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How Long Do Ferrets Live? (Average & Max Lifespan)

Kristin Hitchcock

The answer to this question is a bit complicated. Back when ferrets first became popular in the United States, they lived for about 10 years. They were imported from Europe during this time.

However, ferrets typically aren’t living this long anymore. Many are only living a maximum of 5-7 years. This lifespan is significantly shorter than it used to be, primarily because of captive breeding. Breeders began breeding ferrets for aesthetic purposes instead of health, which has led to an overall decrease in their lifespan.

While ferrets are still quite hardy, they aren’t nearly as hardy as they once were.

Where you get your ferret from does matter. Ferrets adopted from pet stores are usually lower quality than those adopted from a breeder. Therefore, they don’t tend to live as long. It may also have something to do with how early the ferret is spayed or neutered. Breeders usually recommend that you wait until the ferret is 1 year old, while most ferrets at pet stores are sterilized at 5 weeks. However, there haven’t been any studies to back up this theory.

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Factors That Affect a Ferret’s Lifespan

You can help your ferret live a longer lifespan by ensuring that they are well taken care of. As you might imagine, ferrets that aren’t fed or exercised properly won’t live as long as those who are. How you take care of your ferret has a significant role in how long they will live.

Here are a few factors to consider.

1. Food

Image Credit: max_leqn, shutterstock

Ferrets should be fed ferret-formulated food. Just like dog and cat food, ferret food is not all made equal. Some are higher quality than others. Ferrets are carnivores, so their diet should contain as much meat as possible. Check the ingredient list of any commercial ferret food to ensure that it contains mainly meat.

While cat food once had to be fed to ferrets, there are now commercial options available. We do not recommend feeding them cat food.

You should also work to keep your ferret the correct size. If your ferret becomes obese, it can severely affect their health.


2. Vet care

Ferrets are prone to many different diseases. It is crucial to find a vet who knows how to care for ferrets. Many are not specifically trained to treat these animals.

An annual vet visit is critical to ensure that your ferret isn’t developing an underlying problem. Many diseases may not show symptoms until they have progressed. Often, it is best to treat these quickly before they start severely affecting your ferret’s lifespan. Routine testing is often the only way that you can identify these problems.

Dental cleanings should also be considered. Like dogs and cats, ferrets can get periodontal disease. This affects their whole health, not just their teeth. Damage to the gums can give bacteria direct access to the bloodstream, which can harm organs. Many ferrets may develop more infections later in their life, so it is vital to get periodontal disease under control before something else starts attacking their immune system.

Related Read: Do Ferrets Smell?


3. Mental Stimulation

Ferret playing
Image Credit: Couperfield, Shutterstock

Many people know that their ferret needs high-quality food and proper vet care. But many do not consider their ferret’s emotional and mental needs as well.

Ferrets are curious and intelligent creatures. They benefit greatly from a range of mental stimulation starting at a young age. Be sure to provide your ferret with plenty of different toys and interact with them daily. These pets need just as much attention as a cat or a dog. They are not “lower maintenance” than any other typical pet.

If you can’t commit at least an hour a day to interacting with a ferret, you shouldn’t adopt one.

Many ferrets will also benefit from having other ferrets around, so many people will adopt them in pairs. However, this can vary from family to family. It isn’t a good idea to adopt two ferrets if you can only correctly take care of one.divider-ferret

Do Ferrets Die Easily?

Ferrets are relatively hardy creatures. However, improper breeding has lowered the lifespan of the average ferret considerably. As ferrets gained popularity in the 1980s, many domestic breeders popped up.

Some of them bred ferrets to improve the species, while others bred them primarily for profit. In some cases, aesthetic traits were encouraged over those that were healthy. Therefore, this has negatively affected the ferret’s lifespan.

Nowadays, many ferrets can die quite quickly. Most of the time, these ferrets are from pet stores, as their suppliers focus on making money. Some ferret breeders are a bit like puppy mills, producing as many ferrets as possible, as cheaply as possible.

If you want a ferret that will live a long time, we recommend adopting from a high-quality breeder. Breeders who only sell directly are usually more concerned about where their ferrets end up, which should tell you something about how much they care about their pets.

Ferrets can be a bit more expensive from these breeders, but you often get more bang for your buck. Usually, these ferrets are better socialized and have received more vet care. Some breeders even use genetic testing to help breed out certain genetic conditions that ferrets are prone to.

Can a Ferret Live for 10 Years?

Ferrets usually live closer to 5 or 7 years, but some record breakers can live as long as 10 years.

Over the decades, the average ferret’s lifespan has gotten lower, not higher. This is mainly due to improper breeding that focuses more on the aesthetic qualities of the ferret over their health aspects. Some breeders also operate like puppy mills in that they focus primarily on producing as many animals as possible, with little regard to the animals’ health.

While puppy mills are illegal in many places, there are often no regulations on how ferrets should be bred.

Therefore, you must do your research, especially if you want your ferret to live a full lifespan.

Do Male or Female Ferrets Live Longer?

There is no difference between a male and a female ferret in terms of lifespan. In captivity, most ferrets have been sterilized, anyway, though the exact age that they are sterilized varies.

Lifespan should not be a significant part of your decision-making process when you consider what ferret to get. There are a few differences in sex, especially among intake animals. However, these are typically small and largely anecdotal. There is no objective study that shows a significant behavioral difference between these two sexes.divider-ferret

Final Thoughts

The average ferret lives between 5 and 7 years. Before the 1980s, domestic ferrets lived to be closer to 10 years old. However, most are now bred in captivity, not wild-caught. This has caused their lifespan to decrease, primarily as breeders focus more on temperament and aesthetic traits.

In the wild, all ferrets are “bred” for health. If a ferret wasn’t healthy, they wouldn’t have survived. However, an unhealthy ferret may live and make a great pet in captivity, especially if they have a good temperament. Over time, these differences in breeding have led to an overall decrease in the domestic ferret’s lifespan.

Where you get your ferret from matters too. Most pet stores sell lower-quality animals. We recommend choosing one from a breeder instead.


Featured Image Credit: katya-guseva0, Pixabay

Kristin Hitchcock

Kristin is passionate about helping pet parents create a fulfilling life with their pets by informing them on the latest scientific research and helping them choose the best products for their pets. She currently resides in Tennessee with four dogs, three cats, two fish, and a lizard, though she has dreams of owning chickens one-day!