Is Tap Water Safe For Ferrets?


Ferrets are thirsty little creatures and for every two Americans there is roughly one pet ferret in the U.S.! I never thought ferrets needed much attention when it came to their drinking water or that they were prone to health issues or illness caused by tap water.

Tap water is not safe for ferrets as it contains chemicals and heavy metals that can pose serious health risks to your ferret.

When deciding what is the best way to water your ferret, it is important to first understand why tap water is unsafe for ferrets and the risks of giving your ferret tap water. Here’s everything you need to know on providing safe water for your ferret.

I’ve also added some tips on what to do in case your ferret is dehydrated or does not want to drink. 

Is Tap Water Safe For Ferrets?

Tap water (water from a public supply) is not safe for ferrets to drink as it often contains chemicals and heavy metals. These can cause health problems and negatively affect the health and happiness of your ferret.

Chemicals In Tap Water

The main chemical contaminants in tap water that you want to avoid are:

Chlorine

Chlorine is added to public water systems for disinfection purposes. While chlorine levels in tap water are often too low to cause significant health issues, chlorine can irritate your ferret’s eyes and make their skin very itchy!

It’s always best to give your ferret water that has been carbon filtered.

Carbon filters are the only way to get rid of chlorine found in tap water.

If you use carbon-filtered water, you won’t have to worry when your ferret is drinking, playing, splashing, or even blowing bubbles in the water.

Exposure to high levels of chlorine (> 4 mg/L) can be a health concern for your ferret.

Pool Water And Ferrets

Pool water has high chlorine levels, so try to keep your ferret out of the water – if you can.

The chlorine (and other chemicals) in pool water can make your ferret ill – pool shock chlorine levels and associated byproducts such as trihalomethanes can be toxic to ferrets.

If your ferret does end up taking a dip in the pool (and probably a drink), make sure you rinse them off using fresh water. Also make sure you give them plenty of fresh water to drink afterwards.

Chloramines

Chloramines are used as secondary disinfectants in public water supplies and are often found in tap water. Chloramines can form secondary disinfectant byproducts (known as trihalomethanes) that can be harmful to pets. 

Heavy Metals In Tap Water

The main heavy metal contaminants in tap water that you want to avoid are:

Lead

Lead gets into public water supplies and into your tap water through the erosion of natural deposits, but mainly through the corrosion of plumbing.

Exposure to lead can cause lead poisoning and death in pets.

Mercury

Mercury gets into your tap water from the erosion of natural deposits or runoff from factories and landfills. 

Mercury poisoning in pets typically affects the nervous system, cardiovascular system, digestive tract, and kidneys.

Fluoride

Fluoride is added to public water systems to prevent tooth decay in people. The concentrations added to water are relatively low and do not pose any major risk to your ferret or other pets.

However, toothpaste contains very high fluoride concentrations, so make sure you keep the tube out of reach from your sneaky ferret who might want to chew on it!

Should I Give My Ferret Distilled Water?

Distilled water is not the best choice for your ferret.

Distilled water does not contain anything harmful, but it lacks important minerals essential for the good health of your ferret. 

Distilled water can leech important minerals from your ferret over time.

A quick drink of distilled water is absolutely fine, but should be avoided long term.

Should I Give My Ferret Filtered Water?

Filtered water is the best option for your ferret. Not only is it free of any contaminants normally found in tap water but it also retains important minerals that keep your ferret healthy.

Carbon water filters will remove most chemicals including chlorine as well as heavy metals present in the water. 

How Much Water Should A Ferret Drink In A Day?

Ferrets can easily drink water over 20 times each day, taking a small amount of water at a time.

Ferrets need 50-100 ml of fresh water per pound of body weight each day.

Most ferrets weight between 1.5 and 4.5 lbs and this chart shows how much water your ferret will need every day:

Ferret WeightWater Required Each Day
1.5 lbs75-150 ml
2.0 lbs100-200 ml
2.5 lbs125-250 ml
3.0 lbs150-300 ml
3.5 lbs175-350 ml
4.0 lbs200-400 ml
4.5 lbs225-450 ml

Why Won’t My Ferret Drink Water?

The main reason why your ferret may refuse to drink water is the water is not clean enough. However, the type of water feeder and the weather can also prevent your ferret from drinking water.

Dirty water

Ferrets love clean fresh water.

They also love to make it dirty just as quick!

You will need to clean out your ferret’s water bowl at least once a day, but if you have more than one ferret you may find you have to do this a couple of times each day.

For this reason, many people choose a water bottle instead of a bowl as it can stay cleaner for longer. Keep an eye out for any algal growth in the bottle or if any sediment has blocked the end of the drip valve. A blocked dipper can easily stop your ferret from getting enough water.

A simple trick is to use two water bottles – even for one ferret.

This way your ferret always has access to clean water or can use the other bottle if one gets dirty or blocked.

Type of water feeder

Ferrets like to drink from a bowl. However, it all comes down to your individual ferret’s preferences. Some prefer to drink from a fountain, while others prefer a water bottle.

Some ferrets also like to drink water from a bowl as they often like playing in the bowl at the same time.

The weather

Ferrets tend to drink less water during cold weather – mainly because the water is cold.

You can always try and warm their water to room temperature – you should notice increased water intake. 

Water Bottle V’s Bowl – Which Do Ferrets Like Best?

Water bottles

Ferrets will learn to drink from a water bottle if you start them young.

However, try and avoid water feeding your ferret from a water bottle if you can.

Ferrets are highly active and impatient little creatures and do not like to spend more than a few moments on one thing. 

Since a water bottle only releases a small amount of water at a time, your ferret may quickly become bored and move on to other activities without hydrating sufficiently. 

Ferrets may also develop a habit of chewing the metal spout. This can cause permanent dental damage and even loss of teeth.

Water bowls

Drinking from a bowl is preferred to a water bottle. Water bowls give your ferret easy access to drinking water and they can lap up as much water as they need in a short time. 

The downside is that the ferret can easily spill the water and cause a mess. 

Some better alternatives that bring together the best of both worlds include:

  • Locking dishes – these bolt onto the side of the cage preventing spillage. 
  • Metal snappy dish – a type of metal locking dish that bolts to the side of the cage.
  • Plastic lock and crock – water dish made from plastic that uses a locking mechanism that is detachable from the bowl.
  • Hinged lock crock – a plastic dish with a locking mechanism. You can detach the bowl from the lock. It features a hinge for height adjustment.
  • Heavy ceramic dishes –ferrets have a hard time turning these heavier dishes over.
  • Elevated water dish – features a stand that raises the bowl to a height that prevents the ferret from digging into the water and causing spillage.

Note: When shopping for a water dish for your ferret, avoid any with a rubber rim. While the rim prevents the dish from moving, ferrets are notorious for chewing on the rubber. 

Dehydration And Ferrets

A lack of water can cause dehydration in ferrets. Symptoms include:

  • Dry gums
  • Excessive squinting
  • Dull eyes
  • Exhaustion
  • Lethargy
  • Disorientation

Dehydration can also result from diarrhea and vomiting. Chlorine in their drinking water can cause digestive issues and dehydration in ferrets.

How To Tell If Your Ferret Is Dehydrated

Pinch and pull the skin on the scruff of your ferret’s neck.

  • If the skin snaps back quickly then they are probably fine and you don’t have to worry
  • If the skin takes more than a few seconds to return to a normal position, then your ferret may be dehydrated. (Note: Just like us, older ferrets may have loose skin that takes longer to return to normal position).

How To Care For A Dehydrated Ferret

The first step to taking care of a dehydrated ferret is to take them to the vet. They will receive a proper diagnosis and treated with medication.

Next, ensure that your ferret is taking water and replenishing lost electrolytes. You can do this by adding a small amount of Pedialyte with water – 1-part Pedialyte to 1 part water. Ideally use unflavored Pedialyte if you can.

You can also add 1-part Gatorade with 3 parts water. Add the mix to the water dish or bottle. 

If your ferret doesn’t want to take the mixture, use a syringe and manually administer the electrolyte drink. Fill a small syringe with the mixture, hold your ferret with one hand, and press the mix into the ferret’s mouth. 

Be careful not to force the water into the lungs.

Instead, press a small amount of the mixture on the side of the mouth, allowing the ferret to swallow comfortably at their own pace. 

Have another pet? Check out these great posts about the pets you love and the water they drink

Filtered water for dogs – is it safe and why?

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