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About Ferrets

TOP TEN THINGS FERRET OWNERS SHOULD KNOW
#7: TAKING YOUR FERRET OUTDOORS

Many people like to take their ferrets outdoors with them. With some common sense precautions, taking ferrets outside can be very good for them, and they will be very happy. However, there are some special considerations that you must be aware of when it comes to taking your ferret on an outing.

Always keep your ferret on a leash when going outside. There are some very good harnesses on the market for ferrets; purchase the flat nylon H-style ones that have a place to attach the leash between the shoulders. There are some "ferret harnesses" sold in many pet stores that are not good choices, though; the ones that are called "figure eight" harness/leashes that are sold on a cardboard ferret are in many cases worthless. They are little more than a piece of string that encircles the ferret's neck and body. Ferrets are very squirmy and they can very easily slip out of these products. Even if you are in a confined/secluded area outdoors, don't let your ferret off of his/her leash. If anything should interest or frighten your ferret, he or she can dart off in an instant. Ferrets can run very quickly, and if they find cracks, animal holes, or other dangerous places to get into you may not be able to protect or retrieve your ferret.

Be very careful about the temperature when you take your ferret out. Ferrets cannot handle high temperatures or direct sunlight. Temperatures above 80 F can be life threatening to ferrets. Ferrets should never be taken in a car without air conditioning; if you must cool your car by having your windows down, place frozen 1 liter water bottles (wrapped in a sock) in the cage/carrier so your ferret can lay against it and stay cool. Make sure the cage/carrier is not in direct sunlight. You can never leave a ferret in a hot car, even just to dash into the bank. Ferrets are very small and it literally only takes minutes before your ferret goes into heat shock. If you take your ferret to the park in the summer, always take a good supply of water, offer it to your ferret frequently, and make sure that your ferret spends more time in the shade than in the sun. Bringing frozen water bottles along in the carrier/cage is also a good idea. Don't make your outing an all-day affair if you cannot get your ferret into cool surroundings periodically; in these cases, leave your ferret at home. Ferrets do not sweat and they have no way of tolerating heat. If your ferret begins to pant, this is a sure sign that the temperature is too much for him to handle. If this happens, immedately get your ferret out of the heat. If you have no place to go, take a towel, dampened with water, and slowly begin cooling your ferret. Don't drench your ferret with cold water, because this can cool your ferret's temperature too quickly and cause the animal more stress. If you do not cool your ferret once he begins to go into distress, he will then faint or pass out and can die. If this happens, cool your ferret immediately, and immediately see a vet. Ferrets who seem to recover from heat stroke can still be in a life-threatening state due to the stress that their bodies have been through. Ferrets who have experienced heat stroke in the afternoon, and seem to recover, have been known to die hours after returning home as a result of heat stroke.

Be careful when allowing strangers to handle your ferret. It is excellent exposure for ferrets to take your pet to a public place and allow people unfamiliar with ferrets to learn about them, but there's also a danger to your ferret. Small children can be to rough on your ferret, and they can do harm. Always be cautious about other pets in the area where your ferret is; dogs that have never been around a ferret could attack and kill your ferret before you could intervene. There is also a danger that your ferret could nip the wrong person, even if your ferret has never nipped in the past, and there could be consequences if this should happen.

NEVER take your ferret outdoors if he/she is not current on distemper vaccines as this disease is fatal in ferrets.

Finally, make sure when you take your ferret somewhere in public that you are aware of the legal status of ferret ownership in the area. So far, ferrets are still illegal in the entire state of California, Hawaii and there are still a few localities in other states (e.g. New York City) that prohibit ferret ownership. Excellent information about the legal issues in California is available from Californians for Ferret Legalization, check New York City Ferrets for information on New York City's fight to legalize their ferrets, and a list of places that still ban ferrets is available from Ferret Central.

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