Ferrets are often viewed as pets that are lower maintenance than cats and dogs. It’s safe to say that caring for a ferret is an extremely different experience from taking care of a cat or dog. However, it’s hard to definitively say that they’re easier to live with. Ferrets have specific care needs that must be met daily, and they may not be the best choice for some people.
There’s no denying that ferrets are wonderful pets, but prospective ferret owners must be aware of what real life with ferrets looks like. They must also be ready to make some lifestyle adjustments to keep their ferrets healthy and happy. Our list of pros and cons will help you figure out if a ferret is the right pet for you.
Pros of Ferrets as Pets
1. Ferrets Are Affectionate and Social
Ferrets are known to be very affectionate and capable of developing strong bonds with their humans. With time, they can also learn to recognize specific people in their lives. Ferrets that have been properly socialized and handled are usually confident around humans. Some may be a little shy at first, but they usually warm up to new people relatively quickly. Just keep in mind that they’re not recommended for young children because they can bite if they’re mishandled or start to feel like their safety is threatened.
2. Ferrets Are Intelligent
Along with being very sociable, ferrets are intelligent and can even learn tricks. Teaching ferrets tricks is a great bonding activity, and it’s also mentally stimulating and prevents boredom. Many ferrets can also learn to wear a harness and walk on a leash. However, going on walks with ferrets doesn’t exactly look like going on walks with dogs. As ferrets are extremely curious and naturally love to run around and explore, don’t expect them to stick to walking on the sidewalk.
3. Ferrets Can Be Litter Trained
Ferrets can learn to use a litter box. This is especially convenient because they tend to poop a lot. Adult ferrets can poop every 3–4 hours, and younger ferrets can go even more frequently.
Since ferrets need to get out of their cages to exercise, most ferret owners take the time to potty train them. Fortunately, using a litter box is achievable for most ferrets, but it can take time.
4. Ferrets Are Relatively Quiet
Similar to cats, ferrets sleep a lot. Adult ferrets can spend anywhere between 16–20 hours a day asleep, and they tend to be most active during sunrise and sunset hours. Since they’re not nocturnal, they’ll usually stay quiet and sleep with your sleeping schedule.
Ferrets can make a variety of noises, but they aren’t as noisy as the sound of a dog barking. Ferrets usually make noises if they feel happy, excited, threatened or are stuck somewhere and need help getting out.
5. Ferrets Take Up Little Space
Since ferrets are small, they don’t really take up too much space. Of course, their enclosure will be much larger than a hamster cage, but they certainly don’t take up as much space as a small dog or cat. Ferrets also do their best when living in multi-level enclosures. So, you can always increase their vertical space rather than having their cages take up a larger amount of floor space.
Cons of Ferrets as Pets
6. Ferrets Have a Strong Smell
Ferrets have a distinct musky smell. This scent is produced by oils in the skin, and contrary to common belief, has nothing to do with their anal glands. A ferret’s musky smell is stronger in in-tact animals, particularly females that are cycling into their reproductive season. Neutering a ferret eliminates much of the musky smell, where de-scenting them has little to no impact. The anal glands of a ferret do produce a foul-smelling liquid that is expressed when a ferret is startled or scared. This is a rare occurrence and the smell dissipates quickly. You can reduce odors by maintaining a clean ferret environment, and neutering your ferret. Most ferret owners get used to the smell over time. However, the smell can bother guests in your home who aren’t familiar with ferrets.
7. Ferrets Can Be Expensive
Many people think that ferrets are inexpensive pets because they’re smaller than cats and dogs. However, they can live between 6 and 10 years and experience some health issues, especially as they age. Ferrets are unfortunately susceptible to several different illnesses, such as ulcers, gastrointestinal issues, insulinoma, adrenal gland diseases and cancers.
Because ferrets are susceptible to certain diseases, it’s important to stay on top of routine checkups and provide preventative care for them. They’ll also need annual vaccinations for rabies and canine distemper virus.
8. Ferrets Require a Lot of Attention
While ferrets sleep a lot, they require a lot of attention when they’re awake. Ferrets need at least 2 hours of exercise a day. This includes both physical exercise and mental exercise. Ferrets also can’t stay out of their cages unattended. They love to chew things and can end up ingesting inedible objects, like foam and plastic. So, it’s important that they’re supervised whenever they’re out of their cages. Ferrets will also prefer interacting with you, so don’t expect to be very passive when your ferret’s out of their cage and wants to play.
9. Ferrets Usually Need to Live in Pairs
Since ferrets are so social, they can feel lonely pretty easily. This is why they should be kept in pairs or groups, ideally littermates of the same sex or neutered males and females. There are many benefits to caring for two or more ferrets, and the ferrets can keep each other company while you’re away. However, it’s important to consider the increase in monthly care costs and veterinary bills.
Also, having a pair or groups of ferrets doesn’t mean that you can interact with them less. They’ll still need to be let out of their cages to exercise, and it can be challenging to keep your eye on two ferrets at once.
10. Ferrets Can Get Into and Out of Everything
Ferrets are expert escape artists and have an insatiable curiosity. They can get themselves into cabinets, boxes, and drawers quite easily. So, it’s important to ferret-proof your home and make sure that their cages are durable and secure. Be prepared to use child-proof locks on your cabinets, cover electrical sockets, and hide electrical wires in your home. If you let your ferret play in a playpen, make sure that the space between the wires is narrow so that your ferret can’t squeeze in between them and escape.
Having a realistic view of ferrets helps immensely with determining if they’re the right kind of pet for you. They can become affectionate companion pets, but they’re not going to be a good fit for everyone. So, before you start preparing to bring home a ferret (or two!), make sure to weigh up the pros and cons thoroughly. This will help you find out if a ferret is the right pet for you and what you can expect when you bring one home.
Featured Image Credit: Mitskevich Uladzimir, Shutterstock