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My ferret.

My ferret. Ferrets are very intelligent and inquisitive animals. A happy healthy ferret can live between 5-11 years.  They can live in wire cages, preferably with several levels so they have lots of space. They can also live freely in the house or an enclosure, with an easily accessible water bottle, food bowl and litter tray.

Ferrets are carnivores, therefore need high levels of meat protein and fat. They have a very short digestive tract, so they need small frequent meals throughout the day. They are extremely active and playful animals, so they always need time to socialise with you and they also enjoy playing with a variety of tunnels and balls.  Ferrets do not mind being handled when done so correctly (see below on the correct advice on how to handle your ferret).

History: Ferrets are related to mink and weasels, and are from the family called "Mustelids". Domesticated ferrets have the Latin name "Mustela Putorius Furo" (bad smelling weasel). In 3000BC ferrets were first domesticated by the Ancient Egyptians. It wasn’t until the 1980’s that ferrets became popular as pets. They were introduced in the 10th century to Europe as working ferrets. There are now no wild ferrets left in the world.

Breeds: Originally there were two ferret coat colours (albino & sable), but nowadays there are a wide variety of colours, patterns and markings. The eight most common colours are:

1. Albino (white coat with red eyes)
2. Sable (dark brown body, black feet, masked face)
3. Dark Eyed White (all white, with dark eyes)
4. Black (black coat, no pattern)
5. Topaz (light taupe colour)
6. Champagne (golden in colour)
7. Siamese/Chocolate (lighter colour of sable, with brown feet)
8. Red (mahogany coloured)

Looking After Your Ferret
It is important that any housing you may purchase for your ferret is escape proof, easy to clean, has a separate sleeping area, and enough room for your ferret to exercise, a good quality water bottle and food bowl in an easily accessible place. Outside it is acceptable for a ferret (or two ferrets that are happy living in the same area together) to be housed in a very large rabbit hutch, provided that they are given the opportunity to exercise by walking on a lead or allowed access to a large room in the house. It is acceptable for ferrets to be housed in an escape proof shed with a run attached and sufficient toys. If you were thinking about having an inside cage for your ferret/s then a large rat cage, a tall chinchilla cage, or a cage specifically made for ferrets would be acceptable. Also a litter tray must be available and should be emptied on a daily basis to prevent odour build up and attraction of pests. In the hutch or enclosure, use dust extracted bedding material such as Russel Bedding to prevent respiratory or skin problems.

See the full Supreme range of bedding and cleaning products in store at Scampers.

Feeding Your Ferret
Ferrets are obligate carnivores and require daily high levels of dietary protein and fat to develop strong muscles, healthy bones and to prevent illness. They have a negligible need for carbohydrate and fibre as they synthesise most of their glucose requirements – reducing the need for a dietary source. Ferrets feed throughout the day eating small frequent meals, this is due to the fact that they have an extremely short digestive tract and food passes through within 3-4 hours. The average ferret will eat 5-7% of its body weight on a daily basis; this is about 50-75 grams of food for a ferret weighing 1 kg.  These are approximate levels and will differ from animal to animal and according to life stage. Ferrets will require larger amounts during growth, gestation and reproduction.  Reproducing females require a minimum of 30% protein from their diet, and kits require high levels of protein and fat throughout their growth phase.  Feed levels may drop during later life and should be adjusted based on intake, demand and physiological changes, such as weight gain. Feeding a complete dried food provides all the nutritional requirements your ferret needs. Feeding fresh food requires supplementation of vitamins and minerals and may result in deficiency or more commonly toxicity, resulting in a range of avoidable illnesses and conditions. Always check the recommended daily allowances (on the front of the pack) are supplied by any food you buy. Always ensure that fresh water is available at all times, as eating dried food will often lead to higher demands for water on a daily basis.

Treating Your Ferret
Ferrets love a treat, and as long as they are good for them, there is no reason why you shouldn't occasionally feed one or two.

Ferrets are extremely active and very playful. Always find time to socialise with your ferret on a daily basis, this will add variety and stimulation to your pet’s day. Ferrets will play with small balls and enjoy a variety of tunnels to play in. This increases their exercise period, leading to a fitter pet and reducing ‘dietary related’ health problems.  Ferrets enjoy sleeping above ground level, so an ideal accessory is a hammock.  Check out the ‘Furry Fun’ accessories range from Supreme Petfoods in store at Scampers.

Handling Your Ferret
Allow your ferret to come to you before picking it up. This prevents frightening it and reduces the risk of being bitten.  Ferrets should be grasped around the shoulders, with your thumb under the front leg and your fingers under the jaw and other front leg. Support the hind legs with your other hand, then gently bring the ferret against your chest.

Ferrets are sociable, enjoying the company of their own kind, so it is often better to keep more than one ferret if possible. However, not all ferrets will like each other and never make the groups too big.  Neutered males and females will usually live together harmoniously and provide companionship and play for each other. If only one ferret is to be kept, you will need to provide extra playtimes and exercise for it to compensate for lack of company.

Common Illnesses
Ferrets should be checked on a daily basis for signs of illness such as unusual discharges, or abnormal behaviour. Ferrets should be vaccinated for distemper.

Respiratory infections - Stress such as weaning, separation, overcrowding and poor husbandry can encourage illness. Symptoms will include sneezing, coughing, fever, nasal discharge and lethargy. Seek veterinary treatment as your ferret may require a course of antibiotics. Several human influenza strains can cause influenza in ferrets. Humans can infect ferrets and vice versa, so take precautions if you have a cold or flu.

Nutritional diarrhoea - This can be due to a sudden change in diet. Avoid any sudden change in diet, new diets should be introduced gradually over a minimum of two weeks.  Diarrhoea should correct itself within a couple of days. If not, seek veterinary advice.

Infectious diarrhoea - This can be associated with parasites, bacteria or viruses and can affect ferrets at any age, although kits are most susceptible. In all cases it is important to find the cause, as ferrets can fall ill quite quickly, resulting in dehydration, poor condition and in the worst scenario, death. In all cases seek veterinary advice.

Foreign bodies - Due to the inquisitive nature of young ferrets, gastrointestinal obstructions are common. Occasionally a small, partially obstructing object may pass with the help of some intestinal lubricants, but in most cases surgery is necessary. In adult ferrets, hairballs can sometimes lead to obstruction especially during the moulting period. Grooming decreases the risk but for severe problems please see a vet.

Canine Distemper - Ferrets are very susceptible to Canine Distemper, which often leads to fatality. Signs of the virus include discharge around the eyes, nose and chin (eyes may be closed). Other symptoms are loss of appetite, a rash and lethargy. It is highly infectious and can be picked up from dog urine on the soles of your shoes. To prevent infection, ask your vet to vaccinate at 9 - 10 weeks.

Oestrogen induced anaemia - Jill’s are induced ovulators and may often have prolonged seasons if not mated. High prolonged levels of oestrogen in the body can cause aplastic anaemia. To prevent this happening, if you are not breeding from your jill you should have her neutered, brought out of season by a hormone injection, or present her to a vasectomised hob.

External parasites - Ear mites are common and will be apparent if your ferret shakes his head and scratches his ears often. It can lead to inflammation of the area and generally be uncomfortable to the animal.  Check your ferret on a regular basis for fleas and flea dirt. If fleas are found you will need to treat with a product recommended for use on ferrets. Don’t forget to treat their cage environment too.  Always consult a vet if you have ANY reason for concern.

Supreme Petfoods, Promoting the Well-Being of Small Animals.

Extra Bits about your Ferret:

Latin name: Mustela Putorius Furo
Female: Jill
Male: Hob
Young: Kits
Life Span: 5-11 years (domesticated)
Litter size: 5-13 Kits (average 8)
Birth weight: 8-10 gms
Eyes open: From four weeks
Gestation Period: 38-44 days
Average Weight: male 700-2000 gms
female 600-900 gms
Sexual Maturity: male 5-9 months
female - spring after birth
Weaning age: 6-8 weeks
Vaccinations: Canine Distemper
Diet Carnivorous:  (average 40-60gms per day)

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