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Recommended:   The Advantages of Adopting Older Ferrets,    Pet Adoption & Rescue,    Pet Care & Pet Health

Ferret Care - Ferrets as Pets


What is a Ferret, Anyway?

Domestic Ferrets (mustela putorious furo) are members of the “mustelidae” family of mammals. This group also includes weasels, otters, mink and badgers. Domestic ferrets have been bred into captivity and, as such, have never existed in the wild.

What ferrets are not, are rodents. Although this seems to be a common assumption, a quick look at a ferret’s teeth versus the teeth of any rodent shows the vast difference between the two. They are very different species.

Ferrets are carnivores and must be fed a diet that is high in animal protein.

What is a Ferret Like?

One of the most commonly asked questions at information tables given by the ferret shelter where I volunteer is, “Is a ferret more like a dog or a cat?” Tough question. Is a parrot more like an eagle or a pelican? While it is normal for us to try to define what we do not know by comparing it to that which we do know, trying to describe a ferret in this manner is akin to trying to describe the color purple. It has to be experienced. With this being said, I absolutely do not recommend that you rush out, uneducated in the ways of ferrets and acquire one to “experience” it. While ferrets are not, technically, exotic animals, they are absolutely specialty pets. A specific knowledge of their needs and behaviors is necessary in order to ensure that you are ready, able and willing to provide them with a healthy and safe environment in which they can thrive and you can enjoy their unique characteristics.

Perhaps the best way to start an investigation into the ways and wiles of ferrets is to begin with some reading. Go to the ferret specific links recommended by this web site, go to the library or to the book section in pet stores. Another good idea is to seek out, through your local humane society or information web sites a local ferret shelter and then volunteer. Often these organizations will allow you to foster surrendered ferrets in your home while providing you with the support and information that you need in order to do so. Many people purchase ferrets on impulse, only to discover that they are unable to meet their rather specific needs. As a result, shelters are seldom short on ferrets who need foster care and, ultimately, permanent homes. The shelter where I volunteer has a hotline phone number to provide assistance to those who wish to adopt, surrender, receive answers to ferret questions or volunteer. It also staffs information tables on weekends in local pet stores, giving the public an opportunity to see ferrets and speak with ferret owners.

Please do your homework before you rush out and get a pet ferret. I cannot stress this enough. Ferrets have very specific needs when it comes to diet, housing, training, medical care and a safe and stimulating environment. Unless you begin with a sound understanding of these needs and a reasonable ability to provide them, I guarantee that you will encounter problems that can be potentially life threatening to your ferret.

Yeah, yeah, but is a ferret more like a cat or a dog? Answer: no. A ferret is like a ferret and ferrets are truly incomparable. Just a few of the many adjectives that can be used to describe them are: good tempered, adventurous, inquisitive, persistent, exasperating, energetic and intelligent.

It is important to remember that when we apply the word intelligent to any animal, even animals considered to be highly intelligent relative to humans are still only as smart as an average two-year-old. So visualize a two-year-old who is small enough to fit anywhere and determined to explore anywhere it fits. Picture a two-year-old who may bite if provoked and has the teeth to do it in style. This two-year-old has no regard at all for either your authority or your possessions. It steals; it removes its diaper and poops in the corner — repeatedly. It chases your toes, teases your pets, and stashes its food, your food and anything else it can get its paws on. With absolutely no provocation and for no apparent reason, it bursts into fits of ridiculous joyful dancing. It thinks that the toilet is a swimmin’ hole. Picture all of this and add to it the ability to melt your heart with just one silly stare from its beady, bright little eyes and you are just beginning to understand what a ferret can be.

So do you still think you want a ferret? Welcome to a select group of people who are convinced that when it comes to pets, wild and crazy is the way to go. Ferrets Rule!

Authored by Cherie Demers, Alberta Ferret Society, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada.
Original article published 29 May 2006, copyright Ten Spider Enterprises, LLC, & Cherie Demers.

Follow links to the right to learn more about ferrets as pets, proper pet ferret care, ferret health problems including ferret health symptoms and ferret diseases, and ferret adoption and rescue. At the left margin, Related Links address topics of interest pertaining to locating a pet, protecting the well-being and health of your pet, and maximizing your pet’s quality of life. If you have an interest in pet ownership that goes beyond pet ferrets, check out Pet Adoption & Rescue. If you already own a pet, whether a pet ferret or another type of pet, you may be especially interested in Pet Care & Pet Health and, for ferret pet supplies, Pet Products & Supplies. View the Exotic Pets SiteMap for a complete list of exotic pets topics.

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