View Full Version : Tell me what it's like owning a ferret
Malleus, Incus, Stapes!
04-29-2009, 09:21 AM
Just out of curiosity- I'm in love with ferrets. I think they're cute, and cuddly, and I don't mind the nipping or the smell.
I have two cats, so I don't think there's any realistic possibility of getting a ferret. But I'd like to hear about them.
04-29-2009, 09:48 AM
I had one for about 3 days. I couldnt handle it craping were the wall met the carpet. The ferret would squeeze it in. It bit too.
04-29-2009, 10:03 AM
I haven't owned them personally, but I babysat an ex's ferrets for two weeks awhile back.
They were fun. His didn't bite at all, they loved people and cuddling, and were very good about only using their litter box. They DO smell quite a bit, but as long as you are vigilant about cleaning they are OK.
Also, they steal things and hide them everywhere, and they can get anywhere, even if you think it's ferret-proof.
04-29-2009, 10:09 AM
I have a friend who has 5 ferrets and 2 cats. They all get along great. Obviously your cats are different than hers so your results may vary. ;) Ferrets are extremely smart, and they think everything they see is theirs. They will take things from you and hide them. Almost all of the ones I've been around aren't very cuddly. They seem to tolerated being held for a small period of time, then they are off to do something else. Like stealing your straw from your drink or attacking your ankle when you aren't looking. :D
04-29-2009, 10:19 AM
I've owned ferrets since the mid-90's.
Most ferret kits are bought at pet stores (if you're in the US); they come already spayed/neutered and descented (scent glands removed). We had one ferret where they had missed a gland; when he sprayed it was more like a stinky musk cologne rather than skunk spray.
They should sleep in a large cage and also be there when unattended, as they are so tiny they can slip through small holes (around quarter size, smaller when they're kits), chew up rubber or sponge items, etc. I haven't had any trouble with ferrets chewing on cords or scratching up furniture, but they seem to love sponges and rubber; one of mine had to have surgery to remove a wide rubber band that was blocking his intestines.
They take pretty quickly to litter box training, but unfortunately don't cover up after themselves like cats do, so you need to scoop more often than with cats. They eat kibble; a good-quality ferret kibble (Totally Ferret, Marshall Farms) is best since they require more protein in their diet than cats do. They can drink water from a large hamster-style bottle or from a dish.
They like small sleeping bags or covered hammocks to sleep in; ferrets' ancestors were burrowing animals and they can get stressed if there's nowhere to hide.
Personality generally is like a kitten/puppy combo. They're playful and can be nippy like kittens/puppies, so they need to be trained not to nip humans, usually via gentle "scruffing" the neck, putting them back in the cage, making a loud 'yelp' sound to show that it hurt, etc. They're pretty quiet, making chuckling sounds when they're happy/playing or the occasional through-the-teeth hiss when not so happy or play-fighting. Some are more social than others, enjoying scritching and curling in your lap to play-fight with your "attacking" hand, while others want to get away so they can play with another ferret or explore. I taught one of the smarter ones to sit up on command, and as long as you can keep their attention (easier said than done), you may be able to teach them other tricks.
Instinctual behavior really varies, too. The one I have currently wanted to tear an obviously terrified guinea pig apart if she'd been able to get into the cage, and fled from a westie that was growling and being very threatening; her 'brother' at the time displayed "can I be your friend?" behavior to both critters.
04-29-2009, 10:38 AM
I had one for about 6 months and hated it. Destructive, a bit stinky, and I couldn't bond with him. I'm cat people.
04-29-2009, 10:51 AM
I currently live with 3 ferrets, two males and one female.
Ferret Herder is absolutely correct about the kitten/puppy combo. That's generally how I describe them to people, although I also refer to them as "perpetual toddlers."
They are awesome little creatures, but require a lot of work. We don't cage ours, but they're restricted to certain rooms that have been ferret-proofed. This means litter pans in corners, no accessible plants or anything else they could get into trouble with. They are ferociously curious, most times to their own detriment. They rely on us to keep them out of trouble and it's just about a full-time job.
They do have an odor, but it's no worse than how cats or dogs smell. The trick is keeping their bedding clean. One of ours sometimes smells like grape juice and another like Fritos.
I've had 4 ferrets in all. My first died last year from Adrenal disease, a disease ferrets are very prone too. One of my current ferrets is also suffering from the disease, but with surgery will get better. If you do get a ferret be prepared for high vet bills. They're considered "exotics" which usually means an extra charge. Plus, depending on where you live it can be difficult to find a knowledgeable vet.
Each of my ferrets have had vastly different personalities. One of my boys was a lap ferret who wanted nothing more to sit on a lap and be petted to sleep. Another boy talks/dooks all the time and always wants to play. My little girl, who is getting on in years, waits for me to pick her up so she can snuggle up my shoulder.
Long story short - they're fabulous animals who bring a lot of joy and silliness to your life, but require a lot of work on your part. They need someone to keep them safe, keep them clean and keep them social.
04-29-2009, 11:14 AM
At one point in the early 90's, I had five.
They are wonderful creatures, but they are attention-intensive. Unless you are willing to devote a fairly substantial chunk of each day to caring for them and playing with them, you shouldn't own ferrets.
The stealing is a reality. Sometimes it is amusing, sometimes it is genuinely annoying.
As pets go, they are not particularly long-lived creatures. That's why I don't have any ferrets now; I couldn't take the heartbreak of watching another age and die. I vowed to never own another pet unless it was capable of outliving me.
04-29-2009, 11:16 AM
If you get one, take good care of it. One of my neighbors had two, and he stopped coming around to his apartment (sleeping at his girlfriend's place) but once a week or so to feed them. No surprise, one escaped from his house and started attacking us as we walked to our cars or to each others' apartments. I've got scars on the back of one heel where it darted out from the bushes and just latched on until I could fling it off, leaving me with a nasty wound.
Do I think all ferrets are psycho little beasts? No, I think he was a bad ferret owner. Do not be a bad ferret owner. They aren't like cats - you can't leave them to their own devices for long periods, even if they are fed and watered.
04-29-2009, 11:17 AM
My first died last year from Adrenal disease, a disease ferrets are very prone too. One of my current ferrets is also suffering from the disease, but with surgery will get better. If you do get a ferret be prepared for high vet bills. They're considered "exotics" which usually means an extra charge. Plus, depending on where you live it can be difficult to find a knowledgeable vet.
Fortunately we have a couple of great "exotics" clinics in the area, but you're right, it can be difficult. My first ferret needed his rabies and canine distemper shots while I was in my not-very-huge hometown, so I went to the vet clinic that'd taken care of our childhood dogs and cats. The vet put on a thick leather glove, held my ferret face down on the table, and jammed the needle into his neck, producing a pained squeak! Every other ferret-knowledgeable vet I've gone to has "scruffed" the ferret gently, had someone distract the ferret with something yummy like some vitamin paste to lick at, and slipped the needle into the raised skin without any apparent reaction.
They don't live long enough. :( I've had 7 and only two went in their sleep; the others had to be euthanized due to chronic or acute illnesses. My ferret now has adrenal disease and insulinoma; she's 7 years old and is doing great on twice-daily oral medication and a monthly shot. The vet just saw her for a 6-month checkup and said she looks great, has a healthy coat that beats some ferrets' years younger, and is very energetic. But I don't know what I'll do after she passes. I might just stop. I think probably the only way I might keep going is by agreeing to be a foster owner for a local ferret shelter; they let you "foster" out abandoned ferrets with chronic diseases who aren't good adoption candidates as a result. You keep and care for them; the shelter picks up the vet bills if you bring them to the clinic that I'm already going to. I'd feel better about giving homes to ferrets that might not otherwise get one.
04-29-2009, 12:18 PM
Remember JenniCam (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jennifer_Ringley)? My wife was an acquaintance of hers, and we went to D.C. a couple of times to visit. While there, we met her ferrets and fell in love with the little buggers. We had to get a couple of our own.
So, we picked up Rocky and Kiki from a ferret rescue, brought them home and introduced them to the cats. No problem there…the ferrets tried to play with them a couple of times, but the cats really weren't interested in the newcomers. We set up ferret poop catchers in the corners, and they seemed to work well. We were actually pleasantly surprised – ferrets were reported to be such poop machines, but these two didn't seem to go that much at all.
Now, let me give a little background of the times – there was my wife and I plus three or four cats living in a very small townhouse, and my wife and I both smoked heavily. Basically, if you had an issue with odors, this was not the place for you. We, however, lived there so we were perfectly used to it -- our noses were just about dead. So adding two ferrets into the smell mix didn't do anything.
Until that day…that one, fateful day.
I was sitting on the couch watching some TV, when I felt a rustling under my butt. I stood up, but there was nothing there. Huh…must've been my imagination (or those burritos I had for lunch). I sat back down, when I felt it again a minute later. I stood back up, and noticed that the couch cushion was moving. The hell??
I looked under the couch, and saw that the bottom lining had a couple of holes gnawed into it. It seems that the new residents has claimed the inside of the couch as their own, and then had gone completely to town on it. I tugged on a corner of the bottom lining, and … know what? I'm deleting the graphic description I just typed out. Suffice it to say they were using the poop catchers only when convenient, the couch (which was now garbage) was their preferred spot, and we realized that ferret ownership just wasn't for us.
04-29-2009, 01:21 PM
I agree with a lot of what has been said. They like people but aren't as cuddily as the average dog or cat, and you really need to keep an eye on them. A lot of ferrets suffer "death from misadventure" because while they're as curious as a cat, they don't have the self-preservation instincts a cat has to keep them relatively safe. Think about that: they are far less cautious than the typical cat. I know, you're thinking about trouble cats you've known have gotten into trouble. Multiply that by 3 or 4. They should not be given the run of your house without someone watching them.
If you get a ferret, save yourself some grief and put your shoes up high when he or she is not in their cage. If you forget to, you'll regret it because they will rip your insoles out of your shoes. They'll attack your socked feet too if your feet are sweaty. I assume this is because one of their prey smelled like dirty feet. They seem all cute and cuddily, but they are predators just like cats and dogs. Claudia's favorite toy was a rabbit fur mouse, and she delighted in viciously shaking it to break its neck.
Be prepared to give them baths, which they hate (but not as bad as cats). They're not smelly if you bathe them weekly, but all three ferrets I had hated water, and would desperately claw their way up your arm and out of the tub or sink if you got within their reach - no short sleeves during ferret baths. They can swim just fine, they just don't enjoy it. They make special shampoo for ferrets and you should use it.
Keeping their cage clean is important. We discovered when my brother got lax with cage cleaning that ferret poop is a great medium for breeding flies. Ewww. As long as you have a hose cleaning their cage every few days is a snap...up until it gets cold out. Then you'll have to be more creative and the task becomes a lot more unpleasant.
If you give them a regular hammock to sleep in, give them a "blanket" too so they can hide as Ferret Herder said. They'll pull it up over themselves just like a person, which is incredibly cute to watch.
If they reject the fancy ferret food as ours did, the vet said to give them kitten food instead. Claudia lived to eight and Fang to ten, so their seemed to suit them.
The last thing you need to worry about is that ferrets are one of the few animals susceptible to human illnesses, both common colds and the flu. A lot of influenza research during the last century was done by infecting ferrets because their immune system is like ours. I lost my first ferret, Bandit, when my great-grandmother who lived with us got either the flu or a bad cold. Great-grammy ended up in the hospital, and Bandit died. So keep sick people away from them as much as you possibly can.
04-29-2009, 01:34 PM
Reclining chairs are a notorious deathtrap for ferrets. They crawl inside and get crushed by the reclining mechanisms.
Ferret toenails grow quickly. It pays to learn the proper and easy way to clip them yourself.
They do shed hair. Get a good vacuum cleaner. When they lose their winter coat, it is an amazing thing how so much hair could come off one small animal.
Get the nipping under control early. It isn't that ferrets are mean. They just play rough, especially with each other, and don't understand that your hide isn't as tough as ferret skin.
Just a tip...don't try to keep a ferret in a cage in the same room you're trying to sleep in. Tried it in college and it drove me bonkers. It wasn't fair to not let him out, but if I let him out he crawled in bed and bite my ankles.
I'm not a pet person. :smack:
04-29-2009, 06:18 PM
But I don't know what I'll do after she passes. I might just stop.
That's what we did. Love the little guys, had 4 of them over the years, but their lives are too short, and after the last one died, we can't face the heartbreak again.
I think probably the only way I might keep going is by agreeing to be a foster owner for a local ferret shelter; they let you "foster" out abandoned ferrets with chronic diseases who aren't good adoption candidates as a result.
We've been thinking of doing this very thing. It's been a year now; maybe at the end of the summer we'll apply for a foster woozle.
04-30-2009, 06:29 AM
I've owned ferrets since the mid-90's.
Most ferret kits are bought at pet stores
What type of glue should you use to assemble a ferret kit? :D
04-30-2009, 08:43 AM
You might also want to check on what local laws are applicable. Ferret ownership is regulated in some areas and requires a permit.
04-30-2009, 11:50 AM
If you're thinking about getting a ferret, consider getting two. I have two ferrets at the moment (named Simon and River), and before them I had one lone female. I believe that my pair now are much happier than my single female ever was. They adore each other and do everything as a pair, including sleeping curled around each other in their hammock. On days when I'm busy, they are good at keeping each other company. It's very cute to watch them play together, and it really isn't much more work than having just one.
I also have two cats, and everyone gets along surprisingly well. Sometimes Simon and the younger cat will have wrestling matches, but they never hurt each other. Of course, a more predatory cat might think the ferret looks more like food than an ugly little kitten friend. I would keep a close eye on the cat until you're sure which way it's going to go.
They're a lot of work, but ferrets truly are wonderful pets. As someone mentioned, it's like having a kitten that stays a kitten forever. I'm constantly entertained by their crazy antics. I've had many many pets over the years and I think the ferrets are the ones I get the most attached to. I was inconsolable for days when my first ferret died. The house just seemed so empty and quiet without her. I got Simon and River less than two weeks later.
04-30-2009, 12:48 PM
What type of glue should you use to assemble a ferret kit? :D
Thanks for making me actually LOL today! :)
04-30-2009, 01:12 PM
If you're thinking about getting a ferret, consider getting two.Seconded. There are few things in this world more entertaining than taking two ferrets, rubbing them together, and then sliding them across the floor.
04-30-2009, 01:29 PM
What type of glue should you use to assemble a ferret kit? :D
Dunno, but I heard mink oil is good to keep them from squeaking.
(Kit = name for the pre-adult ferret, rather like "kitten"/"puppy" :P )
04-30-2009, 03:47 PM
Seconded. There are few things in this world more entertaining than taking two ferrets, rubbing them together, and then sliding them across the floor.
And if you have two, you can race 'em!
05-01-2009, 09:26 AM
It amazes me to hear from the type of person who owns slobery mutts that they let slobber down their backs while they drive, "How do you stand the smell of those things?"
05-01-2009, 09:40 AM
Is it strange that I think my ferrets smell sort of nice? Not their poo, of course, but their natural ferrety musk. Maybe it's just because I love them. Probably the same reason dog owners think all that slobber is cute. :)
05-01-2009, 11:48 AM
They're a lot of work, but ferrets truly are wonderful pets. As someone mentioned, it's like having a kitten that stays a kitten forever..
This is true. One of our cats is basically a short ferret. A lot of people I know who have ferrets also have cats, and they generally get along fine. The playfulness & mischeviousness levels are the same. And the both hide under things and attack your ankles when you walk by.
This thread makes me want ferrets.
Malleus, Incus, Stapes!
05-01-2009, 12:49 PM
Well, at least the people at the per shop let me hold one while my mom was getting kitty litter.
05-01-2009, 03:38 PM
We currently have two ferrets, but we've had five in total over the past dozen years or so. All of those ferrets have lived with our three cats - it hasn't always been the most harmonious relationship, but they seem to tolerate each other for the most part!
If you're thinking about becoming a ferret owner, it's important to know that ferrets will likely cost you a great deal in vet bills - far more than you are used to with a cat. And unlike cats and dogs, ferrets are so injury- and illness-prone that (last time I checked) insurance isn't even an option since none of the companies offer it. For reasons that aren't quite yet understood, ferrets are extremely suceptable to many diseases, pancreatic and adrenal tumours in particular. While some of the symptoms from these diseases are treatable with diet changes, medicine, and/or surgery, completely "curing" the disease is extremely rare. Like others have said, if you are going to get a ferret, be prepared for some heartache and some hefty vet bills.
Like Ferret Herder I've been thinking about calling it quits with ferrets after my two remaining girls finally leave me. We've lost one to adrenal, one to insulnoma, and another to a mystery heart disease, but I'm hoping that these two girls have beter luck. I love them so much, but having to go through the grieving process every few years is very hard :(
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