Frequently asked questions
Below are some answers to more frequently asked questions. Please feel welcome to contact us or visit the shelter if your question is not answered here or on our videos or other resources pages. Ask about our education and outreach services. We're happy to help!
Q. WHAT KIND OF FOOD, TREATS AND TOYS ARE OKAY FOR FERRETS?
A. Let's start with food. Ferrets are obligate carnivores. Cat, kitten and
dog foods don't have the nutrition ferrets need. They need high protein,
high fat, low fiber diets. Popular brands include Totally Ferret, Mazuri and Marshall's. Vitamin supplements such as Ferretone and Ferretvite provide essential nutrients and taste great. Treats should contain primarily meat or meat products and very little fructose, corn or corn syrup and other fillers. Do not give ferrets anything with nuts, fruit or vegetables! The best food and treats are not sold in stores, but online. (Some popular websites are the Ferret Depot, ferret.com, 1800petsupplies.com and drsfosterandsmith.com.) Large pet stores like PetSmart and Petco also sell food and supplies online, but their in-store selections might be limited. For high-quality bedding, be sure to check the Shopping section listed on our external resources page. Some of these stores contribute a portion of their sales to ferret shelters, and some regularly donate goods to shelter fundraisers. Ferrets like a wide variety of toys, especially those that allow them to dig (boxes of dry rice or plastic balls do the trick nicely). They enjoy small jingly or rattle balls, and pull toys - but make sure the toys don't have eyes, feathers or tinfoil that can be chewed off and swallowed.
Anything with rubber or foam is a no-no! Ferrets love tunnels, drugstore and paper bags, pillowcases, old sweatshirts and pants. Mostly, they love to spend play time with you!
Q. HOW BIG OF A CAGE DO I NEED, AND ARE THEY EXPENSIVE?
A. Ferrets do best when their food and water, litter and bedding are all in separate areas. Multistory cages are ideal; Ferret Nation
by Midwest and Quality Cage models are sturdy, offer sufficient room for up to 4-5 ferrets, and are easy to clean. They usually cost between $225-$275 via mail order. Single-story cages, from $75 to $150 in most pet stores, are useful for elderly or ill ferrets, blind ferrets and those recovering from surgery. The best cages are made of galvanized coated metal or wire. Ramps and cage walls should be evaluated for sturdiness; a comparison of different brands reveals a surprisingly wide range of quality, even at the same price point. Cage bottoms should not be wire because they can result in injury or inflammation. Plastic sheeting, laminate, vinyl and similar materials serve as easy and inexpensive liners. Please see our videos page for suggestions in setting up a good ferret cage.
Q. I FOUND A FERRET RUNNING LOOSE. WHAT SHOULD I DO?
A. Lost and abandoned ferrets rarely survive outdoors for more than 24 hours.
Most county, municipal and independent shelters are not equipped to care for
ferrets. Email us at
firstname.lastname@example.org If you can capture the ferret, it can be safely housed in a cat or small animal carrier (plastic crates are best) provided the airholes or metal bars are less than 1.5 inches wide. Even a box with very small airholes will do in a pinch. You can give the ferret water and small amounts of turkey or chicken baby food, or a high-quality kitten chow but no dairy products, vegetables, fruit or nuts. Remember that overfeeding a starving animal does more harm than good. If the ferret is injured, drooling, very lethargic or unresponsive, please let us know when leaving your message, and seek emergency veterinary care if at all possible.
Q. WHAT KIND OF ILLNESSES AND DISEASES ARE COMMON IN FERRETS?
A. The most common illnesses in ferrets are adrenal disease, insulinoma and
lymphoma (cancer). Many ferrets also suffer from cardiomopathy (like
congestive heart failure) and a variety of gastrointestinal illnesses that
may become fatal if untreated. Your ferret absolutely needs a rabies
inoculation each year (mandatory in some states), and a canine distemper
vaccination every 12 months. Ferrets are also susceptible to the influenza
Q. WHERE CAN I FIND A GOOD FERRET VET?
A. Look for a veterinarian with a certificate in exotic animal medicine or membership in the AEMV, the Association of Exotic Mammal Veterinarians. The American Ferret Association and Support Our Shelters both list "ferret vets" on their websites, organized by state. The Seattle area is lucky to have several veterinarians who specialize in ferrets and whose work with ferrets has become nationally known. A few we suggest are:
Evergreen Avian & Exotic Animal Hospital
12930 NE 125th Way NE
Kirkland, WA 98034
Kamaka Exotic Animal Veterinary Services
23914 56th Ave. W
Mountlake Terrace, WA 98043
Pine Tree Veterinary Hospital
27539 Maple Valley Black Diamond Rd. SE Suite D102
Maple Valley, WA 98038
Bird and Exotic Clinic of Seattle
4019 Aurora Ave N
Seattle, WA 98103
Browns Point Veterinary Clinic
6720 Eastside Dr NE
Tacoma, WA 98422
Q. MY FERRET KEEPS DIGGING INTO THE COUCH AND SCRATCHING THE CARPET. WHAT CAN I DO?
A. Ferrets naturally like to burrow into tunnels and dark spaces, so this behavior is hard-wired into their brains. Fortunately, there are steps you can take to prevent free-roaming ferrets from ruining your furniture and carpet. Usually, ferrets scratch the carpet at the door of a room they want to enter - or get out of. Sometimes they'll scratch to try and get under a couch or other low piece of furniture. You can prevent damage to the carpet and discourage scratching by purchasing some inexpensive clear plastic runner, stocked by most home supply or hardware stores, or carpet remnants, cut to size. You can use carpet tacks or strong double-sided tape to secure the material. Some people remove the legs of a couch to rest it solidly on the floor, and staple mesh wire or some other safe barrier between the frame and seat cushions. In ALL cases, please be sure to check the seat cushions on sofas and chairs before sitting down, and don't use recliners while ferrets are in the room.
Q. WHAT ELSE DO I NEED TO DO TO FERRET-PROOF MY HOME?
A. This burrowing behavior extends to rugs, appliances and other appealing
(to a ferret) entryways. Think of baby-proofing a house, only the baby is
much smaller and a very adept escape artist. Ferrets can "pancake" their
bodies to get under furniture and doorways, and through windows with just a
1.5" gap. Make sure they can't get behind or under appliances such as
dishwashers, refrigerators, stoves and washer-dryers. Vents and ducts are
other dangerous spots to block off or cover. Cabinets may need to be latched
and stairwells blocked by plexiglass or a baby gate that ferrets can't
climb. House plants must be out of reach not only because many are toxic,
but because ferrets love to dig in the soil. Rubber is especially attractive to ferrets, but bitten-off pieces can easily lodge in the stomach or intestines and cause a fatal blockage. Lastly, ferrets are occasionally drawn to chew electric wires or cables. Exposed wires can be ferret-proofed with PVC pipe. Please visit our Videos page for some tips on ferret-proofing a house or play area. Also, visit Petco's ferret-proofing page for more important tips and precautions.
Q. ARE FERRETS NOCTURNAL?
A. No - your pet ferrets will readily adapt to your schedule. Do remember, though, that it's not uncommon for ferrets to sleep for 20 hours each day.
We hope this page has answered many of your questions about ferrets. If you would like more help and information, you are welcome to contact us or visit our video links or external resources pages.