Is a Ferret the Right Pet For You?
Ferret are cute, playful and inquisitive pets but they do have highly specialised needs. We explore the key considerations you take into account before bringing a ferret into your family.
If you are looking at ferrets as a potential pet it’s important you consider whether you have the time, money and resources to provide a good home for your future pet. Whilst Ferrets are amusing and adventurous pets, they require deceptively large amounts of care for such small creatures.
In particular, Ferrets require a large amount of time and training in order to prevent them easy to handle and to keep them out of mischief. Be sure to ask yourself these questions before you bring that furry ferret home.
Do I have enough time to care for a Ferret?
Ferrets require ample amounts of space and at least 2 hours of playtime outside of their cage each day. You will need to invest time in:
- Ferret-proofing your home or at least some room of your home so your little fur-balls have plenty of room to exercise and explore without putting themselves at risk;
- Supervised play when your ferrets are in areas of the home that have not been ferret-proofed;
- Training your ferret – both behavioural (e.g. biting, handling, toilet training) and for mental stimulation (e.g. tricks);
- Food preparation and regular feeding (2 to 4 times a day); and
- Cleaning your ferrets cage and litter box
How many ferrets?
Ferrets are highly social animals and should ideally be kept in pairs or groups for their mental health. However, this means you will go through food and other resources faster, adding to the cost of care. You’ll also have some choices to make as to whether you want male or female ferrets.
How long do ferrets live?
Ferrets can live until they are 10 years old, with the longest living ferret making it to the ripe old age of 13 years. If you aren’t sure what you will be doing in 10 years time, consider adopting an adult ferret or fostering a ferret instead. There are numerous ferret rescue organisations and this can be a great opportunity to give a ferret a new life.
Will they suit my family?
Generally speaking, ferrets and very young children do not mix well, as ferrets have a tendency to bite if they are not handled gently. That being said, ferrets can make great pets for families with older children provided they are supervised and shown how to correctly handle them.
Ferrets are a flight risk and will make a mad dash for any open doorway to escape. If you like to keep doors around your house open then a ferret is perhaps not suited to you home. Similarly, ferrets love to get underfoot, so if your home is a high traffic area or has members of the family who are at risk of falling, then again these fur-balls might not be right for you.
Finally, ferrets can’t really be trusted with smaller pets such as mice, rats and even rabbits, if these pets are already part of your family then a ferret is probably not ideal. By the same token, cats and dogs probably can’t be trusted around a ferret, particularly unsupervised, even ‘friendly’ cats and dogs can risk hurting a ferret during rough play due to their size advantage.
For a full discussion on ferrets and other pets, check out our article Ferrets and Other Pets: Safety First.
Do I have the right equipment and set up?
You ferret will need a specialised enclosure to spend time in. This should be indoors as they are very susceptible to heatstroke. You may also need a harness for walks, as well as the basics such as food and water bowls, toys to play with such as tunnels and bags and a hammock or sleeping bag for rest-time.
Check out our Ferret Care Guide for Beginners for a list of basic care requirements.
Are ferrets legal?
In some areas ferrets are not permitted, such as the NT and QLD in Australia and some states in the US. In other areas a licence is required to own a ferret, such as the ACT in Australia. Be sure to check the regulations and laws regarding ferret ownership in your local state.
Can I keep a ferret if I am renting?
You will need to ask permission from your landlord or strata committee before purchasing your new ferret and bringing them home. If your landlord is concerned, you can consider offering an additional pet-bond and a contractual agreement to treat the house for fleas on departure.
Can I afford a Ferret?
There are some basic costs with all pets, such as food, bedding and toys. However, feeding your ferret can be costly, as carnivores they require need a specialised diet and lots of raw meat.
Despite their small size, veterinary bills for a ferret can be similar to that for a dog or cat. If you are not planning to breed, your female ferret must be de-sexed or she will stay on heat and develop a fatal anaemia. Males get aggressive and smelly if not desexed and will tend to urinate or mark everywhere during mating season. Cost for de-sexing varies, but is around $200-$300.
Ferrets also need annual vaccinations against distemper (they will need 2 vaccines a month apart initially as kits). They are also accident prone, will often eat things they shouldn’t and will need ideally half-yearly health checks with their Vet. This can all add up and you will most likely be looking at similar costs to owning an outdoor cat.
Adrenal Gland Disease and Insulinoma are two diseses commonly seen in older ferrets, and they come with hefty veterinary bills. While lifestyle choices made while they are young can mitigate the likelihood of your ferret developing these conditions. You need to be prepared for costly vet bills as your ferret ages.
Travel and boarding?
Ferret boarding is somewhat specialised, so not all places will board ferrets. If you do get a pet sitter, they will need regular checks and playtime while you area away, so you could be looking at $40 per day when you go away, unless you have friends or family who can take over your pets care.
Ferrets make wonderful pets and will amuse you for hours with their play. If you do decide you have the time, money, space and resources to give one of these lovely ferrets a home, you will thoroughly enjoy the experience.
If you decide that ferrets are right for you, consider adopting from a rescue or shelter. Be sure to check out Pet Rescue, Australia’s largest on-line directory of rescue pets, as there are always plenty of ferrets on the lookout for their fur-ever home.
There are many ferret breeders out there, but unfortunately for every ethical breeder there are many backyard breeders as well. Unfortunately these backyard breeders to not give a toss about breeding healthy ferrets and many backyard breeders are so notoriously bad that people associate certain problems such as respiratory issues and heart failure. If you choose to buy a ferret from a breeder try follow these simple steps to ensure that you do not get stung:
- On the day ask to see the parents and living conditions (don’t give the breeder warning). If they don’t want to let you look at the parents or living conditions on the day, walk away.
- Can you handle the parents? Or do they bite, have poor quality coats and overgrown nails? Dont go by the breeders promise, find this out for yourself!
- Ask around ferret interest groups, has anyone else gotten ferrets from that breeder? What was their experience?
- Go the the breeders house (take someone with you), if they want to meet elsewhere hang up the phone and try someone else.
- Does the breeder have a waiting list? If the breeder has 20 ferrets for you to choose from and many more on the way, possibly not the best person to buy from.
- Are the ferrets vaccinated? Unfortunately some unscrupulous backyard breeders will lie and say that their ferrets have been vet checked and vaccinated. Ask for a vaccination certificate from the vet. If the breeder has vaccinated himself or “lost it” get in your car and drive away.
- How old is the kit? The Australian Veterinary Association stipulates that 10 weeks is the minimum age a kit should be sold at to ensure they have been properly weaned from their mother. Any younger and you should once again walk away.
- Does the breeder have a desexing agreement? Ethical breeders don’t want to see people breeding unwanted litters and will make you sign a desexing contract!