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How to care for older ferrets?

What are some things I can do to make my senior ferret's life more comfortable?

by ferretpapa


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As ferrets get older they often develop some issues, especially with mobility.

  • They're weaker and can't lift their heads or bodies up as well
  • They can't make it to their litter box (either can't hold it, or are unable to climb in)
  • They can't climb onto shelves in their cage, even with ladders
  • They have difficulty walking on hard floors
  • They may start soiling their beds or themselves

Here are some things you can do to make their lives more comfortable:

Use low-profile food and water bowls. Most wall-attached food and water bowls are way too tall for older ferrets. If you use these, you've probably noticed that your younger ferrets stand on their hind legs and place their front paws on the edge of the bowl to reach inside. So a senior ferret with weaker limbs won't be able to reach and will be hungry and thirsty. (This also goes for ferrets that just had surgery, and even some very small healthy ferrets!)

Use puppy pads instead of litter boxes. I may be in the minority but I honestly really prefer litter boxes over pads. But older ferrets often do much better with pads since they aren't able to climb into the boxes as well.

Use a pen instead of a cage. If your ferret's having difficulty climbing around in its cage, a pen will give them more space to walk around. If they're struggling with their litter box, pens also give more room for puppy pads than cages do. The pen I would recommend is the Midwest small pet exercise pen.

The biggest downside of a pen is that it's not as easy to hang hammocks and a lot of ferrets really love hammocks. So I wouldn't place them in a pen unless they really have mobility issues. (You could also build a hammock holder out of PVC or other materials though)

Give them rugs to walk on. I put my senior ferret pens on top of washable area rugs, that way they have no difficulty walking around and they're easy to clean.

Of course even if they're in a spacious pen they'll want to come out and stretch their legs every day. If you don’t have carpet, place rugs or towels around the house so that they can grip the floor easily.

And make sure to keep an eye on them, especially if they have insulinoma. If they have nothing but hard wood or tile floors to walk on, their legs might splay out and they'll literally be stuck. Obviously that's not a fun experience for them. So if you have older ferrets free roaming, be sure to monitor closely that they're actually enjoying themselves and able to get where they want to go.

Finally, sadly, a lot of ferrets start soiling themselves as they get old. And if they live with friends, they may poop and pee on each other as well. There are a few things you can do to help keep them comfortable in these cases.

First, obviously, check their bedding daily and change it frequently. You'll definitely have to do more laundry as they get older.

Second, give them gentle baths. Don't use soaps or shampoos when bathing them. Shampoos labeled as "for ferrets" are usually trash and will do more harm than good, stripping them of their natural oils, which makes them even more likely to develop a rash. I recently discovered the Pampered Ferret Soothing Oat Bath Soak and I am in love with it!

Honestly I was skeptical at first - "$20 for a small bag of oats?" But it's a lot more than just oats. After using it on my older ferrets, it's amazing and worth every penny! If you have older ferrets who soil themselves, it's tough to get the odor out 🙁 But this oat soak has them smelling good for days afterwards. It's amazing and I'm glad they can safely be cleaned. I've also noticed that my own hands are extremely soft and smooth after washing them in it, so it definitely helps their skin.

Sink baths are also much less stressful for them. If they don’t get baths often, getting placed in a huge tub full of water can be scary. A sink with warm water with their human holding them while they soak is much nicer.

And finally, use diaper rash cream. If they're peeing on themselves or you're bathing them frequently, they will start to get a rash on their legs that could get infected. So if you start to notice redness or swelling on their legs, then any diaper rash cream like A&D ointment will be safe to use for ferrets.

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