Today, ferrets are one of the most popular (exotic) pets. Many people have them and enjoy taking care of them, but are ferrets good pets?
The answer is a big ‘YES, but…’
As with any other animal, they have their own unique needs and personalities. For some people, they may not be worthwhile, but for others, they could be the perfect pet. It all depends on whether they are the kind of companion you are looking for.
Despite some misconceptions floating around, a ferret is a loving, friendly, and playful animal. A ferret would no doubt engage in some mischief, but all that would be only to your amusement.
So then, what type of pet are ferrets, and should you get one?
Ferrets are energetic and active, they are playful, expressive, and love attention. On top of that, they form strong bonds with their humans.
Although they would love to give you attention, they would need the same back. Ferrets are social and, even though they sleep 16-18 hours a day when they are awake, they need play and exercise. You need to let them out of their cage for at least 4 hours and play with them.
If ferrets are denied that free time, they may begin messing up their cage, litter, and food trays in an attempt to release energy, explore and get your attention. It’s cruel to keep a ferret caged for long periods of time; they can develop psychological and physiological issues.
Ferrets are not nocturnal, so they will not keep you up at night… or disturb you any other time.
In fact, because they sleep about 16 hours per day, they will not bother you so long as they are well-fed and taken care of. They rarely make much noise.
In the wild, ferrets (polecats) wake up around dawn and dusk, but they can and will often adjust to your schedule.
Ferrets do bite and may do their business outside of the designated place for that, but they can also be trained.
They can be taught that biting in play is not fun for the human who is at the other end of that bite; they can be litter trained as well. There is not much cause to worry here.
Ferrets have strict dietary needs.
They are obligate carnivores, meaning they cannot eat anything but meat. Most human and dog treats they cannot digest, and their digestive tract is not the most spacious. Many things can get stuck in their system and cause them harm.
Ferrets usually go in groups, but they can go solo as well. It all depends on what you want and the personality of the ferret(s) you get.
In the case of one, lone, ferret, you may need to play with them more and give them extra attention, but they will also bond to you more. If you decide to get more than one, consider the additional costs. Although 2 or 3 ferrets will be more self-sufficient, they may not bond to you as much.
Ferrets live less than cats but do require more commitment.
A ferret’s life span is between 6-10 years. Make sure you won’t get bored or tired of them after a while because they attach to their owners. Moving is painful and stressful. Try not to put a ferret through the stress of finding a new home. This can even mentally damage them.
Living with ferrets
Ferrets do smell, but that’s rarely a deal-breaker.
A ferret will have some kind of smell, but if they are fed properly, and hygiene is kept up at a good level (i.e., bedding and toilet are changed regularly), you will have few issues with their odor. Furthermore, you can neuter them and have their anal glands removed. Their smell will become fainter.
Ferrets are not hypoallergenic, they can cause you irritation.
Like any other furry pet, they do shed hair and dander. If you think you might be allergic, see if there are ways for you to avoid reactions. They are better for some allergies and worse for others.
Ferrets will never harm you purposefully unless they feel threatened or insecure.
Trust me, they are not going to attack people for fun. Ferrets are generally pretty nice and inquisitive towards others, human or otherwise. Only when they are frightened, they could resort to biting to defend themselves, but 9 times out of 10 a ferret would rather flee.
Ferrets and your home
Ferrets can be real trouble sometimes; you must ferret-proof your house for their and your own good.
When they are out of their cage, ferrets will want to explore. They have the tendency to go below furniture, and inside any room, they can get themselves access to.
Ferrets are small enough to be able to get into small holes and drawers. They also like sheets and dark places where they can sleep. On top of that, they steal stuff.
To ferret-proof, you should first block slits under any furniture where you don’t want them to go. Then put any knick-knacks like keys, remote controls, and shoes out of their reach. They love hiding stuff, and everything in your room looks like a toy to them.
Ferrets are not a great pet for homes with small children.
Ferrets are extremely fragile. They shouldn’t be handled carelessly lest they get hurt. They could be in danger if small children are allowed to play with them. Children under 10 years old are usually not careful enough while playing, they may hurt the ferrets unwillingly.
Ferrets are also not ideal for homes with some types of animals.
Don’t get me wrong, they do get along with other pets. That is only so long as they don’t seem like prey or don’t see the other animal as prey. Cats and dogs are best suited to be a ferret’s friend, but it could be a little tricky to teach both animals to suppress some of their instincts. Ferrets do not get along well with birds, rabbits, rodents, and other small animals, however.
Ferrets who have been bred improperly are more difficult to handle and may require more care.
Their immune systems are weaker, and they are usually predisposed to genetic diseases. Medical bills may be higher than expected.
Either way, make sure you have a vet who knows how to examine and treat a ferret. Certain illnesses are more common amongst ferrets, and it’s important to know that the professional you are taking your fuzzlets to is familiar with them.
Ferrets are great pets for the right owner. They need somebody who will enjoy the time spent together, and they’d love to be a part of the right family. Some of their needs are uncommon or a little tricky, but if you educate yourself on how to give them what they need, you can have some of the best pets you can dream of.
Oh, and one last thing:
If you are considering getting a ferret, try adopting one if you have access to a shelter. Most ferrets there are not the happiest, perhaps you could give one of those fuzzlets a safe and loving home.