Ferrets can make great pets. They are members of the Mustelidae family, which also includes weasels, stoats, and badgers. This means they are highly intelligent, playful, cuddly, and fun to be around.
However, they are hard work, take a lot of patience and are a big commitment for any family. If you’re thinking of getting a ferret as a pet, you need to understand their pluses and minuses.
Why Ferrets Are Good Pets
1. Playful Personalities
Ferrets, much like dogs, crave your attention and love to play. Unlike rodents or cats, they’ll actively seek you out for playtime and love to play with toys too.
You can see that a ferret is in a playful mood as they’ll arch their back and skip around. They also love to be tickled and teased and will play with cat toys. They are perfect pets if you want more than just a cuddle companion.
2. Very Sleepy
Ferrets are the ideal pets if you have a busy lifestyle. They sleep for around 16 hours a day and are crepuscular, which means they’re most active at dawn through to mid-morning and at dusk through to night-time.
If you work 9-5, they’ll be awake before you go and awake when you get home, allowing you to bond with your ferret easily.
3. Long Lifespan
Ferrets can live for anywhere between 8 and 12 years with proper care, which means that you can create a good, lifelong bond with them.
4. Flexible Partners
Ferrets are flexible with their partnership arrangements.
In the wild, they’re mainly solitary creatures, hunting alone and coming together to mate. If you choose just to have a single ferret, that’s fine, as long as you ensure they get lots of mental stimulation and attention from you.
Equally, if you have two females, they’re likely to get along just fine, especially if they’ve been together from a young age. Having another ferret to play with all the time lessens their need for you, as they already have that constant playmate.
Their flexibility regarding housemates means that they can work around your lifestyle as long as you take this into consideration before bringing them into your home.
5. Silent Animals
Ferrets are pretty much silent. They’re one of the quietest pets around and will only make noises if they feel threatened or upset or get overly excited. And even then, the noises aren’t very loud.
Ferrets are great fun to exercise outside the house. You can purchase special ferret harnesses and leashes and take them for a walk with you, just like you would with a dog. It’s great to watch them skip along, and their curiosity means that they’re into everything.
Why Ferrets Are Bad Pets
Ferrets really do smell, and even with de-scenting, regular cleaning, and baths, their natural odor will still usually win through.
This means that they really shouldn’t be kept in bedrooms or family rooms. You’ll need to make sure you have a warm space that allows your ferret to be smelly.
2. Need Space
Although ferrets do spend a lot of their day sleeping, they are very active for around 8 hours a day. They need a big cage, usually with multiple levels, to keep them occupied. You need to make sure you have enough space indoors and outdoors for them to play.
3. Attention Seeking
They also need a lot of attention from you as they are extremely intelligent, much like cats, and require the mental stimulation that exploration and playing brings.
If you’re only going to have a single ferret and you’re away from home a lot, they’re probably not the best pet for you.
4. Hard To Train
Ferrets can be litter trained and even trained to do tricks based on positive reinforcement. However, this does take a lot of patience, much more so than a dog would do. Ferrets have a more feline mentality and are their own person (so to speak).
Placing litter trays in the corners that they use to poop and removing stray poops back to the litter tray will typically work up to a point, but it’ll never be 100% effective, so bear that in mind if you plan to let your ferret run around on your carpet.
Are Ferrets Good Pets For Kids?
Ferrets aren’t great pets for young children. Although ferrets generally have excellent temperaments, they can get over-excited with playing.
Their way of playing is similar to cats, in that they’ll use their teeth and claws when roughhousing. Their sharps claws can easily scratch the skin, and teeth can draw blood if they get a bit carried away.
If a child accidentally pulls on their tail or ears, the play can quickly turn nasty too.
Cleaning a ferret cage is also much more complicated than cleaning a rabbit or guinea pig cage. Their poop doesn’t solidify into pellets like rodents’ poop does and instead forms a sloppier version of cat poop.
It can also occasionally contain parasites due to their food source, making it less safe for young children if you’re worried that they might place their hands on their face or mouths by mistake.
Do Ferrets Like To Cuddle?
If you work on bonding with your ferret in their early life, they’ll love spending time with you, even cuddling sometimes.
However, as they are very playful, they might not spend long periods snuggled up in your lap like a cat. They do get bored easily and will start hassling you to play with them after a short period of time “chilling”.
If you’re aiming to watch a whole movie with them on your lap, you might be asking a little too much.
When it comes to cuddling their friends, they’re one of the cuddliest pets around. If you have a couple of ferrets, you’ll often see them snuggled up together, sleeping for hours at a time.
Are Ferrets Smelly?
In some countries, including the USA, ferrets that are sold in pet stores are de-scented. This means that their anal glands (producing most of their smell) are removed. However, if you purchase a ferret directly from a breeder, this likely won’t be the case.
And even if you purchase a de-scented ferret, unfortunately, ferrets have a natural musk about them, which emanates through glands in their skin.
This means that they are really smelly animals to keep as pets and usually are not ideal pets to keep in a bedroom or anywhere around food.
To keep the smell to a minimum, you’ll need to ensure that you keep their cage very clean. A daily wipe down with a pet-friendly spray will help. You can also bathe your ferret with specialist ferret shampoo.
This should only be done once a month, as bathing too often can remove the natural oils from their fur and may actually increase the smell over time.
Do Ferret Bites Hurt?
Yes. Ferrets bite, and their bites can be incredibly painful.
Ferrets are carnivores, meaning they have long, sharp canine teeth, just like dogs or cats. When a ferret bites, they will most likely break the skin, causing it to bleed, unlike herbivores who have more flat, rounded teeth.
Because a ferret’s teeth are built to hold onto struggling prey in the wild, such as mice, their jaw can lock while they’re biting.
This, unfortunately, means that if your ferret bites your hand, they can hold on to you with their teeth sunken into your skin, even if you pull your hand away from them.
To get a ferret to let go of you after a bite, you should gently squeeze the pads on the bottom of their feet. This releases the jaw lock and lets the ferret fall to the floor. Just make sure they’re not too high up when you do this so that they don’t hurt themselves falling off.
How Much Would A Ferret Cost?
The cost of a ferret can vary anywhere between $20 and $90 depending on its coloring. And ferrets come in a range of colors:
- Sable – Dark fur with raccoon style eyes.
- White – Blonde coloring.
- Silver – Usually start off blonde, but fur becomes grayer across their backs.
- Albinos – Albino (white with red eyes) are actually quite common.
- Black sable – Similar to polecat coloring, almost black with a lighter head and belly.
- Chocolate – Dark brown legs with a yellow body.
- Cinnamon – Ginger with darker legs and tail.
- Champagne – Almost pure white on top with gradually darkening legs.
Silver and champagne ferrets are the rarest form of coloration and do cost slightly more than others.
Ferrets are also one of the rare animals where the females (jills) cost more than the males (hobs).
Males are bigger than the females and do tend to have nicer temperaments, so consider this before making the purchase.
Cost Of Care
On top of purchasing the ferret themselves, you’ll also need to consider the cost of their care.
A ferret’s cage does need to be big and will preferably have multiple floors. Whether you get a shop-bought cage or a bespoke one, it’s likely to cost at least $100.
Ferrets are very playful and need lots of toys to keep their minds stimulated. They’ll need:
- A material hammock to sleep in
- Cat toys – to simulate natural hunting behavior
- Pipes or tunnels – to simulate their natural underground habitat
The cost of toys per month to keep their minds active could be up to $40.
Specialist ferret food is the best source of all the fiber and protein that your ferret needs but buying good quality food can cost a lot. A standard sized bag may cost $25 on average and might only last a couple of weeks.
Ferrets don’t have too many health issues usually, especially when they’re younger. But keep in mind that significant illnesses or injuries that involve operations can cost anything up to $700.
It might be best to insure your ferret to avoid high one-time payments.
Commonly Asked Questions
Can You Let A Ferret Run Around The House?
You can let your ferret run around the house with you. Because they’re carnivorous, their teeth don’t continually grow like rodents’ teeth, so they don’t have the need to constantly chew skirting boards or wires in your house, as they don’t need to wear them down.
Ferrets are also incredibly intelligent and can be trained to use a litter box if you’re patient. They tend to select a single (or a couple) of corners and use those spots as a toilet all the time. So once your ferret is trained, you shouldn’t find ferret poo all over your house.
However, ferrets really do smell. This is partly due to natural odor and partly due to the food they eat, which unfortunately makes their poop smell awful.
It’s not a good idea to have a ferret in your bedroom all the time, though they can come in to visit. You’ll need to find a place in your home where the smell won’t affect you too much, or even an outhouse if it’s warm and dry.
Do Ferrets Like To Be Held?
Ferrets are known for being incredibly playful. You should handle your ferret regularly from an early age. As they get older and get to know you, they’ll be happy to be held, played with, and even cuddle up with you on the sofa. They love snuggling in warm blankets on the sofa and watch TV.
Picking a ferret up is simple. You should hold them just behind their front legs so that the rest of their body dangles behind them. Support their back legs and bum as soon as you can.
If you spend at least a few hours a day with your ferret at a young age, they’ll quickly become accustomed to being held, and you’ll rarely have a problem.
However, you need to bear in mind that it only takes a single bad experience to change their opinion, so always treat them with respect.
Can A Ferret Sleep With You?
Your ferret might like to sleep with you on the sofa. They curl up just like cats do when they’re tired. They also love to sleep within soft bedding and will gladly wrap themselves up in a blanket.
You could hook up a cloth hammock in their cage as an enrichment tool to encourage this behavior.
However, it’s not recommended to actually take them to sleep in bed with you. They aren’t like dogs and won’t tell you when they need the toilet, so you’re likely to wake up to an incredibly messy bed.
There’s also the chance that you might roll on them in your sleep, and while they are tough, they are still small enough that you might crush them. It’s best to keep them out of the bedroom.
What Do Ferrets Eat?
Ferrets are carnivores and don’t eat any vegetables at all. They need a high protein and high fiber diet and require lots of meat fats as they have an incredibly fast metabolism.
You can purchase high-quality ferret food from the pet store, which comes in pellets. Don’t buy cheap, as cheaper ferret foods can contain plant proteins rather than meat-based protein, which can be harmful to your ferret.
It’s also not recommended to buy in bulk as they are quite picky eaters and do get bored easily. So try to mix the flavors up as much as possible.
If you want to treat your ferret, you can give them a raw egg. In the wild, ferrets love stealing eggs out of birds’ nests, so anything from chickens’ eggs to quails’ eggs will work. They can crack the shell themselves to get to the egg inside.
You might also want to offer them some boneless cooked chicken. But make sure this is served cold, don’t give it to them straight from the oven.
Overall, ferrets do make good pets, but you really need to understand what you’re doing and cater to their needs to ensure that you have a successful relationship and they have a happy life.
However, they really aren’t the best pet for a child or a first-time pet owner. Perhaps consider a guinea pig instead (check out our full post about guinea pigs).