Getting a new type of pet comes with new challenges, ferrets are unique animals with their own needs. So, is it alright for ferrets to live alone?
The answer is yes and no…
Ferrets are not pack animals. They descend from the ancestors of the polecat, and, by that merit, it’s in their nature to live and survive alone.
In spite of this, most ferrets are quite social. They have been domesticated for about 2500 years; we, humans, have certainly left our fingerprints on them. Ferrets today are used to and crave contact. They are easily bored, and most people rightfully choose to get more than one of those adorable critters.
There is no single correct approach in this case. For the most part, you have two options: To get one ferret or to get multiple.
Having one ferret
If you are set on owning just one ferret, you should be mindful of your fuzz’s needs. The majority of ferrets can be kept alone so long as they receive attention and play regularly. If you are worried yours may be lonely or bored, try to:
Play and interact with your dooker
Although they sleep for the greater part of the day (16 hours), when ferrets are awake, they need exercise and play. It’s not a necessity to have another ferret to play with them, you can do that yourself.
Ferrets need to spend a minimum of 4 hours a day out of their cage. The majority of that time needs to be dedicated to play and exercise, so they stay engaged and healthy.
This can happen around sunrise or sunset because that’s when ferrets wake up. If that fits your schedule, you are good. If it doesn’t, know that ferrets usually adjust to their owners’ schedules.
In addition, pack as much interaction as possible in your day, even if it’s only a good-night petting or a good-morning play while you are still waking up.
Just make sure you have enough time to keep your dooker strong and happy. In case you do not, consider adopting a second one.
Be dedicated to your ferret.
Single ferrets usually attach to their owners more than pairs or trios. You need to be there for them. They can go into mourning, become depressed, and even die of loneliness if you keep them alone in their cage all day. Be sure you can and want to commit the time and energy need to fulfill their social needs.
Having a pet is a long-time commitment, and ferrets live until 6-10 years. Don’t adopt a ferret only to re-home them when you get bored or tired of them. The stress that changes in the environment can cause them to develop trust issues or send them into grief.
Have other animals keep them company
Some ferret parents find that their dookers get along well with other pets. They can play with cats, most dog breeds, and humans but not with birds, rabbits, or any rodents. Those animals can sometimes be seen as prey by the ferret.
If you are planning to introduce a ferret in an already populated home, be careful with any animals with strong hunting instincts. Ferrets are fragile. Supervise any and all interactions, especially in the beginning.
Make their environment interactive
This is important even if you have multiple ferrets, but with one ferret, it’s a good way to keep them active and exploring.
Tunnels, some cat toys, and strings they can pull on are also great options for your fuzzlet.
Also, switch things around once in a while, allow your ferret to explore. If you can, get them new toys regularly.
Know a ferret’s specific needs
All ferrets have unique personalities. Some are social butterflies and thrive in a group, but some are loners. Some ferrets just don’t want to have another of their kind around.
To get more information on yours, ask whoever you are getting your ferret from for more information. Get to know how this specific pet deals with being alone. Understanding what they are accustomed to is your key to anticipating their needs.
Moreover, make sure you are observing your ferret so that you can catch any issues or needs. A ferret’s loneliness can become a health or safety risk, but stress and tension between two ferrets can also be dangerous for your dookers.
Can you leave them alone while at work?
The majority of ferrets aren’t known to get nervous or worried when alone for some time (like when their owner is at work). You’ll most likely be fine, but there are cases of ferrets who have trouble staying alone even at night.
Again, be mindful of the specific needs of your pet.
Should you get more than one ferret?
In the case that you don’t find yourself prepared to dedicate the time a single ferret may require, you always have the option to get a second (or even a third!). That said, having multiple pets is not much easier. Here are some things you may want to keep in mind:
- Many ferrets can be serious business. They can be mischievous creatures; take the time to ferret-proof your house and always look after them.
- Don’t let them run around unsupervised. They may chew on stuff and swallow things that can earn them a visit to the vet. If they are new to the area they are exploring, they can hurt themselves in other ways, too.
- If you want a second or a third ferret, see to it that they all are either of the same sex or de-sexed. You probably don’t want to end up with one too many ferrets in your home.
Consider additional costs
More animal means buying more food, more toys, and of course, more visits to the vet. Ferrets are known to be susceptible to some serious illnesses. Having more than one ferret will increase costs.
Know they may not attach to you as strongly
It’s observed again and again that lone ferrets attach to their owners much more. There were even instances when a ferret had had a strong attachment to their owner up until the point another had been introduced to the family.
Not all ferrets get along with one another. Keep an eye on yours while they are still bonding; play with all of them at the same time and encourage friendly interactions.
Can you introduce a second or third ferret later on?
Yes. It’s the option most ferret owners prefer. That way, age-related issues can be less of a problem because they will not affect all your ferrets at the same time.
Before you jump into it, though, consult a vet about how to introduce a new dooker. Ferrets don’t always accept new additions to their group. Furthermore, it’s easiest to make two young ferrets bond rather than two grown ones. However, with the proper care, you can get your fuzzlets to get along.
Again, supervise any interactions between ferrets that have just become acquaintances; make sure they aren’t fighting for food or space.
In any case…
It’s possible to keep a single ferret just as happy as a group. I urge you to do what’s best for you, but also to take into account the needs of your new friend.
If you have a happy and healthy pet, you too will be happy.