Caring for a ferret is not difficult, but will require you to learn a solid routine of grooming and care to keep him healthy and happy. Just like dogs and cats, it is important to care for their teeth and nails as well as their fur. Frequent checking of their ears and regular baths will be needed. Ferrets will groom themselves some, but in order for them to be at peak health, they will need your assistance.
As with most pets, the routine of brushing their teeth may be difficult until they learn it is not harmful and they get used to the extra handling it requires. The sooner you begin brushing your ferret’s teeth, the easier it will be for him to learn and accept this routine and be comfortable with it. You can purchase a pet toothbrush and even pet toothpaste at your local pet store. Do not use a human toothbrush as it may be too large and may be a bit too stiff and cause your ferret discomfort while you are brushing, no matter how gentle you are. It is a good idea to have your ferret’s teeth cleaned professionally by your veterinarian at least once a year. Clean teeth are important to your ferret’s health, as the buildup of bacteria in his mouth reduces the efficiency of his immune system.
One of the most common complaints of ferrets is their odor. One of the things which can contribute to this odor can be an ear mite infection. It is important to inspect your ferret’s ears weekly for ear mites and to clean them with a cleaning solution your exotic veterinarian can recommend. The procedure is simple, requires only a few drops in each ear and then a gentle massage near the base of the ear to ensure the solution works its way down into the ear canal to loosen any wax that has accumulated. Using a cotton swab, gently clean the outer part of the ear. Any loosened wax will make its way out of the ear, so do not attempt to stick the swab in your ferret’s ear. If the ear wax in your ferret’s ears is black or very dark red, report this to your veterinarian, as this is a clear sign of ear mites, which will require treatment. Untreated ear mites can lead to deafness in ferrets, so it is important not to ignore this symptom.
Just like cats and dogs, your ferret will need his nails trimmed regularly, for both health reasons and prevention of damage to surfaces in your home, such as floors, cabinets, carpet and furniture. You can use ferret clippers or cat clippers, both of which can be purchased at your local pet store. If you are unfamiliar with trimming nails, it’s a good idea to have some styptic powder on hand, in case you trim a nail too short and it begins to bleed. It will help if you have some Ferretone (also available at local pet store) to keep him distracted while you trim his nails.
- To clip your ferret’s nails, place him in your lap on his back.
- Place a few drops of Ferretone on his belly. He will instantly be focused on the Ferretone and trying to lick it off. This is a great distraction technique which will allow enough time for you to clip all his nails.
- Using the diagram below, take your ferret’s paw and clip the nails accordingly, making sure to clip horizontally below the quick and not on an angle to prevent cutting the nail too short, which would cause bleeding. If you cut the nail too short, use the styptic powder to stop the bleeding quickly.
Ferrets do need to be bathed, but first time owners often bathe them too often in an attempt to get rid of their odor (which is actually normal for all ferrets), which can cause dry skin and make your ferret uncomfortable. Here are some important things to remember when bathing ferrets:
- Bathe your ferret in a room that is a comfortable temperature; not too hot and not too cold, and free of drafts.
- Any sink or tub of water will work fine, as most ferrets enjoy the water. For those that do no like water, you will need a double sink or two tubs set side by side. The first tub will be used to wet them. You will quickly apply a small amount of shampoo and then place them gently but quickly into the second tub for rinsing.
- Ferrets are sometimes bathed too often to combat an odor that is common with ferrets. Bathing a ferret too often can actually cause the oil gland which produces the odor to be overactive which is the opposite of the desired effect.
- An important thing to remember when bathing a ferret is to use an actual ferret shampoo, which will help to maintain the PH level of their skin, which is very sensitive.
- Ferrets have a core body temperature of 102. You should make the water temperature of their bath a little bit warmer than what you would for a cat or dog.
- Do not get water in your ferret’s ears, as this can cause an infection.
- Rinse your ferret when he is standing on all four legs and his head is clearly out of the way of the water. Rinse the fur thoroughly to ensure all shampoo is completely removed.
- Use a towel to remove any excess water from your ferret’s fur. You will not be able to dry him completely, but he will finish the job himself.
Do you have a ferret? Share some of your grooming tips with us in the comments!