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Want a Ferret?

Want a Ferret?

I was surprised to learn recently that ferrets are considered domestic animals. I mean, I knew that people kept them as pets, but I didn’t realize that ferrets (unlike their cousins: otters, weasels, badgers and skunk) are not considered wild animals since they have lost all of their wild instincts as well as the ability to survive in the wild. In fact, if one gets loose, it will not survive for more than a few days on its own.

I also have always thought of ferrets as “exotic”–wrong again. While many pet stores classify ferrets as exotics, the definition of an exotic pet is a pet whose species can be found in the wild. Because there are no wild colonies of ferrets, to call ferrets exotic is incorrect. Ferrets are “companion animals” just as cats and dogs are. Ferrets can make great pets and are super loving, but just like with any type of pet, they are not for everyone.

Ferrets are quiet and affectionate like cats, but playful and interactive like dogs. Their size makes them a good option for people with small homes or apartments. And since they are hypoallergenic, they can also be a good option for those with pet allergies.

Much of the ferret’s charm comes from their curious, mischievous nature; but they can injure themselves if their surroundings haven’t been ferret-proofed. Somewhat surprisingly, ferrets generally get along with cats and dogs–cats and ferrets can actually become frolicsome playmates! (Although terrier dog breeds might be a problem since they were developed to hunt rabbits, rats and foxes–you can see the potential problem there.)

Ferrets are so undeniably cute, but is it the right pet for you? I found these 10 questions to determine one’s ferret-ability at Rocky’s Ferret Rescue:

1. Have you done your research; spoken and visited with ferret owners or local shelter?

2. Have you read about the housing, nutritional, exercise and medical needs of the ferret?

3. Are you ready to make a long-term commitment to the love and care of your ferret, knowing that a ferret has a potential life-span of 15 years?

4. Are you prepared to feed your ferret quality ferret food?

5. Are you prepared to visit the vet once a year for vaccinations and check-up?

6. If you rent, are you allowed to have a ferret?

7. Are their other animals in your house that could threaten or be threatened by a ferret? These could be terrier breeds and large and/or aggressive dogs.

8. Are there existing pets that could be harmed by a ferret? These could be rabbits, kittens, snakes and amphibians.

8. Can you spend one to three hours a day nurturing and supervising the exercise and playtime of your ferret?

9. Are there children under 5 years old in your home or are you planning a family?

10. Can you ferret-proof your house?

If you answered yes to all 10, maybe you’re ready to provide a loving home for an abandoned ferret. Rather than support a pet store, use this directory to find a local ferret shelter and adopt a ferret.

Read more: Less Common Pets, Pets, , , , , ,

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Melissa Breyer

Melissa Breyer is a writer and editor with a background in sustainable living, specializing in food, science and design. She is the co-author of True Food (National Geographic) and has edited and written for regional and international books and periodicals, including The New York Times Magazine. Melissa lives in Brooklyn, NY.


+ add your own
7:35AM PDT on Apr 11, 2013

I love Ferrets and they love to chew on things, so it's good to have some chew toys, it will save your shoes, I learned the hard way, lol, they are wonderful, playful, cuddly pets!!

9:51AM PDT on Apr 10, 2013

nice one.

12:51PM PDT on Apr 9, 2013

I've worked with more than a few ferrets in various education programs. The females can be especially nasty. I wouldn't have one, myself.

8:51AM PDT on Apr 9, 2013

Thanks for sharing

5:08AM PDT on Apr 9, 2013


3:13AM PDT on Apr 9, 2013

Thanks for the info

8:14PM PDT on Apr 8, 2013

can't own a ferret, they are illegal in the state of California.

5:17PM PDT on Apr 8, 2013


3:39AM PST on Feb 22, 2013


1:18AM PDT on Sep 4, 2012


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Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may not reflect those of
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