Having Fun With Ferrets

Karen M. Alley//March 19, 2014//

Having Fun With Ferrets

Karen M. Alley //March 19, 2014//

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When it comes to categorizing pets, ferrets get lumped in with small animals, but they should probably have a category of their own.

They are part of the Mustelidae family, and not rodents, like most other common small animal pets, which means they have somewhat different behavior patterns, and a longer lifespan, ranging from 8 to 12 years. They are also obligate carnivores, the same as cats, which means they need protein rather than grains for a healthy diet.

The ferret category is a small one, but thanks to the devoted nature of ferret owners, it is a niche category that can be important to a retail business. Of course, having ferrets for sale can help drive sales of other ferret products, but it’s not a necessity.

In order to become known as a ferret-friendly store, keep a variety of different brand foods in stock, make sure your associates are well-versed in the basics of ferret care, and stock some fun accessories. With just a little bit of shelf space devoted to ferrets, you can become the go-to destination for ferret owners.

Food: Think Variety

When stocking ferret food, make sure to get a few different brands.

“Ferrets are notoriously picky eaters, and by offering only one brand of ferret diet, you might not meet your customers’ needs,” Gail Shepard, director of marketing for Zupreem, said.

Retailers need to keep in mind that many ferret owners have more than one ferret, and each animal will prefer a different food.

“Often, ferret owners will buy two or more varieties of food and mix them together, and then the ferrets pick out what they like to eat,” Shepard said.

When choosing which foods to stock, think all natural and grain free. Just like other pet owners, people with ferrets are paying attention to the quality and nutritional content of their pet’s food, and knowing it’s made with all-natural ingredients appropriate for ferret health, is an important factor when making a purchase. EVO Ferret Food is grain free and potato free, and comes with high levels of turkey and chicken for the carnivorous ferrets. The brand just got a packaging makeover, with a new design to more effectively communicate the benefits of the food.

Zupreem, known for its Premium Ferret Diet, expanded its offerings to include a grain-free option a few years ago.

“Both are high-protein, corn-free products that are popular with ferret owners,” Shepard said.

Marshall Pet Products also has a grain-free option, Carnivore Plus, which came on the market in 2013. It’s a good alternative to its popular Premium Ferret Diet, one of the first ferret foods to come out.

Supplements and Treats

Everybody likes to give their pets treats, and ferrets are no different. Marshall Pet Products has a line of Bandits treats for ferrets, with popular chicken and bacon flavors. Bright new packaging helps these stand out on the shelf. The company also has a new offering, their Goodbye Odor line.

“Our GoodBye Odor treat was developed after customer feedback,” Linda Cope, global marketing manager, said. “The original item was a liquid to put in the water, but sometimes ferrets don’t drink their water.”

The treats are a new option that not only help neutralize the ferret’s natural musky scent with natural ingredients including yucca schidigera, but also help build the bond between the ferret and the owner.
A food and nutrition category wouldn’t be complete without a supplement, and Nupro offers a supplement designed specifically for ferrets. While it’s not a new product, the all-natural supplement fits in with the trends customers are looking for.

“A supplement is a good way to complement a ferret’s diet and make up for the amino acids and enzymes they’re not getting by living life indoors,”  Janis Gianforte, president of Nupro, said.

The combination of liver, kelp and flax seed will help with digestive issues as well as improving the ferret’s skin and coat.

Living the High Life

While ferrets are often allowed to roam freely through their houses, they still need a cage for at least part of the day or night. A well-stocked ferret department will not only include a few cage options, but also plenty of accessories to make the cage colorful and interactive. Ferret Nation has a high-end line of cages that are popular in part because of double doors that open the full length of the front.

“Ferret owners are really into decorating their cages, and these doors make it easy to access the cage for either cleaning or decorating,” Tara Whitehead, marketing manager of Midwest Homes for Pets, said.

Ferret Nation also provides plenty of accessories for the cages, all in coordinated colors of teal and purple fleece.

“We did a lot of research with ferret groups and bloggers before coming out with our designs,” Whitehead said.

Ferret Nation supplies shelf, ramp and pan covers customized for their cages, to help protect ferrets’ sensitive feet. They also have a fun, hanging bed called the Cozy Cube.

“The Cozy Cube was designed after finding that ferrets like to nest inside things, but they also like the sensation of hanging,” she said.

Marshall Pet Products also offers a nice variety of hammocks, toys and accessories to fill up the cage.

“We’ve created themes for a lot of our accessories, to give customers some options when decorating their cages,” Cope said.

A banana hammock and hanging monkey work well for a jungle theme, and the frog lodge and turtle tunnel can turn a ferret’s cage into a pondside retreat.

With new items and new packaging, your ferret shelves are sure to pop. Be sure to highlight the products with an endcap or special display.