Pet Ferrets: 16 Pros and Cons to Make the Best Decision for Your Family

Ferrets can make good family pets, but it's important to do your research to help decide if they are the right pet for you.

Published July 22, 2023
Ferret looking cute rolling around.

Ferrets are undeniably cute creatures, and if you're considering bringing one home, you've probably heard about the positives and negatives of keeping them. Ferrets have some stand-out characteristics that make them fantastic, but they do present challenges, too.

The answer really depends on what you're looking for in a pet. If you want one that's small, energetic, affectionate and needs a lot of attention, then yes, you'll love having a ferret. But if you can't handle their musky scent or accommodate all the space they need to thrive, they might not be a good fit. Review the pros and cons of owning a ferret to help you decide if this is the right pet for you.

Benefits of Keeping Ferrets as Pets

Not sure if a ferret is the right pet for you? There are tons of things to love about these long, furry creatures. These are the pros of being a ferret parent.

1. They're Highly Interactive

Ferrets aren't the type of animal you can just watch from the other side of a cage. They're incredibly hands-on pets that love to play, cuddle, and just spend time with you. Because ferrets form such strong bonds with their people, don't be surprised if yours decides to follow you around wherever you go.

2. They Stay Small

Full-grown ferrets usually weigh between 2 and 3 pounds, which is about the size of a kitten. So yes, these pets are small! You can carry your ferret around with you while you support them in your hands or against your chest, and they'll easily fit in any cat carrier.

3. They Have Big Personalities

Despite their tiny bodies, ferrets have enormous personalities. They're naturally curious and playful creatures that love to get into mischief. Plus, they have endless energy, so they never stop bouncing around. If you want a buddy that'll keep you constantly entertained, a ferret will do just that.

Fast Fact

Ferrets perform this silly jumping behavior people refer to as the "weasel war dance" when they get excited.

4. They Can Be Litter Box Trained

Goofiness aside, ferrets are also highly intelligent small pets. You can train them to do dozens of different things, including using a litter box. This is great because it means their cage will have one designated potty area, and you can let them roam around the house (after ferret-proofing it, of course) without having to deal with messes all over. The training process does take some time and patience, but it's well worth it.

5. They're Affectionate

Some small pets don't like cuddling, but not the ferret. Ferrets are very affectionate companions and will jump at the chance to curl up in your lap or in the crook of your arm when you're sleeping. A lot of ferret owners say their ferrets will give them kisses. How cute!

Ferret yawning in their person's hands.

6. They're Quiet

Worried about getting a pet that'll wake up the neighbors? That's not a concern with ferrets because these pets are really quiet. They make occasional chattering and chirping sounds, but they're not persistent and definitely nothing like a dog's bark.

7. They Live Longer Than Other Small Pets

Ferrets have an average lifespan of 5 to 9 years, but they can easily live to be 10 or 11 with the right care and genetics. That's a lot longer than most other small pets. For reference, Guinea pigs live around 6 years, and rats only reach 3 years, on average. With a ferret, you can enjoy even more quality time with your little pet.

8. They're Absolutely Adorable

Ferrets are some of the cutest pets out there. If your goal is to get a pet with an adorable face you can squish and caress, look no further than a charming ferret.

Two ferrets, in harnesses, out for a walk.

Challenges of Keeping Pet Ferrets

Even though they can be wonderful pets, there are a few things to consider before you bring home a ferret. Make sure you're OK with these things before committing to one. There are some cons to keeping ferrets as pets.

1. They Require a Lot of Attention

Ferrets are not easy to take care of and require a lot of attention. Because they're so high-energy and smart, you'll need to spend several hours each day interacting with your little ferret. That includes playtime outside of their cage, which will need to be supervised. Make sure you're ready for the time commitment of having one of these critters before you bring one home.

Fast Fact

Ferrets need at least two to three hours of playtime outside their cage every day, and many owners stretch that out to four hours, broken up throughout the day.

2. They Can Bite

Even though ferrets are really friendly pets, they can bite in some situations. If they feel threatened or aren't handled frequently, you could end up with a nip on your finger. For this reason, ferrets are not ideal pets for young children.

3. They Poop ... A LOT

Pet ferrets poop every few hours, so they produce a lot of waste. This is why litter box training is so handy. You can help control where your ferret poops so they're not going all over their cage and the house. That said, you'll need to be really diligent about cleaning their litter box to keep it tidy. Otherwise, they'll go elsewhere.

Fast Fact

Not only do they poop a lot, but ferrets also sleep a lot. They snooze for up to 18 hours each day.

4. They're Kind of Smelly

No, we're not talking about the smell of their feces. Ferrets have scent glands that make them naturally smell kind of musky. Most owners don't mind the scent, but if it bothers you, that could be a deal breaker.

5. They Need a Lot of Space

Even though they're tiny, ferrets need a ton of space. Their cage should be at least 3 feet by 2 feet in order to give them enough space. Keep in mind that, because you'll be letting your ferret out for several hours a day, they take up even more room in your house. Many ferret owners have play areas and things to climb on set up for their ferrets - and yes, they love to climb and explore.

Ferret having a good time.

6. They Get Into Everything

Ferret-proofing your house is super important because these little guys are escape artists. They climb through crevices, chew on electrical cords, and love to steal things. Be aware that if socks or trinkets have started to go missing, it's probably your ferret, and they've likely stashed these odds and ends in a special place.

7. They're Illegal in Some Areas

Unfortunately, ferrets are illegal to own in some places. California and Hawaii are two U.S. states that have completely outlawed ferrets, but several cities and counties have regulations about keeping ferrets, too. Make sure it's legal to own one where you live before you commit to this critter.

8. They Need an Exotic Vet

Most veterinarians specialize in dog and cat medicine and don't see small pets. Call around to local veterinary hospitals to see if they'll treat ferrets because some do have the knowledge and resources to see them. If not, you'll need to locate an exotic vet.

Weigh the Pros and Cons Before Getting a Ferret

Getting any pet is a big commitment, but ferrets are by no means easy pets to own. They need a lot of attention, interaction, and space to thrive. Not to mention, they have a very unique odor. But you'll be rewarded with an entertaining companion you can share endless kisses with. Make sure you weigh the pros and cons to decide if the ferret is a good fit for your lifestyle.

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Pet Ferrets: 16 Pros and Cons to Make the Best Decision for Your Family