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Ferreting Out the Truth

Ferrets as Pets

Ferrets have actually been kept as pets for longer than cats! The ancient Egyptians domesticated them to hunt mice and rats in their homes. The modern day ferret (aka a "European Polecat”) that we see in pet stores is actually just about as a wild as a kitten. These guys couldn't survive very long if you let them go outside by themselves. A common misconception is that ferrets are "wild animals" and I've often heard people consider "releasing" their pet ferret when they get tired of taking care of it. This is a horrible idea that sentences the animal to death! Releasing a ferret to fend for himself is like releasing a puppy into the wild to fend for himself. It’s not a good idea.

The ferrets closest wild relative is the highly endangered Black-Footed Ferret. There are only about a thousand black-footed ferrets in the wild.

Ferrets can make good pets! They are very playful and happy go lucky animals. They have tons of energy and enjoy wrestling around with their owners. This can be a negative factor if you don't have time or energy to play with them. They should be let out of their cage to romp around for at least a few hours every day.

Ferrets are nocturnal (they wake up at night) by nature. They can get used to your schedule but ferrets are normally noisy at night. They wake up, run around their cage and play. If they're in the same room as their human friend, that can mean the human misses sleep!

Alongside their energy, ferrets have a natural curiosity and love to get into things. A ferret can get into and under anything. If a space is big enough to slip their head through, the rest of the ferret can get through it too. Ferrets have actually been used to wire houses because of their flexibility because they can shimmy through the curves and turns of almost piping or ductwork. They love shiny, sparkly things and tend to be "collectors." If you leave something in a ferret's eyesight, it will probably cart it off to it's favorite hiding space!

The worst part about a ferret, in my opinion, is their natural odor. Ferrets are in the Mustelidae family. That's the same family that contains skunks! Ferrets do contain scent glands like skunks but ferrets don't spray like skunks. They just emit the odor when frightened.

Most pet store ferrets are already "descented" but that does not mean they do not smell! That just means the scent glands have been surgically removed (they can no longer emit the strong odor when frightened or mark territory like a natural ferret). Ferrets will still carry a musky odor on their coats. Many people bath their ferrets to help get rid of this odor but it will never disappear completely.

Ferrets can be trained to use a litter box but most ferrets only halfway use them while in the cage. It's common for a ferret to miss the box or sometimes not even try. It's very difficult to get a ferret to use his box during out of cage playtime. Before letting your ferret out to play, you should make sure he does his business!

They get along well with most pets but remember that ferrets were originally used for hunting. Don't let your ferret play with your small animals (hamsters, gerbils, rabbits), birds or other strange ferrets (female ferrets normally get along well with other females and males but two males will generally fight. Your results may vary. Socialize them under close supervision!). The ferret might take a bite of the bird or small animal.

All in all, if you don't mind the smell and you want a friendly, playful ball of energy, a ferret is a great pet for you!


Web Ferrets | Ferret Central

Q and A

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Please note that due to the volume of requests I receive and the time it takes to answer some of the more complicated questions, I cannot answer every question received and I will not answer duplicate questions. However, I will try my best to get to all of them in a timely manner.

Content on this site is for information purposes only and not meant to replace veterinary care. Please consult your veterinarian for specific advice concerning the care and treatment of your pet.

All info copyright © Amanda Galiano