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Massachusetts Ferret Owners – How to Care for a Pet Ferret

domesticated-ferretIf you are one of those people who like pets that are beyond the traditional dog, cat and goldfish variety, you might want to consider getting a pet ferret. Playful, energetic and highly intelligent – the domesticated ferret can be a great pet if you know how to properly care for it. While it isn’t necessarily difficult to care for a pet ferret in Massachusetts, there are some things you need to know before you decide to take one home.

The Basics: Ferrets 101
The ferret comes from the same “family” as the otters, mink, polecats, wolverines, weasels and badgers. The name ferret comes from the latin name furonem, which is loosely translated to mean “thief.” This is very appropriate because the playful domesticated ferret loves to “steal” things from their owner. They enjoy grabbing random objects and then hiding them throughout the house, in their enclosure or any favorite hiding spot.

While there are wild ferrets, such as the black footed ferret that you can frequently see on the Discovery Channel, the ferret that most people keep as pets has been domesticated for over 2,000 years. Originally brought to America approximately 300 years ago, the ferret has been up against many local laws and ordinances that still prohibit people in some states from keeping them as pets. It is legal to own a pet ferret in Massachusetts and it is possible to even find a small mammal veterinarian who specializes in providing ferret veterinary care in Dartmouth.

Ferrets are nocturnal, which means that they primarily sleep during the day and are more active at dawn and at dusk. However, domesticated ferrets enjoy spending time with their owners and will usually adapt their sleeping and activity schedule to fit the habits of their people. Friendly, loyal and loving, many ferrets can be trained to do tricks or learn skills for rewards, much like a dog or other domesticated animal.

Advanced Tips: What You Need to Know About Ferrets
On average and with proper diet and care, a ferret can live between 8-12 years. Most ferrets range between thirteen and sixteen inches in length and weighing between 1-4 pounds, with males tending to be larger than the females in both weight and length. Most of the ferrets that are sold in the United States are spayed or neutered and descented at a young age to prevent complications that can arise from neglecting these procedures such as weight gain, marking, spraying and behavioral issues.

It is important to note that ferrets have relatively poor eyesight, which is common with many small mammal pets, including hamsters and guinea pigs. However, to make up for their lack of sight, ferrets have a very sharp sense of smell and can hear incredibly well. This is important to know when training. Because of these skills and their high intelligence, ferrets can be trained quickly and easily, sometimes learning a trick on the first try.

Ferret Myths: Are Domesticated Ferrets Smelly?
Before you decide to get a pet ferret in Massachusetts, it is important to learn all you can about this amazing animal. Unfortunately, ferrets have a horrible reputation for being smelly. While they do have a musky scent about them, something that is common in the weasel family, it is not an overpowering or offensive smell. Many people imagine that it must be similar to a skunk because that is usually the only point of reference that they have for non-traditional pets.

While it is recommended that a small mammal veterinarian descents your domesticated ferret when you take it to get spayed or neutered, the musky odor will remain. This scent comes from the skin glands of the ferret and the smell can actually get stronger if you over-bathe your ferret. Occasional baths are definitely a good idea, but too many baths will dry out the skin, causing these glands to produce more oil and, as a result, more scent.

If your ferret does spray inside your home, the smell will dissipate rather quickly and can be washed away easily. If your pet has not been descented or if you are experiencing issues with excessive odors, seek veterinary care in Dartmouth at Anchor Animal Hospital, where they have doctors who specialize in caring for ferrets and other small mammals.

Daily Care: Proper Feeding
Another thing you should know about the domesticated ferret is that they have a short digestive system and a very fast metabolism. Because of this, you should have food available to them on a constant basis. Most ferrets will eat every 3-4 hours, but some will eat smaller, more frequent meals. Make sure to also provide fresh, clean water at all times and keep an eye on your ferret to ensure that he is not eating too much or gaining too much weight.

Regular visits with your small mammal veterinarian can help you keep an eye on the health and weight of your domesticated ferret. It is important to provide your ferret with regular veterinary care to ensure that there aren’t any underlying medical problems or issues that should be considered with regard to diet and activity. Because a ferret’s digestive system and metabolism are so unique, your veterinarian will likely suggest increased exercise rather than diet changes, to improve your pet’s health.

Both dry and canned ferret foods are available, similar to what you would expect for a dog or cat. However, it is important to note that you should only feed foods that are specifically designed for ferrets and not get dog or cat food. For many years ferret owners would use high quality dry cat food when ferret food wasn’t available. However, it is now recommended that you seek out ferret food whenever possible. Speak with your small mammal veterinarian for advice on where to find this food locally or online.

Ferrets require a diet that is high in protein. These proteins must come from a high quality animal-based source, containing 30-40 percent protein and 20-30 percent fat. The diet should also be low in carbohydrates, providing your ferret with less than three percent fiber. Look for foods that say “meat” or “meat meals” rather than by-products, which can be difficult for your pet to digest. Watch out for soy meal, corn gluten and other grain or vegetable based proteins that are not useful to ferrets, as well as high sugars – including fructose, corn syrup and sucrose.

Quality Veterinary Care in Dartmouth
Serving pets and their owners throughout Southeastern Massachusetts, Anchor Animal Hospital provides veterinary services to a wide variety of small mammals and other domesticated animals. You can trust the care of your domesticated ferret to the highly trained, experienced and capable veterinary staff at Anchor. For more information about the services provided, call today at 508-996-3731.