Fancy a ferret?
Ferrets can make fantastic pets… for the right owner.
If you are considering making a ferret part of your family, it is important that you do your research first to make sure that he or she would be a good fit, and confirm that the animals are legally allowed in your city or state. (For example, pet ferrets are banned in California and Hawaii, and an exotic pet license may be required to own one in New Jersey.)
I have dogs, cats, fish, and hermit crabs, but never considered a ferret until that one day when I stopped at a pet shop in a neighboring town. As I walked through and talked to all the animals, I came to a stop at the ferret cage. They were so cute and cuddly looking that I just had to hold one.
With the shopkeeper’s assistance, I opened the cage and picked up the sleeping critter — and as he opened his eyes and looked at me, I fell in love. This, in addition to the kisses he was planting on my chin, did me in, and I prepared to take in another family member.
The problem was that I knew nothing about ferrets and how to care for them, began my research before I bought him.
There are certain “musts” that are needed for the basic care of a ferret. They need a fairly large cage (if you intend to keep them in a cage — though some ferret owners choose not to and have a room that is designated just for their ferret), water and food dish, litter, and most importantly, a ferret hammock. This is their safe and warm place to sleep, so they’ll use it a lot. (Major plus alert: You can litter box train them!)
What you need to know before getting a ferret
In addition to their basic material needs, there are certain other things that you should consider before inviting a ferret into your home.
While ferrets are playful, energetic, entertaining, and very loving creatures, they also take a lot of time to care for. While it is understandable that you have to work and may be gone the majority of the day, your ferret needs out-of-cage playtime — usually 2 hours at the very least.
While they sleep much of their days away, there are periods when they are as hyper as a 5-year-old after a birthday party, and they need to let this energy out!
If you do not feel it is safe for your ferret to run around the house, designate a room where he can run free, and make sure there are toys to play with. Any toy will do, but they especially love balls, and anything that they can run through — like boxes with holes in them or tunnels. (Cat toys are perfect for ferrets as well!) If left in their cages 24/7, your pet ferret will become depressed and despondent.
Also understand that these animals are not cheap. Just to buy a healthy ferret, be prepared to pay upwards of $100. In addition to the purchase cost, there are also vet fees, as ferrets must have rabies shots by law as well as other vaccinations to keep them healthy.
Keep in mind, too, that ferrets are prone to a variety of health issues that could need attention. The most common issues are adrenal disease and gastrointestinal blockages. These are serious issues and must be treated by your vet. Find out more about these and other ferret health problems here.
Adding a ferret to your animal family
Take into consideration the feelings of your other animals. If they do not play well with others, you do not want to introduce a ferret into their lives. Ferrets, however, usualy love dogs and cats.
Cat and ferrets generally get along quite well, as they both enjoy rough and sporadic play. (My cat wrestles with our ferret, and they love every minute of it.) Of course, even if you think your pets will be a good match, you should always supervise play time until you can be sure they will behave together.
As for getting along with people, ferrets love their people. They typically do not aggressively bite unless mistreated or provoked, and if they do nip, it is all in play. And while they are typically good with children, never leave young children unattended with a ferret! The child could hurt the animal, and in turn, it could hurt the child.
Both males and females ferrets make good pets. Make sure when choosing your ferret that it looks alert, bright-eyed, and that there is no type of crust or discharge from the eyes, nose, ears, or mouth, as this indicates a sick ferret.
Another thing you may notice is their smell. I won’t lie — they have an odor to them. No, this smell does not indicate illness — it’s just normal ferret smell! This is why they are often de-scented, and many merchants have this done before selling them.
Still, a smell is present, but you can buy odor spray to mask it. Baths in baby shampoo are okay, but only a few times per year, as it is not good for their skin.
So, yes, they smell a bit and are hyper, and yes, they like to steal shiny objects and play hide and seek with you. But, they also love to curl up next to you and snuggle and give sweet little kisses. If you have the time and energy to bring a ferret into your family, they make wonderful pets.
For more detailed information on ferrets and ferret care, be sure to check out the American Ferret Association site.