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Ready to be a ferret Pet Parent? What you should know

Ready to be a ferret Pet Parent? What you should know

When looking at a ferret, a furry sock puppet with legs often comes to mind. But what do you really know about a ferret, other than that it looks like a rodent bred with a Slinky? Before you consider becoming a Pet Parent to one, you should probably know that it’s not a rodent at all. Rather, a ferret is a cousin of weasels and skunks. From a pet standpoint, unlike their outdoorsy relatives, a pet ferret can be cuddly and quite playful when domesticated.

Like many popular house pets, your new pet ferret will most likely be inquisitive, entertaining, and a challenge to house-train. Many ferret-lovers find that owning two or three ferrets doubles the fun…and the critters sure do love to play together! But before you jump into buying a sack of them, get to know the pros and cons of life with a ferret.

The joys of being a “ferret parent”
As a ferret Pet Parent, you can expect your pet to live an active and productive six to 10 years. Unlike other pets, these little fellas don’t lose their friskiness with age. A ferret also won’t mind being left along for a few hours in a small cage. And best of all, with a lot of patience, many ferrets actually can be trained to use a litter box! In addition, because a ferret’s behavior closely resembles that of a cat or dog, the pet will be very familiar to many new Pet Parents. Children generally make acceptable ferret Pet Parents, though some breeders will caution that, because of the pet’s small size, a ferret shouldn’t be handled regularly by kids under the age of 6.

Because ferrets are very flexible—their backbone allows them to turn around in the smallest of places—and not particularly claustrophobic, they enjoy riding along with their new companion on any sort of adventure. A handbag is plenty of room for a short trip with your ferret. There are few things a ferret enjoys more than a few hours of adventure with his Pet Parent. Plan to spend at least 2 or 3 hours a day with your pet. A few toys brighten up a ferret’s life, too. Simple things like a ping pong or tennis ball are great fun for a ferret. Even a white sock will do the trick.

The down side of being a “ferret parent”
The most common complaint about your new pet can be summarized in two words—that smell! A ferret, like all animals, does indeed have a unique scent, its fans admit. To those who don’t mind a musky odor, life is peachy. If the scent is more like a stench to you, breathe easier knowing that there are several ways to clear the air. Neutering a male ferret will dramatically reduce his smell since he will no longer be able to use his scent to mark his territory. Females should also be spayed for their own health, though it will do little to curb her smell. Descenting a ferret is also an option, though some breeders say it too does little to help.

One other important issue in adding any pet to the household is interaction with other animals. Your fuzzy friend, with time, will usually get along with most cats and dogs. Beware, however, in the case of birds, fish, rabbits, rodents and reptiles, as they don’t necessarily make a good match.

Does your State permit pet ferrets?
Another issue to keep in mind before plunking down your hard-earned cash for a ferret is the laws of your community and state. There are some places that have outlawed ferrets as pets. Those States who do outlaw ferrets do so usually because they don’t view the animals as domesticated pets. California, Hawaii and South Carolina are three states, for instance, that either prohibit or severely restrict anyone from being a Pet Parent to a ferret. It’s important to first check with your city before bringing your new pet home.

Once you’ve determined that it’s legal for you to own a ferret and you’re ready for the responsibility, it’s time to get your house ready for one. Your little guy (or gal) will need a home of his or her own. “A cage measuring about 3 feet by 3 feet deep by 2 feet high will comfortably house one or two ferrets,” according to Dick Bossart, who runs a ferret shelter in New Hampshire. And before you let your furry friend explore your house for the first time, look around your home for any holes that you wouldn’t want your new family member crawling into. Even a hole as small as 2 inches by 2 inches is an invitation for a curious ferret.

Where to get the little critter
So are you ready to pick out a little critter for yourself yet? You have several options. The best and most humane option is to adopt your ferret from a ferret shelter or visit your local humane society. (A list of ferret shelters is available through the American Ferret Association). If you decide to buy one from a breeder, expect to pay between $75 and $250 per animal.

Is your new ferret healthy?
A young ferret—called a “kit”—should have “bright, clear eyes, healthy skin and whiskers, a soft coat, and a curious, alert attitude,” says Pamela Greene, a ferret fan who maintains a Web site called Ferret Central ( “You can't tell just how a kit's colorings will turn out, but if you watch and handle a group for a while, you can tell a surprising amount about their personalities.”

More important of all…have fun! “They make me laugh,” says Bossart. “Ferrets are good for the soul.”

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2 dogs, 3 hermit crabs and 2 bettas

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