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quick facts

What is a ferret?
It is important to realise that a ferret is not a wild animal! It is believed that ferrets may have even been domesticated before dogs and cats.

Ferrets are not related to any other animal available in Australia. They are part of the mustelidae family, making them a cousin to otters, badgers and skunks. This means that their care is also very different to other pets.

Why are ferrets not as well known as other domestic animals?
As with many things public perception, not fact, has played a big role in our perception of what a ferret is. For centuries ferrets have been kept as a working animal. They were used for clearing storage areas of vermin and for chasing rabbits from their burrows.

Unfortunately for them, they have done such a good job of this that people have only seen them as a working animal and have not devoted the same level of attention and care as they would for a dog or cat. As a result, unhandled and untrained ferrets would become unmanageable, in the same way as a cat can become feral or an untrained dog aggressive. Despite the large number of ferret owners in this country, common knowledge about their unique care is often very poor and sometimes based on myths and legends. Attitudes are changing however, and more ferrets are being brought from the shed into the home, giving us a much better understanding of their potential as a companion animal.

Is a ferret for you?
In many ways a ferret is the perfect pet! When raised as part of the family they are affectionate, small, quiet, intelligent, extremely entertaining and very individual - but they are not for everyone. Ferrets have a very high level of maintenance and their needs are unique compared to other more common pets. If you intend to be a successful ferret owner following are some important points you should consider:

Healthy ferrets can live for around 10 years and may become very devoted to you, causing them undue stress if you have to part with them.

Do you have the time and facilities?
One of the reasons ferrets are considered higher maintenance than other domestic animals, is that part of all of your house and/or garden will require ferret-proofing. Ferret-proofing can be even more challenging than child-proofing an area, however it is a must to keep your ferrets from wandering off.

Ferrets are also very susceptible to heatstroke when exposed to temperatures above the high-20's. Air-conditioning, access to cool areas inside the house (such as the laundry), or a cool shady spot in the garden are essential.

Ferrets should never be considered a cheap pet.

Responsible breeders who have devoted the time needed to raising a good pet ferret and had the appropriate vet checks and vaccinations will sell their ferrets for between $50-$100. At six months of age the expensive procedure of desexing will need to be performed, as well as annual vaccinations, parasite prevention and the very likely possibility of further medical expenses.

It is also highly recommended that ferrets be kept in pairs.

Just like pups and kittens, young ferrets (kits) are mischievous and over zealous. You will have to put up with nipping, toilet mishaps, escape attempts and general bad behaviour for some time.

The basic ferret owners check list:

  • Ferret-proof area: Part or all of your house and/or garden. Provide as large as area as you can, to promote good physical and mental health.

  • Litter tray / paper-type litters: ferrets can be toilet trained fairly easily, but expect mishaps. Use a tray with a low edge.

  • Carnivore food: Whole, fresh foods suitable for a carnivore. See our diet section for ideas.

  • Water bowl: Cool, fresh water must be available at all times. Heavy bowls which cannot be tipped over are perfect.

  • Travel carrier / walking harness: When in public it is important to secure your ferret properly so that they don't injure themselves or escape. Ferrets can also be trained to walk on a harness.

  • De-sexing: Male and female ferrets are de-sexed between 6 to 12 months of age. This helps reduce their strong body odour, curbs their desire to escape and prevents a medical complication that can kill female ferrets.

The above details are only a brief overview of what is needed to know about ferrets before owning one. Please contact us or read our more detailed care pages for further information.

Ferret Society of Canberra

 For more information or to make comments please email mail@ferretclub.org.au