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Resource-Saving Tips For Ferret Owners

Bob Church offers tips to help ferret owners conserve water and ferret food.

By Bob Church
Posted: September 1, 2011, 5. a.m. EDT

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ferret being bathed
Ferret Flit/Courtesy Heath & Jaime Graham
Ferrets don't usually need a bath very often.

In today’s economy, it is tough for ferret shelters — and even ferret owners — to make ends meet. One way to help insure adequate funds is to conserve resources; every dollar saved is one that can be applied to better ferret food, vet bills, or many other expenses. In some cases, conserving resources can result in a significant increase in funds.

Saving Water With Ferrets
Bathing: If a ferret is having surgery, is slimed with poo or another noxious substance, or if it is about to participate in a ferret show, it needs a bath. Otherwise, ferrets usually don’t need baths. Ferrets spend a considerable amount of time grooming, and they do it excellently. Soapy baths remove skin and fur oils along with dirt, making skin dry and itchy. Frequent bathing can stimulate production of skin oils to increase ferrety odors. Older or sick ferrets can become chilled as moisture evaporates and cools the skin. However, ferrets new to your home should always be bathed immediately to assist in looking for fleas and skin problems.

Whenever possible, use a baby-approved cleansing cloth to spot-clean fur rather than dunking a ferret into soapy water. This facilitates human-ferret bonding by mimicking the jill licking the kit. When you do bathe a ferret, use a plastic tub so you can recycle the water for your plants.
• Fewer Ferret Baths Pro: A lot of time and resources can be saved; ferret skin and fur do much better; old or sick ferrets don’t get chilled.
• Fewer Ferret Baths Con: Bath time is bonding and handling time; recycling water is a pain.

Laundry: Excluding veterinary care, perhaps the largest consumer of ferret-oriented resources is laundry. For eight ferrets, I do about four normal-sized loads of washing per week. Water, time and money are saved with each load eliminated from the laundry cycle. Eliminating short loads and using cold water saves a bundle.
• Ferret Laundry Pro: Cold-water detergent works well and saves hot water; poo dissolves if pre-soaked prior to the wash cycle.
• Ferret Laundry Con: Saved laundry can be stinky; cold water allows staining; pre-soaking can limit access to the washing machine.

Paper Bedding: Compostable paper, such as newspaper and some junk mail, can be turned into bedding, especially when used in nest boxes or for sick ferrets. You can tear the paper or run it through a shredder. Wet or dirty paper can be added to the compost heap or placed into garden litter.
• Ferret Paper Bedding Pro: Dirty bedding can be thrown away; bedding is virtually free; paper bedding is very comfortable and insulating; you are recycling and composting rather than consuming.
• Ferret Paper Bedding Con: Loose paper shreds can be a fire hazard; wet bedding is nasty and cold; sick or aged ferrets might need frequent monitoring to insure clean bedding.

Water Dish and Bottle: Ferrets using a water bowl frequently drop food and dip parts of their body into it, so water must be changed daily. Water bottles prevent body parts or large food particles from contaminating water, but ferret saliva — and the microscopic food and bugs in it — cling to the metal ball and roll into the water reserve above it. Thus, water bottles should be changed frequently as well. Rather than dump the water into the sink, recycle it to help out your plants, or add ¾ cups of bleach per gallon of water and use it to clean cage furniture. Be sure to rinse well and let air dry before use.
• Ferret Water Dish And Bottle Pro: Water saved is money saved and aquifer preserved.
• Ferret Water Dish And Bottle Con: Time spent changing water.

Water Play: Ferrets sometimes play or dig in water, or soak themselves if warm or feisty. Not a lot can be done to prevent this, other than switching to a bottle. A water-loving ferret might be enticed to soak in a tub of shallow water, but it still might play in the water bowl. This is frequently boredom play, so using enrichments might help. If a ferret clearly shows it enjoys water play, it might be better to add a water bottle, but leave the water bowl and accept spills.
• Ferret Water Play Pro: Switching to a water bottle prevents problems.
• Ferret Water Play Con: Eliminating play opportunities might increase stress and boredom.

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Resource-Saving Tips For Ferret Owners

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Reader Comments
Vilanong, Toronto, ON
Posted: 12/29/2013 7:56:04 PM
my ferrets love to play in water too. they have a water bottle in their cage, but i find that placing a shallow bucket or container of water on the kitchen floor for them to play in during free time is as fun and entertaining for them as it is for me to watch.
Becky, Rocky Mount, NC
Posted: 12/14/2011 12:56:36 PM
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