Important to know before you take a ferret as a pet
Ferrets are members of the weasel family that have been domesticated for over 2000 years. Ferrets live an average lifespan of 5-7 years, however, the current record for the oldest ferret is 14 years old! They are very curious little creatures. Because they are social animals, if you are going to adopt a ferret, please consider taking in a pair so they will never be lonely. It is recommended to avoid adopting a ferret if you have small children in the home. They are very fragile animals and can be easily injured if handled inappropriately or dropped.
Like a cat, they love to nap and usually sleep up to 20 hours a day. When they are awake, however, they are very active and playful pets! They love to bounce around and invite you to play with them. If you start bouncing around with them, this will often make them happy. They love crawling through just about anything, including cardboard boxes, PVC piping, clothes dryer hoses, paper bags, and even pant legs or long shirt sleeves. They tend to play rough and will often playfully nip in the beginning, so it is important to teach them not to.
Even though ferrets are naturally clean animals, they are very well known for their musky odour. No matter how many times you bathe a ferret, the odour will never completely go away. This scent is much worse in unneutered ferrets, but luckily almost all of the domestic ferrets in North America are neutered at the time of weaning, so we don’t really have to worry about this.
They also have a pair of anal glands similar to cats and dogs, with very strong-smelling secretions. They rarely express these anal glands unless very scared and the scent often goes away after a few minutes. Again, most ferrets you find around here have already had these glands surgically removed, so you only have to deal with a mild musky odour from the oils in the skin.
Bathing should be kept to a minimum – at most, once or twice a month. Bathing a ferret will strip its skin and coat of all of the natural (mildly stinky) oils, which will cause the body to overcompensate and keep producing more and more. Basically, over-bathing a ferret can cause its odour to get even worse. They usually do a pretty good job of cleaning themselves much like a cat. If you give them a bowl of water, they will use it to clean their face. Bathing is, however, good for relieving itchiness caused by fleas or dry skin. If you are going to bathe a ferret, make sure you use pet-friendly shampoo and warm bath water.
Ferrets are highly intelligent and social pets and, even though they seem just like a small, easy to care for a pocket pet, they are a big responsibility and often require just as much care as a cat or dog, if not more! So take good care of them!