You decided to buy a new pet. You might think about it or maybe you were talking to some of your friends and realized that ferret could be the perfect choice.There are at least 12 things you need to check before you decide to get a pet ferret and in short here is the list.
- Check the law in your state
- Make sure you have enough time for your ferret
- Do not leave two or more ferrets unattended
- Costs of getting one and yearly expenses
- Health issues in ferrets
- Equipment and supplies
- Ferret scent
- Male of Female
- Ferrets behavior
- Ferrets diet / food
- Ferrets lifespan
- Ferrets are not rodents
To make the final decision and bring that furry bundle of joy to your home read the following lines. I hope this text will help you to get the full picture of what is like having a ferret as a pet.
Table of Contents
1.Check the law in your state
First of all check the law, as ferrets are illegal in some places. For example ferrets are legal in 48 countries in US but it would be illegal to have them as pets if you live in California or Hawaii.
The thing is that cities or even counties can decide either to follow the state law or to make the policy more strict so no matter if you live in the state which is not CA or HI , holding the ferret at your home could be an illegal thing to do. You should check the local law anyway.
For example ferrets are illegal in New York City ( NY )as well as in Washington DC, the same as in Dallas (TX) and Columbia (MO ). Also for some places where they are legal you might need some sort of permission or license.
This document might be free or can cost you 20$ or more. The best way is to contact a local veterinarian if you live in small-town or to check with Fish and game or Wildlife department so you can be sure that you are doing everything by the law.
2. Make sure you have enough time for your ferret
If it turns out you won’t run into a problem with the law by having a ferret next thing you should think about is – if the ferret is the right choice for you. Ferrets require a lot of time for exercise and play, so if you are a highly occupied and busy person this could be a bad idea.
Ferrets are big fans of running and tumbling, the young ones like to chase the toys. On the other hand, you need to enable the ferret to spend a great period of time out of the cage (at least 4 hours per day ) as if you hold him/her in the cage majority of time these cute animals become lazy and as a result of overeating, in big number of cases they become obese.
You also need to know that ferrets adore these activities: digging, burrowing, chewing, hiding things so be careful and always supervise your pet when it is out of its cage. It is not my intention to scare you, ferrets also like to take a nap so you will have some free time!
3. Do not leave two or more ferrets unattended
Ferrets are not only cute, tiny animals, they are also very friendly creatures. They like to hang out either with their human friends or with other ferrets. Unlike human friends, if you leave two ferrets alone without any supervision make sure that they have already spent some time together before. Same as humans not all ferrets are the same, maybe they will get along well, maybe not.
4. Costs of getting one and yearly expenses
The cost of buying and having the ferret is very important information that you have to take into account before buying a ferret. First of all in order to get one you need to spend from 70 until 300$ depends on the place where you buy your pet, the age of the ferret, etc .
Where can you purchase a ferret?
If you decide to adopt one from the shelter that would cost you around 100$ but the good thing is that these ferrets are usually vaccinated against rabies saving you from those costs.
Another place is a classical pet store where the prices are highest and can go up to 300$ but bear in mind that these ferrets are most likely not vaccinated so add that cost to your purchase calculation.
The ferrets can be also bought from the private breeders, the price can be similar to this in pet stores but unlike pet stores, private breeders put a lot of time and effort so this small animals come to you with health certificates and you will have the constant support of the breeder
Yearly costs of having a ferret
But consider this initial expense as the tip of the iceberg! Bear in mind that ferrets need to be vaccinated, especially if you buy the young ones -baby ferrets or kits ( of course if you buy the ferret which is already vaccinated good for you and your financials ! ).
The ferrets are vaccinated against rabies but also against canine distemper virus. This virus usually affects dogs but it has been proven that ferrets are also susceptible to that virus so need to be vaccinated. Young ferrets receive vaccine against distemper virus at the age of 8,11 and 14 weeks and the one against rabies at the age of 13-16 weeks.
After this your pet should be vaccinated against both rabies and distemper virus on an annual basis. Do not think that an indoor ferret pet does not need a vaccine because it can easily get infected by the virus from your shoes or clothes or it can come to contact with rat and get rabies. So you should consider spending 200-400$ on vaccination, vet check-up and basic supplies.
After that you need to add food, some vitamines, regular hygiene items and annual vet check-ups with vaccination. Bear in mind that vaccine cost is around 20$ each. In my humble opinion your first stop should be a reliable vet center where you can talk about the costs and get the full picture of it . Do not buy a ferret pet before you put everything together.
5. Health issues in ferrets
You should also learn something about diseases your pet can get . Apart from rabies and canine distemper there are other health issues that can be rather common and you should know more about them if you are going to be ferret pet owner.
Common health issues are :
- Diarrhea – it can come from poor diet , stress , parasites ,dirty house etc .
- Ear mites – mites that can cause itiching and make ear color to change and become brown
- Upper respiratory infections – you pet will have difficulties with breathing , nasal discharge
- Adrenal gland disorder – usually causes a hair loss
- Human flu – your pet can catch the the flu from you with same symptoms – fever , runny nose , loss of apetite ….
In all listed cases please contact your vet for check up and treatment .
6. Equipment and supplies
Ok, so you think you have enough energy, time and will to have a ferret as a pet. You have also considered the costs and you think that you can make it . That is great! Let’s talk about equipment, supplies, what you need to bring to your house in order to make the perfect home for your new pet .
Here is the list of things you will need
- Cage or at least crate or box as you need a safe place for your ferret, especially when it is not supervised. Cages can vary in price but in case you do not have money to buy a new one, maybe you should ask for a slightly used cage in some of the shelters as they can be bought for much less money
- Litter box – the thing is that you as a human need only one toilet but ferret is not a human, it will not come back from the play area all the way to the cage in order to do the business, that is why you need several litter boxes. From my experience you need at least two in the cage and several others out of the cage where ferret is usually playing.
- Bowl with water – as ferrets like to play, they like to move things, to dig so if you have a bowl with water which is not attached to the cage, this can cause a great mess. So you guess, the best is to have bowl attached to the cage and avoid unnecessary cleaning.
- Bedding – here you have a wide choice. Everything depends on how much money you have /want to spend on this item, do you have imagination and skills to make your own bedding for your pet. Fabrics used for this purpose are also very different, you can use flannel or fleece. If you do not want to make it in your home, you can buy it from a big number of suppliers or even from some other ferret pet owners who make them in their homes and sell online.
- Toys – the number of toys you have for your pet again depends on your budget but bear in mind the toys are absolutely necessary to keep your ferret fit and healthy.
These little animals simply need to be active and they have to play a lot. Of course the easiest thing to do it to purchase the toys in the pet shop but toys also can be less expensive if you look around.
Same as with kids, the ferrets like to play more with bags and boxes in which you brought the toy than with the toy itself. Some toys you can make by yourself.
For example you can take some plastic jar and put some coins in it or beans or popcorn kernels, close the lid properly – your ferret will be thrilled! You can also give your ferret old shoes, bags, backpacks, golf balls, boxes ….
7. Ferret scent
This could be an issue if you have a sensitive nose. Ferrets have a rather slight musky scent that comes from the glands they have under the skin. This scent is controlled by sexual hormones and male ferrets have some stronger odor than females. They also have a scent sac near the anus, very important for marking the territory. Also urine of the adult male ferret has a stronger smell. Pet shops usually offer ‘’ descended ‘’ ferrets which means that that scent sac close to anus was surgically removed but do not expect your ferret to have any smell
The best way to diminish the smell ( because you cannot avoid it completely ) is to pay attention to the following things :
- Keep the cage/box clean
- Wash its bedding once a week
- Make sure that litter boxes are always empty and clean
- Keeps its ears clean
- Bathing your ferret is useful and can help you to control the smell but do not do it so often as you will get totally opposite effect. If you bath it too much the ferret will lose natural oils produced in the skin, this will lead to dry skin and eventually make the glands work even more and produce harder smell. My advice is to bath your ferret once a month.
If you are buying a ferret in the pet shop most probably the ferret will be already neutered and as such would not produce a strong smell. If you are going take a ferret from the local breeder then check but usually those ferrets are intact so you can decide what to do by yourself. It is highly recommended to spay your ferret in order to avoid some health issues in the future and to diminish the odor.
Be aware of the fact that ferrets become sexually mature at the age of 6 to 9 months so you should perform the spaying/neutering procedure before that period.
You can also find different odor control products on the market – sprays and gels ( the price goes from 6-7$ per item and more ) but consider this only as addition to proper cleaning and hygiene.
8. Male of Female
If you about to buy your first ferret then you have to decide whether you will bring a boy or girl to your home. To help you make a decision lets see what is the difference between those two apart from the obvious of course :
- Males are bigger in size than females. All ferret babies are less similar in size but as they grow up males can be twice bigger then females and of course have more weight.
- Males have a stronger smell then females but both sexes should be spayed/ neutered for multiple reasons. Females come on heat and stay on it until mated and if this not happens then a fatal condition called aplastic anemia can develop. Males will become aggressive and would mark the territory with urine during the mating season. If you have two or more male ferrets they could fight if not neutered.
9. Ferrets behavior
These small, furry animals are intelligent, lively and entertaining creatures and are perfect for people who are willing to commit to them. They have a big variety of communication methods, behaviors and body signals. Some of them are easy to identify and understand their meaning and some others are more challenging and require more time to discover the essence. Here are a few examples but more on this topic you can find in a separate article about ferrets behaviors:
- If it happens that your ferret is jumping in front of you, do not think your pet is aggressive or it behaves badly. It simply calls you to join in and have fun together !
- If your pet is hissing at you, take this seriously. It means that it is frightened or angry and any contact with it while upset can lead to some unpleasant situation such as biting you.
- Tail wagging is common behaviour when ferret is excited and happy ,very similar to dogs
10. Ferrets diet / food
As it comes to food it is important to know that ferrets are carnivorous so therefore you should provide high protein food for your pet. Another fact you should be aware of is that ferrets have a high metabolic rate so they need to have 8-10 small meals per day.
Food pellets for ferrets are an excellent choice to feed your pet and they can be easily found in local pet shops. In case you cannot find prepacked food pellets the best alternative would be to buy the food for a kitten ( as cats are also 100% carnivorous ) but not for cats, be careful.
Food for kittens has a higher level of proteins so it is a better solution in this case . If you give your pet food for the kitten you should also give it the supplement of fatty acid. You can give homemade food to your pet as well. Chicken or lamb are highly recommended but note that along with this food you should not stop giving it food pellets are this food helps your pet teeth to stay clean.
11. Ferrets lifespan
According to the American Ferret Association lifespan of healthy ferret, pet is from 6 to 10 years but their cousins living in wild do not have that luck to live that long, they live from 3-4 years.
12. Ferrets are not rodents
Maybe your little pet looks like hamster’s cousin but it is not! Ferrets are part of Mink family and very closely related to weasels.
Last but not the least lets learn some terminology when it comes to ferrets :
Hob – a male ferret
Hoblet – a neutered or castrated male ferret
Jill -a female ferret
Sprite – de-sexed female ferret
Kit – baby ferret
Business – a group of ferrets