The Basics of Owning a Ferret

Are you considering purchasing a ferret as an alternative to the more-standard cat or dog? Ferrets can make great pets. Learn more about their basic care needs from a Treasure Coast veterinarian.


Your ferret should be kept on a high-quality ferret kibble diet for maximum health and nutrition. Ferrets are carnivores, so they need a diet based on animal protein. Most ferrets can have food left out for them at all times – unlike some pets, ferrets don’t eat a significant amount of food at one time, even if it is available. Since ferrets tend to play in water dishes, it’s best to supply a water bottle.


Ferrets can either be kept in a cage or be left to roam around the house. They can be litter box trained—ask your veterinarian for more information on this. If you want to keep your pet in a cage, make sure it’s spacious enough for your ferret to live comfortably, and keep the eating, sleeping, and litter area separate. Your vet can recommend a good cage size and layout for your pet.


Ferrets are very friendly and social animals. If they’ve been well socialized with humans, they don’t bite and don’t mind being held. They’re very intelligent animals, and in fact have a tendency to hoard small objects—keep all jewelry and other valuables safely stashed away. They can even open cabinet doors if given enough time to practice, so make sure any hazardous materials are locked up. For more information on understanding ferret behavior, see the article ‘How to Gauge Your Ferret’s Mood‘.

Ferrets sleep around 18 hours a day, and very deeply. They tend to acclimate their sleeping pattern to their owners’, so your ferret may actually sleep through the night and be more awake in the day, just like you!


Ferrets do have a musky odor, but it shouldn’t be overpowering or unbearable. Their skin secrets an oil that has a scent, and ferrets may produce more oil if they feel threatened or stressed. Consult your veterinarian for more information on this, and ask about other facets of ferret ownership to see if one is the right pet for you!

Our Advice on The Basics of Owning a Ferret in 2024

What kind of food should you feed your ferret, and how often?

Your ferret should be fed a high-quality ferret kibble that is rich in animal protein, as ferrets are carnivores requiring a diet primarily based on meat. It’s beneficial to leave food available to them at all times, as ferrets usually eat small amounts throughout the day rather than consuming large meals at once. Ensure the kibble you choose is specifically formulated for ferrets to meet their nutritional needs. Always provide fresh water through a water bottle, as ferrets often play with water if given in dishes.

Are ferrets generally friendly and playful? What unique behaviors might they exhibit?

Ferrets are indeed friendly and playful pets when well-socialized with humans. They are known for their curious and intelligent nature, often engaging in playful activities. A unique behavior ferrets exhibit is hoarding, where they tend to collect and hide small objects. They’re also capable of opening cabinet doors, showcasing their problem-solving skills. Ferrets sleep approximately 18 hours a day but can adjust their sleeping patterns to be active when their owners are awake. It’s essential to provide a stimulating environment with plenty of opportunities for play and exploration.

Do ferrets need specific vaccinations or regular checkups?

Yes, ferrets require specific vaccinations and regular veterinary checkups to maintain their health. They should be vaccinated against canine distemper, which is fatal for ferrets and rabies, as it’s a legal requirement in many areas. Regular checkups, at least annually, are essential for early detection and prevention of common health issues. During these visits, your vet can address any concerns about diet, behavior, and overall care. It’s essential to consult with a veterinarian experienced in ferret care for personalized advice and vaccination schedules.

What’s the average lifespan of a ferret? Are there common health issues or diseases to be aware of?

The average lifespan of a ferret is 6 to 8 years, though some may live up to 10 years with proper care. Common health issues in ferrets include adrenal gland disease, insulinoma (a type of pancreatic tumor), and lymphoma. Dental problems and gastrointestinal obstructions due to ingesting foreign objects are also prevalent. Regular veterinary checkups can help detect and manage these conditions early. A diet tailored to their carnivorous needs, alongside preventive care, plays a crucial role in maintaining their health and extending their lifespan.

Can ferrets safely live with other animals, such as cats or dogs?

Ferrets can coexist with cats and dogs if properly introduced and supervised, especially if the ferret and the other pets are socialized with each other from a young age. However, caution is necessary. Ferrets are playful and may not recognize the signs of agitation in cats or dogs, leading to potential conflicts. Similarly, dogs with a high prey drive may view ferrets as prey. Always supervise interactions, ensure each pet has its own safe space, and gradually introduce them under controlled conditions to assess compatibility.

For comprehensive health assessments and care advice for your ferret, consider our ‘Veterinary Diagnostics’ services. Contact us, your local animal clinic in Treasure Coast, FL!

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