Heat & Ferrets
Like most temperate climate mammals, ferrets cannot withstand temperature extremes. Heat is DEADLY to ferrets as they cannot perspire and dehydrate extremely fast due to their size.
The article below will give you some ideas on providing cooling during hot summer months. As for bringing them outdoors: Please avoid bringing your ferret outside during 10 a.m. and 2 p.m., when the sun’s rays are strongest. Yes, they CAN get sunburn! Albinos are especially at risk for sun damage to their skin and eyes. Ferrets with thinning hair due to old age or adrenal disease are also at high risk for sunburn.
By L. Vanessa Gruden in Paw Printz, July – August, 1999
The exceptionally hot summer we have been suffering in New England this year is even more dangerous for our ferrets. Even if you personally revel in the sauna-like weather, remember that your ferret’s health is in danger every time the temperature rises above 85 degrees.
Be sure your cage is not in direct sunlight. As the temperature rises, move your pets to the lowest floor of the house. (This is the only time of the year when a basement or garage might be a suitable temporary home for your ferret cage– but don’t allow them to roam outside it, as basements are often impossible to ferret-proof.) If you live in an apartment, move your ferrets into a bathroom or kitchen with a tile floor. Safely block off the room with a barrier and let them sleep with a thin cotton blanket on the cooling porcelain or slate tile.
Fans will help circulate air, but make sure they do not blow directly on the cage. Also make absolutely sure your ferret cannot insert a little nose or paw into the blades! Switching to all cotton bedding will also help keep them cooler. Make sure water is plentiful and changed daily. If you use a bowl, an ice cube or two makes a cool plaything.
When the temperature rises to 95 or higher, and the humidity is 70% plus, fans will NOT keep your ferret cool enough. Patti Limber, a FACT member in North Stonington, kindly allowed us to use her as an example. During the July 4th heatwave, she was bathing her ferrets with cool water and employing every other trick to keep them cool. Despite her efforts, one of her animals developed a (badly!) bleeding ulcer in his throat. After a frantic rush to Dr. Barrios, and a couple hundred dollars’ worth of exploratory surgery, the only cause arrived at was the heat had caused the problem. While we were there, a couple other people had appointments to board their ferrets during the weekend – strictly because they didn’t have any air conditioning in their home. (For your info, boarding ferrets at a vet runs about $10 to $15 per night, per ferret – it can add up fast!)
Small air conditioners suitable for cooling one or two rooms are available for $150 – $200. If you’re a bargain-hunter, you can find older models at tag sales or in local newspaper ads for $25 to $50. While usually not very energy-efficient, they will work fine to keep your pets cool on those brutally hot days. When you consider the extra work, worry, or, like Patti, expensive surgery caused by trying to keep your ferrets cool without an air conditioner, an a/c starts to look like a real bargain!