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Behaviour

Curious ferret

Behaviour

Ferrets make wonderful pets because of their engaging personalities, playful activity and fastidious nature. They can also be easily trained to use a litter tray because they tend to habitually urinate and defaecate in the same places.

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Caring for your ferret

Ferret eating

Feeding your ferret

Ferrets have unique feeding requirements. They are carnivores and are unable to obtain nutrients from vegetable matter; the food they eat also passes through their digestive system very quickly. For this reason their diet needs to be high in animal protein, fat and low in fibre. A ferret thrives on a varied diet, so the more varied you can make your ferret's diet, the better.

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A ferret suckling

Neutering your ferret

Neutering your ferret not only prevents unwanted or accidental pregnancies - it is a fact that every year many litters of unwanted kits are born. It is also important when considering other factors such as breeding, accommodation and health.

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A group of young ferrets

Routine health care

We are all familiar with the phrase "A healthy pet is a happy pet" - but there is probably also something to be said for keeping your ferret happy in order to maintain its health. If you know your pet you will probably quickly recognise the signs that suggest it is not well.

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Miscellaneous health problems

Ferret laying down

Canine distemper in ferrets

Ferrets are highly susceptible to canine distemper - a disease normally seen in dogs that is transmitted through moisture droplets. Dogs usually pick it up when sniffing where infected dogs have been, and since the incubation period can be as long as three weeks, it is usually too late to vaccinate once any outbreak has begun.

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A ferret being examined by a vet

Miscellaneous health problems in ferrets

Two medical conditions of ferrets that demand special mentions are the ferret's extreme susceptibility to canine distemper and the unusual consequences of female ferrets coming into heat. These are therefore covered in separate factsheets.

However, there are other medical conditions that affect ferrets that are briefly covered here.

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Albino ferret

Parasitic diseases in ferrets

Most of the external parasites of domestic dogs and cats (fleas, mange, ear mites, etc.) can cause disease in ferrets. However, less is known about the ferret's susceptibility to the more common internal parasites (roundworms, etc.) of dogs and cats.

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A ferret

Viral and bacterial infections in ferrets

Ferrets are prone to a number of viral and bacterial infections. There are vaccines available to prevent some of these, but good management practices go a long way to lower the risks of infectious disease in ferrets.

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Owning a ferret

Close up of a ferret's head

Ferrets: a history

The ferret, also known as Mustela putorius furo (which in Latin means 'bad smelling weasel') comes from the 'Mustelidae' family and is a domestic pet, not a wild animal. However, ferrets are descendants of the European polecat (weasel) and are, therefore, close relatives of skunks, mink, otters and badgers.

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Holding a ferret in two hands

Handling your ferret

When awake, ferrets generally exhibit constant activity. However, they can be easily picked up and gently restrained by using both hands to support their weight and provide security from falling and injury.

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A snug ferret

Housing your ferret

Ferrets make wonderful pets because of their engaging personalities, playful activity and fastidious nature. Housing is important for your ferret, whether you keep them inside or outside.

Read Housing your ferret