These small mammals need a number of different products made just for them, and retailers who carry the full range of these items are in the best position to increase sales.
Among small pets, ferrets stand apart. They are the only commonly kept small pet that is a carnivore. Because of their unique characteristics, they need some products that other small pets don’t. To ensure they’re meeting the needs of their customers, retailers should familiarize themselves with this pet’s specialized needs and build a complete ferret-friendly section.
Even a product as seemingly simple as a litter box needs to be made specifically for ferrets because of their long body shape. The design that tends to work best for them is a rectangle with a tall back and a front entrance low enough to easily step into. Ferrets like to have their front feet inside the box when using it, so corner pans tend to be too small for them. The tall back is also important because ferrets like to back up against the litter box, and if the box is too short, waste may land outside it. These playful creatures also have a tendency to push litter boxes around, so retailers should stock ones with fasteners to attach them to the cage.
Ferrets can also be lazy about looking for a litter box. If the owner has a cage with several floors, encourage them to buy a litter pan for at least every other floor. Also, recommend extra litter boxes to put in room corners while ferrets are out playing, since they have a tendency to use any corner as a bathroom, even if there isn’t a litter box there.
Another product that should be specifically designed for the ferret’s long body is the harness. It should be shaped in an H-design rather than in a figure eight. When taking ferrets on trips outside, owners need to be equipped with one of these specialized harnesses and a lightweight leash. On longer excursions, the owner should also bring along a carrier to protect the ferret from dogs, or to give the ferret a safe place to rest. When traveling in a car, ferrets must be confined to secure carriers to prevent them from distracting the driver and protect them in case of an accident. It is also a good idea to have ferrets wear a collar with an I.D. tag or, even better, to have them microchipped, in case of accidental escapes.
Ferrets are in the same family as weasels and skunks and are one of the most odiferous small pets. Because they eat mostly meat, their feces have a stronger odor than that of other small animals. And although most pet ferrets have had their anal glands removed to reduce their smell, they still have oil- and scent-producing glands in their skin. Some people do not notice this odor, but many people perceive it as unpleasant. Grooming products specifically made for ferrets include shampoos and coat conditioners. In between baths, other products—such as an odor-controlling spray or body wipes—can be used to keep the smell under control. There are also products that can be applied to their food to help reduce their waste’s odor.
Ferrets need other grooming supplies as well, including a brush and/or comb, toenail clippers and dental products such as a toothbrush or tooth wipes, toothpaste and/or a dental rinse. Ferrets’ ears tend to accumulate wax and need periodic cleaning; luckily special ear cleaners for ferrets are available. During the semiannual shedding season, ferrets should be given a special ferret hairball remedy. Other supplements for ferrets include high-calorie vitamin/mineral pastes, and products supplying essential fatty acids to help keep their coats in good condition. Ferrets usually find these products delicious, and they can be used to distract a ferret that is being groomed by applying a small amount to the belly fur. The pet will be occupied licking off the supplement, making toenail trimming and ear cleaning easier.
Retailers should make sure shoppers know all the ferret supplies that are available to them. Since there is a long list of items that ferrets need, consider having a ferret shopping list printed up and made into a pad of tear-off sheets. This sheet can be handed to ferret owners to use while in the store and to take home. The store name should appear prominently on the sheet for some extra advertising.
Another idea is to create a ferret care kit. An inexpensive plastic tote can be filled with grooming products, including shampoo, conditioner, ear cleaner, toenail trimmer, comb, brush and dental products. Such a kit could also include supplements such as a fatty-acid paste or liquid, a hairball laxative, a high-calorie supplement and others. A kit like this saves customers time and makes sure they get everything they need.
Networking with ferret shelters, humane societies, ferret clubs and veterinarians who treat ferrets can draw in new customers. Providing discount coupons for them to hand out to their members and clients will encourage ferret owners to visit your store. If a store is large enough, a retailer could even offer meeting space to a ferret club, ensuring members will visit the store regularly. PB
Debbie Ducommun has a B.A. in animal behavior and has worked in the animal field since 1982. She is the author of three books about rat care, health and training and was a consultant on the movie Ratatouille.