It has been a while since I blogged about a specific species and my good friend has recently reminded me that ferrets could use a little more air time. So here it goes…
There are some common misconceptions regarding ferrets including that they are a type of rodent. This is not the case. Ferrets are in the weasel family, aka Mustelidae. Ferrets are related to otters, skunks, weasels, and polecats. In fact, ferrets have odiferous scent glands similar to a skunk that have to be removed prior to entering a home but they can still carry a natural musky scent. Ferrets are true carnivores with a high protein and low carbohydrate/fiber need. They need good socialization especially as kits (babies) to prevent issues of biting later on. They need plenty of sleep and ideally at least 4 hours of play time a day. They can learn how to walk on a leash, use a litter box, and get a long with cats and dogs. They are playful, joyful, affectionate creatures.
In general ferrets have a 7–9 year lifespan but after the age of three,they are considered senior pets. If you are familiar with ferrets, you are probably aware of the multitude of diseases that they are predisposed to. Almost every ferret will eventually be diagnosed with one or more of the following: Adrenal disease, insulinoma, lymphoma, and/or heart disease. Many of these diseases can be managed to help improve a ferrets quality of life, but it is not cheap and often an older ferret requires alot of medical care at home and at the vet. Because of this, many shelters are over run with ferrets because people buy the adoreable juveniles but are not prepared for the expense and ailments that come with time. Most people aren’t even aware that ferrets should be vaccinated yearly against rabies and distemper, let alone have yearly to bi-yearly blood screenings. Also, ferrets love to chew soft rubberyobjects and the eating of foreign bodies is a common enough problem in the youngsters which requires surgical intervention.
I hope people are not dissuaded by this post from adopting (ideally from a shelter) a cute, smart, entertaining ferret. But I do want people to know what to expect. I highly recommend doing some research on specific food and cage setup recommendations as well as creating a savings account for the medical care. You can get pet insurance for ferrets but check into what is and is not covered.
Check out these sites for great resource information:
American Ferret Association:www.ferret.org
As much as this information comes from my veterinary knowledge, I am also speaking from experience. I have had so many wonderful experiences of owning ferrets of my own. I have also experienced the difficulties of managing adrenal disease, insulinomas and lymphoma (amongst 5 different ferrets). I hope this provides some insite into the world of ferrets. They are not like cats or dogs, but are creatures unto themselves.
ferret exhibiting hairloss associated with adrenal disease.