Products Needed by Ferrets

Date Published: 03/07/2001

The following is a list of guidelines to consider when purchasing products for your ferret. For information on general care of the ferret read the handout. In addition there are a number of books on the subject of ferret care, and one of my favorites is A Practical Guide to Ferret Care by Deborah Jeans.

Cages

Do not buy a cage with:

  • Steep ramps – older ferrets, in particular, can have great difficulty on these and can be injured through falling
  • Smaller dimensions than 18”W x 30” L x 18” H - these are minimum dimensions and you should strive for something as large as you have space for. Multi levels will increase floor space
  • Large bar spacing on the sides and top that will allow the ferret's head to get caught – 1/2 to 1-inch bar spacing is preferred.
  • Large wire spacing on the cage floor that can cause foot injuries – the squares shouldn't be more than 1/4-inch wide
  • A cage door too small to get a litter box through - test it before you leave the store
  • Do not use an aquarium as a cage

Do buy a cage with:

  • All metal construction -easier to clean and deodorize than wood
  • Removable shelves and floor - make sure they are also easy to clean
  • Easy access to all levels for cleaning
  • Strong secure latches - weak spring latches can sometimes be pushed open

Litter Material

*Litter material refers to what is used in the litter box or under the wire floor of the cage in the cage pan.

Do not buy litter material that is:

  • Clay kitty litter or clumping litter - these products can cause upper airway irritation due to the dust, a dry dirty coat because ferrets like to play in the fresh litter material, and can cause airway obstructions if small particles get into the nose and mouth.
  • Corncob - harbors mold, is not digestible and can be a source of intestinal obstruction if eaten.
  • Pine or cedar shavings- contain volatile oils that can cause upper respiratory irritation and may cause elevations in liver enzymes. In addition, these beddings can cause respiratory irritation in humans and precipitate asthma attacks in sensitive individuals. They do not have the best absorbency either.

Do buy litter material that is:

  • Pelleted bedding – The pellets are composed of a variety of substances including wood, plant fibers, citrus byproducts, cellulose and recycled newspaper. Pellets control odor well, draw moisture away from the surface, do not damage the haircoat, are not irritating to the airway and can be composted. Try to purchase pelleted bedding that is not composed primarily of pine or cedar. Pelleted beddings are found in the cat or small animal section of pet stores.

Bedding Materials

*Bedding materials are what are used for sleeping areas for the ferret.

Do not buy bedding that has:

  • Any foam rubber in it - ferrets (particularly under one year of age) can chew through cloth and eat the foam rubber, which can then cause a fatal obstruction of the intestine.
  • Loops, small holes or strings that claws can get caught in or on.

Do buy bedding that is:

  • Durable and washable - i.e., sturdy cloth that will withstand a ferret “digging” at it and frequent laundering.
  • Soft and flexible - ferrets like to arrange their bedding suit their mood – this includes hammocks, sleep tubes, baby blankets, sleeves of sweat shirts, denim pant legs, etc.

Food and Water Containers

Do not buy food and water containers that are:

  • Lightweight – they are easy to flip over
  • Made of soft plastic – they can be chewed and pieces swallowed
  • Water bottles with rubber stoppers instead of hard plastic screw lids – the stopper can be chewed and swallowed causing an intestinal obstruction

Do buy water or food bowls that are:

  • Weighted or heavy - heavy ceramic crock bowls, weighted metal bowls, or bowls with a wider bottom than the top are difficult to tip over
  • Able to be attached securely to the side of the cage - remember ferrets can get UNDERNEATH some types of attached bowls and can push them UP, so keep that in mind when buying

Toys

Do not buy toys that are made of:

  • Latex or foam rubber! - Ferrets, particularly those under one year of age, will swallow pieces of these toys resulting in an intestinal obstruction that can be fatal if not surgically removed. NEVER allow a ferret access to these toys. If the toy squeaks, the attraction is even stronger.
  • Materials with attached ornamental pieces like buttons or eyes – these can be swallowed and lodge in the intestinal tract.
  • Styrofoam – ferrets will also chew and swallow this material
  • Hard nylon or rawhide - although these are not harmful, most ferrets are not interested in them and they are so hard that a ferret could chip a tooth trying to chew it.

Do buy toys that are:

  • Small and easy to carry by the ferret
  • Small metal balls with bells inside that cannot be torn apart
  • Ping pong balls
  • Small cloth human infant toys with detachable ornaments removed and no foam rubber inside
  • Paper or hard plastic bags or boxes- ferrets like rattling around in these cozy places
  • Cardboard or sturdy plastic tunnels to run through- PVC pipe, mailing tubes, dryer vent hose and even a pair of jeans work nicely!

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