13 Reasons to Think Twice Before Getting a Ferret

Written by Katelynn Sobus
Published: November 25, 2023
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Ferrets are full of personality. They’re funny, adorable, and smart! What’s not to love? Well, there are quite a few reasons to think twice before adopting ferrets.

First, you’ll need two or more ferrets as they should never live alone. They’re messy, smelly, destructive, and mischievous. Ferrets are high-maintenance pets that are expensive and not suitable for children unless the adult is doing the caretaking.

If you still want a ferret, continue reading to learn more about their downsides. Of course, ferrets may still be the perfect pets for you–but it’s important to know their pros and cons first!

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1. Ferrets are Messy

feisty ferret home

Ferrets often make quite the mess in and around their cages!

©AJSTUDIO PHOTOGRAPHY/Shutterstock.com

Don’t adopt a ferret thinking their mess will be confined to their cage or litter box! Ferrets are messy animals who are sure to dirty their cage, the surrounding area, and their free-roam environment.

Ferrets can be litter box trained, but you’ll still need to clean the litter regularly–they poop several times a day.

2. They Smell

Bad smell concept. Young bearded guy closing his nose and showing STOP gesture, expressing disgust on blue studio background. Millennial man repulsed by toxic odor or terrible perfume

Most people do not like the smell of ferrets.

©Prostock-studio/Shutterstock.com

Even clean ferrets have a distinct odor that cannot be gotten rid of. Their scent glands produce this odor and tend to produce even more of it if bathed frequently.

Descenting a ferret also doesn’t work to reduce odors and puts the animals through unnecessary surgery. It’s banned in some countries due to being inhumane and ineffective.

We recommend spending time around ferrets before adopting them to ensure you can deal with their smell in your home!

3. Ferrets Shouldn’t Live Alone

Ferret playpen

You’ll need to keep two or more ferrets at all times.

©iStock.com/Delecrouix

Ferrets must live with other ferrets. Even if you spend all day with your ferret, you cannot communicate or play like another ferret can. You’re also going to need to leave at some point, even if only to run quick errands.

Other pets are also not suitable companions for ferrets for multiple reasons. Firstly, they may see other small animals as prey. They also tend to dislike and become territorial around other pets. Lastly, even if your ferret did bond with another animal like your dog, they’re still different species that cannot adequately meet one another’s social needs.

Many people have a difficult time deciding what to do when left with one lone ferret after others pass away. Please have a plan in place to properly meet your ferrets’ social needs for the entirety of their lives!

4. Some Ferrets Bite

Angora ferret isolated on white background.

Ferrets have sharp little teeth!

©Couperfield/Shutterstock.com

Ferrets aren’t as docile as some other animals of a similar size, like guinea pigs. They tend to bite, especially when not properly handled. It’s important to research how to hold your ferret comfortably.

They might also bite in play, which should be redirected to toys or playtime should stop. This teaches them not to bite people, which is especially important if there are going to be children or guests interacting with your ferrets.

5. They’re Not Children’s Pets

Man playing with a pet Cinnamon Ferret outside on the grass.

Ferrets are complex, exotic pets who require more attention and care than a child can give on their own.

©iStock.com/OKrasyuk

As we discussed, ferrets will often bite if mishandled. They’re also fairly fragile little animals who need gentle handling.

Ferrets are also a lot of work! They require large cages and daily cleaning which can be difficult for a child to keep up with, especially given the height of the cage. They also need regular grooming including nail trims and teeth brushing, and hours of daily free roam time.

If you’re looking for a pet for your child, please ensure you’re ready to take on the entirety of their care if the child cannot or doesn’t want to. Be prepared to teach your child to handle the animal appropriately, to supervise small children with pets at all times, and to pay for pricey veterinary bills.

6. They’re Curious Animals

White albino Ferret

Ferrets love to explore, and their curiosity can get them into trouble.

©everydoghasastory/Shutterstock.com

Ferrets can be real troublemakers! They’re escape artists, and they like getting into things they probably shouldn’t.

It’s vital to ferret-proof your space before bringing ferrets home. Most people allow them a securely fenced area outside of the cage to free-roam so that they don’t need to ferret-proof a whole room or house, which can be difficult.

You’ll need to put away anything you don’t want them to have, cover heating vents so they don’t crawl inside, and block off any dangerous items securely. Keep in mind that ferrets are agile, curious, and love to climb–they can get into more places than you think!

7. They Can be Destructive

Ferret Teeth - ferret teeth

Be prepared to replace your ferrets’ things regularly as they like to tear into things with their sharp teeth!

©cynoclub/Shutterstock.com

Ferrets can also be destructive, especially when not properly cared for. Think about being kept in a cage for most of your life as a highly rambunctious, curious, and intelligent animal–they end up very bored!

It’s important to give your ferret lots of enrichment, exercise, and time outside of their cage. It’s equally important to ferret-proof, as we discussed above, so that they don’t destroy your things.

8. They Like to Steal

ferret toys

Your ferrets won’t only want to play with their own toys, but any of your stuff that’s left within reach!

©Couperfield/Shutterstock.com

Of course, ferrets also love stashing away items–essentially, they’ll take whatever they can get their hands on and hide it! This could get very annoying if you leave important items within their reach.

9. They Need Hours a Day to Free Roam

ferret

Leaving your ferret in their cage all day long is considered neglectful, as they need exercise and enrichment.

©Couperfield/Shutterstock.com

The minimum time that ferrets should spend outside of their cage is four hours. This needs to happen every single day–even if you’re busy or sick. At least two of these hours should include hands-on time with you.

That said, the more time out of the cage, the better!

10. Ferrets are Likely More Expensive than you Think

Ferret Teeth - Ferret behind bars

Appropriately-sized ferret cages are expensive as they shouldn’t be kept in tiny pet store cages.

©Olga Pysarenko/Shutterstock.com

Many people think of small animals as ferrets and assume they’re cheap and easy to care for. Unfortunately, this isn’t true. They can be very expensive pets.

Veterinary expenses are higher for exotic pets, so ferrets can rack up some hefty vet bills. They also need large, expensive enclosures and free-roam setups, and their food isn’t cheap.

11. Not All Veterinarians Care for Ferrets

Examination of cat ear in veterinary clinic using an otoscope. Problems and ear pain in animals

Most vets who treat dogs and cats are not equipped to treat ferrets.

©megaflopp/Shutterstock.com

Exotic pet vets can also be difficult to find, and you’ll want one with ferret experience specifically. Most dog and cat vets won’t take ferrets as clients because they don’t have the education to treat them properly.

Before adopting ferrets, please see if there are any exotic pet vets in your area who will take them on as patients.

12. They’re Predators

White bunny with black spots sleeping on a rabbit bed

Even being in the same house as ferrets can be stressful to prey animals such as rabbits.

©Mariska van Dasselaar/Shutterstock.com

We talked before about how ferrets shouldn’t be paired with other animals for companionship. It’s also important to know that they’re considered a predator species–not prey. (Another fact you might not know is that ferrets are weasels, not rodents!)

Having ferrets in the house may not be responsible if you also have prey animals, even if you keep them apart. Some prey animals, such as rabbits, grow very stressed even without interacting with ferrets. This is because they can smell their strong odor and associate it with the danger of having predators nearby.

13. They’re Poorly Bred

Two weeks old cute ferret baby in human hands

Most pet ferrets come from breeding mills and suffer from poor health as a result.

©Rashid Valitov/Shutterstock.com

Lastly, most ferrets come from ferret breeding mills (which are similar to puppy mills) and are incredibly poorly bred. They often live short lifespans and may suffer from health problems such as adrenal gland disease, tumors and cancers, and heart disease.

One of the most known ferret breeding mills in the United States is Marshall, which also breeds dogs and ferrets for animal testing and has been cited for animal cruelty by the United States Department of Agriculture many times.

Please never adopt a ferret, or any animal, from a pet store. Instead, rescue your pets from a shelter or rescue or shop with a reputable breeder.

The photo featured at the top of this post is © iStock.com/Delecrouix


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About the Author

Katelynn Sobus is a writer at A-Z Animals where her primary focus is on pets including dogs, cats, and exotics. She has been writing about pet care for over five years. Katelynn currently lives in Michigan with her seven senior rescue cats.

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