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Chinchilla vs. Ferret: Which Pet Is Right for You?

Quincy Miller

We don’t have many requirements for a pet. It has to be cute, it has to be friendly, and it has to be acceptable to our landlord.

Ferrets and chinchillas definitely meet most of those criteria, but if you just had to pick one of those animals to adopt, which should it be?

While everyone’s situation is different, there are a few things that you should consider before bringing home either of these animals. We’ll look at these considerations in greater detail here.

divider-ferretVisual Differences

Chinchillas and Ferret
Image Credit: Left – Chinchillas (Pixabay); Right – Ferrets (Pixabay)

At a Glance

Chinchillas
  • Average length (adult): 9–15inches
  • Average weight (adult): 1–2 pounds
  • Lifespan: 10–20 years
  • Exercise: 1–2 hours a day
  • Grooming needs: Minimal
  • Family-friendly: Not good with small children
  • Other pet-friendly: No
  • Trainability: Slow learners, limited training capacity
Ferrets
  • Average length (adult): 12–16 inches
  • Average weight (adult): 5–4 pounds
  • Lifespan: 5–10 years
  • Exercise: 2–4 hours a day
  • Grooming needs: Moderate
  • Family-friendly: Not good with small children
  • Other pet-friendly: Can be trained to get along with cats and dogs
  • Trainability: Can be easily trained, although they are often shy or fearful at first

divider-chinchillaChinchillas Overview

Chinchillas are undoubtedly adorable, and their irresistible faces have gotten more than one owner in trouble over the years. The problem is that being adorable isn’t sufficient for being a great pet, and these little animals offer challenges that many owners aren’t prepared for.

Nevertheless, if you know what you’re getting yourself into, a chinchilla can make a wonderful addition to your household.

chinchilla-pixabay
Credit: agdas666, Pixabay

Personality

Chinchillas are social creatures, but that only means they enjoy the company of other chinchillas, not necessarily you and your family.

These animals are not great for houses with small children. They’re delicate, and little ones can easily hurt or injure them accidentally. That can make the chinchilla lash out, and their bites can be quite nasty.

Also, it’s hard to own just one chinchilla. If you’re going to own one of these animals, you should prepare yourself for owning several.

One other thing that many people don’t realize about these rodents until it’s too late is the fact that they’re nocturnal. They may not come out and play when you want them to, and they may be up late at night puttering around in their habitat, with absolutely no care that you’re trying to sleep.

Health & Care

chinchilla
Image Credit: benjamingross83, Pixabay

Chinchillas make for a low-maintenance pet. The hardest thing to do is set up their habitat for the first time, but once that chore’s out of the way, cleaning and maintaining it is simple and straightforward.

They’re not smelly either, and they produce hard, pellet-like poops, so there should never be any messy disasters to clean up inside their cage.

However, they can be picky about things like diet and temperature, so you’ll need to do your research ahead of time to ensure that you’re caring for them properly. Also, their teeth never stop growing, so they’ll need to constantly gnaw on things to wear them down.

Exercise

Given that chinchillas are chubby and squishy, you’d be forgiven for assuming that they don’t need much in the way of exercise. The truth, however, is that they have relatively high exercise needs.

They need to be taken out of their cage and allowed to roam around for 1 hour or 2 every night. You should also make sure that they have plenty of toys and things to climb on inside their cages, so they can exercise on their own time.

Hanging Wood DIY Chinchilla Toys Plans from LY Chinchillas
Image: LY Chinchillas

Suitable for

Chinchillas are a good fit for anyone who wants a cuddly animal but doesn’t want all the bother that comes with owning a cat or dog. They’re fun and low-maintenance, but they’re not good for households with small children.

Also, while many chinchillas can be socialized to enjoy affection from humans, some never enjoy being touched. If you want something that will give you plenty of love on demand, there are better options out there.

Pros
  • Easy and low-maintenance to own
  • Can be quite sociable
  • Not smelly or messy
Cons
  • Picky about diet and temperature
  • Not good with kids

divider-ferretFerrets Overview

Ferrets make for unconventional pets. They can be as affectionate as dogs, as skittish as cats, and as mischievous as an unattended child. However, they’re not for everyone, which may be one reason that they’ve never caught on quite as much as cats and dogs.

ferret grass
Image Credit: katya-guseva0, Pixabay

Personality / Character

While it may take your ferret a bit of time to warm up to you, once they’re comfortable in their surroundings, they become quite social creatures. They can be just as eager to demand affection as any dog or cat, and they love to curl up next to you on the couch during a Netflix marathon.

Like chinchillas, though, ferrets aren’t good pets for households with small children. If mishandled, they can deliver fierce nips that will make anyone think twice about trying to touch them again.

Ferrets are actually fairly easy to train, and they can be taught to use litter boxes, just like cats. However, they generally need more supervision than cats and dogs, and they shouldn’t be allowed to wander around the house without someone paying attention to them.

They can be taught to do well with cats and dogs, provided that they’re socialized early. You shouldn’t keep them around mice, birds, or other small animals, though, as they’ll be more likely to view them as dinner than friends.

Health & Care

Ferrets are notorious for suffering injuries, which is due to their inquisitive nature and ability to squeeze into even the tightest of spaces. This is why you should always keep an eye on them when they’re out of their cage, and many owners put a bell on their collars just so they can track their movements.

They also love to chew on and eat just about anything that you can imagine, so you’ll need to watch carefully to make sure they’re not munching on something that will kill them.

Their cages require regular cleaning but it’s nothing too demanding. Cleaning up after their waste is simple as well, especially if you train them to use a litter box.

These animals are incredibly susceptible to heatstroke, so it’s essential to keep them in a well-ventilated area and not let them wander off outside.

Exercise

Ferrets need quite a bit of exercise, and it’s recommended that you let them roam around outside their cages for 2–4 hours per day. They also need plenty of toys to keep their minds active, so expect to spend money on cat toys, balls with bells inside, and the like.

Ferret playing
Image Credit: Couperfield, Shutterstock

Suitable for

Ferrets aren’t your typical pet, and as such, they’re best suited for anyone who wants an animal that isn’t as common as a dog or cat but that offers many of the same characteristics. They’re cute, cuddly, and curious, and they’re tons of fun to watch and play with.

If you have little kids in the house, though, you should pick a different pet. Ferrets take time to warm up to people, and if they’re mistreated in any way (even accidentally), they may lash out violently.

Pros
  • Affectionate and adorable
  • Can be taught to use a litter box
  • Easy to train
Cons
  • Prone to injury
  • Can lash out if mishandled

divider-chinchilla

Check the Legality of Owning Either of These Animals Before Buying One

Chinchillas and ferrets aren’t legal everywhere, so it makes sense to check your local laws before you try to adopt one. In many cases, they’re legal to own but not breed, and they must be fixed, as they can become invasive species if they escape and start reproducing.

Which Breed Is Right for You?

If you want an unconventional pet that’s still cute and cuddly, both ferrets and chinchillas fit the bill. These animals are fun to watch and be around, and no one can deny that they’re adorable to look at.

Owning them isn’t a walk in the park, however, and you shouldn’t get either one if you have small children in your house.

Ultimately, a chinchilla is a better choice for anyone who wants a pet that they can watch more than interact with, as ferrets require quite a bit of one-on-one attention. Ferrets are the better choice for those who love cats and dogs, however.

Both ferrets and chinchillas can be fun to own, but they’re dissimilar enough that it should be clear to you up front which is better for your particular situation. Regardless of the one you choose, the important thing is to take proper care of them.


Featured Image Credit: Pixabay

Quincy Miller

Quincy has been around mutts his entire life and has been writing about them for the past nine years and now consists of sharing a house with three spoiled pups who couldn’t hold down a job to save their lives. Quincy never intended to be a cat person. When his wife brought home a kitten one day, he told her she had one week to find it a new home. That week turned into 10 years (his wife moves very slowly), and that kitten turned into three (they got two more, the kitten didn't self-replicate). After a decade of sharing his home with the dogs and three cats, one horrifying realization finally set in: oh God, he's a cat person now too, isn't he???