Ferrets make amazing pets. They are fun, clever, and easy to care for and cost relatively little to keep. Forest and Bramble provide us with endless entertainment.
If you want a pet that has more ‘umph’ and character than the typical bunny or guinea pig but you haven’t go the time or budget for a cat or a dog, then ferrets are the pet for you.
Here’s my lil’ guide to ferret keeping:
Ferrets live for around 6-9 years and are part of the Mustelidae family; the same as badgers, weasels, skunks and stoats. Male ferrets are referred to as ‘hobs’ and females are ‘jills’ Hob ferrets are typically 0000 long; a lot bigger than jills which are much smaller and daintier. Hob ferrets, which I have, naturally smell a lot worse than jills. When I say smell, I mean absolutely stink! So much so that I would have to wash my hands 5 times after holding them before the smell would completely go. The scent isn’t that bad; just very musky, but the problem is that it is very potent and clings to any clothing and items they have brushed past. D paid for them to be neutered as my birthday present over a year ago which was life-changing! They smell soooo much less now, but I won’t lie, they still smell a little bit.
They are very sociable animals and need to be kept amused during the 4 hours they are awake each day. For this reason, I strongly recommend keeping at least two ferrets so they can keep each other company. They adore human attention and are very inquisitive animals. They want to be involved in every activity you do, whether it be getting changed and running up your trouser leg as you pull them on, or brushing your hair. Everything is interesting to them.
Nothing scares of upsets Bramble and Forest apart from when they smell a cat in the garden. Their tail will then straighten horizontally and go all bushy. It’s more of a sign of them being aware of another predator, rather than scared. If they see a cat they immediately run towards to check it out which normally results in the poor puss running away.
Most people think ferrets are vicious animals that but they aren’t. Pet ones generally don’t bite. Some ferrets are kept for sporting purposes only and therefore handled very little and therefore bite when they are frightened. My ferrets have never bitten anyone in anger. We have had the odd rough game where we all get carried away but their bite is gentle and playful, like a puppies. It’s really important to handle your ferrets regularly from when they are babies so they are tame and trust you.
Sometime ferrets hiss which can be a sign of anger or as a warning but mine usually do it when they are impatient. In general ferrets make little noise but sometime, when excited, or when investigating something new they make a gentle ‘clucking’ sound, which is rather cute.
Buying a Ferret:
Ferrets are normally very cheap to buy. On average they cost around £5 each but many people give them away for free. They can be found advertised on Gumtree, in village shop and pet shop windows. You can also ask around local farms as many keep them for ferreting. Forest and Bramble came from a farmer friend and kindly gave them to me for free.
The other option is to adopt from a rescue centre (there’s a list at the end of this post) There are so many ferrets that need new homes because their original owners can no longer care for them. Centres usually ask for a donation to cover the cost of the care they provided for the ferret during its stay.
Ferrets are carnivores and need to be fed a high protein diet. Ferret food provides a complete diet and costs around £20 for a 10kg bag which lasts my two ferrets around 4 months. They are free-feeders so they only eat as much as they need, meaning you can fill their bowl up with enough food to last several days without the worry of them gorging on it all in one day.
They also love raw meat so I give them some road kill such as a pheasant or rabbits (Might sound gross to some, but it’s making use of an animal killed by humans in my opinion) to eat in the winter. Feeding them free meat means they don’t need as much ferret food which saves money. I don’t do this in summer though, as the meat can quickly become infested with maggots, which is yucky and very smelly (yeah, I learnt this the hard way).
Ferrets drink a lot of water, particularly when they are fed dry ferret food, so a water bottle or dish must be available at all times.
Ferrets aren’t fussy when it comes to where they live. They spend up to 19 hours sleeping each day so somewhere to curl up is their main concern. Some people prefer to keep their fezzles (I call them this most of the time) indoors but I prefer having mine outdoor due to their smell and space requirements. They are perfectly adapted to winter conditions because after all they are very similar to their wild cousins, the polecat.
Forest and Bramble have a large wooden hutch with 2 levels. The door is meshed and a run is attached that gives them space to play outside. Ferrets have lots of energy when they are awake and my two spends most of their waking hours play fighting with each other.
Ferrets are escape artists so a sturdy structure is essential. I have had their hardwood hutch several years and it has been home to guinea pigs previously. 2nd hand hutches are often available on Gumtree and eBay and they go for a lot less than brand new ones. Around £20 is perfectly average. Personally, I wouldn’t ever buy a hutch from places such as Pets at Home because they tend to be made from thin ply and can be quite rickety. After a couple of years outside they will start to fall apart. If you prefer to buy a brand new ferret hutch I recommend getting a joiner to build you one. It won’t work out any more expensive and will be a lot hardier and well worth the money.
Ferrets are very clean animals and usually do their business in the same area each time. A large sided cat litter tray is ideal as they tend to poop up walls rather than on the floor. It is recommended that sawdust bedding and litter is avoided as the dust can cause respiratory diseases. Low dust cat litter is preferable. I normally go through a bag of litter each month which costs around £4. This is probably the most costly item that ferrets regularly need.
The highest cost for any pet is usually vet bills. If you want your ferret neutered it will set you back around £50 per animal which is a lot of money but well worth it. If your ferret falls ill then the costs can go through the roof. You do have the option to insure your animals which could save you money in the long run. Personally, I decided not to and am prepared to forfeit the price of any treatment they require. They don’t need regular jabs like dogs and cats, which definitely makes them a cheaper pet to keep. I also had my two chipped which cost £12 per ferret and is a worthy investment as ferrets can escape and all look very similar to each other so identifying your pet would be difficult.
Unsterilized jills, if not mated by a hob when they are in season can develop a fatal type of anemia. Luckily this can be prevented by having the jill spayed which also costs around £50.
Now, I don’t want to preach too much, but I am going to do a bit: Owning a ferret, or any pet for that matter, is a big responsibility and requires a lot of preparation, thought and commitment for the lifetime of your animal. Please do lots of research and speak to other ferret owners before bringing them into your family. There; short and sweet.
PS. If you are interested in keeping ferrets, I am more than happy
to help answer any questions. Just ask J
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