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Ferrets as Pets

Ferrets are energetic, curious, and always interested in their surroundings. They actively elicit play with their owners.

Ferrets tend to be very nippy as kits, requiring patience and persistence in handling. Nipping is the act of biting in a playful manner reminiscent of mock fighting and sparring; young ferrets are also more prone to chewing and teething. Older ferrets tend to chew far less frequently and when trained correctly, almost never nip a human hand.


Ferret life-span can vary widely, but usually falls between six and ten years, though in rare cases ferrets can live into their early teens.

Younger inexperienced ferrets have a tendency to nip and bite harder, which may irritate an owner who does not understand ferret behavior. For this reason, some young ferrets end up neglected, when owner's patience runs out and the ferret is abandoned to its cage.

In the USA ferrets typically cost around $75 to $150. Additional costs of a secure cage, food, bedding, veterinary check-ups, and medicine should be taken into consideration by prospective owners.

Dangers to ferrets

It has been suggested that ferrets were bred for curiosity; whether this is true or not, their curiosity often exceeds their common sense. Ferrets are very good at getting into holes in walls, doors, cupboards, or behind household appliances, where they can be injured or killed by electrical wiring, fans, and other dangerous items.

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Many enjoy chewing items made of soft rubber, foam, or sponge, which present the risk of intestinal blockage and death if ingested. Serious and sometimes fatal injuries have resulted from ferrets chewing on electrical cords. Screen doors can be damaged by a ferret's claws, and dryer vents often become escape routes to the outdoors. Unlike dogs and cats, most ferrets have little homing instinct and cannot survive as strays, usually causing them to die of dehydration within a few days unless found.

Recliners are a leading cause of accidental death in ferrets. Ferrets will often climb inside the springs and can be injured or killed once the chair is put into a reclined position. Fold-out sofas cause similar problems.

For these reasons, steps must be taken to "ferret-proof" a home before acquiring one as a pet. Ferret-proofing a house is an ongoing task that involves carefully going through each room, removing items dangerous to ferrets and covering over any holes or potential escape routes.

As ferrets can open improperly latched cupboards or doors by rolling over and clawing at the bottom edge, many owners buy childproof latches or keep cleaning products in high, out-of-reach places. However, ferrets can typically fit through any hole as small as the size of their head, making some childproof latches ineffective.


Ferrets are obligate carnivores; the natural diet of their wild ancestors consisted of whole small prey--meat, organs, bones, skin, feathers, fur--not just meat.

Some ferret owners feed a meat-based diet consisting of whole prey like mice, rats and rabbits, along with other raw meat like chicken. This is preferred in Europe and Australia, and becoming increasingly popular in the US as concerns are raised about the high level of carbohydrate in some processed ferret foods. Australians also feed a lactose-free milk.

Alternatively there is a wide variety of commercial ferret foods available. Kitten foods can also be given, so long as they provide the high protein and fat content required by the ferret's metabolism. Most adult cat foods and many kitten foods are unsuitable for ferrets though, because of their low protein content. Ideally, a ferret food should contain 32-38% meat based protein and 15-20% fat. Low quality pet foods often contain grain-based proteins which ferrets cannot properly digest.

Ferrets often have a fondness for sweets like raisins, bananas, peanut butter, and pieces of cereal. Such treats should be given sparingly (if at all), as their high sugar content has been linked to insulinoma and other diseases. In fact, veterinarians suggest not feeding raisins and the like to ferrets at all because they are known to hide their food, raising the possibility of a ferret hiding a large amount of raisins over time and then dangerously consuming them all at once.

Reference: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ferrets

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