A survey of almost 1400 ferret owners carried out by the Ferret Education & Research Trust (FERT) and pet food manufacturers James Wellbeloved in November 2009 has revealed that 40% of the UK's ferret owners never take their animals to a vet, with a further 9% saying they visit the vet only occasionally.
In addition, 76% of ferret owners have not had them microchipped, 64% have not had them vaccinated against distemper and 74% have not had them vaccinated against rabies.
Almost three quarters are registered with a vet for emergency treatment, but 26% are not registered at all.
Ian Kearns from FERT said: "This is quite an alarming picture in terms of ferret welfare; however it offers a clear opportunity for vets to address the issue. Ferrets are growing fast in popularity as pets, and it may be that as their role changes they will visit the vet more - but we believe that vets can seize an opportunity by promoting ferret welfare via the waiting room."
The survey also showed that 65% are fed on mixed biscuits and meat. James Wellbeloved Ferret Complete Food was the clear leader, outselling its' nearest rival by almost five times to one. Over half are kept outdoors, and there is a wide choice of bedding material including commercially made washable fabric, straw and paper.
Peter Lancaster, James Wellbeloved marketing director said: "Ferrets are growing in popularity, but because owners sometimes don't do enough research a worrying number are ending up in rescues. Veterinary practices are of course very well-placed to focus on ferret welfare, and we'd urge any vets and vet nurses who want to know more to get in touch with the team at FERT."