Ferret facts and healthcare
Ferrets are probably descended from the European polecat and are closely related to weasels, mink and stoats. In Ireland they were traditionally used for hunting rabbits but nowadays they are rapidly becoming popular house pets.
Ferrets make great pets because they are cute, sociable and playful and don't need to be walked every day like a dog. They can also be house trained like a cat. The male is called the hob and female the Jill. The young are called kits
Ferrets live from 5-10 years and reach sexual maturity the spring following birth (at approx 8-12months). The female comes in season in March and will remain in season until September unless she is mated. The high levels of oestrogen she produces for that long period can lead to anaemia and fatal bone marrow suppression. Consequently all females must be spayed between 6-8 months.
Ferrets are lively and curious and if handled from a very young age are friendly and tend not to bite. They spend 75% of their time asleep, favouring dark enclosed areas. They love exploring and have a passion for swallowing objects especially rubber so when you get a ferret - pet proof your house!
Ferrets are very sociable pets and can be kept in groups provided enough tunnels, boltholes and climbing apparatus are provided. They are very clean animals and can be house trained with a litter box.
Ferrets are strict carnivores so do not digest carbohydrate and fibre very well. They require a diet high in animal protein and fat so dry kitten food or commercial ferret food is best. An egg or meat fat can be given as an occasional treat.
All ferrets need a vaccination against Distemper at about 12 weeks of age followed by a booster every 18 months. They may also need an injection or spot-on treatment against ear mites.
Both male and female ferrets should be neutered at 6 months of age. As well as preventing breeding (and fatal anaemia in the females), neutering also removes the pungent musky smell from the skin glands.