Ferrets can live on average 6 years. They can adapt to your schedule but are most often active at sunrise and sunset. They sleep about 18-20 hours a day, but are happy to be woken up to play! For the most part, your ferret(s) should be confined in a roomy cage that has proven escape proof, with built-in water supply, food, and litter box. You can let your ferrets run free for periods of time but only under strict supervision as they are prone to chewing on electrical cords, carrying away and hiding small objects, and eating various things that may need surgical removal later on. It is very important to “ferret proof” the area, closing all access to the outdoors, under furniture, cabinets, into walls, etc. Also, ferrets can jump or climb to fairly high places (often referred to as teleporting, as no visible means can be found), but can injure themselves jumping down. Exercise is also an important part of a healthy life for your ferret(s).
Catching your pet when it is running free takes patience. The best method is to train your pet to respond to a squeaky toy. Ferrets are intelligent and can be taught other small tricks, such as rolling over, fetch, and playing dead.
Ferrets are obligate carnivores. Your ferret should be on ferret food and/or a good premium kitten food. If possible, a variety of foods should be available to supply the greatest range of nutrients. Food should be available at all times, as ferrets tend to eat fairly often and hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) can cause convulsions and other health problems. Your pet must also have clean fresh water daily, any left over from the previous day should be removed and containers rinsed before refilling. See the food comparison chart at MD Ferret Paws.
Climate and Housing
Your ferret should be kept in a comfortable temperature, approx. 55-70°F. Temperatures over 90°F can be fatal. In warm weather, the cage should be in an air-conditioned room or have towel wrapped ice packs (1 liter soda bottles work well) placed in the cage.
Selecting the proper cage is important. The larger the cage, the better, but be sure the spacing between the bars is small enough that a small ferret can not escape. (Less than 1.5 inches in most cases) Many companies now make cages specifically for ferrets–be sure to check for sharp edges and wide openings. The food bowls may need to be secured to the cage as ferrets are notorious for tipping them over. Water bottles that clip on the side of the cage work very well. A hammock or pile of soft cloths (such as towels or old sweatshirts) should be provided for bedding.
Ferrets tend to relieve themselves in corners, making them fairly easy to litter train. A litter box in 1-2 corners of the cage will usually do the trick, though expect the occasional “accident”. Do not use cedar or pine shavings–they are hazardous to your ferret’s health. These produce fumes that can irritate the respiratory tract and depress the immune system of of a ferret. Bedding should be changed frequently (at least once a week) to reduce odor.