Ferret Basics


Basic Care

Ferrets are one of the most popular pets in the United States and they have their own special care requirements. The average ferret lives 5-7 years. They are very intelligent and curious, so they need lots of time outside of their cages to stay happy and active. One or more thoroughly ferret-proofed rooms are essential for supervised playtime. Ferrets can fit through very small gaps, so any holes more than an inch or so wide need to be blocked off. When it comes to cages, bigger is better, especially if your ferret will spend most of its time in the cage while you are at class or work.



Like cats, ferrets are obligate carnivores. This means that they must eat meat to survive. Commercial diets are available to meet your ferret’s nutritional needs. In addition, some (not all!) cat kibbles and commercial raw cat foods are complete for ferrets. Look for high protein, low carb cat foods and then investigate any brands you find to confirm if they are good options for ferrets. Some ferret owners prefer to feed a homemade raw meat diet to their ferrets. If you choose that path, it is critical to do lots of research and work with a vet or nutritionist to be sure that your ferret gets the nutrition it needs.



Vaccines and Routine Exams

Ferrets generally receive annual vaccinations against rabies and canine distemper. Both diseases are fatal. However, not all vaccines are safe for ferrets. Check that your vet has ferret-safe vaccines available.

Yearly wellness exams can help you catch a disease before it becomes too serious. Regular exams can also help you and your vet know what is normal for your pet, in order to more easily recognize when something is abnormal. As with any animal, be sure to contact your vet if you suspect your ferret may be ill or injured.

Spaying and Neutering

You may have heard that a ferret will die if it does not get to mate. There is actually some truth to this for female ferrets. This is because a female ferret in heat will stay in heat until she finds a mate, no matter how long it takes. The hormones in her body can affect blood production, which can lead to a potentially fatal anemia. Intact male ferrets will have stronger odor during their breeding season, but won’t die if they don’t mate. As a result of the potential risks, most ferrets are spayed or neutered, often before they are even available for adoption.


Ferrets have scent glands similar to those of a skunk. A ferret’s will not smell as strongly and the scent will not linger as long. Nonetheless, it is common for these glands to be surgically removed. It is important to note that descenting a ferret will not eliminate its natural body odor. All ferrets, regardless of sex or whether they have been altered, will have a musky odor.