Ferret Friendly Facts and Advice by Erika Matulich, Ph.D.

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© Erika Matulich

Ferrets are very susceptible to heat, and can’t tolerate temperatures above 85 degrees F (29°C). Living with ferrets in Texas and Florida has taught me a lot about beating the heat!
Avoiding Heat
Never leave your ferret in a parked car, even for a few minutes. Keep the cage out of direct sunlight and away from windows. My ferrets enjoy staying in bathrooms where they can stretch out on cool, tile floors. You can put ceramic tiles in their cage to lay on. Air conditioning is the best solution. If you don’t have central air, consider purchasing a window unit for your ferret room.
Your ferret needs access to cool, fresh drinking water at all times. Each of my ferret cages has two water bottles and a water bowl. Ferrets drink more water in the summer, and this way you won’t run out! I change water daily during the summer. Crockery bowls keep water cooler, and Flower and Misty enjoy splashing in them. 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.
Fans, by themselves, don’t cool ferrets. The job of fans is to move air, so if it’s 90 degrees, the fan moves 90 degree air around. Humans like fans because moving air helps sweat evaporate, which is cooling. Because ferrets can’t sweat, there is nothing to evaporate, and the ferret gets no cooling from the moving air. 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! Be careful, as fans are a ferret hazard, because they might poke paws or noses into the fan blade housing. Finally, high humidity doesn’t allow for evaporation of either sweat or water, so fans aren’t effective with humidity levels over 60 percent.
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.
Ice is a great cooling method, and works regardless of humidity. 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.
Out 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. You can also use instant cold packs, which are made from gel chemicals. Ferrets should never have direct contact with these packs because the chemicals are toxic and the pack could freeze to your ferret’s skin. These packs are small (you’ll need several per ferret), expensive, last for about an hour, and usually not reusable. However, these packs are handy for emergencies, and I keep some in my first aid kit.
Keep Your Cool!
Moving from the dry heat of Texas to the humid heat of Florida has kept me on my toes this summer to keep my furrballs nice and cool! I hope these tips help you and your ferrets beat the heat!