Pet Owner Club

Choosing Your Ferret

Choosing a ferret, of course, involves a certain emotional commitment. But there are a few objective factors that you can look at to help you decide.

Age is among the first factors a prospective ferret buddy will want to consider. Older ferrets may be already litter or bite trained. If they are, that can be an item in their favor. But younger ferrets, like any domestic pet, will not have formed any specific attachments. Having them attach to you can start those bonds forming early.

But training needs will be much higher with a younger ferret. They require a lot of care. They'll need vaccinations and litter training, and a lot of attention. Ferrets are not hamsters. Left all day long to their own devices, they can become unruly and unhappy.

'Unhappy' may seem an odd term to some to apply to an animal very different from a dog or cat. But ferrets are domesticated and can bond with their companion, whether human or another ferret. Left alone, they have no outlet. There are some exceptions, however. Older, non-neutered males will frequently revert to wild characteristics. They may exhibit what is known as 'same sex exclusivity' and seek to isolate themselves from other non-neutered males. You may want to consider getting more than one.

That leads to the second consideration. Should you spay or neuter your ferret? Unless you are an experienced ferret breeder, it's best to leave that to the experts. Breeding dogs is difficult enough. Ferrets are much harder. It requires considerable knowledge and can lead to great expense. That may be a legitimate long-term goal, but one that should be worked up to.

Which sex?

Males are slightly larger, about 18 inches and around 3-5 pounds. Females, on average, are slightly smaller - about 15 inches with correspondingly smaller weight. Once spayed or neutered, ferrets of both sexes get along fine. Males play and mock-fight with females as much as they do with males and vice versa. But males do have a slightly higher tendency to spray, if they haven't had their anal scent glands removed.

Incidence of disease is about the same in both neutered males and spayed females. However, non-spayed females will of course raise special concerns. They come into heat seasonally from March to August. If they don't mate, they can remain in heat for almost six months.

Apart from their cycle, females can also suffer from the usual higher incidence of tumors as a result of raised levels of hormones. But males, too, have their own risks in this regard, so the numbers are not radically different between the two sexes.

Such considerations as color and individual personality are completely personal preferences, of course. But keep in mind that one choice, albinos, can create the need for special care. Like other albinos, they can suffer from vision problems. They are also more easily preyed on, if they get loose where the dog or cat can get to them.

Provided you practice proper care for your ferret, you can hardly go wrong, though. It's easy to see why these friendly, funny animals became a favorite domestic pet. They're terrific!

Pet Owner Club
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