Doctor Dog: Are Ferrets Good Pets?
Ferrets are illegal to own in some states, but they can make good pets, as long as you do the necessary work.
Doctor Dog: Are Ferrets Good Pets?
Anyone can be a good pet owner, but it's easier to do that when you choose the right pet to begin with. Few pets are bad pets, but some pets likely match your lifestyle better than others.
One reader is considering getting a pet ferret, but are they more hassle than they're worth? Doctor Dog clears up the answer.
You can ask me any questions whenever you want. Then look for my responses in my Dear Doctor Dog advice column on Always Pets.
The Question: Ferrets Are Cute, but Are They Good Pets?
Dear Doctor Dog,
I just moved from California to Texas. The new job was the main reason for the move, but I'm also excited that I can finally get a pet ferret. I've wanted one since I was a kid, but ferrets are illegal in California.
Now that it's an option, I'm second guessing my decision. They can live for over a decade, so I want to be sure before I take the leap. Is there a reason ferrets are banned in some areas? Are they a nightmare to keep? Help!
— Autumn Franklin from Pecos, Texas
Doctor Dog's Answer: Yes, As Long As You Know What You're Signing Up For
Great question, Autumn. I always like to say that there are no bad pets, only pets that are a bad fit for you. Ferrets, like all pets, have pros and cons. As you mentioned, ferrets are illegal to own in certain states, including California.
Rest easy. The ferret ban has nothing to do with how good of a pet they are. In 1933, they were banned after the agricultural lobby expressed concerns that ferrets released into the wild could form packs that might endanger crops.
Ferret owners in the state can face serious fines or even jail time, but the scientific evidence behind the old law is shaky at best. While ferrets are distantly related to weasels, they're a domesticated species. They wouldn't be any more dangerous than a stray cat, and they can be wonderful pets where they're allowed.
That's not to say that ferrets are perfect. I think I'm a perfect pet, but not everyone likes dogs, either. (I know. I couldn't believe it either.) Ferrets are curious, fun-loving and social. They sleep up to 20 hours a day, but while they're awake, they're the life of the party.
It's a good idea to budget for two ferrets of the same gender so your pet doesn't get lonely or bored. Ferrets often get along well with dogs and cats, but introductions should be done gradually. And playtime should always be supervised.
As for the cons, ferrets have a few issues:
- They need a large enclosure of at least 10 ft x 6 ft x 6 ft.
- They can smell, particularly un-neutered males. Their fur can also be greasy, but spaying or neutering your ferret can help keep their coat cleaner and reduce odor.
- They're wiggly and challenging to hold, so kids should always be supervised while handling them.
- They can bite if they aren't socialized.
- They need stable temperatures to stay healthy.
- They love to dig, and might escape from outdoor runs if you're not very careful about ferret-proofing them.
- They will nibble on anything you have around the house, including electrical cords. Any time your ferret is out and about, make sure to pick up anything that might harm them if they try to ingest it.
Ferrets aren't perfect pets, but if the list above doesn't include any dealbreakers for you, a ferret may be in your future. If you want an easy small pet that kids can take care of, a hamster or rat is lower-maintenance and easier to handle. If you want a curious, more interactive one with tons of personality, a ferret is worth consideration.
I hope that helps you make a final decision. If you're still on the fence, consider visiting your local ferret rescue organization to see them in person. They may allow you to foster a ferret first to test the waters.
Best of luck,
– Doctor Dog
More Infurmation About Caring for Pet Ferrets
Want to know what it's really like owning a ferret? As YouTuber and former zookeeper Emzotic puts it, "They are chaotic demons in fur suits."
Watch as she breaks down the pros and cons of ferret ownership in the video below.
Have a Question for Doctor Dog?
Leave any questions for me, and look for my responses in my Dear Doctor Dog advice column on Always Pets. Have questions about cats, bunnies, hamsters or any other critters? Shoot! I may be a dog myself, but I'm here to help all your animal companions, whether they have four legs or fins.
Important reminder: Doctor Dog is happy to provide general pet care guidance, but she cannot provide formal medical recommendations or diagnoses for your pet. Your pet's veterinarian should always be your primary resource for serious questions regarding your pet's health.