Ferrets are now one of the most popular pets in the U.S. and have been household pets since around 450 BC.
When you first see a ferret, it might just look like a blur of fur. Constantly a playful type, ferrets are great at keeping themselves amused and occupied. With their masked bandit faces and busy hands, these clever creatures endear themselves to just about everyone they meet.
Like dogs and cats, ferrets were originally domesticated to help mankind with hunting and pest control. In fact, most of the world still uses ferrets for that purpose.
The ferret challenge
We all have distinct personalities, and your ferret is no different. While there are certain common traits, no two ferrets are the same. That said, ferrets are mostly energetic and fun-loving, and if that sounds incompatible to your personality, think twice now.
If you’re second-guessing your compatibility with a ferret, see “the ferret challenge” to find out how your two personalities line up.
Consider the following list of statements that might be made by a typical ferret caught in the throes of mischief:
Mischief is my job
I'm persistent, and I simply won't stop until I have what I want. Especially when it comes to your attention, affection and involvement.
It's my nature
I'm a living creature, and I'll let you know I'm around by making noise, giving off odors and creating messes.
It's my time too!
I'm here in your home, and I expect you to be here at home for me, too! Don't run off constantly on vacations or business trips and expect me to do well without you.
I'm capable of fitting into your current lifestyle, but only if you help me. That means making some adjustments to your home, routine, budget and outlook on the world.
What's that? and that? and that?
I'm a strong mind in a strong body; so don't expect me to sit idle all day. I love solving puzzles, trying new things and exploring the world. Don't actively block my natural instincts—work with me, and find ways to make my nature more acceptable to both of us.
To go beyond the ferret challenge, ask yourself if you meet the following criteria:
Do you have a sense of humor?
Ferrets are mischievous and playful and you’re bound to find yourself cleaning a mess or searching for your keys from time to time.
Do you have patience?
Ferrets are permanently juvenile jokesters, and patience is a virtue for a pet parent.
Can you ensure consistency?
Get your ferret routine together, and stick to it: Your ferret will respect you for it.
Do you have plenty of time?
Ferrets need your attention. Make sure you have plenty of time for their physical needs and companionship.
Do you have stamina?
To keep up with your furry friend, you’ll need to be a non-stop mover. Having the energy for training and caregiving is important to your little one.
Do you have love and affection to offer?
The more you can love your ferret, the more they can love you. Playing games, being held and being watched are all valued, and necessary, forms of affection.
Unlike the many breeds of cats and dogs, there are only a few characteristics that differ between domestic ferrets, including color.
White coat color, red to pink eyes and a pink nose.
Deep black from nose to tail tip; the mask pattern on the head is hood-like and extends to the nose; the undercoat is cream to white color.
Black sable mitt:
The coloration is the same as the black sable, except it has four white feet (mitts), with the white fur going from toe tip to no more than two-thirds up the legs.
Body is any color or combination; an unbroken white stripe, usually starting on the face, runs between the eyes, over the top of the head and (ideally) down the back of the neck: There are four mitts and a white bib.
The coloration is like the sable, except the banded mask, tail and legs are dark brown with red tints. The body, neck and head have brown guard hairs, and the undercoat is cream to wheaten color. The eyes are usually black, but may be a deep ruby; the nose is pink to brown in color.
The color is the same as chocolate, except with mitts.
The guard hairs are reddish brown; the legs and tail are darker reddish brown. Mask color (present in darker shades of cinnamon) should be complementary to the overall ferret's color; the nose is pink; the eyes are usually deep ruby to red, but may be black.
Same as cinnamon but having mitts.
Mostly white, with black or dark ruby eyes, and a pink nose; a pattern of spots or blotches (normally black) usually appears only on the back, with the rest of the coat any color but black.
Heavy silver (pewter):
A deep, gunmetal gray with black and a pink, mottled or black nose. The mask looks like a smudge under each eye, and mitts are customary.
The head should be as white as possible from nose to shoulder; there is a white bib, and white runs the length of the underside. The body color (any) is a saddle shape; pandas usually have a white-tipped tail, mitts, a pink nose and any color eyes.
Mostly white coat, with a scattering of darker hairs throughout the coat; the nose is black or pink, with black, ruby or red eyes.
Similar to light pattern but with a much heavier concentration of dark hairs.
Black legs with a full mask and the undercoat can be dark to cream, with dark guard hairs. Color intensity is even through body, neck and head; the eyes are black, and the nose is pink, to mottled, to black.
The same as the sable, but with mitts.
Any standard sable, chocolate or cinnamon ferret that has a body color several shades lighter than its feet and legs. The mask is v-shaped, and it's the same color as the leg and tail; the length of the underside has a dark line the same color as the extremities.
The same as the Siamese, but with mitts.
Mostly white, with a dark stripe down the backbone; the stripe may extend into the tail. The eyes are either pink or dark ruby, and the nose may be pink or shaded to black.
White with dark eyes (black-eyed white):
The body is usually white, but some animals have a few dark hairs along the backbone. The eyes are black; the nose is usually pink, but may be black.
There is also some variation in the basic ferret body type
As per the name, the "whippet" body type has an overall long, slinky appearance, especially when compared to the "bulldog" body type.
The "bulldog" body type ferret is not as tall as the "whippet," and not as long, but with a body that is more block-shaped than the "whippet."
There is no reason besides personal preference to pick one specific body type. Neither type has specific health issues.
Besides coat variation and body type, ferrets are pretty homogenous in appearance, compared to dogs or cats.
Once you know that you truly want a ferret, more detailed decisions become easier. Be aware that certain color and body types are harder to find. If you absolutely have your heart set on a particular color, especially one that’s rare, then a ferret show might be the place to start your search. Then, when you’re ready, go ahead and pick your ferret based on their health and personality.
Quality time with your little one
Your ferret isn’t exactly an attention hound like your pooch might be, but they certainly need more quality time than a goldfish. On average, you need to spend at least an hour a day with your ferret. Ferrets are notorious sleepers, and at about 16 hours a day, their sleep schedule is a big reason why they don’t need as much attention. When your ferret is up and at 'em, they love spending time with you and other family members.
Different quality time activities include:
Your ferret is an energetic extrovert, and whether it’s another ferret, another animal or another person hardly makes a difference when it comes to playing. Ferrets particularly love playing hide and seek, running through tubes and wrestling with other ferrets and cats.
Grooming and petting:
Grooming and petting is an important bonding activity that should be done regularly. Brushing and bathing are usually pleasant experiences for your ferret as well. Petco stocks a wide variety of grooming supplies for your ferret.
Training takes time, and that's good. Time together strengthens the bond between you and your furry friend. Training can be as simple or as complex as you want to make it. Unlike old dogs, old ferrets love learning new tricks.