8 Things to Consider Before Getting a Ferret

Having a furry friend to come home and play with is always fun. But what if you want a pet that isn’t common? One of the strangest and most exciting pets my family has raised has been a ferret named Misty. Ferrets are similar to weasels and are extremely playful, curious, and social. However, they can be a handful.

Here are 8 things to consider before bringing a ferret into your home.

1. Is it legal?
Owning a ferret may be illegal in some states, including: California, Hawaii, and New York. There are also certain cities or counties in other states where it is illegal. Not sure what the regulations are in your area? Check with your local Wildlife or Fish and Game department, with the Humane Society, or with your local veterinarian.

2. Family members and other pets
Small children should not handle ferrets. They can be rough and when a ferret becomes scared it will bite. Children should be a minimum of 6 years old have prior experience interacting with small animals. Ferrets are natural hunters so they will not get along with birds, lizards, fish, rabbits, and other small animals. They can get along with cats and dogs. However, some dogs may see the ferret as prey. Introduce them slowly. Let them smell each other and reassure both they are friendly. Even if they do get along, provide supervision at all times.

3. Ferrets are high-maintenance
Ferrets aren’t easy to take care of. There must be a daily commitment to playing and taking care of them. Big cages are necessary to give them enough room to run around in during the day. They also need a lot of toys. They are energetic little beings and need to be engaged at all times. It is best to let them run outside of their cages for a few hours a day. Like a cat or dog, you can play with them with their toys. In their cages, there should be more than one level with ramps and canopies so they can run around, climb, and swing to their heart’s content. They are also known to move around objects in their cages so the ramps, litter boxes, and food and water bowls need to be secured. They like to sleep in canopies and boxes, so it is best to have both options. The sleeping box should have fabric for them to cover themselves with, like a blanket. Their sleeping and active times adjust to their owner’s schedule, which is a big plus.

4. “Ferret Proofing”
Ferrets are accident prone. They run around without looking where they are going, fall down, and bump into things while jumping around excitedly. Keep an eye on them to make sure they aren’t in danger. They like to poop and pee in corners, so watch the corners of the room. They may also mess up furniture. They like to tear at fabrics, so the bottoms and corners of couches may be in danger of their little teeth and claws. They also like to get into small spaces and “nest”. When my family had Misty she would steal my younger brother’s toys and if he had left open his bottom drawer to his dresser, she would jump inside, hide the toys, and sleep in the clothes. 

5. Proper nutrition
Ferrets have very high metabolisms and eat several times a day. They should have food constantly available. However, they should not be given dog food. Dog food doesn’t have enough nutrients for a ferret and could result in malnutrition. Ferret food can be purchased online and at some pet stores. If you are in a fix and can’t find any, kitten food works as a short-term replacement. Human snacks should not be given. They could cause the ferrets to become hooked on the flavors and no longer interested in their ferret food. If you want to give them a treat, cooked fresh meat like chicken and turkey are the best options.

6. Spay or neuter
It is best to have your ferret spayed or neutered. Unneutered males have very strong body odor during breeding season. They are also known to be very aggressive with other animals. Unspayed females remain in heat at all times, until they mate. Because they are in heat all the time, it could cause serious health problems, such as: loss of hair and body weight, bone marrow failure, and bladder problems. Failure to spay will most likely lead to an early death.

7. Hygiene
Ferrets have a natural musk to them. They have scent glands, but those usually aren’t a problem unless the ferret becomes agitated or frightened. Clipping their nails, cleaning their ears, and brushing their teeth are very important for their health. They can also be given baths once a month. However, don’t give them baths too often or it might strip the oils from their fur. Cleaning the litter boxes every day and cleaning the cage once a week while help with any smells.

8. Is there a small animal clinic nearby?
It may be difficult to find a vet that knows how to treat ferrets. Find a vet that specializes with small animals, so in an emergency you know where to go.

If you have ever watched videos of ferrets, you know how strange and funny they can be. Owning one is an adventure. Misty was a spunky little thing who loved to climb couches, play with her toys, and run up and down the hallways behind us kids. If you are looking for a pet out of the ordinary, a ferret might just be the best match for you.

Have you ever considered adding a ferret to your family? Leave a comment and let us know!

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