Like any pet, all aspects of owning a ferret should be carefully considered before actually bringing one into your family and your home. Following are 5 simple questions to help you determine if a ferret is the right pet for you.
- Do I have the time and personality to own a ferret?
Ferrets are very social and inquisitive creatures, which is both a benefit and a disadvantage to having one as a pet. They need companionship to thrive, whether a human's or another ferret's. Regardless if you have 1 ferret or 5, they need to be out of their cage for a minimum of 4 hours a day, and you should play with them for at least 2 hours (more if they are an "only" ferret).
The more freedom and socialization your ferret(s) have, the healthier and happier they will be! Without freedom and interaction the average ferret will become depressed, or even ill. They cannot be left in a cage until you have time for them, so if you travel frequently for work or just aren't home often, a ferret is not the pet for you.
- Is it legal to have a ferret as a pet where I live?
Due to some of the stereotypes surrounding ferrets, some places have banned ferrets, making them "Ferret Free Zones." In other places, owners are required to apply for permits or acquire a license to own a ferret. Before you invest the time picking out and purchasing a ferret, check to make sure that your area allows them as pets. You can contact the Wildlife or the Fish and Game Department, the local Humane Society or SPCA, or your veterinarian to check on the legality of ferrets. Do not assume that if the local pet store sells ferrets that they are indeed permitted; some places permit the sale but not the ownership of ferrets in a specific area.
- Do I have sufficient financial resources to properly care for a ferret?
Although the cost of the purchase of a ferret and its scheduled care will vary depending on the area, you can usually plan on spending anywhere from $75 to $250, with the average being around $100, for the ferret itself, depending on the pet store or breeder. You can then count on another $100-$250 for a cage, bowls, food and other necessary supplies, plus around $75 for the first vet visit, complete with vaccines.
In addition to the routine costs of ferret upkeep, a ferret parent can usually expect a few extraordinary vet visits during his/her ferret's lifetime. Whether it is from an accident, such as a fall or getting stepped on, an illness such as adrenal disease, insulinoma, or lymphoma, or just ingesting something he shouldn't, ferret owners often have at least one visit exceeding $300 for each ferret. It's a good idea to save some money each week to plan for such costs.
- Are ferrets good with children and other pets?
Ferrets can coexist peacefully with children, provided that the child is mature enough to understand how to properly handle and care for the ferret. Both children and ferrets are excitable creatures, and if not carefully supervised, injury could result for either the ferret or the child. Playtime should be monitored. Ferrets instinctively play rough, like they would with their littermates. This type of play could A) frighten your child, or B) make your child play rougher with the ferret, resulting in a vigorous ferret response that may hurt the child. Children also need to be taught the correct way to handle a ferret. Although they are very flexible creatures, injury could easily occur to their spines if they are carried or picked up improperly.
Ferrets can generally get along with most other pets, but hunting dogs, hamsters, rabbits and other small animals may pose problems. Some hunting dogs were exclusively bred to chase, and even kill, small furry animals such as the ferret, just as the ferret was used extensively for rodent chasing and control. Ultimately, you need to know your other pet's personalities and monitor their interaction with the ferret closely.
- Am I able to adequately Ferret-Proof my home?
Ferret-Proofing is the absolute, most important step any ferret owner needs to make before introducing a ferret to their household. As mentioned, ferrets are inquisitive, determined, conveniently-sized creatures, and will get into areas previously deemed un-navigable. Here are a few guidelines for Ferret-Proofing:
- If your ferret's head will fit in any crack, hole, or other crevice, his body will, too. If you don't want your ferret in that area, or if it contains wires, hoses, or any other objects that may be attractive to a ferret's teeth, securely block the area.
- Make sure all cabinet doors and drawers are securely fastened. Secure to a human does not always mean secure to a ferret - they can easily open doors and drawers. Some people have luck using the baby-proof hooks and latches; others opt to tie them closed with string.
- There is no such thing as "out of the way." Ferrets are notoriously good climbers, and prized possessions that you think you put high enough to be out of reach can and will be found by your ferret. Put such objects, including plants, in an area that is restricted to your ferret.
- Make sure there are no items lying around that could cause an intestinal blockage, usually soft or rubbery items such as pencil erasers, remote control buttons, or even sneaker soles.
- Recliners cause several deaths of ferrets every year - they love to burrow into the chair and, inevitably, someone sits down and pulls the lever to recline. The reclining mechanism will crush your ferret. If you have a recliner, either move it to where your ferret won't have access or get rid of it.
By considering these thoughts and suggestions, you should be able to make an educated decision as to whether or not ferret ownership is for you!