things you must know about Your Ferret

Ferret

free ferret img by unsplash

As with any new pet, you want to know all about what you are getting into. With cats and dogs, it’s pretty easy to come up with an idea because their behaviors are well known through media, TV, and movies. But ferrets are a different story. Even though millions of ferrets are kept as pets in the United States alone, their characteristics and behaviors are still relatively unknown. This can cause problems for potential ferret owners who have not informed themselves of the needs and habits of their new pet.

First of all, Ferrets stink.

That’s right, this lively little creature that will run amuck through your house will carry with it a musky odor that is all his own. In North America, it has been a widespread practice to de-scent a ferret. While ferrets do have scent glands at their back end, these are not the culprit of the telltale ferret scent. The scent glands of a ferret are similar to those of a skunk, although not nearly as potent. Their glands are not activated unless they become frightened and feel threatened. Because of this, the need for de-scenting is not what it was thought to be.

The scent of a ferret is actually due to skin glands located throughout the body. The glands that cause the musky scent are more prominent around the face, so that’s where you’ll get the best whiff. Owners of ferrets will say that their ferret’s smell is not bad. It’s just something to get used to. Washing frequently does not diminish the ferret smell; in fact, it can make it stronger. Your ferret will only need to be bathed a few times a year, actually.

Ferrets need your time.

Although these pets sleep a good number of hours out of the day, they also love to play. Unlike a dog who can be satisfied with a 30-minute walk or some fetch time in the front yard, a ferret needs about 4 hours of playtime every single day. Not giving your ferret the playtime he needs will result in problem behaviors. These highly intelligent animals are curious and adventurous. They require supervision and interaction in order to live happy healthy lives.

Ferrets love to play chase and they love to explore. Tapping into these two interests will pay off for both you and your pet. Set up a fun obstacle course that your ferret can tunnel around in and make noise and he will be a happy camper. This can be done with cardboard boxes, crumbled up cellophane paper (for noise), large PVC pipe or a ferret tunnel toy and even old pant legs or socks. Ferrets are inventive; give them a toy and they’ll figure out what to do with it.

Ferrets can be trained.

These animals are very smart and will respond to training quite well. You just need to be consistent and patient with your pet along the way. You can train your ferret to use a litter box instead of the corner of your bedroom. You can train your ferret to play nicely without nipping. You can even train your ferret to do a few tricks!

Your Ferret’s Ideal Menu

Look who’s coming to dinner! Ferret owners undoubtedly want to take the best possible care of their little one. But with so many commercial foods on the market for pets today, it could be easy to get steered in the wrong direction and feed your ferret something that just isn’t right for him. Understanding the nature of your ferret’s feeding habits will help you to ensure he is being fed well enough to live a long and healthy life.

It’s important to understand that the natural diet of the ferret is rodents. Throughout history, domesticated ferrets were used as hunting animals and survived on the prey that they captured. While today ferrets are not released out into the backyard by their owners to catch their evening meal, this does not mean that any store-bought food would be sufficient to feed their tiny bodies.

Like the cat, ferrets are obligate carnivores (meat-eaters). Therefore, the diet your ferret requires must contain a good amount of meat. Meat is not enough though. When ferrets lived in a time where they would hunt their own food, they not only ate the meat; they also consumed the bones, liver, kidneys and intestinal tract of the small animal they caught. Consuming all of these things provided the ferret with the essential nutrients necessary for health.

What you need to know about your ferret’s diet needs is that most of their calories need to come from simple carbohydrates, protein, and fat. Being fed the proper diet that includes the components their body needs helps your ferret to maintain their naturally high level of energy. The type of concentrated diet that a ferret requires will not be provided by dog food, so please do not make this a part of your pet’s dinner menu. Doing so would greatly impact the life span of the companion who gives you such joy.

When deciding which commercial ferret food to buy for your pet, be sure to check the label. The digestive cycle of the ferret is short, which makes it difficult for them to break down plant proteins. What this means to the ferret owner is that food containing corn (or cornmeal) will not do well in the ferret’s system. Eating corn also increases blood-sugar levels, which forces your ferret’s pancreas to produce insulin at a higher rate than it should.

What you do want in your ferret’s food is good Protein quality. Protein from poultry or meat meal is about 80% digestible. Protein from poultry by-product, or from ground yellow cornmeal, is much less digestible. Obviously, the more digestible, the better for your ferret. Plus, the cornmeal should be avoided. Another thing your ferret food should have is fat. Ferrets need and prefer the flavor of fat from animal sources. A commercially made ferret food should contain 15-18% fat, the most concentrated form of energy for your pet. The last ingredient needed in a quality ferret food is fiber. This could be through plant hulls, such as oat bran, or vegetable material such as beet pulp. Ferrets don’t require large amounts of fiber, 4% or less in their food is ideal.

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