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Ferrets as Pets
by Lana Bogusz

Ferrets are quickly becoming more and more popular as pets. Some surveys have shown ferrets to be ranked as the third most popular companion pet, right behind cats and dogs.

I'm often asked about what kind of pets they make. They can be the perfect pet for the right person. Many ferret owners will tell you they've never been as attached to any pet as they are to their pet ferret.

So let's look at some of the reasons ferrets make such great pets. They are quiet. They are small and take little space to maintain. They can be caged while unattended. They are relatively easy to care for.

Because ferrets are quiet and require little space they can be the perfect pet for apartment dwellers. Also, they are intelligent and can be trained. They can be affectionate. And last, but not least, they are just plain FUN!

Ferrets are quiet animals. They do make some noises, from a little grunting sound called a "dook" when they are excited to a hiss, similar to a cat, when frightened. A ferret's hiss or dook can only be heard if you're close to the ferret at the time. Ferret noises aren't loud and disturbing as a dog's bark can be to some people.

Ferrets are not cage animals but they can be caged for short periods of time, such as while you're away at work. It's often a good idea to cage your pet for their safety while you are not home. A metal mesh cage is the best choice.

Aquarium-like enclosures are not recommended as cages. They don't provide enough ventilation. Most aquaria also aren't nearly big enough. Plain wood cages aren't recommended because the wood soaks up urine and other liquids, so getting the smell out and getting the cage really clean are nearly impossible.

Ferrets should have ample space to move about and "live" in a cage. This should be usable space, not just open air. A good size for a single ferret is about 2 ft by 3 ft by 2 ft high.

Although, ferrets do not require much space, the space a ferret does occupy must be well ferret-proofed, however because a ferret can and will get into everything. A 1 inch X 1 inch space is often big enough for a female ferret to get through! Because they require such a small amount of space many truck drivers travel with a ferret in their cab for companionship!

Ferrets need daily attention and exercise but, similar to cats, they will sleep about 18 hours a day. Many ferrets will choose to go back to their cages to sleep. Ferrets are not nocturnal and will adjust their schedule to yours. Exercise for a ferret can be just letting them out to play a few hours a day. They love to run through tubes and explore everything!

Ferrets are not difficult to care for but they do require daily attention. Their litter boxes need to be cleaned daily and their bedding needs to be washed weekly. Ferrets need to have their nails clipped and ears cleaned but these activities can be done at home and are not difficult or time consuming.

Ferrets do require daily attention. They need to be allowed to run and play at least a few hours every day. Their "play time" should be time spent with you. They are very intelligent and require human interaction.

Ferrets can be litter trained to a box like a cat. They can also be taught tricks such as roll over and "say please". Ferrets will also learn their names and should be taught to come when you call them. Some ferrets will also give Kisses when asked.

Some ferrets can be very affectionate. This depends on the personality of the ferret. If you particularly want a "lap ferret" the best thing to do is visit your local ferret shelter. The shelter mom will know the personalities of all her ferrets and will be able to match you up with just the right ferret for you!

Last but never least, ferrets are loads of fun. Ferrets will "weasel war-dance" when excited. They will throw their heads side to side and bounce off walls. This is often done with mouths wide open and tails puffed up. You can't possibly watch a ferret dance with out wanting to jump around for joy yourself. They will dook and play and make up their own games. Many ferret owners describe their pets as "little clowns in fur suits".

Ferrets live 7 - 10 years and if you get a ferret you should be ready to devote a few hours every day to your pet for its entire lifetime. The shelter gets a lot of ferrets turned in because people did not realize what a commitment they are.

Ferrets can also contract various types of cancers and diseases and may require costly veterinarian bills later in their life. It's a good idea to start putting away a little reserve each month, just in case this happens to your ferret so you'll be prepared.

Ferrets DO NOT make good Christmas presents. There is too much of a commitment to the animal to "surprise" somebody with one and hope they love it as much as you do.

A person getting a ferret should spend some time talking to other ferret owners before making the final decision to buy one. A good source of information is the Ohio Ferret Website or contact the Ferrets Unlimited Ferret Shelter at 216-749-3885.

The law requires ferrets to receive rabies shots every year and yearly distemper shots are a good idea as well. Ferrets form deep bonds with their owners and with other animals in the house. They suffer from depression when separated from their owners or when a cage-mate dies.

Ferrets have been domesticated for over 2000 years. They were domesticated from the polecat and most likely come from Greece. They are a distant cousin to the endangered Black-Footed Ferret. Since they are domesticated they have little or no hunting instinct. Releasing a ferret into the wild is a certain death sentence.

For all these reasons, ferrets are wonderful pets and can be the perfect pet for the right person. But it is important to remember that ferrets do require daily hugs and quality food.

When you purchase a ferret you are making a commitment to a living creature. The ferret, in turn, will make a commitment to you.




Don't miss our expert Veterinarian's opinion of ferrets as pets.

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