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

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Stevie drinks from his favorite water bowl:  the pool!



© Erika Matulich

Summertime brings 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.
Ooops! Splash!
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!
Swimmin’ Skills
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 ferret 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.
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.
Pool Program
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 water. Happy Splashing!