Ferret Poo Patrol: A Dirtier Job

by Keri K. on August 27, 2009

You may have already read Keith’s post about monitoring bird droppings for indications of health, called “Parrot Poo Patrol – A Dirty Job.” I submit now that a ferret parent’s (that is, “ferrent’s”) task of litter box monitoring is just as important — and maybe even dirtier. Bear with me on this one!

Ferret Litter BoxOne of my former fuzzies, Trial, turned me into a very well-read ferrent on the subject of poo. We finally figured out that, at age 7, he had developed an allergy to chicken! After much dietary experimentation, during which Prednisone hidden in turkey baby food became his favorite snack, Trial and I both had much happier litter box experiences.

Compared to humans, ferrets have an extremely short digestive tract: about 3-4 hours long. That can mean a lot of litter box scooping, but it also means that any digestive troubles can be very quickly noticed and hopefully dealt with. Ferrets make it easy to keep track of any changes, too, because unlike cats, they apparently have the opinion that they have more important things to do than hang around a litter box to bury their leavings.

A few “weird poos” now and then are usually nothing to worry about. Your ferret might have gotten into something he shouldn’t, hard as that is to believe. But if you see a change in poo for more than a day or two in a row, make a vet appointment ASAP. Here’s a short list of common possible poo problems:

• Very thin, “ribbon-like” poo, or no poo at all = Blockage in the intestines, caused by swallowing a foreign object. This is life-threatening and requires veterinary attention immediately! Don’t wait to see if this one gets better.
• Dark or black, “tar-like” poo = Caused by stomach ulcers, which bleed. The black color is the digested blood. Ulcers can be caused by stress. Make a trip to the vet for medication, and be sure to discuss what could be causing any ulcers.
• Mushy, “birdseed” poo = Evidence of food moving too quickly through the system and not being fully digested. If this happens repeatedly, consider a vet visit and discuss changing your ferret’s diet.
• Green poo = Also a general sign of poor digestion. “Neon green” poo can be a sign of epizootic catarrhal enteritis, or ECE, which is believed to be a virus and commonly seen in younger ferrets. It spreads very easily between ferrets, so separate affected individuals, always quarantine new ferrets, and consult your vet (see a pattern here?) for possible treatment and a speedy recovery.

Be prepared to take a poo sample along to the vet, so that it can be tested for possible parasites.

Ferrets require a very high-quality diet, with high protein and very few carbohydrates. A cheaper “grocery store” kibble might be held together with corn or other high-carb grains, and since a ferret lacks the necessary section of lower intestine to digest those, you’ll be seeing a larger quantity of that food right back in the litter box. If you’d like to switch your ferret to a different food, try some of the tips in this article.

You can also read about more ferret digestion issues, like IBD and Helicobacter infections, here. Know what to do if you encounter weird poo!


Keri is a lead catalog designer for Drs. Foster and Smith and holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from UW-Stout. She shares a small home with her husband, two Chinese Crested dogs, two cats, two ferrets, several reptiles and amphibians, and 30-some gallons of freshwater planted aquariums. See more articles by Keri K.

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Pet Wellness Naturally » Blog Archive » All About Ferrets
April 21, 2010 at 11:59 pm

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Brian March 11, 2010 at 1:14 am

Wow..this is probably one of the best articles out there for ferret owners. This isn’t talked about too much for some reason. At least you don’t hear about too many problems with ferrets eating poo.

But if you want to hear a ferret that’s full of poo…check out Fabio, the celebrity ferret.

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