I admit it. I was anti-ferret. I thought they were smelly, mean little weasels and not very fun. Sure I’d never met one in person, butÃ¢Â?Â¦you knowÃ¢Â?Â¦word gets around. Let me introduce you to a fun, easy to care for critter.
Before we were married, my husband lived in Florida. When he told me he had a ferret, he might as well have said he had leprosy.
But I wanted to see what this little thing was like, and I have to say I fell in love with Koa (which is Hawaiian, I’m told, for courage) the minute I saw his little furry face. The deal was sealed when he took came running at me, then jumped sideways into the couch. Some people are cat people. Some people are dog people. Now I am Sara of the Ferret People.
We lost little Koa in February to a mysterious ferret virus, but we still have Jacques, who looks like a gym sock with a face (plump and white with beautiful dark burgundy eyes), and Gus, a brown sable with some serious vampire-like fangs. We adopted the pair of them from a local ferret shelter. Gus and Jacques are like Laurel and Hardy, with their antics and shenanigans, and we enjoy having them around very much.
Let me dispel some myths about ferrets. First, the stinky issue. Ferrets have a natural scent, like all animals (including you!), even after their scent glands are removed. Most ferrets have their scent glands removed when they’re young and with diligent care of their bedding and cage, smell is not a problem in most households. I find people who are lazy about keeping their fuzzies’ cages clean are the loudest complainers.
Next, the biting issue. In the wild, ferrets hunted and killed small woodland critters – prairie dogs, groundhogs, and the like, and then take up residence in their dens and burrows. Ferrets are entirely domesticated now, and are not able to survive in the wild anymore (except for the endangered Black Footed ferret). Nature has, of course, equipped them for climbing things (trees, the piano, bookshelves), digging up dirt (usually in your houseplants), and consuming their prey (or turning a plastic bag into confetti). Ferrets also have very tough skin so they play rough with each other. It is in a ferret’s nature to bite and dig, but fear not! If you get your fert as a kit (that’s a ferret term for a baby fuzzy), you can easily train him not to bite. People who have bitey ferrets did not spend quality time with their pet and did not do an adequate job of training him. Even older ferrets can be trained out of biting with some patience and understanding.
And there’s the meanness thing. I confess I’ve never met a mean ferret. I suppose like all animals, their environment makes a difference. If you treat your ferret meanly, it will be a mean ferret. So if you are a mean person, you should not get a ferret. Also, ferrets to play rough with each other. Jacque and Gus routinely draw squeaks and squeals from each other while they tussle, but that is entirely normal. You will have to be careful if you are adopting a ferret and you don’t know anything about their former owners.
Other good things about carpet sharks (another silly name for ferrets):
Ferrets sleep a lot, so you don’t have to worry about leaving them alone all day. Just be ready to play when you get home!
They’re litter trained, like cats, and it’s easy to know when they are getting ready to have an accident in a place other than the litter box. They back up into a corner and squat down. We have often dashed a leaky ferret back into his cage before he messed the carpet. If they do have an accident, a little Resolve cleans it up just fine.
Ferrets do not take up much room in your home. We have a good-sized wire cage with levels, food, litter, water, and a sleeping bag (specially designed by their former owner) and they are very comfortable in their little ferret home. They need to have a couple of hours of time to play outside of the cage, too, so you will need to ferret-proof your home. In time, you’ll learn where Fuzzy will want to go for sleeping and hiding things.
Ferrets are naturally curious and playful little critters and are, as I have often said, better than TV. They will get in, on and around everything they can reach. A recent example: one afternoon, I heard a thumping in the bathroom. I know our ferrets love to play and often wrestle in the shower stall, but I went to investigate anyway. Gus had gotten his whole head stuck in an empty toilet paper roll tube. He kept trying to back out of it, but succeeded only in repeatedly backing into the wall. Swinging his head to and fro, he ran forward, hit the base of the toilet seat, and bounced back into the wall. I couldn’t help him right away because I was laughing so hard. This is totally normal at our house – laugh til you cry with the ferrets.
Ferrets like treats, cuddle when they’re sleepy, and make you laugh. They’re best in pairs, and they can sleep in a cage together. They only need occasional baths and you can cut their nails with a regular nail clipper. They eat dry bagged food, which is easy to store and serve. They’re small, so apartments are ok for them. We let ours run around the house when we’re home until they get tired and fall asleep under the couch. I am told you can teach them to walk on a leash, but we haven’t had much success with that yet.
Ferrets can be very good with kids, but I encourage you to know your children (are they old enough to be responsible and respectful of a pet?) and also know the ferret. Ferrets, like people, have their own quirky personalities. Supervised play is a good idea with younger folks around.
If you are looking for a pet that is less work than a dog but more fun than a cat, look into ferrets. They do need a little more attention than a cat, but you won’t be sorry to have a funny little fuzzy. If you are interested, I encourage you to look further. There are lots of resources on the web where you can look up everything about ferrets. You can also find a breeder, pet store, or shelter in your area online, too.