kibble that the ferret will still want to eat something from someone else.
That covers some of the more important aspects of ferret ownership, namely bathing and nutrition but there’s still a few other important things to know about these lil cuties.
Ferrets are highly intelligent and curious, this means they need stimulation when they’re awake and also they’ll occasionally have to be saved from their own misadventures. Which touches upon something I recently had mentioned to me by a fellow Odecker, “ferrets are high maintenance”. The truth is they can to a degree, but I’d personally say no more so than any other animal.
When ferrets are awake they do require stimulation as I mentioned and most ferret owners provide that with play time and activate engagement on their part with their masked thieves. That’s doubly important because not only does it provide ferrets with stimulation of both the mental and physical variety but it helps with bonding. For those unaware ferrets bond with their litter/cage mates and their owners, to the point that when a ferret loses another ferret (via death or any other reason) or no longer has their owner around they become very depressed and great effort must be undertaken to help them cope with the loss. (Some owners will give them time to grieve and then introduce a new ferret, which genuinely helps and is good for both the ferret and their owner.)
Of course I do stress that that is only when they are awake and for those unaware your average ferret can and usually does sleep for around 16-18 hours a day. There is no other animal that sleeps like a ferret and it has to be seen to be believed. In point of fact, there’s a thing called “death sleep” with ferrets and new ferret owners have been known to rush to vets concerned their ferrets were dead only to be surprised when they woke up on the way there or at the vets. You can move them and they won’t wake up, it’s actually something some owners do just to get snuggle time in with them. Lol. #NotAllFerretsAreCuddlers
But of course both these things can and do vary from ferret to ferret. Ferrets have incredibly unique personalities and as such it’s hard to say what potential owners will experience with theirs.
Personal anecdote time! My first ferret, Gypsy, was a huge cuddler and she loved just hanging around me. My second ferret, Cisco, was the same and a huge fan of play time. But my final ferret, Trouble, wanted none of it. He wanted to be left to do his own thing unless spending time with me was on his terms and that was basically whenever he felt like it and it was rare and usually ended with him war dancing and me chasing him around and then war dancing his way into some piece of furniture and hard at that and then getting pissed and biting me because it was my clearly my fault that he dooked his way into it.
Something else to know regarding personalities is that female ferrets are known for being independent, far more so than their male counterparts. So whereas boys might enjoy cuddle time, the females will want none of it. Then again some do and again it varies from ferret to ferret.
And that mostly covers all the important and good stuff about ferrets, which means it’s time for the stuff that breaks my heart. : (
Ferrets get sick. And when they do it’s usually of the “my baby...” variety, which means it’s usually incredibly hard on them and expensive from a financial perspective. So if you do plan on getting a ferret start putting some money away for any vet related emergency expenses.
Insulomina is the most common ailment suffered among ferrets and it’s heartbreaking to see the effects of it upon them. Honestly, I won’t write too much about it because it’ll get me very depressed. So check out that link for more info and just know that if you get a ferret things like that are very possible and you need to plan accordingly and that includes considering letting them cross that rainbow bridge with dignity and as pain free as possible if things get bad.
But suffice it to say that overall ferrets are awesome and no other animal will bring as much joy and laughs and just a general sense of wonderment as ferrets will. I am so not joking about that. Their insanity when doing a war dance, their inexplicable ability to get into anything and everything even when you think you’ve ferret proofed something,their penchant for stealing all your socks and thus resorting to checking their hidey holes whenever you need a pair, their everything. It makes them the best pets to own in my opinion. Never a dull moment.
And because I’m a huge fan of quotes I shall leave you with one of my favorites.
“I can’t talk to a man who bears an undeserved animosity towards ferrets.” - Graham Chapman (from QI’s page on ferrets)