Ferret Background

  • What exactly is a Ferret?

    The domestic ferret (Mustela Putorius Furo) is a small furry mammal from the Mustelidae family. By nature, ferrets are very curious, energetic, funny and lovable. Years ago ferrets were used as hunting companions in a sport called ferreting. Today this practice is illegal in the US and ferrets are now owned mainly as household pets. Ferrets are carnivores (meat-eaters), and require a diet high in meat-based protein and fat. Adult females weigh an average of 1 to 3 pounds and males weigh 3 to 5 pounds. Their average life span is 5 to 8 years when properly cared for. Baby ferrets are called "kits." Adult females are called "jills," and males are called "hobs". Spayed females are known as "sprites" and males as "gibs". Your ferret has already been neutered and descented. Neutering helps avoid serious health complications that may occur as ferrets mature. Descenting helps reduce the odor traditionally associated with ferrets.

  • Do ferrets get along with other pets?

    Ferrets do get along with other household pets, however, they should be introduced slowly. Generally, adult ferrets and cats will tolerate each other, but an adult cat should not be left alone with a kit. Many dog breeds are hunters and should not be left alone with a ferret. Use discretion and good judgment when introducing and allowing other pets to play with your ferret. You can never be too careful. We also recommend allowing sufficient adjustment time when introducing a new kit to an established group of adult ferrets.

  • Where did my ferret come from?
    Your ferret was born and raised in upstate New York by Marshall Farms. The Marshall family has been breeding and raising top quality ferrets since 1939. We are committed to rearing the best quality ferret for you and your family. When your ferret arrives at the pet store, it has been vet checked, well socialized and ready for its new home. Marshall Ferrets are known for their good health and gentle, friendly disposition.
  • How do I find out more about my ferrets?

    This is only a short list containing basic information on your new ferret. There are many books and reference materials available that can provide you with more in-depth ferret information. Contact your local pet store or library for their recommendations. There are also many ferret information resources on the internet including our Ferrets section on our website. You can also find our favorite links to other websites in our blog page.

Health and Nutrition

  • What should I feed my ferret?

    Your ferret was raised on the Marshall Premium Ferret Diet, a proven food that we recommend for best long term health and well-being. Great care should be taken in choosing a diet for your new pet. Many "ferret" diets are not necessarily nutritionally complete. Some foods boast of high protein, but this protein may be derived from plant rather than meat sources. No other diet uses more fresh meat-based protein than Marshall Premium Ferret Diet. The Marshall diet is also manufactured using a special patented low temperature process to retain the freshness. More veterinarians, breeders and ferret owners are convinced that the Marshall Premium Ferret Diet is the key to the good health of their ferrets.

  • What vaccinations will my ferret need?

    All ferrets need a series of distemper vaccinations when they are very young. Your ferret received a canine distemper vaccination and will require additional vaccinations at 11 and 14 weeks of age and then annually. Ferrets should also receive a rabies vaccination after 12 weeks of age. Make sure your ferret is properly vaccinated every year. You can keep track of your ferret(s) records on your My Marshall Pet account page.

  • What are my pet's hygiene requirements?

    Generally ferrets are very clean animals and groom themselves, however, during the shedding seasons (Spring and Fall) your ferret is prone to developing hair balls. It is important to brush them frequently during this time and give them a malt-based laxative, such as Ferret Lax, if required.

    Bathing: Most owners find that once every 3-4 weeks is sufficient. We recommend a specialty ferret shampoo that does not strip essential oils from their skin. Some shampoos will leave ferrets itchy and scratchy. A conditioning coat spray can be used between shampoos to keep your ferret looking and smelling its best.

    Teeth Cleaning: A ferret's teeth may accumulate tartar buildup over time. Many owners purchase a tooth scaler or a finger toothbrush to keep their ferret's teeth in top form.

    Ear Cleaning: Ear wax buildup in ferrets is very common. The best way to remove wax and clean the ear is with a ferret ear cleaning solution. Simply squirt the solution in the ferret's ear and it will break down the wax and promote clean and healthy ear tissue. Clean ears also prevent ear mites. Never put a cotton applicator into your ferret's ears, as this could damage the ferret's hearing.

    Nail Clipping: This can be a challenging event as ferrets are very active. To make the job easier, try a few drops of Furo-vite™ or Furo-tone™ on the ferret's belly to divert their attention. When trimming, be careful not to cut too far down; avoid the pink area and only cut the curved tip. If you clip too far, the nail can bleed, if this should happen, use styptic powder to stop the bleeding.

  • Does my ferret need nutritional supplements and vitamins?

    With proper diet, ferrets should not need nutritional supplements. If your ferret's skin becomes dry and scratchy, it may be lacking necessary fatty acids. You may want to try a linoleic acid supplement such as Furo-Tone™. If you ferret is not feeling well or losing weight, a daily vitamin supplement such as Furo-vite™ can be offered. Ferrets love these products, and they can also be used as a healthy daily treat.

  • What about other treats and snacks for my ferret?

    Treats should be given as a reward. However, the type of treat should be monitored closely. We recommend avoiding dairy and sugar-based treats for ferrets. Along with Furo-Tone™ and Furo-Vite™, ferrets love semi-moist chicken and liver treats (Bandits™). Although ferrets love to eat natural treats (i.e., raisins, grapes, bananas) they could encounter health problems if they are fed too much. Do not feed chocolate, peanut butter, marshmallows, soft drinks, ice cream or potato chips to your pet ferret.

    We also have new Bandits Freeze Dried Treats made with single sourced, whole animal proteins.

    Your ferret will love these crunchy, natural treats made with single sourced, whole animal protein.
  • What is green slime disease?

    We have had a number of questions recently about a relatively new disease syndrome in ferrets that has several names. It has been called "green slime disease", "ferret mystery virus" or "epizootic catarrhal enteritis". This disease is characterized primarily by a bright green, mucoid diarrhea, accompanied by other signs of illness, such as loss of appetite, inactivity and dehydration. It appears to be easily spread among ferrets and is believed to be caused by a virus.

    While some research has been done to investigate this problem, much about it is still unknown. This lack of information persists despite the fact that the disease has been reported for at least a decade among ferret populations everywhere. It appears to be a world-wide problem.

    Marshall Farms and all other ferret lovers are deeply concerned about this potentially serious disease of ferrets. While administration of supportive care by your ferret's veterinarian usually results in complete recovery, the illness can still be serious. Sadly, fatalities do occur, sometimes despite aggressive and diligent care and treatment.

    Over the past year, we have been compiling reports from pet owners regarding how this disease appears to spread and attack. Any situation that brings ferrets together seems to have the potential for spread of disease. One important circumstance appears to be the introduction of a new, young ferret into a home where there are other ferrets already in residence. Our belief at this time is that these young ferrets have been exposed to the disease without showing any obvious symptoms. These youngsters act as a source of exposure for adults. The adults then contract the disease and become ill, although the young ferrets do not. We have been informed of enough scenarios of this nature to believe that this situation represents a significant risk for unexposed, adult ferrets. This observation seems to hold true regardless of history, source or geographic area. It also appears that once adults have been exposed, become ill and recover, they are then immune for some period.

    Based on this information, we recommend caution whenever buying a new baby ferret and bringing it into a home where there are adult ferrets that have not previously been exposed to the disease. Caution should also be exercised when attending ferret shows or other such functions where groups of ferrets are co-mingled.

    At Marshall Farms, we have been dedicated to ferret health and well being for over 60 years. As a result of this commitment, we are taking a leadership role in the investigation of this disease. To this end, we are currently supporting intensive research into this disease problem. The goals are to make a definitive determination of the cause; to better understand the sequence of transmission and infection; and finally, how to prevent it, for example by vaccination in a manner similar to protection against distemper. The ultimate goal is eradication. We believe that by working together with all those committed to ferret health, including owners, breeders, veterinarians and researchers, we can rise to the challenge of solving the mysteries of "the mystery virus".

    If you believe you may have new information that would contribute to our collective knowledge, please do not hesitate to contact us. By communication with ferret owners and their veterinarians, we are currently attempting to identify the optimum treatment regimen that will ensure recovery of ill ferrets. In this manner, we may act as a resource for veterinarians who are unfamiliar with the disease or with treatment of ferrets in general. Together, we look forward to making progress to halt this unfortunate disease.

  • Can my ferret get distemper?

    Distemper is an airborne virus that, without vaccination, is almost always 100% fatal. Distemper can be contracted from a variety of surfaces and sources; i.e. grass, weeds, trees, shrubs, or animals that you come into contact with. The incubation period can be up to 10 days long, so it is important to isolate any new pets from the household until such time has passed. Some people believe that if they always keep their pets indoors they will never be exposed to distemper. This simply isn’t true, because any time you venture out of your house and back in, you carry all sorts of germs on your shoes and may indeed be exposing your pets to deadly viruses. It is best to vaccinate.

General Care

  • What will my ferret need when I take him/her home?

    Your ferret will need a high quality food, wire cage, high back litter pan, water bottle, a gravity J-feeder or heavy crock style feeding dish and some sort of sleeping hammock, tube or sack. There are many different products available for your ferret. Ferrets prefer soft, cushy items for maximum comfort. It is important to clean cage accessories on a regular basis. Because ferrets can be rough with cage accessories, high quality, durable products are important.

  • Ferret-proofing your home!

    Before bringing your new pet home, it is important to ferret-proof your home. Use this general rule: When a ferret can get its head through an opening, they can get their whole body through it. Look for loose air ducts, openings under appliances, dryer and dishwasher doors, cupboards and counters. Be mindful of electric cords; ferrets have been known to tug on them. Keep toilet seats down and household chemicals stored safely. Ferrets are notorious for sleeping in piles of clothing and under furniture cushions, so be careful not to step or sit on them. If you do plan on leaving your ferret unsupervised for a period of time, you may wish to dedicate a room or area that is completely ferret-proofed.

  • Is it a good idea to leave my ferret out of its cage?

    Most owners keep their ferrets in their cage while they are sleeping and when away from home. It is recommended that your ferrets have several hours a day out of their cages for play and exercise. When they are out of their cages, they should wear a bell collar. This will enable you to hear and locate them and avoid accidents.

  • Can I take my ferret outside

    When your ferret is outside it should always be on a special harness and lead. Be careful of other people and pets when walking your ferret. If you are in a crowded place, consider a ferret carrying sack.

  • Will my ferret use a litter pan?

    Ferrets will use a litter pan. They may not be as accurate as a cat, and you may want to place several litter pans in the ferret's favorite corners. We have found the high back style litter pan to work best with ferrets. Ferrets have a very short digestive tract and will have to relieve themselves every 2 to 3 hours. When choosing a litter for your ferret, we recommend a litter made specifically for ferrets. Many litters are very dusty and not absorbent. Because ferrets use the litter pan frequently, a super absorbent, odor controlling litter should be used. We suggest a compressed recycled newspaper litter.

    Training tip: When litter training your ferret, it may miss the litter box. Simply pick up the feces and put it in the litter pan. Spray the area of the accident with odor removing cleaning product to remove the smell of the accident and to deter the ferret from using that area again. Don't get discouraged with litter training. Perseverance is the key.

  • What are good toys for my ferret?

    Ferrets love to play with toys, especially soft, latex rubber toys. These types of toys are not safe for ferrets of any age. Ferrets have been known to chew on soft rubber and ingest it. They do not have the ability to digest rubber and it often becomes an obstruction in their intestines. Costly surgery is often the only cure. It is important to remove any soft plastic objects and toys from a ferret's play area. Toys that are safe for ferrets include Super Chew Edible Chew Toys, hard non-breakable plastic toys, fabric-covered toys (especially with bells), balls with holes in them, crackle toys, and knotted cotton rope.

The Marshall Difference

  • When are Marshall ferrets available?

    Marshall Ferrets are available every week, all year long. They are shipped at 8-9 weeks of age to authorized pet dealers though out the United States and abroad. Before they leave our farm, they are given a final health check and plenty of food and water for the trip.

  • Are Marshall Ferrets neutered and de-scented?

    To avoid pet overpopulation and prevent health problems, every Marshall Ferret is neutered (spayed/castrated) and de-scented before being sent to authorized pet dealers. Two tattoo dots on the right ear identify that these procedures have been performed. By neutering our ferrets, problems that occur during normal mating season are avoided.

  • Are Marshall Ferrets vaccinated before being sent to the store?

    Every Marshall Ferret receives a canine distemper vaccination prior to shipment. We highly recommend additional vaccinations at 11 and 14 weeks of age and then annually. Rabies vaccinations are recommended after 12 weeks of age and then annually. It is extremely important to keep your ferret's vaccinations current, otherwise your ferret is susceptible to contracting serious illnesses, such as distemper or rabies. Click here for Marshall's Health and Vaccination Record.

  • What is the Marshall Guarantee?

    Marshall guarantees that your ferret is neutered and de-scented and free of congenital defects. Congenital defects are abnormalities that are present at birth and are not considered hereditary. The following are not covered by the Marshall Guarantee: colds, influenza, bacterial conditions, viruses, acquired diseases, growths, tumors, cancers or any condition caused by parasites or unknown loss. The guarantee is effective for one year from the date of purchase, only up to the purchase price. Your ferret must remain on Marshall Premium Ferret Diet to keep the guarantee valid.