Ferret Fur Everywhere!

Our ferrets blow their coats twice a year.  Around the end of February into March, ferrets will start shedding that beautiful thick luxurious winter coat.  Your ferret may “blow” his coat in one or two days coating everything in sight with fur or he may decide to spread the shedding over several weeks with tufts of fur left behind in his hammock.

Cheech getting a good brushing from Fred

Ferrets become very itchy when they are shedding.  Using a soft brush on your ferret helps to loosen the fur and give them a good scratch at the same time.  You don’t want your ferret inhaling all this loose fur! Worse, you don’t want your ferret to groom himself and ingest all this loose fur.  If he licks and ingests too much of his own fur, he can give himself a life threatening blockage requiring major surgery and a huge vet bill.

I have tried many types of brushes over the years and thanks to my friend Colleen, I have fallen in love with this round cat brush.  This brush fits nicely in the palm of my hand. Made of soft rubber, it contours the ferrets body nicely. It’s easy to remove the accumulated fur and of course very easy to wash with soap and water. **Don’t leave this soft rubber brush lying around after brushing.  Your ferret may decide to chew on it because it’s soft rubber and give himself a blockage!**

soft rubber brush for short haired cats

I have discovered that this rubber brush is also great for getting that thick mat of fur off the split hammocks. I have already worn out a washer and dryer due to an accumulation of ferret fur that doesn’t seem to get caught by the filter and gets into the guts of the machines.  I had a split hammock that was “loaded” and I certainly didn’t want to spend an hour picking the fur off of it.  One or two swipes with the brush and the hammock was relatively clean of the fur. Wow!

split hammock with “some” fur

excess fur removed prior to washing

condensed mat of Cheech’s fur in the hammock

mat of fur removed from inside split hammock

After using the brush to get as much fur off the hammock; I will wet my hand and pass it over the bedding and get the fine fur that the brush didn’t pick up.

Tiko, a gorgeous sale male came to the shelter in the late fall.  He adjusted to shelter life while he awaited his forever home.  I was getting to know him.  On litter box changing day I inspected his litter box as I do for each and every ferret.  It is the best and quickest way to determine if your ferret is sick.  When I looked into the litter box I immediately saw a strange poop!  Red flag went off.  I removed this poop so that I could examine it in minute detail.  It was not your normal fecal matter.  It was a poop containing nothing but FUR!! Tiko was a ferret that groomed himself lots and seeing as it was shedding season, he had ingested all his loose fur.  I was very lucky that he was able to pass this  blob of fur. He could have died as I would not have suspected a blockage and may not have gotten him to the vet in time!  Tiko could have easily been looking at major surgery to remove a blockage caused by his own fur.  Tiko is a ferret that you cannot forget to give hairball remedy on a weekly basis.  The hairball remedy ensures that his fur is “greased” and can pass easily through his system!

poop made up of ferret fur

poop dissected revealing it’s all fur

Nail Clipping Gross Bonus

So yesterday was a fun day!  I posted that I cleaned a gazillion litter boxes, changed bedding and clipped toe nails. I even bathed 4 naughty ferrets.

This was an all day adventure and I had a continuous cup of coffee going. I would simply top up my cup when it go low or too cold.

The coffee cup followed me from chore to chore. When I do the nails, I place a towel on my counter. I then place the ferret on the towel on its back, add the Ferretone to the tummy and clip away while he is licking the Ferretone.   This is easiest for me as I have a bad back and bending over a ferret sitting on my lap wouldn’t be to bad if I was only doing one or two, but, I have lots of fuzzbutts to do.  The clipped toe nail ends accumulate in the towel and a few go flying here and there.

This morning I decided that I should do up my dishes from yesterday and today. Not much to do, a plate, bowl, a bit of cutlery and my coffee cup. I poured out the last dregs of coffee and just happened to look down. Yucky, Yucky, Yucky, I had ferret toe nail bits at the bottom of my cup! (do the mental picture here because I couldn’t get a good picture, the nail bits came out looking like bits of worms which looks even grosser). I guess I had my coffee cup just a tad too close on the counter. I am going to pretend that I didn’t swallow any yesterday!

I am known for letting my ferrets kiss my lips, nose, teeth and ear lobs. I have offered my ferrets a lick of yogurt from my spoon and then finished off the spoon. I have let my ferrets lick the smooth peanut butter off my toast and then finished the toast. I am sure I have more germs in my mouth then my furries do and besides these are my babies and tough nougies to those of you that are grossed out. My dogs give me cheek kisses too – so there. Having said all this, I admit the idea of those toe nails swimming around in my coffee cup does leave me a bit grossed out. We all know there those paws have been!

So, to my fellow ferret owners, when clipping your ferret’s toe nails, make sure to cover your beverage container or you may just have a “little extra” that you hadn’t counted on!

 

Looking Good for Santa!

I need to take a break hence I stuff certain ferrets in a gift bag and leave them under the tree for Santa!  I have spent the whole morning changing litter boxes and putting fresh hammocks and blankies in all the cages.

Next on the agenda was nail trimming time! Nail clipping is easy so long as you have your trusty bottle of Ferretone.  I have a special Ferretone stained towel that I set on the counter. I dribble some Ferretone on the tummy area and while the ferret is busy taking care of his Ferretone addiction; I do the nails.  I used to sit on the floor and do it until I got fed up  chasing down the Ferretone bottle as it thumped down the hall behind a ferret; leaving an enticing trail that the other ferrets out playing were skidding through!

Now you would be thinking that bath time was next so that everyone would be sweet smelling for Santa.  The first year I had ferrets, I bathed them every 3rd month. Then I smartened up and to the ferrets immense relief I only give them a bath in the Spring when they are shedding their winter coat and again in the late fall when they are shedding their Summer coat. The bedding gets changed every second day or third at the very latest.  I stopped having itchy ferrets and my ferrets and home smelled much better.  The ferrets were over compensating the oil production when I was stripping their coats every 3rd month.  The oily residue from their coats is deposited on the blanket/hammock and that is changed often enough that the smell does not have a chance to make stinkies. ** To keep their bedding smelling fresh and clean always add one cup of Vinegar to the wash water. The vinegar sterilizes and deodorizes the bedding!

Back to wanting to let Santa have the brats.  I figured I was all done, litter boxes washed and refilled, fresh hammocks and bedding and everyone had a manicure – time for a well deserved cup of coffee. I ran downstairs to put the washing into the dryer. Upon my return (sob) I discovered Dwight, Snip, Ginger and Peaches rolling, yes, rolling in honey!!!  I do not know which one opened the pantry, I do not know which one pushed the honey off the second shelf or the little bugger that got the tuperware lid off; all I know is that I had four very sticky ferrets licking as fast as their little tongues could go before mommy took the honey away! Okay, I can understand licking the spilled honey, but weasel war dancing through it!!! That was done just to spite mommy!

So, I put all four in my soaker tub and let them play/get clean. Have you ever tried to towel dry your ferret?  Do you know what wet ferrets do? I had four psycho ferrets jumping and bouncing and – nuts how can you stay mad when you are almost peeing yourself laughing.

So, I have four very tired, fluffy, clean fuzzbutts all ready for Santa. I hear whispering coming from the shelter room. I think the others want to get in on the fun – they honey is now on the top shelf and I am heading off to Wal Mart to buy baby cupboard locks!

here are the 4 brats (no, I was too busy grabbing ferrets to take a picture of them coated in honey, these portrait shots will have to do)

Ginger and Snip looking so innocent

Ginger and Snip looking so innocent

Dwight - I live with 3 girls, who's idea do you think this was?

Dwight – I live with 3 girls, who’s idea do you think this was?

I'm an old, old lady, I would never be naughty (tehe)

I’m an old, old lady, I would never be naughty (tehe)

Bringing your Ferret Home

Before bringing home your new carpet shark it is good to make sure you have everything prepared as (1) it will allow you to spend as much time with them as possible upon arrival and (2) some things are very dangerous to our little monsters.

These are must-haves for any little furry to live safely and comfortably with you;

1. Cage

This cage is large enough to have multiple water dishes - and because the bottom is so large a water on one side and litter box on the other is okay

Ferret cage all setup – hammocks to catch climbing ferrets

When you are not around to supervise your ferret the safest place for them is in a ferret friendly cage. It is recommended having the cage setup in a room where you spend your time most. This way the ferret will always feel a part of the family.

A ferrets cage should be chosen based on their life style. If your ferret spends most it’s time free-range, smaller cages just for sleeping will suffice. If you are unable to have your ferret out for more than a few hours, it is recommended that you acquire something a little larger (see here for example).

Ferrets do not live in aquariums, this will cause more odor, they need lots of air flow which will help keep the animal smell down.

Ferrets should never have wood chips for bedding, they like to eat everything and as wood is sharp this can cause internal injuries. Wood chips may also cause respiratory problems or liver disease.

You can find ferret specific cages at almost any pet store (new or used), online, a ferret shelter or pet supply store, etc. Metal is usually the norm as if created out of wood it may be harder to clean and begin to smell after time.

If you decide to get a cage that has a wire bottom, protect your monster’s feet by placing a carpet, thick blanket or piece of linoleum.

** The MFA has a selection of pre owned ferret cages for sale **

There are many options out there for housing, simple single levels, bi levels, multi levels. Just keep in mind when shopping; ample size, good ventilation, small openings between wire and secure doors.

Ferrets are escape artists – if they see you push a door closed they may try to push it open. Make sure you secure all opens and have a sturdy cage. I had to purchase a lock for one of my cages as my little Bandit (after watching once) would grab the door with her teeth and shake it until it opened.

2. Bedding / Hammock

Bandit napping

Bandit napping

Ferrets love to tunnel in blankets, snuggle up in their bedding and curl up in a hammock. There is a huge selection of ferret specific options along with small animals or even cat products. As each ferret has their own personality find out what they like best and go from there. The only thing to note is stay away from Cat Nip products, this is not ferret friendly.

You can also DIY bedding and toys, just make sure it’s baby safe, as ferrets and babies both like to eat things they shouldn’t (i.e. no buttons or sharp pieces).

** The MFA has a great selection of bedding for sale **

Simple items around the house that you can use include; old towels, baby blankets, old sweatshirts, pillow cases.

Have an old pair of jeans? Cut the legs off and you have yourself a brand new ferret tunnel.

3. Food and Water containers

Turnip's favourite is when I add ice cubes

Discussion at the water hole

It is recommended to use heavy duty plastic or ceramic dishes. Ferrets tend to enjoy making huge messes and as much noise as possible.

For water I use both a ceramic dish full and two large water bottles, my boys Turnip & Radish like the bottles while Bandit would only drink from the dish. Turnip also enjoyed bathing in the dish, so always make sure to change often.

It is nice to have a bottle that holds at least 15 ounces, hung from the outside of the cage the monsters are unable to fiddle with. Changed daily or every second day to keep the water nice and fresh.

A great idea is to put the food on one level and the water on another while possible, so they have to get exercise in order to get both. Although if you happen to have an old or ill ferret you may want to keep them closer together. Another thing to note is ferrets, like us, prefer having food separated from their washroom, so as able keep the food and water on a different level than their litter box.

Please make sure that you don’t put the food dish too high up or too low on the cage when using ones that clip to the sides, as well as the water bottle so they cannot reach it. You don’t want them having to strain to get either their food or water.

Finally if you have a ferret nation cage that is about 4 feet in the air, placing heavy dishes at the top is not always best – ferrets like to push things off ledges. Depending how many ferrets you have in one cage consider having more than one food and water containers.

4. Litter and Litter box Selection

How I ended up with all these random photos of her I don't know but I definitely am not complaining!

Bandit modelling for us with her favourite brand of litter

The type of pan to get depends entirely on the ferret you are getting, along with the temperament, gender and age is a factor.

If you are getting a kit you don’t want anything that has too high of sides as their legs are quite short. As well with older, sick and injured ferrets, too high can prevent them from using the litter pan.

When adopting an adult ferret in perfect health you generally would want to get one with higher sides that of course fits well inside the cage, but remember ferrets have personalities – so before purchasing multiple see what they like.

Lastly I have noticed with my male ferrets they poop with their bums as high in the air as possible, while my girl would keep her arms on the edge of the pan and squat. For the males I had a high back corner pan, for my girl I would have a lower square pan.

The shelter in Winnipeg actually uses 2 pans the bottom one is bolted to the cage while the top one isn’t. It fits right inside the bottom one so you can remove it to clean.

You will also want to get additional pans to place in different areas of your home as they do go outside the cage when it is their time out for play. The best way to determine where to put these pans is to watch where your ferret decides to go and of course that is where you would put one.

Litter do’s and don’ts..

As you hopefully are aware ferrets are diggers and burrowers, with that please DO NOT get any; clay, clumping or flushable litter. These options tend to be quite dusty, even those that claim they are not and can actually cause respitory problems in your little one. As stated before do not use wood chips or cedar shavings as these do the same.

The litter I highly recommend is a pelleted litter. Natural of course without any added scents. These can be made of plant fibres or recycled newspaper. Lakewood Industries Premium Wood Pellets are what the shelter uses, they manufacture out of Ontario and readily available in Canada. I have used Yesterday’s News in the past as well.

5. Grooming

Group tummy licking from their (almost) weekly nail clipping

Group tummy licking from their (almost) weekly nail clipping

Bathing – Ferrets can be bathed every 2-3 months. This helps reduce the musk smell (although an important part of reducing the smell is keeping the ferret’s bedding clean and it’s ears clean). There are now several ferret-specific shampoos available, kitten shampoos and dry shampoos.

Nail Clippers – They need their nails clipped every week and a half to two weeks, be careful to not cut into the quick.

Ear Cleaning Solution – Earwax buildup is smelly and can lead to health problems if not cleaned. Any ear cleaning solution for cats or dogs will work, Saline solution for contacts also works well. Never stick a q-tip inside the ear canal.

6. Cage Accessories and Toys

Ferrets love tunnels

Ferrets love tunnels

Ferrets will entertain themselves with anything they can find. Ferret-safe toys don’t have parts they could accidentally chew off and swallow. Always monitor all toys for damage, as accidentally swallowed pieces of things can lead to intestinal blockages.

You are the best toy of all spend time playing with your ferret. Later we will post of game ideas and DIY toys.

7. Harness, Leash and Carriers

Bandit is in the red

Ferrets at the Spring frolic

Ferrets can slip out of a collar easily which means you will want a harness that goes both around the neck and front legs. There are two dominate options on the market (option 1 & option 2 – I use option 1).

You want to have it snuggly fitting but still loose enough to fit a finger between strap and ferret. It is never a good idea to keep a collar or harness on your ferret for prolonged periods of time, especially unsupervised and don’t forget to adjust them as your ferret grows (or possibly loses weight).

A portable carrier should be used for bringing your ferret to the veterinarian or other outings. It can also serve as a training aid by being used as a time-out cage for a misbehaving ferret. Never use a carrying cage as a permanent home for your ferret as they’re too small.

8. Treats

Scrappy sneaking some treats

Scrappy sneaking some treats

Please remember that treats are just that, small rewards, they should not be a large part of your ferret’s diet. They are good for bonding with your ferret and rewarding good behaviour, as well as learning tricks. Later we will update with ferret friendly recipes!