Guide to Choosing a Ferret
Ferrets have been household pets since around 450 BCE and are now one of the most popular pets in the United States. Known for their playfulness, ferrets are great at keeping themselves amused and occupied. And with their masked bandit faces and mischievous personalities, these clever creatures are endearing to just about everyone they meet.
If you are thinking about adding a ferret to your household, asking yourself and your family members the following questions will help determine whether this pet will be a good fit for your home and to guide you in selecting your newest family member. It is illegal to own a ferret in some states, however, so be sure to check local regulations before getting too invested in bringing home this furry pet.
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Is a ferret a good fit for you?
Before you bring home a ferret, make sure that your family and lifestyle are a good match for their needs. These energetic and fun-loving companions may be smaller than most dogs and cats, but they require similar levels of care.
Ferrets are known to be quite mischievous, and their active nature means they need lots of playtime and stimulation. If you bring a ferret into your home, you’ll need to dedicate time each day to allowing them out of their enclosures to exercise and play.
Ferrets are also highly intelligent and curious. They enjoy solving puzzles, navigating mazes and exploring. It’s their pet parents’ responsibility to keep them stimulated and engaged.
Still not sure if a ferret is a good match for you? Here are a few more questions to ask yourself:
- Do you have a sense of humor? Ferrets are playful clowns who love to steal things and hide them. So, if you bring in a ferret as a pet, you’ll need to be prepared to clean up a few messes and occasionally hunt for lost things. Having a good sense of humor will go a long way in making your ferret’s initial adjustment period a success
- Do you have patience? Ferrets can be naughty troublemakers, escaping their enclosures and getting into things they shouldn’t. While their antics are generally playful, ferrets require pet parents who can remain patient during training and think of creative ways to keep their pet entertained
- Can you provide a consistent daily routine? Like other pets, ferrets like to have a consistent, predictable daily routine, with dedicated time to play, eat and sleep. Make sure your daily schedule would allow you to stick to a consistent schedule for your ferret
- Do you have time to play? In order to thrive, ferrets need one-on-one attention from their pet parents. Make sure you have time each day to handle and socialize them to help create a long-term bond
- Are you looking for a loving, affectionate pet? While ferrets enjoy running around, most also love to be petted and cuddled at times. Generally, the more affectionate you are with your ferret, the more affectionate they will, in return, be with you. Playing games, being held and spending time together are all forms of affection ferrets tend to appreciate
Choosing the right ferret for your family
If the high-energy, clownish personality of a ferret sounds like the right fit for your family, the next step is to choose the individual who’s best for you. Although there is only one breed of domesticated ferrets, they come in many different coat colors.
Common ferret coat colors include:
- Albino: These ferrets have white coats, red to pink eyes and pink noses
- Black sable: Deep black from their nose to their tail tip, a black sable ferret has a hood-like mask pattern on their head that extends to their nose. Their undercoat is cream to white
- Black sable mitt: The color of a black sable mitt ferret is the same as that of the black sable, except they have four white feet (mitts). The white fur extends from their toe tips to no more than two-thirds of the way up their legs
- Blaze: The body of a blaze ferret can be any color or combination. The blaze refers to the unbroken white stripe that usually runs from their face, between their eyes, over the top of their head, then down the back of their neck. They have four mitts and a white bib
- Chocolate: The chocolate coat is similar to the sable coat, except the banded mask, tail and legs are dark brown with red tints. The body, neck and head have brown guard hairs (longer, thicker hairs than the soft, dense undercoat), and their undercoat is cream to wheaten in color. Their eyes are usually black but may be a deep ruby, and their nose is pink to brown
- Chocolate mitt: Chocolate mitt ferrets have chocolate coats with light-colored mitts
- Cinnamon: The guard hairs of a cinnamon ferret are reddish brown, and the legs and tail are darker reddish brown. Their mask color (present in darker shades of cinnamon) is complementary to the ferret's overall color. Their nose is pink, and their eyes are usually deep ruby to red but may be black
- Cinnamon mitt: These ferrets have the same coloring as cinnamon ferrets but with white mitts
- Dalmatian: A dalmatian ferret is mostly white, with black or dark ruby eyes and a pink nose. They usually have a pattern of spots or blotches (normally black) on their back, with the rest of the coat any color but black
- Heavy silver (pewter): These ferrets have a deep, gunmetal gray-and-black coat and a pink, mottled or black nose. Their mask looks like a smudge under each eye, and they usually have lighter-colored mitts
- Panda: A panda ferret’s head is white from nose to shoulder. They have a white bib and a white underside. Their body may be any color but white, with deeper-colored fur on the shoulders and hips and a white-tipped tail and mitts. They have a pink nose, and their eyes may be any color
- Pattern, light: Ferrets with a light pattern have a mostly white coat, with a scattering of darker hairs throughout. Their nose is black or pink, and they have black, ruby or red eyes
- Pattern, medium: Similar to light-patterned ferrets, these ferrets have a much heavier concentration of dark hairs
- Sable: Sable ferrets have black legs with a full mask, and their undercoat can be dark to cream with dark guard hairs. They have even coloring over their body, neck and head. Their eyes are black, and their nose is pink, mottled or black
- Sable mitt: These ferrets have the same features as the sable but with lighter-colored mitts
- Siamese: Any standard sable, chocolate or cinnamon ferret who has a body color several shades lighter than their feet and legs is considered Siamese. Their mask is V-shaped, and it's the same color as their leg and tail. The length of their underside has a dark line the same color as that of their extremities
- Siamese mitt: These ferrets look the same as a Siamese but have lighter-colored mitts
- Striped white: A striped white ferret is mostly white, with a dark stripe down their back. The stripe may extend into the tail, and their eyes are either pink or dark ruby. Their nose may be pink or pigmented to black
- White with dark eyes (black-eyed white): The body of these ferrets is usually white, but some have a few dark hairs along their back. Their eyes are black, and their nose is usually pink but may also be black
In addition to having varied colors, ferrets also display variations in their basic 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 more block-shaped bulldog body type is shorter than the whippet and not as long.
Ultimately, when you choose a ferret, there is no reason besides personal preference to pick one specific body type or coloring over another. Every ferret’s appearance and personality is unique, and their color and body shape won’t affect the care they need.
Tips after you bring your new ferret home
Start spending quality time with your new ferret as soon as you bring them home. On average, you should spend at least an hour a day interacting with your ferret so they get to know and trust you.
Ways to interact with your ferret include:
Ferrets are generally energetic extroverts who typically love playing hide-and-seek, running through tubes and hanging out with their pet parents. Make sure to set up space for them to explore and stretch their legs
Grooming and petting are both important bonding activities that you should do with your ferret. Brushing and bathing are experiences many ferrets enjoy. Petco stocks a wide variety of grooming supplies for ferrets to help ensure their coat stays clean and healthy
Many first-time ferret parents don’t realize that their new family member will benefit from training. With treats and verbal praise to positively reinforce behaviors you want them to learn, you can train your ferret to do tricks and to come when called
Ferrets can make wonderful companions, adding a playful and endearing energy to their homes. If you decide to bring home a ferret, visit our ferret care guide, and stop by your local Petco store to pick up all the necessary supplies.