How to Take Care of Ferrets
Ferret owners seek the same attention from the industry enjoyed by their dog- and cat-owning counterparts.
While consumers who are shopping for ferret goods represent opportunities for retailers, this corner of the pet goods market remains a niche segment. Like pet parents of more common animals, customers who are making purchasing decisions for their ferrets are searching for guidance from store associates who should be able to provide direction toward a well-stocked section of trusted brands.
“People are incredibly loyal, and there are more ferret owners out there than you think,” says Jason Hale, owner of Ferret Depot. “Don’t overlook the community of people who are out there. Their animals live six, seven, eight or nine years. There is money in these niche communities, and the ferret community is often overlooked.”
When buying products that allow consumers to welcome ferrets into a home for the first time, these prospective pet parents must keep in mind the unique personalities of these animals. These traits necessitate the purchase of certain products and undertaking of specific steps to maximize comfort to ensure animals will remain happy and healthy.
“Because ferrets are still not as common as a dog or cat, there is very little common knowledge on a ferret,” explains Amanda Altman, marketing coordinator at Marshall Pet. “Educating the customer on the very basic needs of a ferret is important. They are extremely social and prefer to live in a business of two or more.”
To support the emotional well being of ferrets, Altman recommends creating an environment that affords opportunities for play and rest, as these animals will forge relationships with their humans through play. Through investing in toys that challenge ferrets—who are creatures that enjoy play that includes chasing, hiding items and burrowing—pet parents can help their animals reach the level of mental stimulation necessary to thrive.
“To live comfortably, ferrets need a multi-tiered cage with cozy hammocks, litter, fresh food and water,” says Altman. “They need an opportunity to get out of their cages and run around and burrow in a dig box or dirt.”
Jason Casto, director of marketing, small animal for Kaytee, sees value in offering customizable solutions to consumers. He recognizes the vast opportunities in allowing versatile solutions to entertain active ferrets, as “accessories designed for activity remain top sellers in the ferret category.”
To support the active nature of these playful creatures, nutritious, wholesome food options are necessary to optimize ferret health. Formulas rich in protein, with minimal carbohydrates are ideal for these animals, yet their needs will shift with age as metabolism and energy levels decrease, explains Altman.
“Both young and middle[-age] ferrets should have softened food. Young ferrets can metabolize a diet higher in fat than their senior counter parts,” she explains. “As with any diet or treat for your ferret, it should be high in protein and low in sugar and carbs.”
Distinct Play Spaces
Despite their affinity for playtime, coupled with an innate curiosity that keeps both ferrets—and their humans—busy, these animals are known to require a lot of downtime. To create an environment conducive to accommodating the resting needs of ferrets, Tara Whitehead, director of marketing and communications at Midwest Homes for Pets, emphasizes the elements necessary to create a setting for these creatures to find respite.
“[An] active lifestyle not only means ferrets play hard, they sleep hard,” she says. “Ferrets prefer and require multiple places to curl up and get cozy, have some privacy, and get much needed rest. Essential products begin with a large and easy-to-clean cage. Clean, soft bedding and various sleep spots are important to a happy and healthy ferret.”
When assisting customers with their ferret-enclosure purchases, a smart choice for retailers is to recommend customizable cages that offer options to increase enclosure size to multiple levels and could be easily altered using accessories and toys. While interaction between humans and ferrets is recommended, these creatures are extremely quick and able to move stealthily; therefore, Whitehead also recommends creating space outside of the cage that is confined yet safe.
“With their active lifestyle and curious nature, ferrets should be allowed time for free-play outside of their cages as well,” she explains. “This requires a bit of ferret-proofing your home and ways to keep them contained to certain, safe spaces.”
Today’s consumers care for their animals as they would any family member, and shoppers want to know that their chosen retailer shares their commitment to their pets’ happiness. In the pet space, quality holds greater importance than quantity. While retailers should devote shelf space to ferret products, a thorough selection of items doesn’t have to be large, it must simply include the goods that are made from the best ingredients or materials.
“People are looking for the highest quality ingredients,” says Hale. “Consumers in the ferret market are willing to pay more for what they give their ferrets. They are looking for continued innovation in home items for cages, toys and stuff that makes the home safer. That is where people will continue to push toward.”
In addition to including quality ingredients, consumers are seeking products that resonate with their personal values and tap into nutritional trends. Once pet parents discover the products that will optimize the health of their ferrets, they will repeat their purchases with retailers whose inventory meets their needs.
“The types of ingredients, manufacturing processes and global impact are all an example of branded values that the customer might be interested in,” explains Altman. “A push to be more natural and organic, gluten-, grain- and dairy-free in some cases, has been seen in nutrition and treats.”
Establishing their stores as resources to meet the needs of these animals means that retailers should also consider trends in products that are used as enclosures, entertainment and ferret-proofing. As a dedicated group of pet parents, families who have ferrets are known for remaining abreast of the latest trends—and expect the same from their retailers.
“They’re looking for continued innovation on home items,” explains Hale. “They are looking for continued innovation for cages, toys and products that make the home safer. That is where people will continue to push toward.”
The importance of ferret safety and health is paramount to these consumers, but it’s not all work and no play. These engaging animals inspire their humans to create an environment filled with goods that will ensure fun for the entire family.
“We have noticed an ever-growing trend in ‘decking out’ ferret cages with tons of accessories, themed and seasonal décor, and sharing these masterpiece cages on social media,” says Whitehead. “There are numerous social spaces that focus solely on sharing images and swapping ideas for cage décor, which is great fun for ferret parents and the ferrets themselves!” PB