Pros & Cons of Ferrets as Pets

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Well-socialized ferrets can make fine pets.
Well-socialized ferrets can make fine pets. (Image: Creatas/Creatas/Getty Images)

Ferrets can make good pets, but they're not for everyone. Before deciding to bring a ferret into your home, weigh the pros and cons. Ferrets combine some of the best features of cats and dogs, along with their own characteristics. They're not a good choice if you have young kids or small pets.

Children

If you have preschool-aged children, wait until they're older before bringing home a ferret. Some ferrets bite, especially if they haven't been properly socialized, and there are instances of ferrets attacking youngsters. Older kids and ferrets often make a good match, as these inquisitive pets can be fun playmates.

Care

You can train your ferret to use a litter box, making cleaning up after him relatively simple. Overall, ferrets aren't difficult animals to care for, although you have to ferret-proof any rooms in which your ferret has free-range. That's because they love to hide, as well as investigate everything. Let your ferret out of his cage for at least four hours daily.

Legality

Unlike dogs, cats and other common companion animals, it's illegal to keep ferrets in certain municipalities and even entire states. As of 2013, California and Hawaii don't permit ferrets, nor does New York City. While ferret owners might flout the law where their pets are prohibited, it's not a good idea to keep a ferret illegally. When your ferret gets sick, a vet licensed in a jurisdiction outlawing ferrets can't treat your animal. Depending on the law, the vet might have to report you.

Other Pets

If you have dogs or cats, you can probably work out a successful living arrangement with a ferret. Your ferret is in more danger from your dog than vice versa. However, if you keep smaller pets, such as rabbits, guinea pigs, hamsters or birds, watch out. As far as your ferret is concerned, these are prey.

Odor

While neutered or spayed ferrets possess a musky scent, it's not the overwhelming smell of the intact ferret. Feeding a high-quality ferret food -- or cat food if ferret food is unavailable -- and keeping your pet's cage clean keep odors to a minimum.

Heath and Aging

Ferrets age a lot faster, relative to cats and dogs. By the age of 3, they're considered middle-aged and should have a geriatric work-up by an exotic pet vet. This testing helps catch early signs of heart disease and cancer, common in many ferrets. While healthy ferrets can live as long as 10 years, that's not the norm. The average ferret life span is about 6 to 8 years.

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