- Dry pasta dig box – I have a medium sized plastic storage box with a couple of bags of the cheapest pasta shapes in and my lot just love it. It makes loads of noise which they adore, but do watch out for the odd one or two who decide to try eating it! Also during moulting season they use the pasta to scratch their coats which assists in getting out the loose hair, not silly are they?
- Raw rice dig box – I have done a rice dig box in the past and they do enjoy it, BUT a couple of my boys decided it was too much like cat litter and did their business in it and another couple decided it was a good idea to just throw it all out of the box!
- Paper bags – in the case of my ferrets the larger the better because they think they are great, although when too many try to get into the same bag all at once it rips rather quickly!
- Plastic carrier bags – they have great fun in these, but please only use these when you are supervising the play session as plastic bag in a ferts tummy is not good!! Also cutting the handles off means they don’t get tangled up.
- Boxes – no matter what size or shape it is the ferret enjoys it. Seal the box and just cut two ferret sized holes in it then just sit back and watch them have fun chasing each other in and out. Do keep checking in the box though just in case they use it for stashing food or as an emergency toilet!!
- Footware – shoes, trainers, slippers, Wellington boots, you name them they’ll play in them, especially if your feet are still in them!
- Film canisters – if you have any of these lying about the house pop a few dried peas or some dried rice inside, make sure the lid is firmly closed and hey presto instant ferret attraction!
- Watering can – an old watering can left lying on the floor can provide both you and the ferret with a great deal of entertainment, but please make sure the watering can has only had water in it and no chemical products from the house or garden. Also make sure it is empty of water when they want to play in it!
- Carpet – get yourself an off cut of carpet, roll it up so the hole is ferret sized and there you have one instant carpet tube for running through, climbing on and scratching. A three-in-one ferret amusement!
- Bean bags – animal ones are expensive, but you can buy a thin summer duvet for around £4 and a cheap duvet cover for about the same. Both are easily washed and the ferrets love playing and sleeping in them.
- Water – find yourself a cheap baby bath, without a plug hole (charity shops for £1-£4), place a large stone/rock with a flat top in the bottom of it then add the water, just enough so the top of the rock is not covered and they can use it as a stepping stone. Or if you have the space buy the ferrets a “Shell Sandpit” (Argos £13.99). You can use half with water and half with other toys in.
- Tubes – these are always a big favourite with all ferrets. The cheapest ones come free from any carpet shop, they are usually cardboard, but you can get plastic ones at some shops. You can also use land drainage tubes, which are slightly flexible and not too expensive, try your local DIY wholesalers. Also there is the tumble dryer hose which is very flexible, but sadly it is not cheap!
- A box full of dried leaves – they just love the noise they make and the feel of the leaves as they dig and dive into them.
- A tub of soil – it makes a tremendous mess and the ferrets get beautifully dirty butthey love it.
Today we have a post from our guest author, Olivia Brown.
Having a pet in your home is something most people enjoy. Whether you are looking to bond with a pet or you want to have a mini zoo in your own home, you should look for a pet that is going to fit into your lifestyle. Rodents make great pets because they require some interaction, but not too much maintenance. This is ideal for someone who travels a lot or does not have the time to devote to an animal that requires more attention (like a dog for example).
Photo: dd_doubleclick, Tambako The Jaguar
So, what do you need to know when you are looking to buy a pet that falls into this category? When assessing any kind of pet, particularly a rodent, one should take a lot of things into consideration: How much time will it take to properly care for the household animal? Does this pet require special grooming? What does the pet eat? What kind and how much exercise do they require? Are all essential items for this companion affordable and easy to get a hold of? All of these questions about chinchillas and ferrets will be answered in this article.
- Average Lifespan– 15 Years
- Grooming – Their fur is incredibly soft and easy to groom. They require dust baths to clean them of oils and dirt that is naturally absorbed into their fur.
- Dietary Needs – They require little food and drink. They drink water and eat timothy hay. They need a constant supply of wood accessories to keep their teeth from growing too long. If their teeth do get too long, it may cause them to stop eating altogether.
- Exercise – Chinchillas require a lot of exercise so having a wheel in their cages is a must. Of course you can also allow them to exercise outside of their cage, just make sure that they are supervised. If you are able to exercise them outside of their enclosure, it is good to know that this playtime is recommended because it gives them a more natural experience. You can allow them out in a room in your house that is safe. If you do not have an entire room in your home that is wire free and chinchilla safe, you can also purchase little wire play pen that allows your rodent to roam in a safe area. They are very easy to set up and with a few little hiding toys and maybe wood to chew on, your chinchilla will be entertained for hours.
- Cage & Habitat – Chinchillas enjoy being active, so a multi-level cage is ideal (find the best chinchilla cage guide here: http://www.chinchillafactssite.com/chinchilla-cages). Their bedding can be as simple as shredded or pelleted paper. They cannot however, have any bedding made from cedar or pine because it is difficult for them to digest. They also should not have a wire cage bottom because it will damage their feet. Chinchillas are pets that enjoy hiding so a small plastic pet house or any other chew proof hiding items would be great in their cages. The only high maintenance aspect to owning a chinchilla is that they cannot handle extreme heat. They must be kept in an area where the temperature does not surpass 75 degrees Fahrenheit
- Socialization – Chinchillas enjoy being social whenever they can. They like to play with people as well as other chinchillas. If you are able to have more than one exotic rodent in a habitat it is encouraged; just make sure the cage is fairly large because chinchillas like to exercise a lot.
- Average Lifespan – 7-10 Years
- Grooming – Tidying-up a ferret is also more familiar to most people than the grooming aspect of a chinchilla. Ferrets require a bath with a special shampoo fairly regularly. This soap can be found at online pet stores. Essentially it should be in any larger pet store that carries pet items other than just dog and cat accessories. The most difficult part of owning a ferret is probably making sure their bath water is appropriate. They have a natural body temperature of 102 degrees, so lukewarm bath water is cold to them. Make sure that the water is a little on the hotter side and that they can still put their head above water when bathing them. Ferrets also require having their teeth cleaned often, especially if they are eating a mostly wet diet (such as wet cat food).
- Dietary Needs – Their diet is mostly an all meat diet. In the wild they generally eat smaller rodents like mice. As an owner of a domestic animal you can buy wet cat food that uses meat as a main ingredient.
- Exercise – Ferrets are generally very lazy animals. They do enjoy climbing and running in the grass when they are in the mood to be active.
- Cage & Habitat – A ferret enjoys having little hammocks to sleep in as well as blankets. Their cages should also have ferret safe litter box at the bottom of the enclosure. Multi-level cages for ferrets are ideal because they enjoy climbing and exploring (find the best ferret cage guidelines here: https://answers.yahoo.com/question/index?qid=20080801142428AASzRZ3). They like playing in small tunnels as well.
- Other things you should know: Ferrets are quite dormant animals. They generally will sleep most of the time and are only active during dusk and dawn.
- Socialization – Ferrets enjoy being trained. They like interacting with people. They also like playing with other ferrets, so having two in the same habitat is a great idea.
Overall, both chinchillas and ferrets make great pets. As far as which one makes a better pet, chinchillas would have to win that contest. While they require a bit more grooming, they are far more entertaining than the ferret. Ferrets tend to be a bit more odorous than a chinchilla. Chinchillas are more active in the evenings, but will play during the daytime hours too. Ferrets on the other hand prefer to sleep most of the time.
Both pets are quite social and enjoy playing with others. While both enjoy playing with people and other animals, they are better off not being around very small children because they will bite out of fear. Not only are chinchillas ideal pets because they are more active, but they are more rare animals. They are guaranteed to entertain not only you, but any guest you have over will probably want to interact with your chinchilla.
A ferret’s teeth are as important to the ferret as they are to us. Similarly perfect teeth should be a full set, white, clean and unbroken. But how many of us can profess to having a perfect set of teeth? The same applies to the ferret, but there are things we can do as ferret owners to make sure they get the best possible chance of having a good set of gnashers!
Short of getting the ferret used to having their teeth brushed daily, the more natural way is through their diet. Ferrets are carnivores and to sustain a good set of teeth one must provide the ferret with FRESH RAW MEAT ON THE BONE. My first choice is rabbit, however this is not always available and is not always cheap. My second choice is more readily available and isn’t expensive and that is chicken wings, which you can purchase at most supermarkets.
But please remember NEVER FEED YOUR FERRET WITH COOKED BONES as they can splinter in the mouth and cause untold damage. Now don’t get me wrong I am NOT saying don’t feed a dry food diet. The dry food diets on the market today are excellent, I personally recommend Vitalin as the protein level is 40% and a high protein level is what you should be looking for.
What I am saying is please allow your ferret the opportunity of participating in a more natural form of food, which will also help keep their teeth in very good order. One thing I will point out is that a ferret fed on a 100% dry biscuit diet is more likely to have teeth problems than a ferret fed on a 50% raw meat/50% biscuit diet. Another thing to bear in mend is that the biscuits we feed to our ferrets may cause staining to their teeth in the long term.
If you have a pet ferret, you know that they are lively and inquisitive pets who just love to play. To help them live a full and happy life, they should be provided with a range of toys and enrichment activities to keep them occupied and stimulated. Here we look at some of the best ferret toys that your pet will love.
Why Do Ferrets Need Toys?
Without toys to play with, ferrets can become depressed and bored. This can eventually lead to unwanted and destructive behavior, such as chewing and digging. It can also result in your pet becoming ill.
What Sort Of Behaviors Should Ferret Toys Encourage?
Toys that stimulate natural ferret behaviors such as tunneling and hunting are ideal for your pet. Providing safe and fun opportunities for ferrets to display their natural but more troublesome behaviors is also important. For example, providing a safe digging box discourages them from digging in their litter tray, and providing chewable toys prevents them from chewing your furniture.
What Kind Of Toys Should I Get For My Pet?
- Tunnels – these are available in plastic and are great for allowing ferrets to exhibit their natural tunneling behavior.
- Moving Toys – many cat toys such as wind up mice or battery operated playthings allow ferrets to try out and hone their hunting instincts.
- Dig Boxes – filling a cardboard box with soil or shredded newspaper allows your pet to have a safe and secure digging environment where they will cause no harm.
- Chew Toys – this will discourage your companion from chewing objects around your home. Make sure the toy is safe and cannot be swallowed.
- Problem Solving Toys – ferrets are extremely clever and enjoy solving problems. Kong toys are perfect for giving your pet a puzzle to solve.
Ferrets are quite interesting creatures. At first glance, they might resemble something close to a rodent but the ferret is actually a descendant of the polecat family. Ferrets are not considered wild animals. They have been domesticated for over 2,000 years. Because ferrets are small and slender creatures, they were used in hunting to chase rabbits, rodents, and moles out of their burrows. However, most people just tend to keep them as pets these days.
Characteristics & Behaviors
Ferrets have long, slender bodies. They typically range in color from brown, black, or white. Sometimes, they may even be a mix of those colors. Ferrets are social animals and tend form very strong bonds with their human family. They also do quite well in small groups. In fact, ferrets may get into less trouble if they have a few friends to occupy them.
Though ferrets will spend somewhere between 14-18 hours asleep, they are not nocturnal creatures. Ferrets are at their most active around dusk and dawn but they will adjust their sleeping habits to match their owner. Also, ferrets are curious creatures that tend to get into quite a bit of trouble if not supervised. For example, this family member may steal stocks or other small items and stash them away somewhere. Or they might cause a bit of trouble by chewing on wires. Despite some annoyances that ferrets may cause, they are intelligent creatures. Ferrets can be taught to respond to their names and are very easy to litter-train. Some can even be taught to do tricks.
Diet & Health
Ferrets are strictly carnivorous animals and must eat a diet rich in animal protein. Some people feed their ferrets a raw diet, which is fine. If feeding a ferret dry food, it is recommended to use high quality cat food. It is especially important to keep carbohydrates such as sweets, grains, rice, and vegetables away from ferrets. These types of foods can lead to gastrointestinal problems and cancer. (See this article for more information and ideas.)
Ferrets are not the healthiest of creatures as they tend to be susceptible to chronic illnesses and cancers. These creatures are prone to coming down with illnesses that resemble the common cold or flu-like symptoms and these can be transmitted to humans. It is very important to make sure that ferrets are monitored closely and medicines are applied in their healthcare.
Overall, ferrets are wonderful creatures. Even though often mistaken for rodents, ferrets are from the polecat family. They are long and slender and come in a variety of colors. Ferrets are not wild animals and can’t survive on their own in the wild. They are friendly, social creatures that grow strong attachments to their human families.
Ferrets are curious by nature and that curiosity will often times get them into plenty of trouble. It’s also important to remember that ferrets are strictly meat eaters and to make sure they are given the proper meals. And because ferrets have high rates of chronic illnesses and cancers, it is important to monitor their health by keeping regular visits with a veterinarian and making sure these little guys don’t eat anything hazardous to their health.
- Average Adult Weight: Hobs 1-2 kg; Jills 0.5-1.2kg
- Seasonal Weight Fluctuation: Approx 30% difference between winter and summer body weight
- Lifespan: 6-10 years (although up to 13 years has been reported)
- Diploid Chromosome Number: 40
- Adult Dentition: 34
- Adult Food Intake: (Dry Feed) 50-75 grams per day
- Adult Water Intake: 75-100mls per day
- Urine Output: 26-28ml per 24 hour average; Jills more often
- Urine pH: 6.5-7.5 (i.e. near neutral pH)
- Heart Rate: 170-380 beats per minute
- Cardiac Output: 139ml per minute
- Circulation Time: 4.5-6.8 seconds
- Blood Volume: 5-7% bodyweight
- Systolic Blood Pressure: (mm Hg) 140+ / -35
- Diastolic Blood Pressure: (mm Hg) 110+ / -30
- Rectal Temperature: 37.8-40 degrees
- Celsius Respiratory Rate: 33-36 per minute
DO NOT FLICK YOUR FERRETS NOSE or reprimand your ferret in any physical way at all. Use a loud sharp “NO!” close to the ferrets face (without getting your nose bitten). Do this three times, then if it is not working use the “time out” method. Put the nippy ferret into an empty carrier and place it where they can see their siblings still getting attention and playing . Leave them in there for a couple of minutes, then let them out to play again. If they start getting nippy again start with the “NO!” three times method, then revert to the time out in the carrier for three minutes. Keep useing this routine until you have had them in the carrier for five minutes time out, unless of course they have stopped being nippy and then they can be left out, if this is not working then return them to their cage and leave them there until the next play session. All of this takes time and patience, but ferrets are incredibly intelligent animals and will learn what is acceptable and what isn’t before you know it.
If you find that your kit is nipping/biting your hands when you pick them up DO NOT revert to useing gloves, this will just make them worse and they will not get used to your smell or the feel of your hands. Use the loud sharp “NO!” again, then continue to make a fuss of them by stroking their backs. Do not put them down on the floor as soon as they nip or else they will think they are getting their own way and will continue to be nippy when ever they want to get down and play. Just keep working at it, stick to a routine and do not move the boundries you set them and before long your ferrets will be settled and content.
Always be aware that if a ferret is being testy, nasty, bitey or generally bad tempered there may well be an underlying problem and it is always an idea, as a precaution, to get them to the vet’s just to make sure there is nothing wrong with them.
Ferrets are Carnivores, which means they are natural meat eaters and their primary diet should consist of meat. They are designed to eat whole small prey such as rodents, rabbits, toads, insects and fish. If you are told not to feed your ferrets meat because it makes them vicious that is NOT true. To maintain healthy teeth and gums a meat and bone diet is essential. Chicken Wings are the cheapest and most easily bought choice for you to feed your ferrets. They will use the smaller bones of the wings as toothbrushes and will eat them all up. NEVER feed your ferret bones that have been cooked, they can splinter in the ferrets mouth and cause considerable damage. Some ferrets will refuse to eat meat, but as long as they are getting a high quality dried ferret food then don’t be overally concerned.
Eggs are often given to ferrets, but sometimes too often which can cause alopecia (Hair loss)and biotin deficiency. If you want to feed your ferrets eggs you should only give them the egg yolk ,as it is the white of the egg that causes these problems. Once a week is more than enough, in fact we only give ours egg once a month!
Ferrets are lactose intolerant. So the old way of giving a ferret bread and milk is a big NO NO! Ferrets however do like a treat of milk but it must be lactose free. Luckily nowadys it is relatively easy to get lactose free milk, if not try goats milk or whiskas cat milk. Bear in mind though they all contain sugar so only let the ferrets have a drink as a treat and in small amounts as in excess you may find dental problems.
- Clean feet and pads with baby wipes.
- Clean ears with sensitive baby wipe (NEVER USE COTTON BUDS).
- Keep your ferret well handled.
- Use a flea comb to brush your ferret’s coat. They pick up more dust and dirt than normal brushes/combs.
- Damp living quarters can cause foot rot.
- Use Vaseline Petroleum Jelly to kill off ticks. Use a cotton bud and just put a blob of Vaseline on top of the tick. Within a couple of days it will have died and will then drop off.
- Rub cooking oil gently into a tick on sensitive areas, such as the face, to release them.
- Beware of flea sprays, they can blister the skin.
- A little sunflower oil on food helps make the ferret’s coat glossy.
- Use Ferretvite or Ferretone as a treat distraction when clipping nails or cleaning ears. (Please note that Ferretone contains Vitamin A, which is poisonous in large doses. We mix our ferretone with a plain basic Olive Oil which helps eradicate that problem. But still do not give too much)
Keeping your ferret’s nails trimmed is an essential part of ferret husbandry and should be done on a regular basis, usually around every 2-3 weeks (exoticpets.about.com).
Nails that are too long can catch very easily on things such as carpets and bedding, at worst a caught nail could cause the entire nail bed to be pulled out, so please trim your ferret’s nails regularly.
I have to admit that I am unable to cut my ferrets’ nails by myself. I know a lot of people can and do, but I am not one of them! Harry, my husband, gets roped in together with a tube of Ferretvite. You could also try clipping their nails when they are still half asleep and are naturally relaxed, this method unfortunately does not work with my crew as they wake up very quickly!!
I guarantee there will always be at least one ferret that will not co-operate no matter how many people help, so the best thing to do in these circumstances is to “scruff” the ferret. You do this by gently, but firmly, taking hold of the loose skin on the back of the neck as the ferret’s mother would have done when carrying your ferret as a kit.
This technique does not cause the ferret any pain and I firmly believe that it is a good idea to let your ferret become used to being “scruffed” as early in your relationship as possible. A ferret that is relaxed about it makes all sorts of procedures so much easier for the owner and much less stressful for the ferret.
For the job itself I use human nail clippers. I find them easier to handle and they do the job quickly and cleanly. Please don’t try cutting your ferret’s nails with scissors they do not do the job well and could end up damaging the nail. Remember to try not to cut the nail too short. When you put your ferret’s foot on a flat surface the nail should touch the surface.
Ferrets also have a “quick” at the top of their nails so if you cut the nail too short, not only will you hurt your ferret, but the nail will bleed. So please take care. Try to cut the nails all the same length. I have throughout this been talking about the front feet of the ferret. The nails on the back feet very rarely need clipping. I have some ferrets whose back nails have never needed clipping, but on the other hand I have two ferrets whose back nails grow as rapidly as the front and need to be clipped.
You can clean the pads of your ferret’s feet with sensitive moist baby wipes. This is really not an essential part of your regular husbandry duties, unless of course they have trodden in something awful, but I am sure they appreciate having clean feet just as much as we do!
- Puberty (Sexual Maturity): usually 6-9 months, but up to 12 months
- Neutering: from 24 weeks for Hobs, 28 weeks for Jills
- Gestation (Pregnancy): 38-44days, average 42 days
- Breeding Life: up to 7 years
- Breeding Season: Spring/Summer. Typically January/February-July/August
- Litter Size: 6-12 kits, average 8 (smaller when maternal age over 5 years)
- Birth Weight: 6-12 grams
- Kits Onset of Hearing: 32 Days
- Kits Eyes Open: 28-35 Days
- Weaning Age of Mother: Not fully until 8 weeks
- Deciduous Dentition: 30 (Molars Absent) adult dentition by 10 weeks
Recommended book for reference:
- Lewington, J.H.(2000) Ferret Husbandry, Medicine and Surgery. Published by Butterworth Heinemann. ISBN 0 7506 42513