10 Things to Know Before Buying a Ferret
Thinking about buying a ferret? Here are 10 facts about ferrets that you should know before bringing your new furry friend home.
- Ferrets are fun! They can learn tricks and be walked on a leash. Whether they live alone or in a large group, they remain very playful and active for most of their lives, which usually last 6 to 10 years.
- Ferrets typically cost about $100. Consider adopting one from a shelter instead of buying one at a pet store. Whatever option you choose, make sure the ferret is at least 8 weeks old.
- Ferrets can be tough to take care of. They are not rodents and require more maintenance than other animals their size, such as guinea pigs or hamsters. They also are more frisky than many other pets. Getting a ferret as a child’s first pet may not be a good idea.
- Ferrets are quite intelligent. They can be trained to use a litter box and to do tricks. However, they can be too smart and curious at times. Ferrets are known to burrow into places where they shouldn’t be, such as cabinets, drawers, cracks, and even toilets.
It is absolutely necessary to ferret-proof your home. Do not give your ferret the run of the house. Keep him in his cage or in one ferret-proofed room where he will be safe without supervision. If you give him more space, crawl around your house and check for any cracks larger than a square inch, then seal them. Ferrets are also good jumpers and climbers, so make sure that fragile items are out of reach. They also enjoy digging in carpets and soil. Protect your floors and keep ferrets away from plants to avoid a mess.
- Ferrets usually get along with cats and dogs. They need proper instruction and be patient if your pets aren’t chummy at first. Make sure that they get used to each other’s scents and have supervised visits before they are allowed to interact freely. Ferrets generally don’t like smaller animals, such as rodents, birds and lizards. Of course, there are exceptions to every rule.
- Ferrets, especially males, have a distinctive odor. Much of the odor can be eliminated by neutering your pet and by changing his bedding often. Nevertheless, be sure that the smell does not bother you or anyone in your household.
Like skunks, ferrets have scent glands that release very strong odors when they are stressed, amorous or frightened. Even surgically de-scenting a ferret, or removing these scent glands, will not get rid of the day-to-day scent that is normally released through the skin.
Also be sure to handle several ferrets before deciding to buy one to determine whether you are allergic to them. An allergy to cats or dogs does not determine an allergic reaction to ferrets.
- Ferrets are illegal in some areas. Some of the larger ferret-free zones, or FFZ’s, include Washington, D.C., Dallas, Texas, and all of California and Hawaii. Other areas, such as New Jersey, Rhode Island, and Illinois, require permits. This is only a partial list; towns may have their own ferret laws. Check the regulations in your area by calling humane societies, veterinarians, or the local Wildlife Department and Fish and Game Department. If you rent your home, be sure to get your landlord’s permission to keep the ferret.
- Your ferret must be neutered or spayed. Males who are not neutered are extremely aggressive and mark their territory with a smelly fluid. Females in heat must breed or they will develop anemia. Breeding ferrets is very complicated and risky, and should not be an option at this point.
- Ferrets require vaccinations. The rabies vaccine requires annual booster shots, so be prepared to pay for them. Ask your vet about additional vaccines that your ferret may need.
- Ferrets are okay with cold. Ferrets are generally comfortable in chilly climates, and some even like to play in the snow! However, they do not handle heat very well. Temperatures in the 80’s or higher may be fatal, so if you plan to get a ferret, make sure you keep his cage cool in the summer.