Ferrets have become trendy pets worldwide those last 30 years, but they’re not toys or fun gadgets – they’re living, sentient creatures.
Just like any animal, ferrets have drawbacks:
- Their body and stools emit a strong smell
- Owning a ferret costs a lot, in quality food, a good cage and vet care
- Veterinary heathcare can be extremely expensive – hundreds or even thousands of dollars
- It can be tricky to find a good ferret sitter during your holidays or if you need to be hospitalized
- Ferrets take time to feed, interact with, educate…
- Not everyone likes ferrets, so be prepared to face unfriendly reactions from some relatives, friends, colleagues…
- Ferrets’ passing is often linked to major veterinary expenses, not to mention the emotional pain
By buying a ferret, you take the responsability to care for him/her and accept those drawbacks for 7 to 10 years.
Is a ferret the right pet for you ?
Please answer honestly to the following questions, to determine wether or not ferrets could be good pets for you :
- Are you 15 at minimum ?
Ferrets are not « kid pets »: they need to be educated, they can bite, they need expensive vet care and can live up to 10 years.
They definitely don’t fit as cheap, easy-to-care-for « kids pets ». A domestic mouse or a gerbils pair would better fit your child’s abilities and expectations.
- If you are under 18 or 21: are your parents okay with owning a ferret ?
If you’re not legally an adult and you’re still living at your parents’, you’ll need your parents’ approval and cooperation.
If you plan to go out for a week end or need a lift to the vet clinic, your parents must absolutely be compassionante and helpful. A pet is a family member : you can’t let her unfed or in a dirty cage just because your teenage child is away for holidays…
- Are you very sensitive to smells ?
One common misconception about ferrets is that they stink…it still has some truth beneath. Indeed, even if ferrets don’t exactly « stink », they have a strong and musky body odor, especially during breeding season. Their stools also emit a strong smell, especially with a high quality raw diey (preys, raw meats, offals…).
Even if you carefully clean your ferret’s environment everyday, your house will end up smelling musky. If you are easily disgusted by strong smells, a ferret isn’t a good choice for you.
- Are you easily stressed by dirt and mess ?
Even with good litter training, ferrets often miss the litter.
You’ll have to roam the house daily to find hidden poops and pees. Ferrets also love robbing and hiding things, digging in the house plant pots, shredding tissues in pieces… If you have extremely low tolerance to dirt and mess, you’ll have difficulties dealing with a ferret !
- Are you okay with meat and preys ?
Ferrets are obligate carnivores who need to be fed whole preys, like their wild ancestors. Long term breeders and new veterinary studies do prove that a kibble diet is detrimental to ferret health.
It means you’ll have to provide your ferret a high quality raw diet : day old chicks, mice, quails, fish, raw meat recipes…If you’re totally grossed out by meat, it’d be wiser to adopt a rabbit rather than a ferret.
- Do you want a « caged pet » ?
Ferrets can’t spend their lives in cages, unlike hamsters or gerbils. They need at least 3 hours of out-of-cage time to roam the house, in order to stay physically and mentally fit. Ferrets are companion pets like cats and dogs.
- Are you ready to educate your pet ?
Ferrets need to be educated, like dogs. You’ll need to train your ferret to use a litter box, how to wear a harness and not to bite too strongly. Such training takes patience, efforts and time – sometimes months !
- Are you afraid of bites ?
Biting, pinching and nibbling are normal communication behaviours in all Mustelidae species.
When your new ferret kit (baby) arrives, she will bite you in order to communicate emotions and test your limits. She doesn’t know your skin is much thiner and more sensitive than hers. You’ll have a very important role as a patient educator. However, strong bites are always possible and can be quite painful. They can also be dangerous to young children (like any animal’s bites).
- Do you have children or are you planning to conceive ?
If you are a parent or if you’re planning to become one, you’ll have to make sure the ferret is never left with your child unsupervised (like any animal). All animals are unpredictable and can theorically harm your child without proper supervision.
- Do you have other pets ?
Ferrets generally get along with other carnivores (dogs, cats, skunks, minks…), but they can’t live with potential preys: rodents, rabbits, small reptiles…If you have other pets, you’ll have to make sure the ferret can be separated from the other pets at any time if needed.
- Are you ready to take care of the ferret for 7 to 10 years ?
Ferrets’ lifespan varies from 3 years (bad quality bloodline, early neutering…) to 12 years, with an average of 7 to 10 years. They’re not short term pets at all.
Think about how your life will change within the upcoming 10 years : you may move to another town, meet a new partner, have a baby, change job…When life will become chaotic, you will be the one making the mandatory concessions – not the ferret.
If you’re not discouraged yet, then a ferret may be a good pet for you !