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March 12, 2010

Is a Ferret Right for You?

The Humane Society of the United States

Domestic ferrets have become more popular as pets in recent years and can be kept legally as pets in most states, but check state and local laws for possible restrictions. As with any companion animal, these furry creatures deserve lifelong, responsible homes and caretakers.

If you're thinking of getting a ferret, here are some things to keep in mind before taking steps to add a ferret to your family. 

Don't shop: Adopt

The HSUS believes that ferrets, like other companion animals, should not be bred for commercial purposes or sold in retail pet stores. If you are thinking of adding a ferret to your family, see if an animal shelter or rescue group near you has any ferrets for adoption.

Special considerations

Ferrets are very different from more traditional companion animals such as dogs and cats. They are marketed by the pet industry as "unusual," but individuals considering adopting a ferret should be wary of the industry's claims that unusual pets are easy to care for. Ferrets require a high level of commitment to be cared for responsibly and humanely; individuals not prepared or able to make such a commitment should not keep ferrets as pets.

Responsible care

Ferrets have sharp teeth and occasionally bite when startled, excited, or handled improperly. There have even been incidents when small children have been seriously injured by ferret bites. Children, particularly infants, should never be left unsupervised with ferrets (or with any other companion animal).

Like all mammals, ferrets can carry and transmit rabies. Therefore, all ferrets should be vaccinated against this fatal viral disease

Needs and habits

Keeping ferrets humanely may be a challenge for individuals who are unfamiliar with their needs and habits. Ferrets sleep much of the time, but when awake are both curious and highly active.

They should not be confined to a cage at all times, yet need close supervision when allowed out of their enclosures. It is usually necessary to take special measures to "ferret-proof" homes where ferrets are kept to ensure their safety.

Like other companion animals, ferrets require periodic veterinary check-ups and veterinary care when needed. Be sure to find a veterinarian in your community who is experienced with ferret care.

Sterilization

Pet ferrets must be spayed or neutered to prevent them from adding to the numbers of unwanted and homeless ferrets in need of shelter and rescue. Sterilization is particularly important for female ferrets, who can contract a disease called fatal aplastic anemia.

Stinky?

To put it kindly, ferrets don't always come up smelling like roses. A ferret's sebaceous glands, which are used to mark territory, secrete oil with a natural musky odor, and the animal's anal scent glands can spray just like a skunk's.

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