Californians for Ferret Legalization

Know Your Facts & Fictions

New Wanted Poster for SB89

Why the Legislature Addressed The Ferret Issue

Why the Department of Fish and Game Should Not Regulate Ferrets

California Compendium of Rabies Control, 1998

Hon. Judith McConnell's Ruling against
the California State Fish and Game Commission


MISINFORMATION of the Week Series

Ferrets: a Selective Overview of Issues and Options

Prepared By Kenneth W. Umbach, Ph.D.
California Research Bureau, California State Library

Californians for Ferret Legalization Fact Sheet

Legislative Alert

Sierra Club's Position on Ferrets

CFL Response to Sierra Club

How to Care for Your Ferret

What is a ferret?

Ferrets belong to Mustelidae family, along with otters, stoats, weasels, European polecats, and badgers. Ferrets are great hunters and can control pests, which is why they were domesticated. Today they are becoming more and more popular as pets, and for a good reason. Ferrets are lively, curious, and fun-loving. They sleep a lot, but are very active at dawn and dusk.

Most animals live between 8 and 10 years, but some are known to survive up to 15. Both sexes are ready to have babies at 9 months old. Females are smaller than males and don’t produce rather strong, pungent smell that non-neutered males do.

All ferrets are one breed, but have different colors, like poley/fitch, dew, sandy, silver, and albino.

Ferrets at home

Ferrets are often kept outside because of specific smell, but many live indoors with people. You should always choose the biggest enclosure you can fit to allow ferrets plenty of room to play and stay active. If you want to keep two of them, the cage should be at least 10x6x6 feet. It’s a good idea to purchase a used cage at Craigs list or ebay. With popular 20% off ebay coupon codes it might be even cheaper. Check here before you buy. Or you might be lucky if you find it for free on a

Keep in mind that ferrets are excellent diggers, so if you have them outside, make sure you have wire mesh secure and hutch doors bolted. The animals tend to escape through the tiniest spaces, so use strong wire and bars, and position them so close that your ferret wouldn’t be able to fit the head through. You can also buy special wooden hutch-type enclosures with built-in runs. Chinchilla cages can be used for ferrets that are kept inside.

Ferrets love to sleep in cozy enclosures large enough for two or separate. Outdoor sleeping quarters should be wind and rain proof and away from direct sun. Ferrets can die if exposed to temperatures above 30 degrees Celsius.

The floor can be lined with newspapers or wood shavings. The same goes for sleeping enclosure. Hay also works great. Pet ferrets can also enjoy fleece blankets, hammocks, and resting boxes made of fabric for extra coziness.

Your ferret will have fun exploring tunnels and climbing, so you can use drainpipes and various levels of shelves to let them enjoy life. Hanging hammocks are great for sleeping. Make sure the shelves are not too tall to prevent falls and injuries.

Litter training

Ferrets can be litter box trained, but they will always be prone to accidents. High-sided corner litter box works great and can be bought at pet supply stores. Cat litter boxes also work great if they are lined with wood shavings and unscented cat litter. Ferrets will choose the best place for their toilet, so put the litter box there, not where you would like it to be.

You should clean the entire enclosure at least once a week and the litter box every day if you want to avoid odors. Ferrets like to store food for later, so removing it is important for keeping mold at bay.

Ferret socializing

If you want and can give your ferret a lot of interaction and stimulation, they can be kept on their own. Otherwise choose to keep at least two or more individuals for social purposes. Same sex or neutered opposite sexes get along great. People are wonderful companions for ferrets as long as they take some time to play with their pets. Lonely ferrets can become problematic and not be able to get along with other animals any longer.

Ferrets are often friendly with dogs and cats, but don’t leave them alone when they are playing. Rabbits and rodents are afraid of as much as ferret smell, so keep them apart.

How to handle your ferret

Young ferrets are very likely to bite, so first time owners are encouraged to get animals that are at least a year old for safety. Young ferrets that are socializing with people will develop strong bond with their owners for life. They don’t have strong eyesight, so be careful when reaching for a sleeping ferret in the box as it might bite if startled.

The best practice is to let them come out on their own when they are ready. Pick them up by around their shoulders and support the hind legs. They tend to be very wriggly and can be dropped easily, so use care.

Ferrets are probably not the best pets for young children because of potential biting and active nature.

Ferret diet

Just like cats, ferrets are carnivores, so they have to have meat. High protein kibble ferret food is acceptable, especially if occasionally mixed with raw meat or organs. They don’t tolerate processed foods and dog or cat feed. Raw eggs in shell are great treats for ferrets.

Ferrets drink water and can be trained to drink from drinker bottles. Dairy products, raisins, chocolate, and grapes are a total no-no for them.

Health issues

Ferrets should visit a vet every year to get checked for diseases and to receive shots, especially distemper, because it might be fatal to ferrets. Ferrets can also be microchipped.

Neutering is popular, but neutered animals might develop adrenal gland disease. Females (jills) come into season in spring and stay in season until mate or given medications. It’s dangerous to their health, so discuss your options with the vet. Methods to overcome these problems are spaying, hormone implanting every 18-24 months, hormone injection, or mating with sterile male.

Males have a strong smell and greasy coat, so most people will want to neuter indoor kept males. Another way is to have hormonal implants every 18-24 months to combat these problems.

Ferrets are prone to flies, ticks, and ear mites. Your vet will recommend the same medications that are used for other pets.

Ferrets don’t need baths. Their claws can be trimmed quite easily, especially if you drizzle their bellies with some oils to keep them occupied while you work with small scissors.

Ferrets can catch and spread some human influenza viruses. This might lead to costly medical bills, so consider insuring your pet’s health.

Playing with ferrets

Ferrets are very curious and will gladly interact with their owners. Try scattering dry food in their enclosures or put it in the feeding toys and observe their hunting skills. Ferrets can chew some small toys or objects that they are not supposed to, so keep unsafe objects away. Loose ferrets can look for dark and tight spaces to sleep in, so check washing machines, tumble dryers, and cupboards.

Your ferrets should have plenty of exercise, so let them run, roam, and climb. You can even train them to walk with a harness.

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