Author Topic: What's it like to own a ferret?  (Read 6835 times)

Offline blissey

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What's it like to own a ferret?
« on: April 21, 2011, 09:58:17 AM »
I've noticed that many people give up their ferrets after realizing what ferret ownership really is. I'm considering adding a ferret to my family, but first I want to be mentally prepared. Please give me the most honest, accurate description of the work, time, money, etc involved. How are they like other pets, and how are they different? How has your lifestyle changed due to your ferret? I've heard that they're more independent than cuddly, and I'd like an affectionate pet. What is their personality generally like? Basically, I'd like to know what to expect. Thanks for looking. (:

Offline Critter Crazy

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Re: What's it like to own a ferret?
« Reply #1 on: April 24, 2011, 09:19:57 PM »
Ferrets are what I would call the middle ground between a cat & a dog. They can be sly & sneaky like cats, & if you have other small animals in the house they can be at risk from the ferrets, they can be litter trained & they're smart. But like dogs, they can be affectionate, will follow you, go swimming, walk on a lead & be licking, sniffing & go silly with excitement in your presence.

Like all animals though, things all come down to the individual. Some will be utter teddy bears, long & slinky but will go completely limp for a snuggle & lick your chin affectionately, but then youl'll get some they don't sit still, or some that would prefer to chew your fingers off.

I've got 3 at the moment. A male called Lucifer/Lucien (I nicked him as Luci :) ) & his two sisters, Scarlet & Missy. Even though they've all be raised the same way, they're all very different.
Missy is gentle, but she's curious about everything, loves people & pwill sit for a while to cuddle. She also likes the water & doesn't mind coming in for a shower.
Scarlet is more rough & tumble than Missy, though she's not cuddley, she adores playing with people & the dogs & will steal your socks off your feet. She'll climb up your leg for attention & then dart away when you lean down, only to come back & tackle your leg.
Then there's Luci. He's a wonderful squishie, slinky teddy bear, has a real sweet tooth & will do anything for sweets (somehow he got on a bench & drank a bottle of maple syrup), but he'll also bite terribly hard & chew right down. He's drawn blood a few times, but is slowly getting better, & he'll beg for attention like Scarlet does, though a bit more furious.

It doesn't depend on sex, I've met a few male ferrets you could do anything with, open their mouth & play with their tongues, kiss their noses,pull their whiskers, they don't  care, just cause you're paying attention to them.
If you can, get a well handled rescue that doesn't bite, don't go for those little cuties you find in petshops, as those can find homes & can often be problem animals that the breeders can't sell, so they get someone else to do it for them.

They pretty much live for playing, shredded paper & plastic bags, cardboard boxes & pipe tunnels are their favourite things. I got mine a little dummy mouse to play with, they loved that (so did the dog & so that's no longer with us). They're capable of getting into anything & they're a bit dense at times.

They do require a specific diet, which is where a lot of issues arise for people. They're carnivores, not omnivores. My mother had the mistaken impression that fruits & veggies was it, because the people that had them gave them bits of apple to chew. I tell you now, if you look at a ferrets teeth, those are not meant for plant matter.
A really high quality kitten dry food is best, though if you run out, a high quality (really high quality) puppy biscuit will suffice for a short while. Only use ones who's first two ingredients are meat, & avoid corn based biscuits. There are varieties of ferret food available, but you'll have to search them yourself.
They do need some form of fresh meat in their diet, at least 3 times a week they should be given fresh meat & that's where people go wrong. Most people don't like the idea of cleaning up old meat or preping it for the ferrets to begin with, or think they have to get live food for them, that & they try one type of meat & their ferrets don't like it, so they don't bother with anything else. Chicken, bit of lamb, livers, hearts, necks, tongue & tail, they'll eat them. Not letting your ferret eat an hour before serving fresh meat the first few times will help ensure they at least try it.
Other foods, like canned meaty cat foods, are also suitable. I always mix a raw egg into my lots canned food dinners, as they like it more & will readily eat it. Raw eggs are also really good for them, my lots are really nice & shiney :)

Just remember, once you get past the initial introduction & become attached to them, there's no going back :) My trio came from an accidental litter & still cost me a bit, but even with Luci's biting, I wouldn't part with any of them.
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Offline blissey

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Re: What's it like to own a ferret?
« Reply #2 on: April 25, 2011, 07:04:32 AM »
I'm unsure because I heard that they bite...do they? Or do they nip like kittens, like they're just playing and it doesn't really hurt? My cats are cuddly, playful, loyal, smart, and extremely affectionate. I've never been hurt by any of my kitties.

Offline Critter Crazy

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Re: What's it like to own a ferret?
« Reply #3 on: April 25, 2011, 09:41:00 AM »
Not all ferrets bite. You do get some that will give you what I call a proper bite, which is where they're just being nasty & feral, but those generally have a reason for it, be it fear, uncertainty, sheer aggression, or poor treatment/handling

What is most common is over-zealous play-biters. These guys aren't exactly nasty, but they haven't been taught to play gentle & get super carried away with it, resulting in solid nips, which may or may not break the skin.
They can be taught not to do it, though a lot of people don't bother to put the effort it in & these guys can get worse, some of them do eventually turn up as 'proper biters'. Most ferrets go through a phase when they're young of testing their jaw-crush strength (the ability to closed their mouths with great force) on things to see what is good to bite & what is not, so you need to teach them right in the thick of that phase that biting people isn't good. Ferrets that fail to learn that young, will continue to be 'over-zealous play-biters' until they are taught outherwise, or it gets out of hand & they get nasty with it.

Then we just have play-biters, which give a nip in play that isn't particularly hard & is just them being a bit rough. Biters like this won't cause damage, they know the absolute limit of biting people & are generally easier to deal with, because it's not painful, but a bit irritating at times. These guys can make a show of biting harder, but a pinch of the whisker bed when they do it & nothing will eventuate from it.

Ferrets that bite love soft skin, for all three categories. It's just so tempting for them to nibble on or sink their teeth right in. You just need to learn to manage it accordingly to your individual ferret, whether is be a spray in the face of something that deters them in one way or another, or pinching their whisker beds really hard so they no it's not cool.

Just remember, not all ferrets bite. In fact, the greater majority won't, it's just those that haven't learnt what is acceptable with humans tend to be the ones that do it, & they're either problematic pets someone tossed in the trash cause it didn't meet their standards from the get go, or young ferrets that are yet to learn anything much at all.

If you go at it right, do a lot of research & reward them with things they like to eat when they do something right (mine love Nutrigel & raw eggs squirted in their mouth from a syringe), then you will get to having a cuddley, slinky, playful hairy snake like thing that'll crave your attention all the time.
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Offline blissey

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Re: What's it like to own a ferret?
« Reply #4 on: April 25, 2011, 11:56:00 AM »
Alright, so it's more of a training issue than aggression..like nip training a crazy kitten xD thanks for all the firsthand info! :D

Offline Critter Crazy

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Re: What's it like to own a ferret?
« Reply #5 on: April 25, 2011, 10:31:46 PM »
When it comes down to it, yes, it's just about the training. No problem either! Happy to help :)
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Offline shawnielee

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Re: What's it like to own a ferret?
« Reply #6 on: May 19, 2011, 09:03:33 PM »
Owning ferrets is a lot like having really, really tiny three year old, with a really crappy immune system...

They are curious, they are stubborn, they are EXPENSIVE!
Vet bills = a lot of $$$. They get into anything and everything.

they are the most wonderful, and the most heartbreaking pets you can find.
Ferrets have an extensive list of "things that can go wrong"

you have to constantly watch their poop, their eating habits, their activity level.
Every little sneeze makes you paranoid. And the awful part is, you can be as vigilant as ever, but you still might lose your baby very suddenly.

Ferrets have to be let out AT LEAST 3 hours every day. They need to work off pent up energy, and you have to be there keeping an eye out on them. Be prepared to cancel plans because your baby is sick. They might be independent as in, they don't really want to settle down and cuddle (too many things to explore) but they are the most time consuming pet I have ever had. And the most rewarding.

I love my boys like children, and I have adapted my life to be based around their needs first.

Offline nakedrats

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Re: What's it like to own a ferret?
« Reply #7 on: May 19, 2011, 10:48:03 PM »

If you are not sure you're ready to deal with a potentially bitey ferret, I highly suggest staying far away from baby ferrets in pet stores and go for an adult from a rescue (I recommend rescue generally, but especially in this case).  Some baby ferrets aren't nippy, they are Bitey, as in bite through your hand and not let go.  Kittens are cute and will chew on your hands, ferrets can pierce your finger so you can put a ring through it.  Some don't really grow out of this stage and keep biting as adults.

General ferret owning entails living in a house that smells like ferret musk despite diligently cleaning the ferrets cage, spending 2-4 hrs Every day watching/playing with the weasels during out time, training yourself to recognize places where weasels are most likely to poop and putting litterboxes there, cleaning the floor when you guess wrong, banking a thousand or two away for a vet fund, keeping any soft chewables up off the floor and thus avoid having to surgically extract them from your pet, and accepting that your pets will probably die middle aged from one of a list of serious health problems ferrets are prone to.  (Sorry to be a downer, but most people don't need to prepare themselves to deal with the happy fuzzy aspects of owning pets) ;)

For general ferret needs, multiple threads have been already created on this topic that have good info:
http://www.goosemoose.com/component/option,com_smf/Itemid,118/forum,ferret/topic,4080978.0
http://www.goosemoose.com/component/option,com_smf/Itemid,118/forum,ferret/topic,4064612.0
http://www.goosemoose.com/component/option,com_smf/Itemid,118/forum,ferret/topic,4078077.0
http://www.goosemoose.com/component/option,com_smf/Itemid,118/forum,rat/topic,4053463.0
http://www.goosemoose.com/component/option,com_smf/Itemid,118/forum,rat/topic,4034846.0
http://www.goosemoose.com/component/option,com_smf/Itemid,118/forum,rat/topic,4045319.0

Offline jonahsmom

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Re: What's it like to own a ferret?
« Reply #8 on: May 19, 2011, 11:15:33 PM »
We used to have ferrets and had to give them up when we moved.  They were very fun!  When we first got them my aunt, a former ferret owner, warned us that they might bite.  Her ferret actually pierced on of her ears!  YIKES!  So we were nervous about that.  BUT our two, Kodiak and Blaze, were AWESOME!!!  They were not biters and they loved to play and run around.  They did like to be petted, but they were far more adventurous!  You do have to be prepared to clean their cage A LOT because they can be stinky if you don't stay on top of it.  We just couldn't get our guys to use the litter pan, but maybe we weren't experienced enough to train them properly.  They poop a LOT!!!!

We had an australian shepherd at the time (RIP Sheba) and they loved to play together.  Sheba was a herder  so that was a lot of fun to watch her try to herd them back into their cage!!! 

They are a lot of work, but if you're up for it they really are quite fun!!!

ETA:  I also LOOOOOOVE the ferret chuckle!!!!
« Last Edit: May 19, 2011, 11:22:08 PM by jonahsmom »

Offline shooper

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Re: What's it like to own a ferret?
« Reply #9 on: June 02, 2011, 11:59:36 AM »
I would guess that their odor is the reason many people give them up! Usually the people I've talked to have said they didn't realize how bad the odor would be!
Mom to 3 dogs (Trouble, Josie and Trooper), 2 chinchillas (Charlie and Inca), 1 sugar glider (Clyde)
and 9 ratties (5 girls and 4 boys)

Offline FerretLover<3

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Re: What's it like to own a ferret?
« Reply #10 on: August 14, 2011, 07:28:34 PM »
    Ferrets are very intelligent animals. If you have enough patience you can even train them to do tricks! They aren't the kind of animal that can play with the same things forever and still be content. They have their favorite toys (which they love to hide and carry around) but they need stimulation. Just like other pets except their attention span isn't as long as a dog or cats. I am constantly looking through ferret, and cat toys, to see if there is any new type of toys I can expose my fuzzies to. They are very nosey and can play for hours before they tire out.

    Their diet is a very important thing to understand about them because most people don't make the connection that what goes in comes out. They complain about the smell and mostly it's because they're feeding their ferret some cheap ferret chow. The better their diet, the less they smell. They have to have things like brushing, nail clipping, and ear cleaning done to them every so often because a ferret's nails grow quickly (front grows faster than back) and they shed slightly when the seasons change. It is important to get them used to grooming habits to make it easier for you both in the long run.

    But everyone is right on the dot with their description of ownership. Ferrets are costly but if you are creative enough, you can save yourself some extra $$. I get on the internet and look around for new toys to make that other owners have created for their ferrets. Things like a box full of packing peanuts can be hours of fun for ferrets. You just have to know your ferret and observe them at all times when playing with any toys, they always find a way to get into trouble. You have to be careful with any kinds of cleaners and litters because some of them can be very harmful to ferrets. (I have a "If a 2 year old can have it" rule) But overall they make great pets but they are very time consuming and high maintenance (basically like children, gets a little more difficult to handle and expensive the more you have) so make sure you can handle all of these things before getting one.
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Offline PinkiePie

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Re: What's it like to own a ferret?
« Reply #11 on: November 03, 2011, 03:15:43 PM »
My roomate's ferret is new but he has not bitten us yet. Sometimes if we are play wrestling he will open up and put his mouth on my hand, but he has never bitten down in those situations.