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You should not rely on the veterinary advice or information provided on
this site for diagnosis or treatment of any specific situation. Always
consult your own veterinarian for specific advice concerning the medical
condition or treatment of your own pet or animal.
is an essential part of your ferret’s life, not only for basic
survival, but also for ferret fun! Let’s talk about all aspects of
ferrets and water. We’ll start with indoor water issues, such as
drinking water, bath water, and play water. Then we’ll move to
water in the great outdoors. So let’s splash right in!
ferret needs access to cool, fresh drinking water at all times. Your
ferrets will drink as many as 20 times throughout the day and night
because a hydrated ferret is a healthy ferret.
Because drinking water is such an essential part of ferret
life and health, it’s important to provide water from several
sources so if one source goes dry accidentally, there is always a
every ferret cage I keep two no-drip water bottles. Under each water
bottle I keep another bowl to catch the drips so the cage blanket
doesn’t get wet. Even though water bottles are designed to be
“no drip,” ferrets tend to be quite active with their water
bottles. Stevie likes to shake his bottle, bite and gnaw on the
spout, and bat the bottle with his paws. The drip-catcher bowl is a
addition to water bottles, you should provide water in bowls.
Studies have shown that ferrets drink more water (which is
healthier) out of bowls than out of water bottles, presumably
because it's easier. However, water bowls are much messier than
water bottles and can be less sanitary.
Ferrets love to play in water bowls, and may dig, splash—and even
snorkel. Misty is my snorkeling ferret—she sticks her entire head
in the water and waves it around while blowing bubbles. Sasha has to
dig at the water while drinking, and splashes it everywhere. Little
Bear thinks that water tastes better out of the bowl, and will try
to tip it over to lap up water from the spill. Thor dribbles food
crumbs into the water, which means I have to change water bowls
several times per day.
Heavy crock-type bowls are helpful in reducing tipping. Crockery
bowls also keeps water cooler, which is more palatable to drink.
Stevie likes bobbing for ice cubes in a shallow pan of water.
However, ferrets don’t like to drink ice water, and if water is
too cold, your ferret may drink less when water is most needed, and
suffer from dehydration. Don't get a bowl that's too large, because
that can present a potential drowning hazard. Again, dishwasher-safe
is best, because water bowls should be changed daily and washed
takes on a whole new meaning to a ferret when it is bath water! Some
ferrets enjoy a bath, but most seem to dislike baths although they
have a great time drying off! The bath water should be warm, but not
scalding hot. A ferret’s body temperature is higher than ours, so
lukewarm water may actually cool your ferret. Ferrets seem to feel
more comfortable if they don’t have to swim during the bath and
have something to rest their feet on. Shallow water in a sink or tub
is fine – if the water will be deeper, provide a box or underwater
support for the ferret to rest on. You can also take your ferret
into the shower with you – many ferrets who dislike baths may
enjoy being held in the shower. Be careful, though! Sweet Pea
constantly tried to climb into the shower, and after years of trying
was finally successful. Unfortunately, as soon as she fell into the
tub and the shower water hit her in the face, she panicked and
scrambled up my brother’s leg. Ouch!
ferrets enjoy a combination bath/shower. I pre-heat the kitchen sink
with hot water (cold metal or porcelain can quickly make a bath
uncomfortable). Then I fill up the sink with a few inches of warm
water. The ferret is gently placed in the water, and I use a gentle
stream from either the faucet or the sink sprayer to rinse the
ferret. Careful not to get soapy water in the ears, eyes, nose, or
mouth. Make sure you rinse thoroughly because soap residue left on
the ferret can make them very itchy! In fact, too much water (and
soap) can dry out a ferret’s skin too much. For this reason, I
only bathe my ferrets every 3-4 months.
ferrets enjoy playing in water, so give them some to play with apart
from their drinking water bowls. Fill a shallow baking pan, bowl,
cookpot, or bathtub with an inch or two of water and let your
ferrets go bobbing for ice cubes, raisins, or ping-pong balls. (Put
a towel under the water container, because the ferrets can really
splash up the floor!). Water that is especially fun is sparkling
water (such as club soda or seltzer water). Fill up a mug with
sparkling water and hold it down while your ferret tries to bite the
bubbles. Or pour puddles of bubbly onto a baking sheet and watch
them play with this new type of water. My ferrets are also entranced
by streams of running water from a faucet, and try to grab the
stream and run off with it. The crew had way too much fun with a
tabletop fountain, so I bought them a fountain pet dispenser that
not only provides them with fresh water, but hours of fun. The water
fountain dispenser is on a tile floor, because the water does not
stay in the bowl!
are attracted to water because it is so much fun to drink and play
with. However, this can cause some potential drowning dangers in
your household. Consider keeping your toilet seat down so a curious
ferret won’t get trapped in the bowl. Don’t allow ferrets around
mop buckets (they’ll drink the soapy water or fall in and could
drown). Monitor filled bathtubs. And especially take care with your
dishwasher. My ferrets love to go into the dishwasher and lick food
from dirty dishes and water droplets from clean dishes. I always
triple-check the dishwasher before running it.
FERRETS COOL AT THE POOL?
Do you have visions of fun in the sun and staying cool in the pool?
Should your ferret friend join you in the fun? If it’s warm enough
for you to want wetting, it might be too warm for your fuzzy.
Ferrets are uncomfortable in temperatures over 80 degrees F (27°C),
and can experience severe heat-related medical problems if the
weather is over 90°F.
Where I live in Florida, most pools are completely surrounded by a
screened enclosure. The enclosure allows ferrets to play
"outside" safely (although constant supervision is
required). If there is no pool enclosure, keep your ferret on a
harness and leash! My ferrets act foolishly when playing around
pools. Sometimes they don’t notice the pool and walk right in. Or
they get excited doing their weasel play dance and Bounce- BOUNCE-
Bounce- SPLASH! Most of my ferrets treat the pool as the world’s
largest water bowl, and when Rascal sees a buddy leaning over the
edge for a drink, he pushes them in!
Most ferrets are natural swimmers. They tuck their front paws under
their chin, poke their nose out of the water, and paddle with their
hind feet, using their tail as a rudder. They seem to glide through
the water effortlessly, but swimming is hard work for a ferret, and
they don’t really enjoy this exercise. Ferrets can become quickly
exhausted and drown, or become weak and get sucked into a skimmer.
There some ferrets (like Bobbin) who are not instinctive swimmers
and thrash about in a panic and go under. Keep these ferrets away
from the pool!
I have also noticed that my ferrets don’t swim "smart."
When they fall in, they start swimming in whatever direction they
were pointing, even if that is the longest distance to the other
side of the pool. Perhaps this is because ferrets have poor vision.
Only one of my ferrets (Misty) can pull herself out of the pool on
her own; the rest will continue to paddle until they are fished out,
or find something to climb out on. I actually have training
sessions with my ferrets to show them where their specially-anchored
pool float is that allows them to climb out. Several training
sessions are needed for them to learn how to get out of the pool.
Pool Safety Suggestions
My ferret crew is allowed to play by the pool only at dawn and dusk,
and they are always supervised. During the day it’s too hot, and
the sunlight reflecting from water can burn ferret skin and damage
the retinas in their eyes. Also, the hot pool deck burns their feet.
Because my ferrets fall in frequently, there are special safety
grates covering the skimmers so ferrets can’t get pulled in. Some
ferrets are smart enough to use this grate to climb out. We also
keep chlorine levels minimized because chlorinated water is very
irritating to sensitive ferret eyes and skin. I encourage the
ferrets to drink from water bowls provided on the back porch instead
of the pool. The ferrets are never allowed to "help" when
we do water maintenance -- pool chemicals are toxic and dangerous!
When a ferret has an accidental splash session, I rinse off the pool
water, condition fur, and towel as much as possible. If you don’t
dry your ferrets, they will overexert themselves trying to wipe off,
which may be too much stress after an exhausting swim.
I would never take my ferrets to a public pool. For health reasons,
pets are banned at most pools anyway, but you could also put your
ferret in danger of heat stroke. Additionally, ferrets are stressed
by swimming and may react to other people in an unexpected way. So
leave your furkids at home! If you have a pool and ferret-water
contact is inevitable, keep in mind the safety suggestions above. If
your ferrets love water, they will have more fun in their own pool,
like a bathtub, sink, or dish filled ferret-ankle-deep with tap
pool? Maybe the irresistible allures of the sun, sand, and water are
calling you to the lake or ocean. You may be tempted to take your
ferret friends along for the beach adventure, but you should first
be aware of some cautions.
What’s the Weather?
Once again, check the weather forecast. If the outside temperature
will be more than 80°F (27°C), your ferret should stay indoors at
home and keep cool. Warmer temperatures or high humidity levels will
be uncomfortable for your ferret and put your buddy in danger of
heat stress or heatstroke.
Never take your ferret on an outdoor adventure without a harness and
leash. Ferrets can easily slip out of collars, so use a harness!
Identification on the harness and a bell are also good safety
measures. The leash keeps your ferret from going into off-limits
areas and allows you to pull your ferret out of danger quickly.
Check the fit of your harness each time you use it, because ferrets
change their weight during the year.
Your Bundle of Sunshine
The next guideline is to keep your ferret out of direct sunlight.
Ferrets can get sunburned on their sensitive nose and ears, and
ultraviolet rays can cause retinal damage in the eyes. I have some
little sunglasses, but they don’t stay on my ferrets for more than
a few seconds! Sunburns make ferrets susceptible to skin cancer.
Albino ferrets especially lack protective skin coloring and can
suffer severe sunburns from just minutes of direct exposure. Too
much sun will also dehydrate your ferret – remember to bring a
Sand and Surf
Sand holds and reflects heat. Therefore sand gets hotter than the
air and burns your ferret’s feet. Sand also radiates heat long
after air temperatures have cooled. You might be strolling along at
75 degrees but your ferret down on the sand feels an uncomfortable
85 degrees. Ferrets also love to dig in sand and if they mistakenly
eat some, they can get an intestinal blockage. Blowing sand can
cause eye damage because beach sands are made of silica (essentially
ground glass), which scratches eyes and skin. Damp sand is your
best bet. It is cooler, especially fun to dig in, and the sand
particles will cause less problems for your ferret. Be prepared for
a good rinsing after a sand-digging session – both you and your
When I took Gizmo to Lake Mendota, Wisconsin, she loved walking
along the shore in ankle-deep water. Unfortunately, she also loved
to drink the water, and took home some nasty intestinal parasites.
Drinking out of stagnant puddles and ponds may result in Giardia,
which is a tough tummy bug to get rid of. If you go to the ocean and
your ferret drinks salt water, digestive system disruptions are
likely. At worst, if your ferret drinks too much salt water, a brain
edema could occur. Be careful of ocean waves that could douse your
ferret and get salt water into eyes, ears, and lungs. Again, the
leash and harness will help keep your ferret safe.
At lakes, possible dangers abound, such as poisonous snakes,
predatory birds, and insect bites. Remember that one mosquito bite
can transmit potentially fatal heartworms to your ferret. Once, when
I took Bobbin to the lake, she discovered a duck nest near the shore
and decided to play with an egg. This aroused the wrath of the
nearby mother duck. I reeled Bobbin in so quickly on her leash she
practically flew through the air, because I knew a ferret was no
match for a mad duck! At both lakeside and oceanside, dogs pose
another hazard. Unleashed dogs at the beach could snatch up your
ferret in an instant. Finally, watch out for potentially dangerous
ocean creatures. I know one ferret that was badly stung
by a jellyfish washed ashore, and another ferret that had a near
miss with a hungry pelican.
Is it Fun?
Some ferrets think that any outdoor trip is a wonderful adventure
and enjoy every minute to the maximum! Gizmo never tired of visiting
the shore and had a blast! Other ferrets get scared (Sweet Pea
wanted only to go home and would dive down my shirt to hide). Know
what makes your ferret safe and happy so you can decide whether or
not to share your beach adventure with your buddy.
YOUR COOL WITH WATER
mentioned before, it is easy for ferrets to become overheated and
dehydrated, especially in the hot summer months. Water can be a real
lifesaver, both to prevent heat-related problems and also to help
your ferret recover from them. Again, provide plenty of fresh, cool
water at all times from multiple sources. Always bring water with
you on any outing.
you don’t have airconditioning in your home, water can help cool
your ferrets on hot days. Evaporating water around the ferret helps
with cooling. One method comes from our Australian ferret friends:
Put a damp towel over your ferret’s cage, a bucket of water on top
of the cage, and another damp towel with one end in the bottom of
the bucket and the other end on the cage towel. The bucket towel
acts as a wick to draw water from the bucket and keep the cage towel
wet. The evaporating water keeps the cage cooler, as long as the
humidity is low. A fan can help the evaporation process.
can’t cool themselves very efficiently because they can’t sweat,
so there is no evaporative cooling that we feel with sweat or a
breeze. You can help your ferret "sweat" by misting your
ferret with water, and let a fan blow on the ferret to evaporate the
water. You can also wipe your ferret with a damp cloth. To be
effective, you need to re-wet your ferrets as soon as they dry, so
this method requires work! And some ferrets, like my Bear and Stevie,
just hate being spritzed!
is also great cooling method. The easiest way is to use plastic
drink bottles. Fill clean 1- or 2-liter bottles 3/4 full of water
and freeze (without caps). When frozen, cap tightly. I always have
several frozen bottles available for regular use, emergencies (such
as a power failure), or travel. When it is time for ferret use, I
put the bottle in a tube sock or wrap it in a towel. Tie a knot in
the top of the tube sock. The fabric soaks up condensation and keeps
ferrets from having direct contact with the ice (which can cause
skin injuries). Put frozen bottles on the cage bottom. Cold air
sinks when undisturbed, so don’t use a fan because the cold will
blow away from your ferret.
of frozen bottles? Put cubed/crushed ice into resealable plastic
food storage bags with water. Place the ice-water bags under the
ferret’s bedding, or wrap in a towel. These bags need to be
changed more often than frozen bottles.
AS FIRST AID
too hot? Your ferret may show initial signs of heat stress by being
lethargic and lying flat on the floor. The ferret may have her mouth
open, and her nose and gums might turn a darker pink (or white, if
she is going into shock). If she is panting, salivating, or limp, or
if she has red footpads, she is going into heatstroke. Further
symptoms are a large quantity of mucus coming from the nose and
mouth; collapse; seizures; and finally, coma.
cases of heat stress and heatstroke, the goal is to lower the
ferret's body temperature steadily, not suddenly. I know how hard it
is to work slowly on a suffering ferret. I once found Sasha gasping
for air, with bright-red ears, gums, and feet. In my panic to save
her, I was tempted to dunk her in ice water, but this can be very
dangerous. Keep your own head cool, remove your ferret from the
heat, and start cooling slowly. If you cool your ferret too quickly,
his temperature can drop to a dangerously low level.
Try offering water in a syringe. Drip it
in the side of the mouth or under the tongue, making sure the ferret
laps and swallows. Never force liquids into an unconscious animal.
Wipe the ferret with a cool (not cold), wet towel, or wrap the
ferret in a cool, damp washcloth. Concentrate on the feet, legs,
hindquarters, groin, and tail area. Freshen the towel with cool
water every few minutes. You can also dip the ferret in slightly
cool water. Repeat until the ferret seems less distressed, and then
take your ferret to the vet for fluid therapy.
is a very important part of your ferret’s life. Drinking water,
bath water, play water, cooling water, and first-aid water –
it’s all part of the game of ferret life! Keep water with your
ferret and you, wherever you go, and enjoy the wonderfulness of wet!
Happy splashing with your water weasels!