Popular because of their small size, their playfulness, and their friendly disposition, ferrets can be great companions. They do however require a lot of care and supervised attention. Members of the Mustelidae family, ferrets are related to minks, polecats, weasels, and otters. It is believed that ferrets were domesticated 2,000 years ago in Europe when they were used for hunting small game or controlling rodents. Domestic ferrets should not be confused with the North American black-footed ferret, which is an endangered species.
How to choose a ferret
Ferrets are very dependent upon their human companions for survival. Because ferrets require continuous care and supervision, potential owners should evaluate their ability to commit. The commitment is long term since the lifespan of ferrets is six to 10 years.
Ferrets may not be the best pet for families with small children. Although ferrets are very social animals, they may bite or nip if mishandled. Never leave a ferret and a small child alone together. Ferrets generally get along with dogs and cats if they are introduced carefully, but they should not interact with birds, rodents, or small reptiles.
When selecting a ferret from a shelter, a pet store or a breeder, choose one that is bright-eyed and alert. The presence of crusty eyes or nasal discharge that is full of mucus indicate illness. If you handle a sick ferret, be sure to wash your hands thoroughly so as not to infect yourself or the next batch of animals.
Whether you select a male ferret, known as a hob, or a female, known as a jill, you should get a spayed/neutered ferret. Breeding is not recommended. Most ferrets from farms or pet stores will already be altered. If not, it is best to have the ferret altered at the age of six months. Spaying is a must for jills because they can develop aplastic anemia when in heat if they aren't breed. The result could be death. Altering a ferret may actually improve its disposition since it will not be as aggressive or territorial.
Ferrets, like dogs and cats, are susceptible to rabies and should be vaccinated. They should also be vaccinated for canine distemper virus which can be fatal. Consult your veterinarian for recommended schedules. Ferrets are not immune to health problems, and should receive regular preventative health care through regular check-ups.
For more information on feeding, habitat, hygiene and exercise, please go to: https://www.aaha.org/pet_owner/pet_health_library/other/general_health/ferret_care.aspx