I’ve learned of several things that might cause health problems or even death in ferrets, either due to human error (and stupidity) or the sheer nerve of ferrets.
Thankfully I’ve never had to deal with the death of any of my ferrets yet, but I believe I came pretty close one day.
My fiance and I along with a roommate were living in a house with sliding doors leading to a screened lanai. Since the weather was cool, we kept the ferrets in a cage in the lanai and usually let them run around most of the day. Our roommate was one of our best friends but he isn’t the most bright of folks, and my fiance and he were playing some sort of a game of tag. The roommate decided to hide in the lanai (it was night and there were no lights on out there). He ran to the sliding door, wrenched it open, jumped in the lanai (wearing shoes), slammed the door shut, and ran to a corner. He had no idea that the ferrets were loose. I almost had a heart attack when he explained how he ran in the lanai and very unwelcome images of what could have happened to any one of the ferrets popped into my head. Luckily, none of them were hurt. But they very well could have been!
This taught me to never let my ferrets loose without guests or other people in the household knowing. In fact, it’s best to keep the ferrets in their cage when guests are over. Guests tend to be the most forgetful about checking to be sure a ferret couldn’t run out when they open a door, and sometimes they even leave a door leading to the great outdoors, and should a ferret get out, they are sure to get lost.
Another thing to be careful about is if you have other pets (such as dogs or cats). Obviously it’s dangerous to have dogs around ferrets because most dogs have a high enough prey drive to think maybe the ferret is a treat for them. Cats are less dangerous, but if they’re big enough and have sharp enough claws and a ferret decides to challenge him, well the cat might just fight back and it can definitely hurt a ferret.
My ferret Jaws has fought with my big black cat twice, and both times Jaws ended up limping or almost passing out. He had no visible injuries such as scratches or bite wounds, but it seemed like my cat twisted one of his arms (thank god they’re flexible, or it probably would have broken) the first time and was kicking his stomach. He was fine after an hour or two of rest though, and didn’t sustain any serious injuries. I’m always watchful of him now if he is around my cat and most of the time I keep my cat in a separate room when I let my ferrets out of their cage.
Obviously ferrets don’t have any real sense of danger because they simply don’t care if they might fall off a table or couch or windowsill. They will keep trying to get to where they want to be. A few things we have done to prevent our ferrets free falling is to space our furniture far enough apart so they won’t try to jump onto the table from the couch or vice versa. Also, we added velcro to the cabinets so they couldn’t sneak in and get into the household cleaners. We put the food and water for our cats on a high table so the ferrets can’t tip over the bowls and make a huge mess.
One odd thing our ferrets enjoy chewing on and possibly swallowing pieces of is our blinds. We can just say this: our blinds are a mess. Our cats are really the ones who ruined them, but the ferrets certainly helped.
Also if you live in a hot area, such as I do, you must keep your ferrets indoors and don’t let the temperature go over 80 degrees Fahrenheit too often. Ferrets are sensitive to heat and they can’t sweat or pant. They can overheat and get stressed and even die if it is too hot. They do best and feel most comfortable on the cooler side – between 65-75 degrees Fahrenheit is perfect. If they feel cold they can easily warm themselves up by cuddling together or snuggling into a blanket. But if they are hot, they have no way of cooling themselves down.
One trick I’ve learned is you can mist the ferrets with water and have a fan on to mimic sweating but this is not very effective and it’s simply best to have the AC on to a comfortable temperature.
Bottom line is: either completely ferret proof your home or keep an eye on them at all times – maybe even both. Don’t let them roam free while guests are over, and make sure everyone who lives with the ferrets knows the dangers they can get themselves into.
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