Ferrets are excellent pets if you’re able to give them time and attention. Find out what you need to know before getting one.
The following is an overview of the ferret species:
- Scientific name: Mustela putorius furo
- Maximum size: 15 inches long.
- Maximum weight: 4.4 pounds.
- Diet: Carnivore
- Life expectancy: As pets, ferrets can live up to 10 years. The average lifespan is between 5 and 8 years.
Female ferrets are called jills and males are called hobs.
Why ferrets are good pets
Ferrets make excellent pets because they’re affectionate, quiet, curious, friendly, playful, intelligent, and cute. While they have many fun and appealing characteristics, they’re also mischievous.
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For the majority of the day, ferrets will sleep. They sleep for 16 to 18 hours a day. Overall, they don’t need as much attention as other pets, but they still need quality time with you.
When they’re awake, they love to spend time with you. They’re fun to play with and entertaining to watch. Plus, ferrets are intelligent, which means you can teach them to roll over or play fetch.
Being sociable and friendly, they also love to be with other ferrets. If you’re able to bring home a pair or more, do so.
They can entertain and play with each other, which means you don’t have to spend several hours playing with them. Still, aim to spend at least an hour a day with them.
If you already have pets at home, learn how to introduce them to your new ferrets. With a proper introduction, they can get along well.
If you’re looking for a small pet, consider a ferret because the maximum length that one will grow to is 15 inches. Typically, females are a bit smaller at an average of 13 inches.
Most ferrets also weigh less than 5 pounds. They range from 1 to 4.4 pounds. Being slim and light, you don’t have to worry about getting a large and heavy set-up. The ideal ferret cage is well-ventilated and tall with multiple layers.
Ferrets can also be trained to use a litter box. They like to back up into a corner, which means it’s best to place the litter box in the corner for them to poop comfortably.
Another fun characteristic is that they’re collectors. You’ll get to know their personality and what they like because they’ll stash their favorite things. If you’re missing a pair of socks, your ferret might have it.
Why you shouldn’t get a ferret
While they can be great pets, they’re not for everyone. It’s important to understand that there’s a lot that goes into having a ferret as a pet.
The first and most important reason that you shouldn’t get a ferret is time. They require time, attention, and interaction with you.
If you don’t have the capacity to spend several hours with your pet, ferrets aren’t the right choice.
Overall, they’re high-maintenance pets. Aside from quality time, they’ll also eat 3 to 6 times per day. While you can leave out dry food, you must also provide them with meat.
Ferrets also naturally have a musky smell. Regardless of how often you clean them and the cage, the smell will remain.
Also, having kids plays a role in whether or not you should get a ferret. While they’re great companions, they can be demanding pets for kids.
Based on the age of a child, provide supervision or ensure that they can handle the responsibilities.
Before getting a ferret, make sure you understand the upfront and ongoing costs. The upfront costs can go up to $600. This includes the ferret along with the cage, food, other accessories, and veterinarian costs. Ongoing costs include food, accessories, vet visits, and vaccinations.
Another reason not to get a ferret is that they aren’t legal everywhere. The main concern is that ferrets can threaten agriculture and wildlife. It’s important to check local laws before taking home a ferret.
In the United States, California, Hawaii, Washington DC, and New York City have banned them. It’s also illegal to have a ferret in other countries, such as New Zealand, South Africa, and Puerto Rico.
Aside from being illegal in some places, they’re known for being mischievous and are great at escaping. If your ferret escapes and explores on their own, they may get hurt. Before you get a ferret, you must ferret-proof your home.
While they’re mostly loving and friendly, ferrets can bite. It’s important to train them not to bite early on and for you to be gentle with them. If you’re too rough, they may bite you.
Ferrets also love to chew on things. If you have things lying around, such as a new pair of shoes, you may find them destroyed. They’ll chew on everything.
So, are you the right person to have a pet ferret? If you don’t have time, patience, a sense of humor, the ability to show affection, and a budget for one, then a ferret isn’t the right pet for you. If you fit the criteria, you’ll love having a ferret.
How to get one
Ferrets are the domesticated form of the European polecat. It comes from the Mustelidae family. Weasels, badgers, and otters also come from the same family.
If you decide that a ferret is a right pet for you, get more than one. While it’s not required, ferrets are sociable, and having one or more friends will allow them to interact with each other.
You can get ferrets from a shelters, reputable pet store, or directly from a breeder.
When you’re choosing ferrets, look for ones that are alert and active. Their eyes and nose must be clear, and their fur must be soft and shiny.
Also, check their gums and teeth. Make sure the gums are light pink, healthy, and clean. For teeth, make sure none of them are broken.
Most ferrets are also spayed or neutered before reaching 6 weeks. So, double-check to make sure you’re aware.
Before welcoming a new ferret into your home, make sure it’s ferret-proof. This will keep them safe and prevent them from escaping. The following are ways to ferret-proof your home:
- Block all holes and escape routes.
- Keep items contained to ensure it doesn’t get eaten.
- Make sure recliners and appliances are blocked or not accessible.
- Secure cabinets and drawers because they can open them.
- Keep household cleaners, pesticides, and chemicals locked.
The goal is to ensure they can’t escape, get into places where they can get hurt, and eat random items that can cause indigestion and internal issues.
After ferret-proofing your home, you’ll be ready to get one. Be sure you get a well-made cage with multiple layers and plenty of toys since ferrets love to play.
Food and diet
Ferrets are carnivores. They need meat that’s high in protein and fat while being low in carbohydrates. They also need water that’s clean and fresh available at all times.
A ferret’s diet consists of raw meat and dry ferret food. You can also feed them kitten food.
The following raw meat options are the best:
- Turkey necks.
- Animal organs.
Be sure to avoid feeding them fish, chocolate, vegetables, fruits, and dairy.
While they’re great at keeping themselves clean and groomed, you need to bathe them once or twice each month. When you’re bathing them, use warm water and safe pet shampoo.
Don’t bathe them more often. Overdoing it will cause their glands to produce more of the musky scent.
In addition to bathing, keep your ferrets busy and active. You can get them a sand pit, plenty of toys, and tubes to go through.
Also, take them to the vet once or twice per year for a full exam. They’ll also need vaccinations and dental cleaning. This will keep your ferrets healthy and happy.
If you’re able to commit to taking a few hours of your day to play with your ferrets and you’ve come to terms with them being higher maintenance than other pets, you’re ready to get one. Make sure you look for ferrets that are active, alert, and healthy-looking.
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Featured image courtesy of Canva.
About David Em
David Em is the founder of Nola & Luna Pets, a leading resource for everything you need to know about pets and adorable pet accessories.