Ferrets are very funny little characters, full of fun and personality. When the colder winter weather arrives, it's that time of the year to make sure that outdoor pets like ferrets are kept safe and warm. If you keep your ferrets as indoor pets, keeping them warm is also important, but at the same time you need to think about keeping them out of harm's way which includes getting too close to an open fire or hot radiator just in case they burn themselves by accident.
If you are new to keeping ferrets, watching them frolic in newly fallen snow can be extremely amusing. The problem is they may want to stay out playing for a little longer than is truly good for them. The thing to remember is that ferrets are small creatures and they get cold very quickly even if they don't realise it!
With this said, ferrets are more tolerant of the cold than they are of heat, but it is still worth keeping an eye on them during times when temperatures really drop and although they cannot get a common cold, ferrets are very prone to catching the flu!
Outdoor cages need to be somewhere that's sheltered and out of the wind. You also need provide a nice dry cosy corner within your ferrets cage so they can hide away and sleep when they want to. You need to make sure their toilet"" area is kept clean and dry so that it does not freeze over when temperatures drop during the night.
You should also change your ferrets bedding more frequently during the winter months if they are kept in outdoor cages. Ideally this should be done at least once a day or at the very least every other day. However, litter trays need to be cleaned out as necessary which could be several times a day. The only reason an outdoor ferret might start to smell is because their environments are not kept clean enough! A damp environment when it's cold will affect their overall health too.
Water containers whether bottles or other, have to be washed out and refilled with fresh water on a daily basis and any old food should be removed and replaced with new otherwise it creates the perfect environment for bacteria and fungus to thrive in. If your ferret has an open wound, no matter how small it might be could very quickly become infected and lead to all sorts of other health problems if they are kept in a dirty cage.
You can safely let your ferret play in the snow for about 10 to 15 minutes or so, but you need to stay with them the whole time, or you might find they disappear! The best way is to keep control of them is to place your ferret on a harness and lead so you know their whereabouts even when they're tunnelling in the snow.
The one thing ferrets adore is playing and tunnelling in the snow, but they run the risk of getting wet and therefore cold very quickly. If they start to shiver, it's time for them to go back in their cages to warm up again! You also need to bear in mind that ferrets are susceptible to frostbite, so it's important they never get too cold. The signs they might be suffering from frostbite include the following:
If you think your ferret is suffering from frostbite, they need to see a vet as soon as possible because they need to be warmed up very slowly and extremely carefully or more damage to affected areas can be done.
You also have to watch out for toxins during the winter months and this is especially true when snow starts to thaw. There are lots of things people use over the winter months which are highly toxic to ferrets and other animals which includes antifreeze. Other things to watch out for which are very poisonous to ferrets include the following:
It's always fun to take an indoor ferret outside after it has been snowing because they really do enjoy playing in it. However, it's really important to keep control of your pet by putting them on a harness and lead. If you are worried about taking an indoor pet outside, you can always bring the snow to them by filling up a bathtub and then letting your ferret play in it!
The problem for indoor ferrets during the winter months is not so much the cold because most houses have central heating, but rather too much heat! As previously mentioned, ferrets cope that much better with the cold than they do with too much heat. If you have open fires, ferrets should be kept well away from them.
However, other heat sources can also pose a problem whether it's an oil fired radiator or a plug in electric one. Ferrets are by nature very inquisitive creatures and may well get burnt because they get too close to a heat source.
Another real issue during the winter months is something known as a zoonotic disease in the form of influenza which can be passed from a person to a ferret. If you think you or anyone else in the house has a bout of flu, you have to keep them well away from your ferret or they run the risk of passing the virus on to them which could make them very sick.
The other thing to bear in mind, is that a ferret can pass the flu virus to a person if they come into contact with them. The best thing to do is avoid any contact with your pet if you think you have the flu virus. Should a very healthy ferret catch the flu, they can normally fight it off after a few days of feeling miserable. However, older and young ferrets have a much harder time and it's always worth taking them along to the vet to be treated.