Ferret Friendly Facts and Advice by Erika Matulich, Ph.D.

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Adopting a Ferret!

Buddy, Shelter Adoption
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Dreaming of a Ferret? Consider Shelter Adoption

© Erika Matulich

If you're thinking of adding a ferret to your family, why not consider adopting an adult ferret from a shelter?

Sure, ferret kits are cute, but for first-time ferret owners, they can be a bit of a handful. They get into everything, they need litter-box training, and they may nip during play sessions. Plus, there are many homeless ferrets in shelters around the country just waiting to be adopted.

If you adopt a mature ferret from a shelter, you can take home a trained pet (with a fully developed personality) whose owner probably wasn't prepared for the responsibility of caring for a ferret. Mature ferrets may not be quite as hyperactive or mischievous as kits, but they're lots of fun and they have plenty of love to give.

Yes, I want a ferret!
If you're sure that a ferret is the right pet for you, a great way to get more information on adopting is by contacting a ferret club or a ferret shelter in your area. You can get a list of ferret shelters and rescue operations by writing to the national ferret organization STAR*Ferrets (Shelters That Adopt and Rescue Ferrets) at P.O. Box 1714, Springfield, Virginia 22151-0714. You can also find listings on the Ferret Central website.

One of the advantages of adopting a ferret from a shelter instead of buying one at a pet store is that shelter operators are often a great source of ferret information (and more ferrets, if you decide your pet needs a playmate). When you call a ferret shelter, be prepared to offer quite a bit of information about yourself. The shelter volunteer isn't being nosy, he or she just wants to make sure you know what you're getting into! The last thing a shelter operator wants is for an adopted ferret to be “returned” because the owner wasn't prepared.

During this conversation, schedule an appointment to visit the shelter. Plan to spend at least an hour there observing the ferrets and playing with them, and bring members of your family if they'll be involved with the ferret. While you're there, talk to the shelter operator about the ferrets' personalities. If you're interested in a particular ferret, ask about that ferret's vaccinations and medical evaluations. Learn as much as you can about the ferret's previous owner. Ask if that particular ferret has a playmate or is part of a “play group”; if so, consider adopting the pair or the group together.

At some shelters, the adoption process includes a home inspection. Again, don't think of this as an invasion of privacy. Instead, look at the visit as a great opportunity to get lots of information about ferret-proofing your house and caring for your new pet.

I once had a shelter operator bring a dozen ferrets to my home to see which ones would fit in with my other ferrets. Interestingly, the ferrets I had originally picked out at the shelter didn't work out, but several of the other ferrets she brought adapted immediately to my home and the existing members of my fuzzy crew. I was so glad I took this testing opportunity before making my final adoptions!

Home, sweet home
After you choose a ferret, read the adoption contract carefully before signing to make sure you know your responsibilities to the ferret and the shelter. Under the contract, you may be required to provide the shelter with regular updates on your adopted ferret.

One note about the adoption fees: Don't expect a bargain price because you didn't buy your ferret at a pet store. Ferret shelters need to pay for ferret food, cages, carriers, medical examinations, vaccinations, veterinary bills, medicines, litter, and ferret training; you'll absorb some of these expenditures when paying the adoption fee. This fee allows you to adopt a healthy ferret with a great personality!

Before you take your new ferret home, be sure you've equipped your house with the appropriate ferret cage, litter box, hammocks, food bowls, food, water bottles, toys, and grooming accessories. Also, be sure to set up a vet appointment. Shelter operators often administer distemper shots, but a veterinarian needs to give the rabies vaccination. If your pet hasn't yet been spayed or neutered, you'll need to schedule a vet appointment for this, as well.

Finally, when you come home with your new buddy, remember that he may not act the same way at your house as he did in the shelter. The adjustment period to a new home can be stressful for some ferrets (travel can be stressful, too!).

Give your new family member time to adjust—and lots of TLC—and he or she will repay you with joy, love, and uncountable opportunities for laughter!

Is a ferret the right pet for you?

Ferrets are intelligent animals who need lots of attention from their owners, so they can be challenging pets. If you're thinking about adding a ferret to your household, consider the following factors:

Commitment. Ferrets may live for 10 years. Are you ready to take on the long-term responsibility of caring for a playful bundle of energy?

Time. Ferrets will be unhappy and bored if you can't play with them for at least an hour each day. Without adequate interaction, these social creatures may become destructive or even physically ill. Can you spare at least a full hour each day for playtime? If not, you should consider adopting two ferrets who can be playmates, or none at all.

Finances. Because ferrets need special food and regular veterinary care, you may spend more money caring for a ferret than you would caring for a cat. Does this fit into your budget?

Your household. Are you ready to make sure your home is ferret-friendly? You'll need to ferret-proof all areas of your home, and you'll have to supervise any other pets whenever they're around a ferret. (Remember: Rodents, birds, and reptiles do not make good ferret buddies.)