My ferrets “dook,” do the war dance, and “skitter” between my feet, and make my husband, kids, and I smile. For my family, ferrets are excellent pets. My husband thinks they’re better than dogs, and the whole lot of us prefer ferrets to cats. Ferrets are very different from cats and dogs, however.Their behavior, smell, motivations, and shape are all different from cats and dogs. They are classified as exotic pets, and it is important that you consider the pros and cons of ferret parenthood before adopting one of these wonderful weasels.
The differences between ferrets and other pets create the pros and cons of having a pet ferret
Intelligence: I hesitate to say that cats and dogs are smarter than ferrets, but I readily acknowledge that ferrets have a significantly different kind of intelligence. Ferrets are pretty good problem solvers. As an example, for Christmas one year, I put an apple in a stocking for my ferret. (The ferret liked to steal apples and hide them. He didn’t actually eat them.) The apple was just a tad smaller in diameter as the stocking. Ernie put his head in the stocking, grabbed the apple, and pulled. It didn’t work. After only two tries he crawled out of the stocking and got on top of it. He pushed the apple out.
Tenacity: Every ferret I have ever seen has been far more tenacious than the most dedicated cat or dog. Ferrets are intensely curious. They must know what is behind closed doors. They must know what is behind a barrier. They need to study the backside of a dishwasher and the inside of a sofa. If a ferret somehow manages to get in your pots and pans cabinet, don’t be surprised to find them later in with your silverware. This tenacity makes it difficult to “ferret proof” and make your house safe for your beloved pets.
Thievery: Dogs tend to steal shoes and socks as puppies, but they outgrow the behavior. Ferrets “steal” throughout their lives. If an object appeals to a ferret, it will snatch that object and hide it in their stash. Ferrets do not grow out of this–humans learn to put up their keys and shoes.
Diet (Input): While dogs are omnivores, ferrets are like cats. They are carnivores. In fact, ferrets are obligate carnivores and they eat meat and fat. Ferrets need ferret food, and ferret food is a little more expensive than cat food.
Output: Ferrets don’t bury their excrement in a litter box. Dogs are easily trained to go outside. Ferrets, on the other hand, generally do their business in corners. While they can be trained to use litter boxes, it’s rare to find a ferret that will walk to another room to use a litter box.
Names: Cats and dogs quickly learn their names and dogs are easily trained to come to their name. Few ferrets know their names. Only two of my ferrets know their names. A woman I know who has operated a ferret shelter for 18 years tells me she has only ever seen one ferret demonstrate knowledge of her name.
Which of these are pros and which are cons? Well, the answer to that question is different for each person.
Before you get a ferret for a pet, ask yourself the following questions.
- If your pet ferret steals your keys, is it cute? If your pet ferret steals your keys twenty times, is it still cute?
- Are you willing to re-arrange your house to ferret-proof it?
- Are you willing to deal with magnetic locks on your cabinets?
- Are you willing to get rid of your recliners?
- Do you get bent out of shape if the bottoms of your doors have scratch marks on them?
- Do you mind cleaning litter boxes?
- Do you mind cleaning up areas that aren’t the litter box?
- Can you get over a two-foot tall Plexiglas barrier?
- Do you have a sensitive nose?
- If you leave a glass out, will you mind if it gets tilted over and a nose in it?
It’s not all bad though. As yourself these questions too.
- Do you like watching curious animals?
- Do you like playing with your animals?
- Do you like pets that will play with you and play on their own?
- Do you like cute animals?
Ferrets are not for everyone, but they are wonderful for some people
Ferrets can seem chaotic at times, but once you get to know the species, they aren’t.
Are you still considering a pet ferret?
Please visit a ferret shelter close to you and talk with the shelter workers. Besides the fact that almost every ferret shelter is overflowing right now, the shelter people can help you understand a specific ferret’s personality. The shelter people also have a vested interested in doing what it takes to make your home the ferret’s forever home. The American Ferret Association and Ferret Life both have directories for ferret shelters.