Sunday, November 15, 2015

I'm getting my first ferret.... what do I need?

So, you're looking at getting your first ferret... here are some helpful supplies and links =)

1) First and foremost - before anything else, you should get and read a copy of
     Ferrets for Dummies by Kim Schilling (second edition)--- this is useful both for new and
     experienced ferret owners and covers everything from feeding to health concerns, toys and games
     to tips to help you bond.


Personally, at our rescue, we have had luck with "Go! Fit and Free" kibble due to its protein and fat content, ingredients list and small kibble size, but there are several options for ferrets on the market. Here is a chart of ferret-appropriate foods, rated based on suitability for ferret's nutritional needs. Personally, I would suggest getting something from the top tier to ensure that your ferret's nutritional needs are properly met.

Some of our volunteers prefer to feed raw rather than kibble - information on how to transition ferrets to an appropriate raw diet, and mentors to help with transitioning can be found on the holistic ferret forum here

And some of our volunteers feed a mixture of kibble and freeze dried raw foods such as Stella and Chewy's Chick Chick Chicken, Absolutely Rabbit and Tummy Tickling Turkey foods, Vital Essentials Chicken (or Turkey) Niblets etc.


Some ferret experts believe that treats are more for the owners than the animals, however it is fun to be able to teach your pet a trick or two and reward them for it. Ferret treats vary, and keep in mind that most ferret treats on the market are high in sugars and actually rather dangerous to the animal's health. Some safe ferret treats include Orijen Freeze Dried treats (stick with poultry flavours; many ferrets do not like stronger meats such as beef or lamb, and many will not eat fish), Wysong Dream Treats, Freeze Dried chicken breast treats, Stella and Chewy's carnivore crunch treats, and other similar treats.

Chicken, Bacon, Banana and Peanut Butter flavoured Bandit Treats (not raisin; that variety is very high in sugar), and N-Bones are not overly healthy treat, but the occasional one (once or twice a month) will not do much harm.

Every ferret is individual and will prefer different treats.


This sounds a bit funny, BUT oil - such as Salmon Oil, Cod Liver Oil or Emu Oil (derived from animal sources) are a ferret essential. If your ferret has a high end diet, it is not essential to supplement the diet, but it is extremely useful as a reward or treat, to help with nail clipping, or to give mixed with a teaspoon of pumpkin once or twice a month during shedding season to help ward off hairballs.

Ferretone is a common oil; while some ferret owners swear by it and some of our volunteers use it, some of our other volunteers prefer to avoid it simply due to 1) price (Salmon oil is much less expensive) and 2) additives. Ferretone has a large number of questionable additives and while it is unlikely that your ferret will eat enough ferretone in one go to cause a problem, it is possible that the chemicals will accumulate in the ferret's system and exasperate future problems.

All oil treats are to be given sparingly.


For bi-weekly nail cutting. Here is a link to help explain the "how to's" of ferret nail care.


Ferrets should be washed EXTREMELY infrequently - only a few times a year, or when they are very dirty. Ferret-specific shampoos exist and often work well, but cat/ kitten friendly shampoos can also be used (do not use flea shampoos; ferrets are extremely sensitive to harsh chemicals). Here is a link with tips on washing ferrets.

7) A SOFT CAT BRUSH for brushing to help loosen old fur.

8) CAT/KITTEN ENZYMATIC TOOTHPASTE AND Q-TIPS for ear cleaning and tooth brushing. Here are links to explain tooth and ear care.


You will need either a ferret cage, a ferret room, or both - an area that your new fuzzy friends can hang out in when you are out of the house to keep them safe. When selecting a cage, remember that bigger is always better, and that ferrets are extremely clumsy so cages with shelves or ramps that only cover a portion of the cage might need extra hammocks to catch falling ferrets and prevent injuries.


Ferrets LOVE hanging beds, hammocks, cuddle cups and sleep sacks. They love to bury themselves in soft, snag-free fleece blankets. Dollar stores often sell suitable fleece blankets, and local thrift stores often have oodles of suitable blankets in their baby section. I suggest avoiding beds topped with "sweatshirt" type material which can snag easily and catch ferret nails. Ferret beds can be bought at your local pet store, online or hand made. We at Ferrets North Information and Rescue Society make and sell novelty beds and hammocks to help raise funds for vet bills. Our fundraiser store can be found on facebook (we do take commissions).


Or water dishes that can be secured (screwed on) to the side of a cage; I suggest having one or two water dishes in the cage, and a third large one out in the ferret play area. Heavy dishes will reduce spillage (of food and water), but ferrets LOVE to make messes and WILL dig in their water dishes. Water bottles are NOT recommended as they often lead to dehydration and can damage ferret teeth.


Remember to select ferret safe toys. Tips on doing so can be found here.
And be creative - ferrets need enrichment. Here are some tips on do-it yourself toys and I highly recommend dryer tubes - 10" plastic, aired out with the sharp metal bits at either edge taped off with duct tape to make them safe. I also recommend dig boxes to help entertain your ferret, and remove dead hairs. Here is a link to various types of dig boxes that you can create at home.

And, of course, because ferrets are very interactive, here is a link to games that you and your ferret can enjoy together.


No ferret will be perfect at the litter box, but getting proper litter boxes, the right litter, and adding puppy pads throughout the house and in front of boxes can help a good deal. Avoid those "corner" triangle shaped litter boxes. We often get them in with ferrets (along with reports of ferrets never using the boxes) and have a lovely stack of them for our basement. They are awkwardly shaped, and generally speaking, ferrets prefer larger boxes that they can fit their whole bodies in. Here is a link that talks a bit about litter training, and another that discusses various litter types


This isn't for playing- some ferrets can be trained to come to loud squeaking. This can be useful if they escape from your house, get into a wall, or you need to find them in a hurry. Here is a link to help explain squeak training.

15) MOST IMPORTANTLY - a ferret proofed house.
Ferrets proofing is never done, but ignoring risks can lead to an unfortunately accident, and lifelong guilt. Ferret proofing - room by room - can be found in Ferrets For Dummies or on our blog.

Friday, October 4, 2013



1) Pictures must be submitted to a special Ferrets North Information and Rescue Society inbox created just for this contest. The e-mail address is:

2) Photos must be high quality, large file sizes so that they are clear and crisp when enlarged. This ensures that the ferrets in the pictures look their best on the calendar.

3) You must have the rights to the photo which you are submitting, and by submitting the photo, you are agreeing to allow us to publish the picture of your ferret(s) in this contest, and for this calendar.

4) To 'vote' for a picture, click on the photo in the photo album (a specific album will be created on facebook and made open to the public after submissions have closed), and press "like". The photos with the most 'likes' will win.

5) We do our best to include as many photos of ferrets as possible on the calendar, and try to include at least one submission from each person in the calendar. The top 3 get their own month, the top voted gets a prize. This year, the prize is a special one: a SUPER CUTE pig touque by Knitwits (adult sizing)!

6) We will be taking submissions beginning October 4th and ending October 14th. Voting begins October 16 and ends the following Wednesday. After voting ends, a winner will be announced. Calendars should be finished and ready to order by the end of October so that they can arrive in time for Christmas!

8) Anyone can enter, and can submit a maximum of 5 photos each. That is five per person, not family.

9) Photos MUST be of ferrets, though other animals can be in the picture as well =)

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Why should everyone feed their ferret "soup?"

For the purpose of this blog, the term Dook Soup will be used as a catch all term for Duck Soup, Gravy, Dook Soup, Soupies and other similar foods. We chose to use the term "Dook Soup" because we find the term cute, and less confusing to new ferret owners.

I have been asked quite a few times in the last few days WHY I encourage people to learn to make dook soup and introduce the snack to their ferrets. Most people point out that introducing new foods to mature ferrets can be difficult, and that the foods they feed are sufficient in proteins and nutrients - so, they ask, why is it necessary to go through the trouble of making and then introducing dook soup?

First off let's look into what a proper dook soup is: a good, home made dook soup is essentially a high protein, vitamin rich "shake" for your pet. If properly made, it is nutritious, high in protein, low in sodium, low in carbohydrates, free of harmful sweeteners and well balanced. It can be tailored to meet your ferret's specific needs, can easily be syringe or spoon fed to a sick ferret and can be used to sneak certain medications in to your ferret's food... so if your ferret is healthy, why feed it?
Well, the unfortunate but true answer is this: just because your ferret is healthy today does not necessarily mean that he or she will be healthy tomorrow. Accidents happen, sicknesses creep in, diseases strike - and now you have a less than health ferret no longer able to eat their normal food...  what do you do? Mix a high protein meal replacement for your ferret --- that's right - dook soup! So now you have a ferret with compromised health; the animal is likely already stressed and not feeling well... does this sound like the best time to be trying to introduce a new food to your fuzzy friend? Imagine if, as a child, your parents tried to feed you some strange food you'd never seen before when you had a really bad case of the flu... imagine how that would have made you feel, and how willing you would have been to try it. So why would you do this to your fuzzy?

If you take the time well before your ferret is sick to mix dook soup on a semi-regular basis, and introduce it properly to your ferret, he or she will become accustom to dook soup and most likely view it as an exciting treat... and everybody knows that it is much easier to feed a sick ferret a treat than a strange and unfamiliar food! This previous introduction can not only make recovery from sickness or injury much easier on the animal (recovery is sped up by proper nutrition and appropriate weight gain; two things which are provided by dook soup), in some situations it can actually mean the difference between life and death for the animal.

Here is an example of dook soup making the difference between life and death for a ferret. We had one of our ferrets sneak out under our dog over the summer. The little girl had insulinoma and required daily medication. Despite our best efforts we could not find her. We canvassed the neighbourhood, searched yards, put up posters and, just when we feared the worst, she wandered back into our yard after well over 24 hours - hungry and too exhausted to eat on her own. We offered our little ferret some dook soup in a syringe and, because she was familiar with the food, she took it willingly. Had we not taken the time to introduce dook soup in the past, and had the little ferret not viewed dook soup as a treat, it is most likely that this extremely picky little girl would have perished. Instead, with feedings every two hours, she regained her strength and within two days, she was back to her old self - biting toes and even attempting to sneak out under the dog again!

So please, for your fuzzy's future, take the time to make and introduce dook soup. There are many recipes available, including this one and introducing dook soup takes a bit of time but is relatively simple. Here are some tips: water down the soup at first. It is a bit strong, especially for ferrets that are not used to meaty smells and flavours, so add warm water, some cream (if your ferret enjoys cream), and quite a bit of oil (such as ferretone, salmon oil or whatever similar oil your ferret enjoys most; if your ferret is not familiar with oil, consider introducing that as well - it makes nail clipping a breeze!). Make sure the soup is warm (not hot) and offer it to your fuzzy. When the ferret turns its nose up at the soup (which will most likely happen) rub some on their paws, lips, and (if you can), teeth - you want the ferret to taste it. Expect the ferret to say "yuck! Ferrets don't eat that" the first time. Put the soup in the fridge, reheat later and repeat. Eventually (in some cases that day, in others this may go on for a week or two) your ferret will be more willing to lick the soup off your finger and you can offer them the small bowl or plate. Gradually decrease the amount of extra oil and water (and cream if your ferret likes cream) that you add as the ferret becomes accustom to the taste. Remember to take baby steps here - don't rush it, your ferret will develop a taste for dook soup eventually!

Good Luck =)

Friday, August 31, 2012

Dosage explanations

While scrolling about the internet searching for something totally unrelated, we stumbled upon an amazing medical dosage calculator.

Now, we NEVER advocate giving your pet a medication that is not known to be safe for ferrets, however there are certain medications that, if administered correctly - with the appropriate dosages - can be safely given to your pet to help them get over a particularly nasty flu or settle their tummy.

Medication NOT LABELED for ferret use but still safe for ferret use IN CERTAIN SITUATIONS ONLY include Pepcid AC (NOT chewables), Pepto Bismo (original - tablets are easier to disguise), and Pediatric Benadryl (alcohol free). BUT BE SURE TO CONSULT YOUR VET FIRST! Inappropriately given medications can aggravate a condition, or mask a problem making diagnosis more difficult and allowing the condition to get worse without anyone noticing.

Pepto Bismo can be used in conjunction with certain medications to help relieve symptoms associated with heliobacteria infections and coccidea in some situations. It can also be used to help treat diarrhea in some cases.


Pepcid AC can be used as part of a supportive treatment regiment for ECE, to help settle tummies in ferrets with ulcers, and, in some instances, to help coat their ferret's tummies before administering medications such as prednisone.

Pediatric, alcohol free Benadryl has been reportedly used with success to help reduce some congestion in ferrets suffering from seasonal allergies (yes, some do have allergies), bad cases of the flu and even to help reduce risk of a vaccine reaction (some experts claim that administering Benadryl 30 minutes prior to vaccination can prevent an allergic reaction to the Canine Distemper vaccine. This claim has not been verified by substantive veterinary research).

Now that we've covered some basic medications and their uses, how do you figure out the dose?

There are some rough guidelines from other ferret owners who had used and had success with these medications, or whose vet recommended a certain dose for their ferret. Their directions may be something such as 1/15th of a Pepto Bismo tablet, 1 (non chewable) Pepcid AC (10 mg) tablet crushed and dissolved into 10cc of water (shake well before using) and giving 0.25 per kg, or 0.25 - 0.5cc of Pediatric Benadryl.

However, not all ferrets are the same size and weight. So say, for example, that fuzzy had a flu, went to the vet, and got prescribed 0.2 cc of pediatric Benadryl to help with the symptoms. Then she came home and promptly gave the flu to her brother who is much bigger than she is. You know that the medication is safe, that your ferrets now both have the flu, - how much medication do you give to her brother?

Well, fortunately, most bottles have a recommended dosage for medicating. Unfortunately, these dosages are not generally calibrated for your ferret... LUCKILY ferretrealm as posted information about how to calculate dosage to ensure that you are giving your pet the appropriate amount of medication! Click to take you to the page. 

Ibuprofen, Advil and Tylenol, like most human medications, should NEVER be given to a ferret UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES as they are HIGHLY TOXIC TO THE ANIMALS. If your pet is in pain, or ill, CONSULT A VET as your vet will have some ferret- safe pain relief, or may be able to prescribe an over the counter or off the shelf SAFE alternative. If your animal requires assistance and you cannot afford a vet, take your pet to the nearest rescue - their life, health and well being is worth it.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Feeding your fuzzy

Everybody wants to feed their ferret a good diet, but the number of food choices at your local pet store are overwhelming; which food is best for your ferret? How do you decode the ingredients list to figure out the best food for your pets?

Luckily, you don't have to!

This website lists and rates hundreds of foods that are suitable for your fuzzy, with explanations about their rating system. The work is done, so you just have to click here and find your new food!

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Petition To Stop Impulse Purchases of Ferrets

We have started a petition asking Petland Canada to stop selling ferrets, except through special order. This is an attempt to decrease impulse purchases of animals which require high levels of care. It reads:

"Owning a ferret is much closer to owning a cat or dog than it is to owning a hamster or a fish. This applies both to the level of care and attention the ferret needs, as well as its lifespan. There is still a tendency to treat ferrets as if they are caged animals, only interacting with humans for an hour or two a day. The reality is they need much more space and much more interaction than other small pets. They also have a longer life-span. With this in mind they should be treated more like cats and dogs than other small animals. We applaud Petland Canada's decision to stop carrying kittens and puppies and would like to see Petland Canada put a similar policy in place regarding ferrets. 
We, the undersigned, would like to see Petland Canada receive ferrets on pre-paid special order only."
If you are in Canada and are able to post this petition in a public place, you can print it from Scribd or Google Docs. Once you've got a set of signatures, email info[at]ferretsnorth[dot]org for an address to send the signatures to. We would like to send all signed petitions to Petland Canada in a single package.

You can also sign the online version, available on

Petition to Stop Pet Land Canada From Carrying Ferrets

Helping Others

Even though our main goal at Ferrets North Information & Rescue Society is to help ferrets and ferret owners in Northern BC, we do, on occasion, assist with the rescue of ferrets elsewhere. This can be in the form of alerting the appropriate rescue to the situation of a specific ferret, bringing a classified ad in their area to their attention, or even, in extreme cases, raising the money to get a ferret in another part of the province out of harm's way.

Recently, a classified ad was brought to our attention and, because the ad was in the lower mainland, we brought it to the attention of someone in the lower mainland who is looking at starting up another rescue in that area to help deal with the overwhelming numbers of ferrets in need of assistance and rehoming.

The ad was for a pair of free ferrets. It stated that the ferrets were approximately 5-years-old and in need of a new home, as it was believed that the female ferret was developing adrenal disease, but was otherwise healthy. The ad did not mention any health concerns with the other ferret.

After contacting the people numerous times, the rescuer was finally contacted back and arrangements were made for her to pick up the ferrets.

She was expecting to find a pair of 4-5 year old ferrets - one healthy and one with mild adrenal disease which would need treatment as the disease progressed but was otherwise healthy.

Here is, in her words, what she found
"Zoe and Frank are the sweetest ferrets gentle and cuddly. It is so sad that they have had 4 homes in their 7 years of life [vet records from their first home indicated their true age]. The cage that [the former owners] said was theirs was clearly the rabbits cage, the bedding stunk of mold and not been washed in forever. It was a sad state.
"The poor boy has cataracts in his eyes; he is pretty much blind. He cannot walk, his hind legs are just being dragged. They are both so skinny skinny and ate like they had not seen food in weeks.
The girl has no hair from the shoulder blades down and hind end weakness, her vulva is swollen and bloody.
They have both been started on prednisone and have had been given Lupron shots.
"The mites have been cleaned out of their ears and the fleas picked from their bodies, they have clean bedding , beds and hammocks. They were being rehomed because the dad did not want the vet bill.
I lost it. I asked them why I should [be responsible for] for the vet bill and was told that because I was a rescue, it was up to me to make them healthy because they [the owners] did not care if they made them [their pets] healthy or not. These two have not been loved in a while, and they deserve to be loved and cherished for their last days here on this planet."

Now, it is not often that people are prepared to take in such sick animals at the drop of a hat, and these two beautiful ferrets have more than their share of health problems. As such, their rescuer  could use some assistance in giving these two the best days of their lives. Anyone that is interested in helping can contact her at and find out how they can help. One of our volunteers has offered to supply the rescuer with a couple of melatonin implants for the pair, but more help is needed. If you are willing or able to help wit their ever increasing vet bills or in other ways please let her know - any assistance is appreciated.