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                   FERRET CARE

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                          FERRET CARE

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    uick! What is the third most popular pet in the United States
Q   right now? Now, did you say ferret because you actually
    knew it was the correct answer? Or did you say ferret
because that's the subject of this book?

Ferrets suffer from an identity problem. Well, let me just
rephrase that. In truth, it's not the ferrets who are suffering
from the identity problem. These little creatures seem to know
exactly who they are and what they want from life. They're
about as happy and playful as a ferret can be.

We humans though seem to be totally confused about the
identity of the ferret. Perhaps more than any other family pet, a
continuing controversy swirls around this fuzzy, adorable

Domesticated. Or wild. That seems to be at the core of the
argument. Some individuals hold the notion that ferrets are
nothing “more than” wild animals. Our insistence to keep them
as pets then is nothing less than cruel. At most, it's a futile
attempt to tame an otherwise wild animal.

What many people don't realize, unfortunately -- even some who
currently enjoy the shenanigans of these delightful creatures on
a daily basis -- is that they are domesticated animals;
domesticated polecats to be exact.

This means that the ferret you either currently have adopted,
are thinking about adopting or your neighbor has adopted is a
descendant of the wild polecats -- domesticated by humans
many (many!) years ago!

The domesticated ferret has been man's (and woman's)
companion for nearly 2,500 years now. Heck, they've endeared

                            FERRET CARE

themselves to such diverse individuals from Queen Elizabeth I of
England to American comedian Dick Smothers.

And if you really want to burrow into the history of the ferret, he
was right there along with the patriots at the American
Revolution (and he looked so cute in his little uniform!). Ferrets     PAGE | 4
have been useful to humans for ages. But, it wasn't until the
last generation or so that they have actually gained popularity as
a lovable, playful pet.

If you really want a detailed history of the domesticated ferret,
you may be disappointed. There aren't many details about the
origins of their domestication. Some experts believe the ancient
Egyptians were the first to begin the process. But not enough
proof exists to conclusively adopt this theory.

Sure, Egyptian hieroglyphics show wonderful pictures of a
"weasel-like" creature. But there are several different animals
that can fill this bill. So those hieroglyphics in and of themselves
don't provide any type of evidence.

The first known written reference to the ferret and its
domesticated status pops up around 400 BCE (Yep, that's before
the birth of Christ!). It was written by the satirical Greek writer
known as Aristophanes.

Later, the Greek naturalist and philosopher Aristotle (yes, the
one we've all heard of!) mentions this little dude again.

As history progressed, it seems so did the ferrets ability to meet
the needs of humans. Take for example Caesar Augustus of the
Roman Empire. Around 60 BCE he received a request to sail
several ferrets to the Balearic Islands.

Their mission: Control the rabbit population.

                            FERRET CARE

But he's a relative newcomer to the shores of North America. He
landed here about the same time the Pilgrims and other settlers
did (although we may never know exactly how!)

Indeed, why do you think they came in so handy in the American
Revolution? Not because they could fire a musket, that's for         PAGE | 5
sure. No, just like in the age of the Roman Empire they were
placed on the war ships and were put in charge of the "rodent

This may be difficult to believe but these guys were so valuable
as shipmates that one ship was actually named after the animal.
This, though, was some 60 years after the revolution. The ship
was simply named The Ferret. A schooner, it was one of the
chief ships that chased and captured pirates.

It's true! Pretty amazing, too! It's called the sport of ferreting
(go figure!). And it's simply hunting small game using --- you
guessed it, ferrets. This sport in all probability developed right
along with the domestication the animal itself.

The ferret keeper releases several ferrets near rabbit burrows.
They are, in effective, sent out in search of the game. And just
like today's canines -- the pointers and other sporting dogs --
the ferrets wore bells on their collars. In this way their keepers
were better able to keep track of them.

Now, don't misunderstand the role of the ferret in all of this. He
wasn't sent out to actually perform the hunting aspect of this
sport. No, his role was just to rouse the rabbit and other small
game out of its burrow.


                            FERRET CARE

Okay! So you may not want to hear this. But ferrets have been
on the wrong side of the law -- but not by their choice, mind
you. No, many a poacher has used ferrets to help them illegally        PAGE | 6
catch game.

It's rather embarrassing to say, but the poacher would hide the
ferret in his pants, and then take the fuzzy animal out at night
on his hunt. In fact, if you want to get technical about it, you
could say that poachers were actually the first large-scale
owners of these guys.

And let's just say some topics are better left briefly developed . .

Even today, depending on what city or state you live in a ferret
could be classified as a classic "outlaw." As we'll discuss in more
detail in the first chapter, confusion reigns over the exact lineage
of these adorable fuzzies.

Are they wild animals people insist on keeping? Or are they
actually domesticated descendents of wild animals? As
advanced as science and biology is sometimes . . . it makes you
wonder why we can't trace the ferret's heritage clearly back.

No matter. The fact stands that in many states as well as more
than a few cities, owning a ferret as a pet is illegal. Yep. It
certainly is.

Chapter 1 though has other information on the increasingly
popular pet the ferret as we explore whether this guy is a
potential member of your family.

You'll not only learn a little more about his physical attributes,
such as color, but whether you should neuter your ferret (if
you're unfamiliar with ferrets, you'll be pleasantly surprised by
this answer!), whether it's better to won a male or a female and
how many ferrets are too many in one household.

                            FERRET CARE

And perhaps most important of all, we explore some adoption
options. If you've never really thought much about ferrets
before this, it's not very likely then that you'll be very
knowledgable about the best places to search for your ideal pet.

                                                                       PAGE | 7
In Chapter 2 we give you some ideas of the absolute essentials
you need to have at home the moment the new kit (or older
adult). Knowing what are essential supplies, where to get them
and having them in the house before you bring your energetic
bundle of joy home is guaranteed to make your life -- as well as
the transition for the new guy -- a lot easier.

Then we really get serious in the following chapter. It's here I
talk about how to handle your new guy . . . how to go about
getting to know him better -- without scaring the bejeebers out
of him and without you getting inadvertently clawed or bit.

You'll also learn in this chapter just how easy it is to groom a
ferret yourself. If you don't have the money or the time for a
professional groomer, you'll soon discover how to be the expert
at keeping your ferret the handsome devil he views himself to

Chapter 4 is devoted to your ferret's nutritional needs. We'll
discuss his diet and how extremely important this is to his
quality of life, his chances of longevity and his overall optimistic
energetic outlook on life.

I have to warn you, right up front, that the ferret you're
considering adopting does have a few nutritional requirements
that perhaps other pets don't have. But, don't worry. If you
know about these at the very beginning, then you won't have
any trouble handling this guy's diet.


                           FERRET CARE

I suggest you read this book all the way through especially if
you’ve never experienced the joys of owning a ferret. In this       PAGE | 8
way you'll get an excellent idea of exactly what kind of
responsibilities you as a ferret owner have.

But more importantly, you'll also get a beautiful picture of what
kind of joys your newly adopted friend can bring to you and your

Then as you continue your family discussion about adoption, you
can turn to the chapters most relevant to you. You may find
yourself consulting some chapters more than others. And that's

The important thing is that this book is a benefit as you learn
more about adopting, caring and loving your ferret.

Are you ready to get started? The sooner we begin, the sooner
Freddie the Ferret will be able to move in and spread the joy!

Save Big On All Your Pet's Supples at Our Pet Store

                         FERRET CARE

                     CHAPTER 1:
Buy A Ferret: Secrets In Buying A Ferret Online
                                                                 PAGE | 9
There are lot of items that you can buy on the web. But,
have you ever thought about what is involved in buying a

It's easy to find web sites that sell ferrets. Just type a few
key words into any search engine to begin your research.
Look through all the results and pick the sites that you feel
are the best.

You won't ever be able to buy a ferret on an auction site.
However, you will be able to bid on the accessories you'll
need for your pet - things like cages, toys and more.

Many sites will let you browse through photos of ferrets
they have available for sale. Some site will even let you
pay for your ferret online, if that's what you choose to do.

There will also be instructions on how to pick up your ferret
or about how it can be delivered to you.

Our Visitors Get Up to 50% off On Pet Medications & More

                          FERRET CARE

Ferret Prices
Buying a ferret online doesn't mean that you'll get a better
price. Odds are the prices will be the same if you were
buying from a local breeder or pet store.                    PAGE | 10

You can expect to pay from $75 to $125 for your pet
ferret. But, that's not all you'll spend. You're going to need
extra stuff like a cage, ferret food, toys and more.

Plan to spend another $100 to $250 over and above the
purchase price of your ferret.

Adopting A Ferret
Make sure you do a lot of research before you buy your
first ferret. You'll want to know everything you can about
basic ferret care.

One of the really important things to check before you
even buy a ferret is the legality of owning one in your are.
Right now, owning a pet ferret is illegal in the states of
California and Hawaii.

Even places where they are legal may require you to
purchase a permit for your ferret. Contact the local and
state/province authorities so that you're informed about
any laws and regulations.

Don't be faced with having your pet confiscated and
euthanized because you haven't done this research.

 If you're unable to locate the proper agencies, make a
call to a local vet. They may be able to point you in the
right direction.

                          FERRET CARE

Buying a ferret online is pretty much the same as buying
any other item on the web.

Make sure you know who you're dealing with and that
they are legitimate. Do a background check, check them PAGE | 11
out in the forums, check with the better business bureau
and even check with other breeders.

If you will be picking up the ferret yourself, check it out
carefully. Examine its eyes, behavior and coat at the very
least. Only pay for it, and take it home, if you are certain it
is healthy.

Buying a ferret online is only one option open to you.
Another option would be visiting an animal shelter. Sadly,
you'll find lots of ferrets in animal shelters that a seeking a
loving home.

If you're ready for the commitment of owning a pet ferret,
go ahead and get one because they will thrive in a loving


                           FERRET CARE

                      CHAPTER 2:
                                                                     PAGE | 12
      riendly. Sweet. Loving. Playful. How about adventurous?

F     Talk to any ferret owner and that's how they describe their
      pet. And because of this, you may have set out to adopt a
ferret based on these characteristics. And you may have even
let your ferret-loving teen girl decide.

Hopefully, you haven't given your final answer on the exact
individual ferret you're going to adopt. Oh, no! You're definitely
on the right track when you're looking for all those wonderful
traits in this loveable fuzzball of an animal.

But you need to go one step farther. You need to evaluate your
ferret on such characteristics as these:

      Health
      Gender
      Age
      How many?
      And more!

Indeed, these are the aspects of ferret hunting that as a parent
you need to be more concerned with than your children. And
don't worry, your children won't fail you; they'll choose the
ultimate ferret. Your job, Mom and Dad, is to ensure the friendly
animal they fall in love with is healthy and compatible with your

And that's not small accomplishment, if performed properly. If
you're feeling just a bit overwhelmed at the moment, don't
worry. If you've never had the privilege of choosing a ferret,
don't sweat it.

                            FERRET CARE

You are holding the Ultimate Guide to Ferret Care -- and
included in that is instruction book on selecting and caring for
the perfect ferret for your home are these recommendations for
choosing exactly how man ferrets you can fit into your schedule.

Together, we'll explore the world of ferrets and how to identify       PAGE | 13
the perfect ferret for your family. Just like a dog or a cat, a
ferret is an individual animal. And as such, he has his own
personality. As you get to know this animal better, you'll
understand exactly what I mean.

If you've never had a ferret before, brace yourself. You're in for
a real treat. No doubt, even as you read this, you may have a
child tugging at your arm ready to go ferret hunting. If this is
the case, here are some quick pointers to keep in mind on your
first (yes, I said first) trip on the search for the perfect ferret.

      Shiny, soft, full fur. No patches of fur missing
      Clear and bright eyes. No discharge from the eyes, ears or
       the nose.
      The undercoat should be clean and healthy looking.
      Signs the ferret may be experiencing bloating or diarrhea.
       This could mean he has an illness or infected with
      Curious. Playful. No cowardly ferrets here!

Now when you're out and your child drools over a ferret, you at
least have a good sense of criteria to steer you to a healthy one!

Before you make any decision on your ferret, decide on how
many ferrets you'll adopt together. Are you planning on just
adopting one? Or have you been talked into taking two, because
you've been told they'll be happier. This is especially so if you're
not planning on letting them roam throughout your house.

That depends primarily on your lifestyle. If there is always
somebody home to pay attention to the ferret -- and to play with
him. Then no, I wouldn't recommend a second ferret.

                           FERRET CARE

But, if you live in a household with two incomes, you chauffeur
your children to lots of clubs and other meetings, you might be a
two-ferret household.

You -- and your children -- in the second scenario may want to
consider two ferrets. You may have limited time to spend              PAGE | 14
playing with the little guys. And let's face it. These guys eat
attention right up.

And heck! What's the difference? You're already caring for one.
The truth of the matter is that many ferret lovers will tell you
right up front to get two of these delightful fuzzies -- regardless
of your lifestyle.

You really don't have to worry if you adopt more than one ferret
about these guys being very territorial. At least not in the same
way dogs are. But they are in a very real sense aware of

This shows up in their wild cousins, the polecats. This species of
animal marks their territories and will eventually even chase all
other polecats of the same sex off their land.

When you have several ferrets in a cage, you'll see similar
occurrences on a "micro" level. Two ferrets may end up
"squabbling" over the most trivia of things (at least that how it
looks to our, untrained human eye!).

Ferrets in the same household for the most part share just about
everything without any problems. You will find from time to
time, this territorial instinct raising its head. They do, for
example, make claims to a certain section on their beds.

Now that you're considering two, you have to decide on the
genders of these guys. For the most part, those in the know on
ferrets say that it's much easier to introduce ferrets of the
opposite sex.

                           FERRET CARE

Let's modify that sentence just a little. It's easier, that is, to
introduce "altered" or neutered ferrets of the opposite sex. Got
it? (Wink. Wink.) Of course, this is just a precaution.
Introducing two unaltered of the two sexes bring you to a whole
new realm "the ferret nursery" -- and trust me, you're not ready     PAGE | 15
to go there yet!

But if you want to have two ferrets of the same sex, choose
males, oddly enough. More people say the odds are much higher
that two altered males will get along quicker and easier than two
altered females (I don't think I even want to go there!)

Oh, you say you already have one ferret. And now you're
thinking about expanding this ferret kingdom to bring another
into your household. This is possible, but it's not the easiest
task in the world.

Certain "laws of ferret behavior" exist that you need to be aware

First, introduce the two fuzzy guys in neutral territories. If
you're going to have some type of toy for them to share, make it
brand new. In effect, you’re making the toy "neutral" as well.

In this way one won't feel as if the other is the dominant one.
The two ferrets can feel they're meeting on an even footing.

You also need to be careful when the ages of the two differ.
Your aging ferret may be less than patient with an up and
coming kit, who has energy galore.

But, don't totally toss this form of introduction aside either. It
could be -- depending on the personalities of the two -- that the
young kit is "just what the doctor ordered" in order to keep the
older animal feeling a little younger and more like playing.
Sometimes there's no telling how these introductions are going
to work themselves out!

                             FERRET CARE

Now on first introduction, they may have to get some of that
instinct out. This involves screeching at one another with
humped backs. Heck, they may even roll around with each
other for a moment or two.
                                                                     PAGE | 16
You'll be able to tell that it's not very seriousl

However, keep your eye open for any signs of true aggression.
Don't worry; you'll be able to tell when that friendly screeching
turns into ongoing seriously aggressive screeching.

But beyond this, here are some guidelines to let you know the
initial first encounter is going well. First, after 10 minutes the
screeching should be all over. The tails of both animals as well
should return to their normal sizes within 10 minutes of meeting
the other too!

If after 10 minutes one -- or both -- of the ferrets are still
screeching, tail pulling or other seemingly aggressive behavior,
end the little get acquainted session for the moment. You may
want them to try to get to know each other later in the day or
even the following day.

And yes, there are different types of ferrets. Many of these are
distinguished by not only the coloring of their fur but also their

Look, for example, at the "Siamese Ferret." As might you may
guess if you're at all familiar cat breeds, the Siamese Ferret
possess darker "points" on his face. His "mask" as it's called
resembles the letter "V".

There's also a champagne version of the Siamese or point
ferret. This particular kind has no mask, but the nose is lighter

                            FERRET CARE

in color most of the time it's pink or beige and usually has a "T"

The Solid Ferret. You might guess that the solid ferret is the
one who votes regularly . . . holds a steady job . . . no, no,
that's just a small ferret joke. Okay, a very small ferret joke.        PAGE | 17

The solid ferret possesses a more concentrated coloring than the
standard ferret. And in the ideal world, all of his guardhairs will
be colored. It's not that he doesn't have points, mind you. You
just can't distinguish them. A solid ferret, in fact, should also
possess a full T-bar mask as well as a nose color that matches
his coat color.

The Standard Ferret. This ferret sounds like he's about to win
some outstanding award at an all-ferret pet show. The standard
ferret is probably the most common type you'll find today.

The guardhairs on this little critter are no less than 90 percent
the same color compared to his white guardhairs.

The body color appears light than the points on the legs and tail.
This makes the points much easier to see. Standards are
additionally identified by their nose colors, which should be
appropriate for their body colors and their full or T-bar masks.

But wait, we're just gearing up on explaining the different
shades ferrets have. It makes little difference what the ferrets
are called. The important aspect of this is to know that all
ferrets are typically grouped according to their coloring.

Black ferret for example, is a remarkably beautiful animal. His
guardhairs are actually black while his undercoat is either white
or has a light golden cast to it. His eyes are black or as close to
black as possible. And of course, his cute little ferret nose is also
black. Sometimes, you'll find the nose of the black ferret to be a
speckled black.

                            FERRET CARE

Don't confuse the black ferret, described above with the black
sable. While the black sable appears at first glance to be black,
upon closer examination, you'll discover he's actually an
extremely dark brown. He too has a white or even a cream
colored undercoat.
                                                                       PAGE | 18
This is hardly noticeable through the very dark guardhairs. His
eyes are also a very deep dark brown -- almost black. And of
course this ferret's nose is also black. But you may see some
black sable ferrets with a mottled -- or marbled -- blackish
brown nose.

Chocolate. Yes, this ferret is described as chocolate because
his fur is that delicious shade of brown. And while you're
envisioning this ferret, think of the sable, because the coloring is
closely related to the black sable. The undercoat of this
particular animal has either a golden cast or its white.

More than likely you'll find that the chocolate ferret has brown
eyes, but you may see one here and there who has dark
burgundy eyes. And yes, they are every bit as beautiful as they

Now after all this dark chocolate floating in front of you imagined
a light pink nose either with or without the brown "T" outline.
Sometimes you'll discover this variety of ferret also has a beige
or brick colored nose.

Champagne. Think diluted chocolate. This particular ferret is a
light to medium tan and as dark as a "diluted chocolate" say the
experts. His white undercoat may get as dark as a cream color ,
but usually no darker.

This fuzzy critter's eyes can range from a light color to a dark
burgundy. Like his chocolate ferret friend, the champagne ferret
has a nose that in most cases is pink. And you may find that
these may or may not have the brown to beige "T" outline.

Cinnamon. The coat of the cinnamon ferret is an absolutely
gorgeous shade of light reddish brown. The undercoat that

                            FERRET CARE

corresponds to this is either white or has a golden cast to it. The
eyes of this guy are light to medium burgundy with a pink nose.
You may also find this variety of ferret to have a dark a nose as
beige with a brick colored "T" outline.

Curiously, many experts will tell you that none of this really        PAGE | 19
matters. The truth of the matter, they say, is that true red
cinnamon ferrets don't even exist today! Go figure!

Albino. The albino ferret, just like an albino in any other
species, lacks any pigment in his skin or his eyes. This type of
ferret may range from a creamy white to a snow-white color
both on the guardhairs themselves as well as the undercoat.
Every albino also has light to medium pink eyes. And every
albino ferret has a pink nose.

DEW -- Dark-eyed white. This ferret, in many ways,
resembles the albino variety. He has either a white or cream
colored coat or a pink nose. But instead of the pink eyes of the
albino ferret this category of mammal has dark burgundy eyes.
The DEW pattern of this animal possesses 10 percent -- and in
some cases less -- guardhairs in the form of a stripe, colored tail
spots or sprinkled throughout the coat itself.

The DEW ferrets have one disadvantage. This variety tends to
be prone to deafness, a result of the Woardensburg Syndrome.
This is the same syndrome which causes deafness in white long-
haired cats with at least one blue eye.


Well, so maybe I should have mentioned this a little earlier. Did
you realize (probably not if you're new to this whole ferret thing)
that ferrets are actually illegal to own as pets in some cities as

And while in other states or cities you may legally own one as a
pet, you may have to buy that little furball of a friend a license.

                            FERRET CARE


You see there's quite a bit of confusion when it comes to the
exact status of a ferret. It's pretty sad, isn't it, when even the
experts can't agree on the exact nature of this animal.               PAGE | 20

Some experts claim that the ferret is a wild animal . . . not a
domesticated pet. And not only that but, the ferret doesn't have
the potential to be domesticated for a long, long time.

Other experts -- equally as educated, but obviously seeing
things a tad differently -- say that the ferret is indeed a
domesticated animal, and has been for thousands of years. So
who's right? Hard to say.

It's evident that the various states and cities in this country are
pretty mystified by the whole deal. And in some ways that's
pretty understandable. Ferrets, it appears, go by two names.
Sometimes they like to travel in cognito, I guess.

Depending on how you learned about ferrets, they are known by
two distinct (but similar) scientific names. Some scientists refer
to the ferret as the Mustela fura. This makes the fuzzy little gue
a species all to himself (congratulations on your independence,

Another school of scientific thought view today's ferret as a
descendant of the wild European polecat whose scientific name is
Mustela putorius furo. You can certainly see the similarity
between the two names, can't you?

And in fact, the ferret is most often known by the latter name.
And that's the legal leg governments stand on when they classify
these guys as "wildlife." Ferrets, then, are viewed just like a

But wait! There are still several other reasons that have
absolutely nothing to do with the legal name of these guys that
many see them as "wild."

                           FERRET CARE

Many believe they are wild because they just "look" so similar to
their cousins, the polecats, weasels and the minks.

Others confused the "domesticated" ferret with his black-footed
cousin who is ferret in name only and on the endangered wildlife      PAGE | 21

Now that you know all of this, you need to do a little research
about not only how your state views this guy, but you’re your
smaller municipalities see him as well. Don't promise your kids
something you might not be able to deliver (even though it's
through no fault of your own).

Technically, the Department of Agriculture of the U.S. classifies
the ferret as a domesticated animal. But there are still quite a
few state agencies that think . . . and act . . . otherwise.

Some agencies classify them not as wild, but as "exotic" animals
(go figure!). And some state or city entities have banned them
just because they believe the ferret is a dangerous animal.

Two states that come to mind, right off the top of my head, that
ban ferrets are Hawaii and California.

If though, your state is cool with ferrets, that doesn't mean you -
- and he -- are home free. You still have to check with your local
government -- your city or township trustees. It could very well
be that they have banned this little guy or at the very least have
regulated him.

Do yourself -- and your children -- a favor by checking first with
your local government about your ability to keep ferrets as pets.
Then ask the local officials where you would go to for state
information. If all else fails, surf the net to see if you can
discover laws that apply specifically to you and your geographic


                            FERRET CARE

Well, that's just easier said than done. And it's totally an
impossible decision unless you know something about the
natural disposition of ferrets.                                       PAGE | 22
So let me clue you in on something. Your decision should be
based solely on your experiences as well as your lifestyle. I've
met plenty of people who just won't settle for anything but a
"baby ferret" or a kit, as the little ones are called.

Others couldn't possibly imagine contending with the training
period of kits, so they want absolutely nothing to do with the

And yet others, usually parents, say to me, "But I think we
should get a baby so that the ferret and Terri Lou can grow up
together, bond and be good friends." Yeah. Whatever.

What these people don't realize -- and perhaps you don't either -
- is the extreme sense of flexibility ferrets have. An adopted
adult ferret will love you just as fiercely and loyally as if you
adopted him from a little baby.

But, having said that, I doubt if that still helps in your decision
much. So here are some things you should know about adopting
both the babies and the adults.

It's hard to resist a baby of any species . . . but it's extremely
difficult not to fall madly and hopelessly in love with a kit. They
are both a delight and yet "bouncily" mischievous. And if that
weren't enough, these little guys appear to have an endless
supply of energy.

If you think adults are fueled with energy and propelled with
personality . . . you ain't seen nothing yet!

                           FERRET CARE

But, if you already have small children in the house, then you
probably should not get a kit. There are a few aspects you need
to at least consider before you mix small children and baby
                                                                    PAGE | 23
The first of these being the mere time constraints a baby kit
makes on your time. Being more active and way more playful
than an adult ferret, the baby kit will demand more of your time.
And you already know you don't hav much of it because of the
small children in the house.

Another good reason to keep the babies and baby kits separated
is that the ferrets are still learning how to use their mouths as
most young pets are. So they tend to be a bit "nippy."

It isn't really a trait you want to encourage (though I know lots
of ferret owners who do!). Biting can escalate far too quickly,
especially when dealing with ferret kits and small children.

If you choose a kit, you'll not only have to train him, but
socialize him as well. You will be the person who has to teach
the little guy is right and what is wrong.

Now that's a tall order even if you didn't have your hands full
with children. Add a couple of small kids to the scene and those
responsibilities may soon become overwhelming.

And as a responsible ferret owner, you have to make sure . .
from the very beginning . . that the kit has all her baby shots.
And no you can't take the kit and your baby to the same doctor
to get the vaccinations!

Granted, if you've chosen your baby kit carefully and bought him
from a reputable establishment, your baby ferret should already
have received his first distemper shot even before he goes home
with you.

                            FERRET CARE

But keep in mind that he may also need up to four more
separate shots, depending on her age and if she's on any
medicine when you get her.

THE DELIGHTS OF                                                       PAGE | 24
Adult ferrets make wonderful pets, too! Keep that in mind. No
matter what any well-intending friend, neighbor or family
member tells you, you don't need that baby ferret time with this
delightful animal to feel the full bonding experience.

When you welcome an adult ferret into your home, he'll love you
while showing you every bit of charisma and energy you could
ever imagine in one of these animals.

And adult ferrets are easy enough to find. Unfortunately, there
are far too many of them waiting in shelters across the nation to
find good homes. It breaks my heart thinking about these little
guys expecting to find a home.

So what type of families would provide the perfect environment
for an adult ferret (or two)? Families with

. . . small children
. . . those of you looking to "cuddle" with a ferret.
. . . the "rescuers" among the group

Before you take this step, though, you need to review a few
items yourself. It's just a precautionary measure to ensure that
the ferret you rescue won't land back into a shelter.

The life span of the average ferret is at most eight years. This
means that you'll have less time to spend with your adult
adoptee than you would a kit.

At least, this is the case in the theoretical world. It may be that
you adopt a young kit only to lose him in several years -- or less
- to some unexpected disease. You just never know.

                           FERRET CARE

This may seem a bit odd to say, but when you adopt an older
ferret you'll notice that he's more at ease with himself and even     PAGE | 25
seems a little "wiser" about his environment.

This is not to say that he lacks energy. Heavens no! He'll have
his energy intact as well as his inquisitiveness turned on high.
Adults are still amusing, playful and a delight to be around.

And just so you can brace yourself should you go the adult route
to adoption, the full-grown ferret can get himself into quite a
mess, should he desire!

But, just like humans, adult ferrets are often "set in their ways."
You may be able to teach an old dog new tricks, but try
correcting an adult ferret so he'll change his behavior. It can be
done, but it's not for the meek and mild to do!

You may be adopting, moreover, an adult you has been abused
or neglected in some way. In this case, you're not only trying to
bond with a new pet, but you're now trying to help him
overcome some personal problem as well.

Then again, some ferrets are so resilient you would never know
that they had any emotional problems in their past.

I guess what I'm really saying is that every adult ferret is an
individual. And as such the individual ferret acts in his own
manner. It may take you a while to get used to your new friend.
Trust me, it may take him a little time to get used to you too!

                            FERRET CARE

Here are a few more facts that you should know before you
adopt an older ferret. Most of these guys have had at least one
other caretaker other than you.

They also, in all probability, have been trained to use the litter
box as well as taught that "nipping" is wrong. Now, having said       PAGE | 26
this, it doesn't mean they can be stopped if they're biting out of

Keep in mind that some of the older guys needing homes may
not have been properly socialized from the start.

There's really only one way to tell if the one older ferret you see
is right for you. Spend a little bit of time with him before you
make your decision.

Don't worry, the staff at the shelter won't mind. They would
much rather you spend time now and decline a particular ferret
than bringing him back if things don't work out.

Excuse me? Just where do you think you're going with those
binoculars, that net, dressed like an overgrown scout?

Oh, you're going out "ferret scouting." Well, of course. I guess
I should have known that now.

So you're ready to make the plunge to adopt a ferret. You know
how many you'll be adopting, the approximate ages of them (or
him) and . . . .

What? Only one thing is missing from this equation? You're not
quite sure where you're looking. Many first time ferret owners
have this problem. And looking through the yellow pages under
"ferret stores" doesn't provide any relief either.

Actually, once you're in the flow of ferret selection, you'll
discover many places opening up to you where you can adopt an
older animal or choose a brand, spanking new kit.

                             FERRET CARE

Exactly where you look depends on several criteria, not the least
of which is your personal priorities -- and I'll explain this in just a

Pet shops as well as breeders are usually the two places most             PAGE | 27
people end up visiting. Pet shops are especially popular for first
time owners, if for no other reason, they know of no other
potential ferret stores.

Breeders, though, are usually the choice of the veteran ferret
parent, the person who has already been through the drill of
choosing a ferret and has a couple of connections in the ferret

You can also find ferrets at various rescue and animal shelters as
well as from private individuals.

If you're considering two or more ferrets, then get these little
guys from the same source right from the start. This minimizes
the need for painful introductions or lengthy quarantine sessions.

And don't worry. No matter where you ultimately decide the
adoption option starts, you're bound to get a very adaptable
ferret. It's just in their nature. As long as you're generous with
your time . . . . show them a little bit of patience . . . . lots of
love . . . and one of your hands is holding some "ferret-friendly"
treats, the two or more of you will get along famously.

Many people avoid pet shops for the adoption of dogs, because
those breeders who sell to pet shops have terrible reputations
for the most part.

                           FERRET CARE

You need to know right up front if you buy a ferret from a pet
shop, the odds are good that the kit has come from a "ferret
farm." Yes, a "mass producer" of these animals, if you will.

These particular fuzzy friends will be on the average smaller than   PAGE | 28
one you adopt from an independent, local breeder. So keep this
in mind when you go ferret hunting.

Not only that, when you adopt a pet shop ferret you may not
receive a health guarantee with the little guy. If the store you
adopt the ferret at doesn't offer you one, request one.

Yep, don't be shy on this issue. This actually shows the store
employees that you at least have a little knowledge about

Pet Shops:
The Good, The Bad
And The Mediocre
If the particular pet shop can't offer you a health guarantee with
your little guy, don't take him home. Find another adoption
source. Pet shops with good reputations usually want to keep
their reputations good. So they just about always offer these

You may also find that adopting a ferret from a pet shop may be
more expensive than animal and rescue shelters. Of course, the
expense is worth every penny if your ferret is in good health and
plenty of energy. It's really hard to put a price tag on that sort
of thing!

Don't ever forget that there are differing quality levels of pet
shops too. For example, a quality shop instructs its staff
members to play with the ferrets frequently. This helps to keep
them socialized. This means a lot when you walk in to check
them out. They already know how to behave in your presence.

                             FERRET CARE

In pet shops of lesser quality, let's say, the staff for the most
part ignores the ferrets -- except to feed and water them. The
ferrets don't receive much human contact this way.

And when you walk in off the street asking to play with one of
these little guys, he may not know the proper ways to act with        PAGE | 29
you. In animal science parlance, he may not be socialized very

Not only that, you can tell a pet shop that's not quite the quality
you're looking for by the level of knowledge of animals. So it's
good that you have a solid foundation in ferrets and their care . .
. so you can spot the level of knowledge of these staff members
as quickly as possible.

Not only that, but pet stores which aren't extremely
knowledgeable, you'll discover, seldom, if ever offer after-
adoption support. (Do the parting words "so long, sucker" mean
anything to you?)

So I can see that next question forming on your lips: How do
separate a good pet store from a bad? And that's an excellent


First of all, never adopt the ferret on your initial visit to the
store. You don't get a good picture of the level of staff
commitment or knowledge in one quick visit.

Instead visit at least twice and maybe even three times. In this
way you get an idea of how consistent they are in there care of
the ferrets -- and other animals as well.

Yes, you can judge a pet shop by its cages. And by all means
you should. The cages of its residents should be clean and tidy.
In fact, the entire store should be looking pretty lean and tidy
itself. If you don't think the store is clean enough, it probably

                             FERRET CARE

isn't. And it's very possible the health of all of its residents -- not
just the ferrets -- are at stake.

Pet shops certainly make a convenient method of adoption. But
keep in mind that this is also a limited option. The average shop
for the most part only has a few commercially bred its at any             PAGE | 30
one time. That limits your choices some.

No doubt your intentions are good. And in many ways it's a very
wise move. Rescue a ferret who has already had a home. So off
you trudge to the local animal shelter. Good for you.

But beware of this adoption option as well. Not every person is
made to adopt a ferret in this manner. Keep in mind that not
every ferret in the shelter was given up because of lack of room
at home or even lack of money to continue feeding the animal.

Some of the ferrets you find here come with pretty sad histories.
And you may never know the entire story of these potential
adoptees. Some of these little dudes hav been abused . . . some

What does this mean to you? It means you'll have to be doubly
patient with them, perhaps. They may be wary (with good
reason) of humans.

Not only will you have to do the customer "getting-to-know-you"
that accompanies the introduction of any pet into a household.
But you'll also have to convince this poor little guy that you're
not the bad guy and the bad guys don't live here any more. And
that could be a very tall order, indeed!

You may want to check out the selection carefully. Many of the
fuzzy creatures may also have special health needs, such as
daily medications or a special diet. If you know without a doubt
that you have the time, energy and love for a guy like this, then
this is your "ferret shopping" home.

                              FERRET CARE

Having said all of that though, you can find ferrets who were
surrendered for any number of reasons. And you can find a
ferret who wasn't neglected or abused and needs very little
additional socialization.

So even if you don't think you can handle a "special needs"                PAGE | 31
ferret, by all means check out the animal shelters in your areas
as well before you decide on your perfect ferret.

To be truthful, the number of ferrets that end up in these
establishments are astonishing. And for the staff it can be quite

In many shelters they have so many, you can literally choose
your color (if that's important to you) and the place will have it.
And in reality, adopting a ferret from a shelter is a wonderful
testimonial to support the ferret cause.

Some of the larger shelters, in fact, may have as many as 50 or
more ferrets at any one given time. Because of this, many times
the adoption fees on these animals are far less than what it is on
cats or dogs. The fees though may also fluctuation depending
on the age and the health of the animal itself. So once you're at
the shelter, don't be shy about asking questions.

Adopting from a shelter is a much more "transparent"
transaction. What do I mean by this? Think about it for a
moment. Individuals who staff and maintain the shelter are
doing it because they are driven by a true love of animals.

The bottom line at pet stores . . . well, let's face it . . . it's their
bottom line. The pet store is created to make money. The
shelter is created to find good homes for animals.

The staff at the shelter will be frank in revealing everything
about your potential new pet. They want nothing more than to
see it gain a lifelong home. The money is purely secondary. In
fact, it's only a necessary evil in some of their eyes to keep the
establishment running.

                            FERRET CARE


Once you've decided on your ferret, you can expect the staff at
the shelter to thoroughly interview you. Many individuals take
this process personally.
                                                                       PAGE | 32
Don't. It's part of their job and it's one of the necessities of
ensuring an accurate placement. The mission of the shelter is to
place ferrets into lifelong, loving homes.

You may discover, during this process, that the shelter has
placed specific restrictions on adoptions that the pet shop or
even a private breeder don't. Just about every shelter, for
example, require that the individuals who adopt the ferret return
the animal to the shelter should the relationship not work.

Others want proof from landlords if the families are renting their
house or apartment that ferrets are allowed. And still other
shelters require that all family members be present for the
adoption process.

Before you get your heart set on that Fred the ferret over there,
be sure you're clear on all the requirements and restrictions of
the shelter.

Check Out Your Local
Classified Ads

Absolutely! This is a great option. Again, you'll be adding to the
ferret cause by adopting a ferret who may be otherwise in
danger of losing his home through no fault of his own.

But don't limit your thinking just to classified ads in the local
papers. Check out he bulletin boards at your local veterinary
clinics or even at pet shops. And in many cases, not only will
you receive a delightful ferret, but you probably will get a host of
supplies, toys and a home for the guy!

Keep in mind though that most ferrets sold in this manner are
older. But adopting the ferret direct from his previous owner has

                            FERRET CARE

its own set of distinct advantages. Not the least of these is that
the owner can tell you everything you need to know about his
health as well as his personality!

The disadvantages to this form of adoption include not receiving
a "health guarantee" as at a pet store. But, after talking with          PAGE | 33
the owners, you can usually get a good indication of the ferret's
health status.

Knock! Knock! What's that at the door? You open the door to
see a ferret standing there, holding a stick with a handkerchief
wrapped around it, carrying some items.

He looks strangely like hobo from the 1930s. Before you can
ask what he needs or wants, he's already in the door looking
around . . . giving you the once over . . . and unpacking his little

Inside this kerchief, he has a water dish, a food bowl and a few
toys. He arranges these and then announces, "Yep. I think
you'll do just fine! I'm adopting this as my new home."

If you ask some people who have taken in the stray ferret, this
might as well have been the scenario. A ferret strolled by,
appearing homeless and before you know it, the small furry
creature beguiled every member of the family. The next thing
you know, he's right at home with them.

Is this any way to adopt a ferret you ask? Well, it might not be
the recommended method, but it is frequently done this way. If
you're the family beginning to lose its heart to this little guy, just
be careful. You really have no idea about the background of this
poor creature or the experiences he's been through.

More than likely he's scared. So you'll have to approach him
carefully. More than likely he's also very hungry. And this may
be your first mission -- feed the fuzzy! And it's quite likely that
he is confused.

                            FERRET CARE

This poor guy isn't quite sure what your true intentions are . . .
so he just might appear a tad aggressive. Keep in mind that's
his only real form of communication with you right about now.

                                                                        PAGE | 34
If you decide to keep your stray ferret, then your first stop is
your local veterinarian. Remember that ferrets can be
susceptible to rabies. So, it's important to get the little guy
checked out.

If you already have ferrets, then follow all the proper quarantine
procedures. This means you keep your new family member in
its own cage for a minimum of two weeks, away from the other
ferrets in your home.

But you'll also want to feed her and clean her cage last. And
remember to wear a different shirt over your clothing when
handling this particular animal.

And whatever you do, handle the little guy with kid gloves. If
you're bitten during this quarantine process, you will then need
to take him to the vet where he'll have an extended quarantine
period of at least 10 days. Just about every state requires this.

It's essential! There is no option when it comes to this. The
good news is that for most of us, when we do receive our
ferrets, they are already either spayed -- if she's a female -- or
neutered --if he's a male.

"Fixing" this particular animal, as many people call it, is just that
important for a number of reasons. First and just for your own
purely selfish reasons, you really don't want much to do with

                             FERRET CARE

raising ferrets. It's not only difficult to do and requires a lot of
work, but it is above the expertise range of most of us.

Altering as the procedure is more appropriately called has many
benefits, not the least of which is the freedom from that strong,
musky odor the animal's glands produce otherwise.                      PAGE | 35

Spaying and neutering reduces this body odor by decreasing the
system's oil production. In turn, you also have the benefit of
your ferret's fur being more silky and beautiful.

But beyond that have your pet altered usually equates to better
behavior. Males who don't get neutered are usually quite
aggressive. They are usually so aggressive they need to be
contained separate from other ferrets.

If you bring home a male who happens not be neutered, then
you'll want to get this performed when the animal is between the
ages of four to six months old. This usually stops any aggressive
behavior which has developed.

If you have a female ferret you'll definitely want to take ferret
into get spayed. In doing this you very well could be saving the
life of your new friend. (Not that she'll understand it at this

A female ferret, according to veterinarians, is an "induced
ovulator." A never-spayed female will only ovulate if she has
had contact with a male.

The appropriate, resulting sexual stimulation that creates certain
hormones which release her eggs to take her out of heat.
Without this essential release, the ovaries continue to secrete
the estrogen hormones. And that means the female can literally
stay in heat for months!

As horrible as that may sound, there is still another reason to
have your female ferret spayed even before you bring her home.
This long-term release of estrogen can become toxic to your

                           FERRET CARE

pet's bone marrow. When does reach the toxic stage, he can be
the precursor to a fatal anemia.

If your ferret has been in heat for more than three or four
weeks, you should probably take her to your vet. Get a blood
count performed to see just where she stands.                          PAGE | 36

The most telltale sign your female ferret is in heat is a swollen
pink vulva that reaches its maximum size about one month after
the onset of estrus.

You may also notice certain changes in the way your ferret
behaves, including a decreased appetite, less sleep as well as
increased irritability.

Just how serious is this problem? Pretty serious. It's a sad fact,
but science has estimated that about 90 percent of all female
ferrets not spayed and not bred die during their first spring-
summer period.

For the most part, altering a ferret is nothing we as responsibility
ferret owners usually worry about. It's something that is usually
already performed on the animal even before we bring these
cuties home.

But don't forget to ask. Make sure. You can never assume
anything -- especially when it comes to this area of expertise.

Your ferret is no different from any other carnivore. In what
way, you ask? Well, in many ways, but right now we're
discussing his anal sacs.

                            FERRET CARE

Yes, it's not a topic to be brought up at the supper table or with
company, but it is something ferret owners have to deal with --
in one form or another.

These anal sacs are musk-producing glands which are located on
both sides of the anal opening.                                          PAGE | 37

The process of descenting, by the way, does absolutely nothing
in changing the body odor of your ferret. The emission of this
musk contains a pungent odor in its own right. Like a skunk, a
ferret only secretes this when he's startled or frightened.

You'll probably be relieved, right about now, to know that
properly handled ferrets, seldom, if ever, actually release the
contents of these sacs. They never really feel threatened
enough to do so.

More often than not ferrets release the contents only when they
feel they're in danger of being attacked physically by another
ferret or by an even larger animal.

And yes the odor they do release is strong -- very strong. But,
interestingly enough, it also dissipates in quick order.

After reading all of this, I can see you getting little Freddie Ferret
dressed in his overcoat and his hat and heading out the door to
your vet's office for a quick descenting. But many vets tell me
that this process is not necessary for a ferret to become a good
house pet.

And it's possible that the ferret you adopted, if you got him
through a pet shop, is already descented. Many pet shops do
this right along with the ritual spaying an neutering they perform
on the animals.

If you're going to descent your ferret, you should make up your
mind very early in your relationship with him. Experts
recommend that the descenting take place when he's between
the ages of six to eight weeks old.

                           FERRET CARE

If you wait much later than that the surgery gets a little more
traumatic for the ferret. In fact, when a vet descents a young
ferret, he doesn't always sew him up. Very often these tough
little guys heal on their own -- without any help.

Now you are well set to make an educated decision on whether a      PAGE | 38
ferret is the pet for your family -- and whether you want to
adopt one or more. But not only that you're, now also familiar
with types and colorings. What more could a new potential
ferret parent ask for?

Accessories? Supplies? Oh, yes, of course. Then you need to
check out the next chapter. In this chapter, I talk about some of
the items that should be ready and waiting for your youngster
when you bring him home!

  Get Great Discounts For Your Ferret & Other Pet's Here

                           FERRET CARE

                      CHAPTER 3:
                                                                     PAGE | 39
     ait! I see everything here in your home for a ferret, but

W    the fuzzy animal. What gives? Oh! Now I understand.
     You're just about ready to adopt your new member of the
family. But you want everything in its place before the
homecoming. Smart. Very smart!

Bringing your ferret home with conditions all ready for him to
walk into reduces the stress for the little guy right from the
start. But more than that, it also reduces your stress. You're not
running around at the last minute -- usually at the wee hours of
the morning -- trying to find appropriate accessories for your
newly adopted family member.

In the meantime, you may possibly be keeping your ferret
contained somewhere so things at home don't get out of hand.
Oh, yeah! I know. I've been in that place too! And you can
expect to have one unhappy ferret once you let him out to roam.
But that goes without saying.

What's it going to be? We have a beautiful large two-story
condo over here you might be interested in. Plenty of floor
space for you. Or would you prefer a quiet bungalow like this
one we have here.

What am I doing? Why I'm house hunting for the new ferret
that I'll be bringing home soon. What does it look like I'm

And if you're planning on adopting a ferret (or two) you should
probably plan on doing this in your near future as well.

                            FERRET CARE

Your ferret's accommodations can be as simple as a cage or as
elaborate as a multi-level condo specifically designed for ferret's   PAGE | 40
. . . or some individuals simply "ferret-proof" a spare small
bedroom in the house for him.

Most people opt for some type of cage or condo-like structure.
As you browse your pet store, you'll be amazed at the wide
variety from which you have to choose.

And if you don't like any of those (or they should be slightly out
of your price range) then it's time to take mouse in hand and
search the internet. You may find something here that works for

But if not, you still have several more options. Check out
magazines which are devoted to ferrets, like Modern Ferret


No matter what type of cage or condo you decide on, make sure
you provide your ferret with a litter area, a separate feeding
areas as well as a sleeping area. What you may not know about
your future roommate is that he likes to discover dark and
private areas. This is where he feels really safe to curl up, fully
relax and sleep.

Once you get his condo home, you'll want to be sure to put some
type of box or even a large tube where he can go to "hide" safely
and nap. This is part of every ferret's routine.

If you're looking into the truly deluxe version of ferret condos,
then you're in for a real treat. And so is your fuzzy friend.
These elaborate homes come already equipped with hanging

                           FERRET CARE

hammocks, tubes in which to play, as well as distinct eating and
litter box areas. Everything a ferret could possibly want!

There are only two things that limit how elaborate you can get
with housing your ferret. The first is your imagination. The
second is your checking account.                                      PAGE | 41

And that brings us to a good point. You could spend a small
fortune on housing for your ferret. You could also then spend
another small portion on accessories, like toys and the most
expensive water and food dishes around.

But remember your ferret probably won't care a whole bunch.
He cares more that his surroundings are clean. And he cares
even more that the people he's living with care for him . . . treat
him well . . . and love him. And that's the bottom line to any
person-pet relationship, now isn't it?

One of the first two items you'll want to buy are the food and
water dishes. Now before you run up to the area and pick out
just any two dishes, you should know something about that
ferret you're planning on bringing home with you.

The size of these two dishes should be appropriate and in ratio
to the size of his house. You'll especially want the food dish,
additionally, to be heavy. Your friend, Frank Ferret, will have no
trouble toppling over a lightweight dish. Before you know the
food dish becomes his personal toy.

You'll easily recognize when this day arrives. He'll be flinging
the dish all around his house. So to eliminate this problem try to
find a relatively heavy one. That way, unless he's SuperFerret,
he'll have problems playing Frisbee with that one.

If, by some chance, you've already purchased your dish and you
may think it's a bit on the light side, don't worry. If you can tie

                            FERRET CARE

down the dish to the housing unit, you'll have that little fuzzy
ferret fooled!

The food dish, by the way, should be located near his sleeping
area -- definitely not near his litter tray. But that seems like it
only makes sense.                                                     PAGE | 42

Sleeping Accessories

Ferrets may be best known for being balls of furry non-stop
energy. But, believe it or not sooner or later they do get tired!
And when they get tired they really do appreciate a soft bed.

Surprisingly, there aren't really fussy about what constitutes a
bed. The main criteria they look for is softness and burrowing
potential. If it's soft and they can wrap themselves up in it,
you've got a ferret you'll sleep away.

By the way, just to let you know. Even though you may think
"energy" when you think ferret, they tend to sleep 18 to 20
hours a day. I tell you, that four to six hours of unadulterated
vibrancy is tough to maintain!

So if you think your ferret is sleeping a lot. He probably is. But
his metabolism needs all this sleep. So please don't wake him
up so you can play with him. (Even though he may do that do

Keep this in mind while your accessorizing his cage even before
you bring him home. Ferrets are notorious for loving hammocks
(it probably has something to do with how their bodies are
shaped!), as well as sleepsakes, sleep cubes, and beds.

Heck, if you have nothing else for them, they'll even appreciate
a T-shirt or some fleece. Ferrets love nothing better than to
burrow into their bedding in their sleep (You've heard of sleep
walking? Ferrets sleep burrow. Go figure!)

Many people -- as well intended as they are -- try to substitute
wood chips for bedding. This isn't a great idea for several

                           FERRET CARE

reasons. The first is that it may cause your sensitive ferret to
develop respiratory problems.

But let's face it, you wouldn't want to sleep on stiff, hard,
uncomfortable (to say the least) wood chips. But more than
that, ferrets have very sensitive feet. Wood chips may injure         PAGE | 43
those feet.

Having said that, you also need to take a second look at the
flooring of your ferret's new cage. If it's a wire floor, you may
want to cover it. And it really doesn't have to be with anything
soft. Just make sure his feet won't get injured by the wires

Covering the floor could be as easy as taking a piece of linoleum
even, or some types of flooring tile.

The same advice applies to the water dish. Heavy dish, placed
near the sleeping area and not the litter box. But if you want,
you may instead provide Fred Ferret with a water bottle that
attaches to the side of the cage. Just make sure you install it
low enough that your ferret can drink from it.

And if you ferret is a brand, spanking new kit, then first teach
the little fuzzy guy how to use it. No, you don't have to drink
from it yourself in order to show him.

Just hold his nose to the nozzle. The water will then dispense for
him and he gets the idea. Just as a safety precaution though
you may want to use a water dish as well for a little while -- just
long enough for the baby kit to get used to the nozzle.

A baby ferret, by the way, can all too easily become dehydrated
even with water available for drinking. Usually this happens
because they don't realize they can get water from bottle. And
you certainly don't want that to happen to your new family

                            FERRET CARE

So I saw you in the pet store the other day looking at collars and
harnesses. For your upcoming adoption of your ferret (or              PAGE | 44
ferrets) I presume? Good for you. And it's really is a great idea.

Keeping either a collar or a harness on your pet ferret is an
excellent habit to get into. If they should "escape", then the
collar easily identifies your ferret as a pet, not just some lost
feral animal.

You don't have to put a lot of "fashion" thought into buy a collar
for your new ferret though. No one ever accused the ferret
collar as being a fashion accessory. I really don't care how they
are marketed at the stores. It is necessity.

When you go searching for one for your ferret, ignore going for
glamour. Instead based your purchase on functionality with your
little friend foremost in mind.

You'll want to buy a collar that is, before all else, lightweight,
preferably one made of nylon, soft leather or suede.

If the collar is too heavy your little friend will end up on a
mission to see if he can remove it from his neck. (And believe
me, I've watched mine on those missions. Those guys are

You will also want to get a small bell that attaches to the collar.
In this way, you'll be able to tell where that little guy is during
the day. (And you will learn how to worry when you don't hear
the bell.)

If you decide to buy a harness, you'll soon discover that you can
teach your ferret to walk along right with you on a lead. If you
do this, though, make sure you buy the correct harness. Don't
try to make one from an old dog lead.

                             FERRET CARE

Your ferret will slip out of that one so fast . . .

You'll want to get a harness especially for a ferret. It will
undoubtedly be a full body harness, by the way. This is for their
own good and actually helps to ensure their safety. Don't worry
that anyone will think you're being mean. You're not. You're        PAGE | 45
being a good parent by being careful.

If you've ever seen a ferret in one of these, you're missing one
of the cutest sites ever. They look so cute in these! You may
be the only one excited by the harness, initially.

Don't be discouraged by this. Give your ferret some time to get
used to the idea of a harness before you attempt to go for a
walk with him. Don't hurry him. I guarantee you, he will get
used to the idea of being walked around a ring like a simple
show pony. Evidently, he's thinking, you just don't know w

But, remember to only use this when you're walking him. Once
you two are inside, then take it off of him.

If you have any questions when you purchase the equipment ask
the clerk at the pet store where you bought it. Hopefully, he or
she is knowledgeable enough to answer your questions and
assuage your doubts.

One thing you're about to learn when it comes to ferrets is that
they love their toys. While a human baby may have too many
toys. And certainly you may think your 10-year-old may have
too many.

But most ferret owners agree: Ferrets can never have too many
toys. It's just a fact of ferret life.

And if you're thinking about adopting a ferret, you're smart to
think about bringing at least a few toys home before you bring

                           FERRET CARE

your ferret home. There's nothing like a welcoming gift or gifts
for your new family member.

And I see you now, standing in the pet store wondering exactly
what you should be purchasing for your new pet. Let me give
you a clue: ferrets have been known to play with just about         PAGE | 46

But as a parent who doesn't have a bottomless pocket of money
to spend on toys, I have a second clue for you: buy durable

There are to fundamental factors that should determine any
purchase when it comes to toys for your ferret. Durable
undoubtedly is one of them. The other word is safety. That's

Having a ferret playing with toys is like having a toddler around
the house. You have to be very careful that the toys don't have
parts and pieces small enough the ferret can swallow. As a ferret
parent, it's your responsibility to check the toys occasionally,
just as you would for your children.

If you have found some toys you deem unsafe, simply throw
them away. Don't worry, you're not being wasteful. You may,
indeed, be saving the life of your ferret by doing this!

If as you browse through the pet shop you find few toys marked
specifically for ferret play, I'm not surprised. Many a ferret
owner improvises when it comes to this area. Actually, just
about any toy marked as being for cats are perfect for your
ferret, believe it or not!

Here are just a few ideas for some toys you can have waiting for
your ferret when he makes that grand entrance into your home!

                           FERRET CARE

Balls, balls, balls.

You can never have too many plastic balls, as far as a ferret is
concerned. And if the balls make noise, even better. Jingle bells
in balls and other noisemakers are welcome addition that keep a
ferret mesmerized for long periods of time.                          PAGE | 47

When you buy various balls, switch it up a bit. Certainly the
hard plastic variety are welcome, but don't ignore the softer
balls, often made of fleece these days. This gives your pet
something to carry around easily with him.

Manufacturers do make balls specifically for ferrets though.
These are usually a larger than your typical cat balls quite a bit
larger actually. And they have some holes in them. That's so
they can climb in and out of them! Yes, sounds like fun for even

And just like cats, ferrets love to play in paper bags and boxes.
So don't be shy about stocking up on these as well.

And don't forget to include some tubes specifically designed for
ferret play. You'll love how they clamor all over these tubes and
travel at what seems like lightning speed through them. You'll
have just as great time watching them as they do playing with
the tubes.

Of course! By all means buy a couple of baby rattles for your
"baby" to walk around with. He'll love it! And they look so cute
carrying these things around!

And while you're buying supplies along these lines, be sure to
pick up several soft cloth bags. Your ferret will not only enjoy a
rousing game of hide-and-seek (either with you or his cage
mate) or he'll enjoy a relaxing in the bag sleeping!

                            FERRET CARE

Think about this. Give your ferret a tent or a small house. It
will be great for him to play in, but it'll also provide him with a
valued piece of private real estate for resting and relaxing.

                                                                        PAGE | 48
While you choosing the toys you're purchasing to you're ahead
of the game when you bring your ferret home, here are some
toys to absolutely avoid.

You don't want to buy Freddie the Ferret any toys composed of
soft rubber or latex. You see these materials in many toys
manufactured specifically for dogs. These toys are just far too
easy for ferrets to chew up and accidentally swallow.

But just one word of caution. No matter how many toys you buy
your new little friend, always be prepared for him to check out
what you're using "as a toy." If it's good enough for you, he
thinks, then it's undoubtedly something he would find

Yes, indeed. Your house now looks like it's the perfect home for
some lucky ferret. All it's missing is . . . well, Freddie the Ferret

It's time to bring him home and learn how to assimilate him into
your family and learn some cool ferret habits.

Ready? What a coincidence. It just happens to be our next
chapter. Let's get it on!

                            FERRET CARE

                       CHAPTER 4:
                                                                        PAGE | 49

     es, just about everyone in the family looks pretty happy

Y    now. The new little guy must be here . . . somewhere.
     Don't worry, he'll learn to love you guys. You've just got to
give him some time.

And while you're waiting for him to get adjusted, here is some
sage advice on several aspects of ferret ownership! I hope they
help you adjust to your relationship with your new family

If you've never had a ferret before, it might be a good idea for
you to look over some of these suggestions for handling your
furry ball of energy. They'll help you to bond quickly with your
new friend. And they'll help put him at ease at the same time.

First, always speak in a soft, friendly tone to the little guy before
you pick him up. If for no other reason, just to let you know
what you're planning on doing.

Look at you two. You must appear pretty large to that little
fellow down there stuck on the ground. Even the shortest of us
probably appear to e pretty large.

Don't handle your ferret immediately upon his waking up either
from a deep sleep or a nap. This I suggest not only out of
courtesy to him, but for your own sense of being comfortable

                             FERRET CARE

with him. Allow him to wake up, perhaps eat a little bit and
definitely go to the litter box.

Treat your ferret occasionally when you pick him up. You don't
want to offer him a treat on every occurrence -- just often
enough to keep him hoping that something great lies in his              PAGE | 50

While we're on the topic of picking up your ferret, let's talk for a
moment about picking him up. Many owners make the mistake
of allowing the pet decide when it's time to squirm down out of
their arms.

Don't be one of them. Don't put him down when he wants
down. Instead, decide, right from the start that you're going to
train him. (Otherwise, he's going to train you!)

If you starts to put his teeth into you, indicating he wants down
(cats will do this as well!) then give it a sharp "No!" If he
doesn't listen, then add a slight thump on the nose and give him
a second, stern-sounding "No!" That should give him a clear
enough message.

This may sound silly to those of you who have never owned a
ferret prior to this, but this lively animal loves to actually play a
variety of games. Hopping, jumping, even mock combat are
among their stash of normal games.

Every ferret I've owned, in fact, has also enjoyed a rousing
game of tug-of-war. And believe me, it's not your imagination.
These guys really do want your input in the games they play.
Don't be surprised if they come looking for you so you can chase
them . . . or possibly they chase you.

                           FERRET CARE

And then they love to dig and burrow. Fall is the perfect time for
your pet ferret to go through the leaves. You'll be rewarded with
what one of my friends call "the hopping dance of joy!"

And what ferret doesn't love a good game of hide-and-seek?
Give it a try. Go ahead. Put away all those inhibitions of yours     PAGE | 51
and play a few games with your newfound friend. You'll be
simply astounded by the bond this creates between the two of

Roughhouse with your ferret on occasion, too! Don't be shy
about this -- just be careful. That little pet of yours may be
small, but he is definitely used to playing tough!

You and your ferret are built differently. Yes, I'm sure you
already noticed this. And to some extend I'm sure your ferret
does as well. Ferrets, for one thing, have extremely tough skins.
Much tougher than ours. And both the adult ferret as well as the
baby play pretty tough with each other. And it's fine, because
they each have that tough ferret skin.

But this level of play is also something that causes more than
few problems when your ferret views you as an oversized
version of himself. He doesn't realize that your skin isn't as
tough as his.

Your ferret has already learned how to play with his mother,
brother and sisters without harming them. And he'd like nothing
better than to play with you on this same rough-and-tough
scale. But she really needs to learn just how rough-and-tough
she can be with you.

Don't allow a situation to occur in which your ferret plays with
you and actually (though unintentionally) hurts you or a family
member. Your new ferret can learn the acceptable bounds of
playing with humans. But you need to teach this to her.

                            FERRET CARE

And you do this by correcting her when she gets to rough . . .
not occasionally though. You correct every time she becomes
too rough. You must do this consistently for it to work. And the
amount of discipline isn't as much as you may imagine. Your
ferret is a smart animal who really doesn't want to hurt you in        PAGE | 52
the first place. Before you know it, the two of you will have
reached an understanding.

Even a kit -- the baby ferret -- can occasional nip too hard (and
this is the stage the ferret is still learning his bounds). For this
reason, it's recommended by all experts that a young kit and
young children should never be left to play alone without some
type of adult supervision.

Before you allow the two to be alone, be sure that the child is old
enough -- and experienced enough -- to handle the ferret
properly. Also ensure the child knows and can carry out proper
ferret discipline.

It's common! Much more common than you may expect among
ferrets! Why ferrets (and cats too for that matter!) love to nip at
toes is one of those mysteries of life.

One possible explanation is the ferret doesn't connect those
digits down there with you. He's just looking for something to
chase and hopefully catch.

Whatever the reason behind your ferret's behavior, you can't
allow it to continue. A stern-sounding "No!" spoken about six
inches from your pet's face -- while making eye contact with him
-- is the most effective approach.

If you have what ferret owners call "a toe nipper", a pet that just
can't seem to stop, there are ways to curtail his behavior.

                             FERRET CARE

Simply spray Bitter Apple onto you socks. Then purposely tempt
the ferret. You've just taught your ferret that those mysterious
things aren't worth the trouble. Guaranteed!

GROOMING AND CLEANING                                                PAGE | 53
Your new ferret is just like any other pet. To keep him looking
good (and what ferret doesn't want to look attractive) as well as
healthy, he'll need some grooming. It's all part of being a good
ferret parent.

Now here, ferret parents finally have a choice. For many years,
if a ferret parent, such as yourself, wanted a handsome, healthy
pet, we'd have to learn the ins and outs of grooming our own
pets. There was no option. No professional groomer was really
interested in grooming a ferret.

Today though, ferrets are so popular as pets, that many
professional groomers have reversed themselves on this
decision. You may have to make a couple of telephone calls to
find a groomer who accepts ferrets, but it is possible.

But, on the flip side of that.

Grooming a ferret is so easy, you just may decide not to take
your beloved pet to a groomer. You, instead, may just groom
him yourself. If you do decide to go this route, here are some
quick and easy steps to follow. (Keep in mind though there is no
shame in taking him to a groomer if you find you really don't
want to do this!)

Let's start with the ears. This is one of the two hardest parts of
taking care of a ferret, so let's get it out of the way early. His

You can clean his ears, but it's best if you enlist the aid of an
unknowing . . . I mean perfectly willing . . . assistant. Firmly,

                             FERRET CARE

yet gently, your assistant will take one of his hands, grasping
the ferret around the shoulders and forelegs.

In his other hand, he'll be holding some type of small treat. He'll
use this to distract your fuzzy pal why the actual ear-cleaning
procedure is occurring.                                                 PAGE | 54

If your assistant is having difficulty with this particular pose, if
he feels more comfortable give him permission to perform a
proper scruff hold.

The first thing you'll notice is that the ferret's ears are small.
Plan on cleaning his ears with a cotton tip swab as well as ear-
cleaning solutions made specifically for either ferrets or for

You'll dip the tip of the cotton swab into the solution. Then you'll
squeeze off the excess. Carefully place the tip of the cotton into
the outer ear area. Gently wipe this.

Be careful to follow the directions on the bottle regarding the
number of drops you should be administering to your pet.

The next step is to clean the ear canal itself. The aim here is to
get rid of any debris that's already loose. It's not like you're
going on a "search and destroy" mission.

Don't go deep into the canal with the cleaning tool, but, instead,
gently just swab the folds of the outer ear as well as the base of
this organ. Be sure you've removed all the dirt from the guy's
little "pocket" at the back of his ear. He'll thank you for this.

And that's basically all there is to it. Your ferret will "shake out"
any excess debris from his ears on his own. Just be sure that as
part of your ear-cleaning standard you remove any dirt that has
formed in the "pocket" area at the back of the ear.

The normal color for ear wax by the way is golden brown or
reddish brown. If you discover that your ferret's ear wax
resembles coffee grounds, then he probably has ear mites.

                           FERRET CARE

These are microscopic parasites that may not only spread to
other ferrets, but can also infect your cat or dog before you can
get them under control.

The mites cause your poor ferret to be very uncomfortable, to       PAGE | 55
say the least and at its worst lead to even more serious health
problems. Any ferret you bring home from anyway -- even a
private breeder a pet stores and shelters, can have ear mites.

While many times, the newest ferret into the home is the culprit
of these creatures. When you bring your new ferret home, you
should double check to make sure he is mite free. In addition to
ear wax the color of coffee grounds, your ferret may have ear
mites if he is scratching at his ears excessively.

You may also suspect these tiny creatures are causing problems
if he is shaking his head a lot or has more ear discharge than is

If you notice any of these symptoms, schedule an appointment
with your veterinarian.

Your vet has several options to help get rid of the parasites.
First, he may prescribe eardrops for your fuzzy. Have more than
one fuzzy? You guessed it, you'll have to treat all of them. And
if you have a dog or a cat, your vet will most certainly have you
treat these guys at the same time.

While you're doing this, you won't be happy. Not be a long shot.
(And yes, I can tell you this from firsthand experience, thank

And treating these creatures is hardly a one shot deal. You'll
discover that you'll be treating this "outbreak" or potential
outbreak for the better part of a week.

Don't even think about skimping on this either. If you don't do
this properly and use the medicine completely, the ear-mite

                             FERRET CARE

problem is destined to return. It's better to just do it right the
first time and have all the pets in the household taken care of.

OF NOT TREATING EAR MITES                                                  PAGE | 56

If you don't treat your ferret's ear mites, your poor little guy
may end up with an inner ear infection (and that is more difficult
to treat!) This infection can be painful in and of itself. But this
health condition too can lead to an even more serious problem.
And that's possible neurologic problems.

What does that mean? Possible hearing loss. And certainly no
one wants that to happen.

Interestingly, some ferret owners have reported that following a
simple treatment for the ear mites, their ferrets' personalities
have improved 100 percent. Where once they were cranky and
temperamental, their pets are now much easier to get along with
and much more loving!

Ah yes! You've no doubt already noticed that your ferret does
have a set of nails. And yes, to answer that question that is
undoubtedly on your mind, you need to trim them occasionally.

By occasionally, I mean about once every two weeks. But this
schedule isn't written in stone. Just like each member of your
family is aan individually unique being, each ferret is an
individual as well.

And areas like nail growth, for example, vary from ferret to
ferret. And don't worry, you really don't need to run out to buy
specific ferret nail clippers. You can use regular ones. They
work just fine.

Clipping their nails is a lot like clipping a dog's nail, if you've ever
performed those duties. When cutting the nail, you need to be

                           FERRET CARE

looking for that red vein that travels through the nail. Don't clip

It is after all, a vein. It carries blood and will bleed. If you
accidentally clip it you won't know for a few initial seconds who
is the more terrified -- you or your ferret.                          PAGE | 57

If you're unsure of how to clip the nail, consult with your
veterinarian first. He'll show you exactly how to do this. You'll
feel much more comfortable that way and so will Freddie Ferret.

The first thing you need to know that in one way, your ferret is
like a cat. He can get hairballs. Ugh! That can't be
comfortable. But you can not only keep these to a minimum,
but possibly avoid them altogether by brushing him regularly.

And make it a habit to especially brush him during the shedding
season. This is when he's at his highest risk of acquiring those
nasty hairballs.

Yes you do! You really do have to brush your ferret's teeth. It
doesn't seem like a very pleasant prospect, but I'm sure Frankie
Ferret is real pleased about it either. But I'm sure the two of
you can come to a truce concerning this activity.

Now, having just told you that, I have to tell you, in the next
breath, that it actually is impossible to brush his teeth. The best
you can hope to do is to put some toothpaste on your finger, and
rub it onto the ferret's teeth.

Yeah! I agree. It is pretty lame. But it does help to get some
of that grime off his teeth. And since that poor little guy has no
opposable thumb so he can't hold a toothbrush himself, it's the
best either of you can hope for.

                            FERRET CARE

Just like with any pet -- a hamster or a guinea pig for example,
you'll need to keep your ferret's cage clean. This isn't nearly as     PAGE | 58
difficult or time consuming as you might think -- as long as you
perform this duty on a regular basis.

You know what your house looks like when you let the cleaning
go for too long. Mine can look pretty ugly. Well, your ferret's
will not only begin to look a tad messy, it'll probably smell as

This chore is best performed on a monthly basis. And you can
make it as simple as possible. Got a small cage, take the entire
cage outside and hose it down. Yep, get it good and wet. Then
start scrubbing it. Once you've cleaned the cage, hose it down
again, making sure you get all the soap off of it.

If your cage is larger and can't be lifted outside, you'll just have
to clean it in the house. Use a cleaner conducive with indoor
cleaning. And be sure to actually scrub it. You want to make it
as clean as possible for your pets. Make sure you rinse the cage
off well.

Here's another way your ferret is like a cat: he uses a litter box.
Well, that's the optimal goal, at least. And because he does
have a litter box at his disposal, you'll need to scoop the litter
once a day. And yes, life is so much easier with scoopable litter.

If you have more than one ferret, you may have to clean the
litter more than once a day. You can easily adjust this schedule
once you see how well your ferret -- or multiple ferrets -- use
the box.

                           FERRET CARE

If you think the litter is getting low, simply add more clean (and
fresh smelling) litter to the box. You'll probably have a ferret
waiting to use the new, clean box! So be prepared!

After a week or so, even the tray that holds the litter is getting
pretty grimy. You will want to empty it completely and scrub that    PAGE | 59
box down. Again, you'll gain the undying appreciation of Freddie
Ferret when you do that!

Yes, you really need to wash these too! I know I'm beginning to
sound like a broken record, but you can only imagine the
bacteria harboring in those bowls.

Sure, it's easy enough to look in the dish (especially the water
bowl) see no slime that's visible to the naked eye and blow off
cleaning the bowl. But, it's not safe for you ferret.

Once a week give it a good scrubbing and you'll have the peace
of mind of knowing that your ferret isn't going to pick up any
unwanted germs from those two containers.

And it's really quite easy to do. Just take them to the sink and
wash them with soap and water, just like a set of dishes. Just
be sure you rinse off all the soap before you place the bowls
back into the cage.

Have you ever seen a ferret at play? Have you ever seen him
toss his toys around? Then, you already realize the answer to
this question. Yes, you do have to wash his toys too.

If he has any stuffed animals, you can wash them in the washer.
Plastic toys can be scrubbed thoroughly and the soap rinsed off

                           FERRET CARE

Yes, indeed! You're well on your way to becoming a first rate
ferret parent! You've got the basics down now. You and your
ferret are -- even as I write this -- beginning to get to know each
other very well.

You're doing a good job so far! Congratulations!                      PAGE | 60

                      CHAPTER 5:

     et's talk food. Ferret food that is! Maybe you've already

L    noticed. When you walk down the pet food aisle of your
     local grocery store, you see seven or more varieties of cat
food . . . at least ten or more types of dog food . . . and even
maybe hamster and guinea pig pellets thrown in for good

So you walk up to the young man stocking the shelves and ask,
"Excuse me, but where is the ferret food?" If you get a blank
look from the young gentleman, don't automatically assume that
he's on some type of drugs.

It's just that commercial ferret food isn't going to be at your
local grocery store . . . and certainly you can't make a midnight
run to your nearest 7-Eleven store for it either.

Let's face it, giving your ferret that perfect diet may be one of
the more difficult parts of ferret care. After all, you want to
make sure your little guy is healthy. In a nutshell, you're going
to search out foods that are rich in fat, meat-based protein and
vitamins and minerals.

Hah! That you may discover is just a little easier said than done.
And now that I've told you what makes your ferret healthy and

                            FERRET CARE

energetic, let me advise you quickly on what not to give your
ferret if you're expecting him to remain healthy and vibrant.

Don't feed him (believe it or not!) fruits or vegetables. And
don't feed him starches or sugars. Wow! If you're new at ferret
parenting, you may think this is strict. But trust me on this one,       PAGE | 61
this is learned the hard way -- through experience.

Feeding your ferret the wrong foods can lead to a host of health
difficulties for him, not the least of which is obesity. And these
little guys are pretty low to the ground as it is. It wouldn't be
nice if they had a little belly dragging the ground as they ran

But more than that, the wrong diet can also lead to other food-
related illnesses as well as a shortened life span.

I would love to be able to tell you that some research scientist
sitting in some laboratory somewhere has developed the perfect
ferret diet. Of course, I could tell you this, but it would definitely
be a lie.

No one has developed the perfect diet for the proper -- and
healthy -- feeding of the ferret. Of course, it's one of those
situations in which you talk to five different ferret parents and
you'll get five different "ideal" diets for the ferret.

Of course, what people feed their ferrets depend on a number of
factors, among one of the primary: personal preference.
Another qualifying factor in deciding how and what your ferret is
going to eat is what's available to it in your area.

Before you even bring your fuzzy friend home, keep some of this
information in mind. But the bottom line is this: it's a learn as
you go process. The more you know about your individual pet
ferret, the better you'll be able to meet his individual health

                            FERRET CARE

Now having said all that, let's learn a little about just what
pleases the hungry ferret.

Ferrets are classified as "obligate carnivores". You already
probably recognize the "carnivore" part of this phrase as
meaning "meat eating."                                                PAGE | 62

And the "obligate" part, is a really just as it sounds. They must
eat meat! Virtually all of their nutritional needs, in fact, are
supplied through a meat-based diet.

Why? Well, here's where another scientific term comes into
play, but don't let it intimidate you. They must eat meat,
because the are "hypercarnivores." This means that their
anatomy . . . physiology . . . and even their behavior . . . have
become adapted to a strict meat-eating lifestyle.

But wait! It gets better. Now listen to this. Additionally, ferrets
do what is know in animal husbandry as "olfactory imprint" on
their foods. No it's not gross or anything like that. But it does
mean that their food choices are based, in large part by the odor
of the food.

Everyone of us could probably identify with this to some extent.
Who hasn't smelled something good cooking and known instantly
that you'll like it. In the same way, how many of us have been
turned off by some foul-smelling food that we even have refused
to taste!

This olfactory imprint is established in large part by the time a
young ferret reaches six months of age. It's finalized by the
time the animal reaches a year of age. In some cases, the ferret
can be as young as eight months old and have his imprint in

The corollary to this is that as they age, the less likely they are
to be able to recognize the smell of any new foods as being good
to the taste.

                            FERRET CARE

Another important health-related fact you as a responsible ferret      PAGE | 63
parent should know is the animal's inability to digest fiber. Keep
this in mind. It's not that they don't like fiber. Their bodies --
are not built to digest fiber.

Biologists tell us that the large intestine of a ferret is short and
tubular. Beyond that the animal lacks a cecum. This is the blind
pouch located at the point where the small intestine ends and
the large intestine begins. This is the exact point where fiber is
bacterially digested. It's similar to the appendix in a human.

So if you insist on feeding your ferret fiber, he's going to reward
you with soft, running or mucous bowel movements. And I
doubt if anyone really wants that! The Trouble with Kibbles

Well, you could feed your ferret kibble. But, there are
drawbacks to this. First, when you buy this dry food, you need
to ensure that the first three ingredients in the list are all meat

Secondly, you need to run down the list again to ensure that it
contains no corn! You'll be surprised how difficult it is to find
kibble that doesn't have corn.

And thirdly, don't feed your ferret kibble that contain dried
portions of fruits and vegetables. Your fuzzy friend just cannot
digest them (I can't emphasize this enough).

Now, here's another problem with kibble. Your ferret friend can't
chew it. That's right! Instead of chewing it, ferrets will swallow
it in chunks. If you've ever seen this and thought your ferret was
just being an overbearing, greedy eating machine, think again.
The poor animal was just eating it the best way he could.

                             FERRET CARE

And if he were doing this, then he may not be digested any of
that food properly. This is especially true if his access to water
is limited. Ferrets must first hydrate or moisturize their kibble
before the food can be properly digested by their body.

And don't fall for that line from well-meaning (but misinformed)        PAGE | 64
family members and friends who tell you that dry kibble helps to
wear down the tartar buildup on the ferret's teeth. If all your
ferret is eating is kibble, this hard food is just going to wear
down the teeth themselves. It's that abrasive.

If you do give your ferret friend some kibble, here's my
suggestion. First, moisturize the food for him. You can easily do
this by sprinkling a few drops of water on the food. Better yet,
sprinkle some chicken broth over these tough nuggets for him.
He'll enjoy that!

But also take that and microwave it very briefly. You're really
not trying to heat the food up so much as soften it some without
making it the consistency of canned food. This helps to minimize
the wear and tear on his teeth and definitely helps to improve
his ability to digest it.

Still even with all these precautions, you need to realize that
kibble isn't the best choice in diets for your friend. Mentally, it's
not stimulating for him. It's just a monotonous taste.

But beyond that, the process of manufacturing the food in the
first place -- the heat and processing of the kibble -- can make
some of the protein in the food harder to digest for the little guy
as well.

The bottom line is that kibble is what is known as an "extruded"
food. This means that the ingredients are ground finely into a
dough. Then they are pushed or drawn through a "kibble-
shaped" tube using heat and pressure. Then the dough is cut

                           FERRET CARE

and dried. No it certainly doesn't sound very appetizing when
you put it in those terms.

STARCH AND CARBOHYDRATES                                             PAGE | 65
Another good reason to go lightly on the kibbles is because of its
starch and carbohydrate content. Oh, yes. You'll recall that
starches and sugars are foods that the ferret just cannot digest.

In most standard kibble foods, these types of macronutrients
compose nearly 20 to 30 percent of the digestible carbohydrates.
The higher the levels of carbohydrates in your ferret kibbles, the
greater the chances of your pet developing some food-related
illnesses, like gastroenteritis, and bladder stones. And nobody
really wants that either.

And that brings us to a discussion of canned commercial food.
Canned pet food is for one thing available just about
everywhere. And it's hygienically safe. It's economical. And on
top of all of that it's convenient. And that's why it's so popular
among so many ferret owners.

If you're planning on feeding your ferret this, then barring
canned ferret food, grab the canned cat food. Yes, Morris that
finicky cat would be proud of you!

Again, the ingredients you want to see are meat products. They
should be listed up there at the top. You don't want this canned
food to be hiding any additional grains or sweeteners. It just
wouldn't be good for your little guy.

And, as opposed to kibble, canned foods are mentally
stimulating for your friend. After all, canned foods come in a
variety of flavors. So the tastes are varied for him. But even
better, this type of food is naturally low in carbohydrates and

                           FERRET CARE

high in fat and protein. It's just what the ferret doctor ordered.

Now before you get too excited about this, keep in mind that
canned foods are indeed more nutritious and far less harmful
than kibble, but actually "ideal" . . . well, not quite.             PAGE | 66

The higher quality canned cat food and ferret food is easier on
your pet's teeth, no doubt about it. But it just might lead to
faster tartar build up.

Additionally, canned food lacks the "nutrient density" to be the
mainstay of your pet's diet. This type of food is made up of 70
percent water. So your ferret needs to eat more in terms of
volume in order to obtain the same amount of calories provided
by dry food. The stomach of a ferret is rather small, so he may
not be able to obtain all his nutritional needs in this way. (Yes,
there always does seem to be a catch!)

But we're still not done making comparisons yet. Of course, it
depends on the brand, but it's rare that canned food alone is a
solid nutritional alternative to kibble.

And have you priced canned food lately? Just go price some of
that cat food. You'll see how expensive it can be. Now, I'm not
suggesting after all of this that you don't feed your ferret some
canned food. It just shouldn't be the mainstay of his diet.

The best alternative it seems to me -- and my ferrets have all
enjoyed this -- is to give them access to both.

Now that we have an idea of what you're feeding your friend,
you need to decide when to feed him. Oh yes, this is important

                           FERRET CARE

And as a good ferret parent, you influence not only what your
ferret eats (obviously!) but when he eats as well. Ferrets
willingly adapt their eating cycles to what and when they're
being fed. (That way they're sure not to miss a meal!)

If you're feeding your ferret kibble, for example, that happen to     PAGE | 67
be high in carbohydrates, the blood sugar fluctuations associated
with this food may cause your ferret to eat more often. In fact,
don't be surprised if he needs to eat every four to five hours. If
the kibble isn't really great quality, your ferret may even need to
eat as often as every three to four hours.

In contrast, if you're feeding your ferret friend a diet that is
more along the lines of his requirements as a carnivore -- lots of
fats and meat-based protein, your ferret will be satisfied for a
much longer period -- maybe even up to eight or ten hours.

You know yourself that some foods keep you satisfied much
longer than others. It's the same way with ferrets.

Why this is such a controversy among ferret owners is a little
baffling. But you'll also see this topic debated among some
other pet owners as well. Perhaps some ferret parents believe
that ferrets, left to their own devices, would eat as we humans
eat. As much as we possibly can . . . for as long as we possibly

Well, ferrets are so cool in so many ways and here's just one
more example of it. Ferrets will only eat as much as they need
to obtain the energy to keep their household under their reign of
terror. Yep, they won't eat more than they need to.

This is such a cool concept that it even comes with a name. It's
called "eating to meet caloric need." Why I've never developed
the knack of this, I'm just not sure.

                           FERRET CARE

But, here's the key to this cool approach to food. Your ferret can
only carry this out if his food is nutritionally complete. Yep,
that's right! If his diet is poor in quality, then he'll develop a
nutritional deficiency that will have him returning to the food
bowl to try to make up for it.
                                                                     PAGE | 68
And there's also a term for that. It's called "eating to meet
nutritional need." And if the diet is also loaded with
carbohydrates in addition to being of poor nutritional quality,
then that's when the dirty term "obesity" comes into play.

Now, are you beginning to really understand how important his
nutrients are. From the number of times he eats in a day to the
quality of the nutrients he ingests. Your ferret's health and
energy depends on your decisions. Not much pressure here!

If you know for a fact that you're feeding your ferret a high-
quality meal but you still suspect that she's packin' on the
pounds, pack her up and visit the vet!

Unexplained weight gain could be a symptom of an enlarged
spleen. It may also mean she's retaining fluid in her abdominal

Some ferrets, by the way do experience that "middle age"
weight gain. And some will get slightly heavier in the winter
months. But for the most part obesity is not a problem you or
your ferret need to worry about. That is, if his diet is properly

BUT . . . WHY?
Ah yes. Life is going so smoothly. You've got the ferret eating
properly, he's running around his cage like a crazy mammal.
He's trying to cause havoc wherever he goes.

                            FERRET CARE

And now you're telling me I need to change his diet? But why?
I've just followed everything you -- and the vet -- have told me.
What's wrong?

Nothing is necessarily wrong. Many reasons exist to change
your ferret's kibble diet. In some cases, it could be a medical      PAGE | 69
problem. But it doesn't need to be.

It might be something as simple as the type and brand of kibble
you've been feeding your ferret all these years is no longer

But maybe -- just maybe -- you've found an even better kibble
source for your ferret. More nutritious.

Or consider this scenario. You've adopted an older ferret. And
his diet was not in his best interest. Convincing this guy to eat
your idea of a nutritionally complete meal may be a little tough.

How do you convince the little guy himself that he needs to eat
this? This may be harder than you think. I can see it in your
face now. You're remembering my words about olfactory
imprinting and something about it being complete by the end of
his first year. Yes, you know you have a job ahead of you now!

But, you're determined, because you know that in the long-run
the food you're delivering to him now is vastly more nutritious
than what he was receiving.

Whoever claimed we ferret parents were not as smart as our
pets. Here's a quick trick (don't let your ferret read this!). Mix
the foods together in ever changing ratios. For example, just
add about 10 percent of the more nutritious food to his current
diet. He'll probably won't taste the difference.

Retain this ratio for a while and slowly build upon it. Before you
know it, he'll be eating a diet based more on the good "stuff"
than the nutritionally deficient foods. And he hasn't skipped a
single meal or snubbed his nose at anything you've offered.

                            FERRET CARE

If it's kibbles that you're switching, you may find your ferret a
little less than cooperative. You may discover that he's eating
the old kibbles but not the new. Not to worry. Just give him
some time. Don't give up . . . don't give in.

"The Switch" may take some time to pull off. Don't be surprised,      PAGE | 70
in fact, if it takes days weeks, or in some extreme cases, even
months. In the long run, it's really hard to measure the
importance of your ferret's health!

If you've read this section on your ferret's diet and have been
less than impressed with your choices of food for him . . . well,
you're not alone. In fact, in the last fifty years or more . . . as
the ferret as gained popularity as a pet . . . owners have grown
increasingly dissatisfied with the food choices for them.

Nothing is available, it seems, that meets all of their nutritional
requirements. So it's not surprising to find a rapidly growing
segment of ferret owners who have decided to take the
nutritional health and status of their beloved pets into their own

Just as you find natural health enthusiasts in the human realm,
you'll meet the same type of enthusiastic, zealots crusading for
their ferret's health. And I only have one word to say to them,
"More power to you." (Okay that's more than one word.) But

These folks try as much as they can, to provide their ferrets with
the meats, the organs and the bones needed for their pets'
health. They don't feed their ferret kibble using the very simple
logic that kibble wasn't a part of any ferret diet some 2,500
years ago.

These folks certainly have my vote. I've tried to explain, as
concisely as possible, what they believe the benefits of a natural
alternative diet for their ferrets are.

                            FERRET CARE

Some people refer to this alternative diet as an "evolutionary"
diet. It ensures, according to its proponents, that the ferret is
receiving the nutrient essential to his continued good health.

They like to explain that the ferret needs nine essential amino
acids. Essential amino acids are those the ferret's system can't       PAGE | 71
produce itself, so it must get from its diet.

There's just no other way. These substances are normally found
in foods that the ferret's wild relatives eat quite frequently. They
include rabbits, mice, rats, birds, frogs, lizards, and even

Calcium is another aspect of the diet that your ferret may be
lacking. You may be surprised to learn that many manufactured
canned cat foods -- and even ferret foods -- don't have any type
of quality bone meal included. This means ferrets may be
lacking on calcium.

These proponents also claim that a healthy ferret diet doesn't
mean a ferret needs to have food available to him 24/7.
Remember what we said earlier about the ferret eating to caloric
need or to nutrient need?

We also noted that a ferret who ate the proper diet may not
want to eat again for another 10 hours. These folks believe this
-- and in fact strive for this balance.

They point out that in the wild, food plates weren't set out for
them for their convenience. The untamed variety of ferret, or
polecat, only ate once, sometimes twice a day. (Remember the
meat based diet!) That should be the model for today's pet!

Additionally, proponents say the natural variety of foods that are
a part of this evolutionary diet -- from bones to meat to skin --
helps to "flush out" the intestinal tract of the animal.

                            FERRET CARE

What exactly does this mean? To your ferret it means less
hairballs and other unnecessary obstructions. It also may take
care of some nutrient needs that the ferret has that science
hasn't yet detected.
                                                                        PAGE | 72
Not only that, these people say, but just look at design of both
your ferret's jaw and his teeth. This leaves him with a limited
chewing capacity. His teeth, they say, definitely evolved to cut
meat and bone. Not to smash kibbles for up to ten hours a day.

Natural diet (raw or freeze dried) and an evolutionary diet (small
game) are the two types of diets gaining popularity with many
ferret owners.

Before we burrow into each of these diets, though, let's talk just
a little more about the ferret's ancestors as well as what they ate
in the wild. This gives you a much better idea of where these
individuals who feed their ferrets these meals are coming from.
It also gives you a better understanding of your pet's ultimate
nutritional needs -- and more importantly why he requires all of

Ferrets, as I have mentioned before are the ancestors of wild
polecats. Both the ferret and the polecat are obligate
carnivores, that is, these animals must eat a meat-based diet to
stay health.

Polecats, in their natural habitat, ate mice, rats, rabbits, frogs as
well as small snakes. In addition to this, while polecats also
munched on birds, eggs and even some fish.

During their meal, polecats would seldom discriminate one part
of the body from the other. This means they would eat not only
the flesh of the animal they caught, but also its organs and
many times the bones of the critter as well.

This is what many refer to as their "natural diet." As you can
see immediately, it's definitely a low-carbohydrate diet. It's also
low in fiber, but obviously rich in protein.

                           FERRET CARE

The other pretty amazing aspect of this diet is that it doesn't
lead to dental cavities or other tooth problems. It's thought the
different textures of the prey foods help to massage the ferret's
gums and therefore clean the teeth in the process (Ain't Mother
Nature wonderful?)                                                  PAGE | 73

If were ferret had been allowed from a very small age to choose
his own diet, it would have been something remarkably close to
what I've just described above. And he probably would have not
only been happy, but relatively healthy as well.

Don't underestimate the importance bones play in this diet. We
all know bones store calcium. So your ferret's chomping on
bones provides him with at least that mineral.

But beyond that, bones also contain an incredible amount of
other vitamins and minerals your ferret needs. Why, the
marrow itself is composed of tissues that just about totally fat
and protein -- two of the basic requirements of a ferret's diet.

Okay, so I'm really not advocating that you run out to find small
game, capture it and feed it to your ferret. Somehow that
sounds neither appetizer to you, nor would your ferret find it
extremely satisfying.

Many individuals prefer to feed their ferrets, chicken, beef, as
well as lamb. These qualify as "meat-based" proteins, even
though they don't really qualify as part of the ferret's natural
diet. (Just how many ferrets would it take to bring down a steer
in the wild so they could eat it?)

                            FERRET CARE

The question you really should be asking more than "how much"
is "what kind?" Believe it or not, not all water is created equal      PAGE | 74
when it concerns the drinking supply of Freddie Ferret.

Some ferret parents swear by bottled water or even distilled
water. Others claim that you're doing your ferret's health a
disservice by allowing him to drink distilled water. This type of
water, they claim, doesn't have some of the most important
nutrients that your pet ferret needs.

But I've found that tap water works well. The only time you may
not want to give your ferret tap water is if it contains high levels
of harmful chemicals. And in that case, you probably shouldn't
be drinking it yourself!

But he does need plenty of water. Allow him access to a clean
water dish or a water bottle at all times. Let him drink as much
as he wants.

This is probably a word you don't hear every day. Though if you
work at all closely with ferrets, you just might. It's the term
veterinarians use for cancer of the beta cells of the pancreas in
ferrets. Apparently, insulinoma is reaching epidemic proportions
among this species.

It also appears to be a disease related to your ferret's diet. If
you look closely at the word you'll discover why. The first part of
the word is "insulin." Now you probably know where I'm going

The actual metabolism of blood sugar in your pet is sensitive --
very sensitive it papers -- to dietary disruption. Diets that
contain too much carbohydrates cause the pancreas to produce

                            FERRET CARE

higher levels of insulin as a natural response to the high levels of
glucose in the blood.

If this sounds like diet-induced (or type 2 diabetes) you're close.
The causes ore similar, but the results are not the same.
Instead of diabetes, according to some ferret experts, the cells in    PAGE | 75
the pancreas don't just burn themselves out, but they change
their growth pattern. And the new, unusual carbohydrate
induced pattern produces a cancerous state.

                           FERRET CARE

                                                                  PAGE | 76
     ell, well, well. Imagine that. You've gone from a person

W    mildly interested in adopting a ferret to an outstanding
     ferret parent. You have certainly been working hard to
help your new family member adjust.

And you've done a wonderful job. Just look at him, running
around like a crazy ferret.

What? Wait? Where did he go? Oops. Naptime, huh? He looks
cute all curled up in his bedding.

I knew you were going to make a good ferret parent the moment
I laid eyes on you.

This book you know is only the beginnings of what you can learn
about ferrets. There are organizations and support groups and
many, many web sites all dedicated to fuzzies.

It's now your turn to keep learning . . . and convert another
person into a ferret fan.

                               FERRET CARE

                                                                            PAGE | 77

                               WEB SITES



Ferret Central,, accessed 26 Oct 09

Support Our Shelters,, accessed 26 Oct 09.

Evolutionary Diet,,
accessed 27 Oct 09

Ferret ear cleaning,
64.html, accessed 28 Oct 09

Did you know that . . .
64.html#ear%20mites, accessed 28 Oct 09

Descenting ferrets,, accessed
28 Oct 09

Schilling, Kim, Ferrets for Dummies, Wiley Publishing, Hoboken, NJ, 2007


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