Should you adopt a ferret, buy one from a pet shop or buy one from a breeder?
That's a common question I get from new Ferret-World community members who are looking to get a new ferret companion. As someone who has tried all three options I would like to give you my advice on the pro's and cons of all three of these.
Below you will find a whole table dedicated to outlining the pro's and cons of when you are looking to adopt a ferret, buy one from a pet shop or looking at purchasing one from a breeder.
Personally, from my experience of having multiple ferrets as companions and running an international ferret website for around 10 years I now only adopt ferrets from shelters these days. Why? Because its easy, I know I'm getting a ferret that has been assessed, vet checked, desexed and vaccinated and well looked after by the shelter. I also have the satisfaction of knowing that I gave a ferret a second chance at life and a wonderful forever home.
If you too would like to adopt a ferret then look for your local ferret shelter or ferret welfare society. They should be able to help you out.
Now check out the pro's and con's I've put together below so you can be better informed and a more responsible ferret carer.
Find a ferret shelter near you:
ADOPT A FERRET
You feel good! -You're giving a fuzzbutt a second chance at life when you adopt a ferret.
Smart move - You don't encourage excessive breeding by backyard breeders who have absolutely no idea what they are doing. Adopt a ferret -its a smart move.
A large selection of ferrets - There are lots of ferrets to choose from (including babies in some cases) so you are more likely to find the ferret that suits your family perfectly.
Better behaved - When you adopt a ferret they generally are well handled, trained and less likely to bite. They have also been socialised with other ferrets and humans.
Behaviour assessed - when you adopt a ferret you have the peace of mind knowing that all ferrets that come through shelters are behaviour assessed. If a ferret is a hard case then the shelter will often keep them, train them and help the ferret get better before finding a suitable family for it.
You save money -When you adopt a ferret it will come already desexed, vet checked and vaccinated.
There is a return policy - when you adopt a ferret generally shelters allow you to bring it back at any time throughout its life if your situation is to change and you are no longer able to care for it.
Shelter owners really care for ferrets - people who run shelters are incredibly passionate about ferrets and their welfareand can give you very good advice on caring for your new family member
Shelters are not for profit - when you adopt a ferret you won't be sold to, you won't be given a ferret that is not suitable for you and your family and you won't be allowed to adopt a ferret if the shelter owner believes that you won't make a good ferret carer. The ferrets welfare comes first!
Will have contacts to the best ferret vets around the area - Good ferret vets a hard to come by. The ferret shelter you adopt your ferret from should be able to give you the contact details to the best ferret vets around (who they use themselves) which will help to put your mind at ease.
Shelters help educate you on proper ferret care - When you adopt a ferret the shelter staff will be more than willing to help educate you on proper ferret care because they want your ferret to be happy and healthy and for you to have a great ferret parent experience.
No health history - if a ferret is found abandoned then there will be no records of it health history available to you as a new owner. However, the shelter will have the ferret vet checked for you and will be completely transparent if a ferret suffers from any health complications. Most shelters ferrets are perfectly healthy though.
No idea of the linage the ferret comes from - generally there is no information on the ferrets parents and linage of the ferret which would be beneficial to know from a health perspective.
You may not get the ferret you want - Shelters will ask you a few personal questions about your lifestyle and current living situation and assess if you have the resources to look after a ferret properly. If they don't believe a ferret would be suitable for you at this point in time or if you chose a ferret that is better suited to a more advanced ferret owner then you will not get the ferret. This is a good thing because the ferrets welfare is the top priority.
Shelter's are not for profits and don't have money for the best quality food - so the chances are that when you adopt a ferret you will need to be wean it off shelter food and onto better quality food when you get him or her home.
BUY A FERRET FROM A PET STORE
You can get a baby ferret - generally you can get ferrets from about 8 weeks of age at pet shops (although some ferret owners believe that this is too soon to take a ferret away from its mother).
Convenience - You can buy all your ferret toys and supplies at the pet shop while purchasing your new baby at the same time.
In some countries pet shop ferrets come already desexed - if you live in the USA pet shops are required to sell already desexed ferrets. However, studies have shown a link between ferrets that are desexed too young (before 3 months of age) and the development of adrenal disease.
Pet shops are in it to make money - Just like with any pet shop animal, if the ferrets are not sold within a certain time frame then they are either sent to ferret shelters or destroyed. Some pet shops keep the ferrets until they are sold but that means that they are kept in the small display windows for far too long and can develop behavioural problems.
Pet shop staff generally have a very basic knowledge on ferrets (and sometimes their training is incorrect) - therefore they will not be able to give you the proper training/education required for you to have a healthy and happy ferret.
They do not come desexed - Everywhere else around the world apart from the U.S.A ferrets in pet shops are not desexed. Please ask the pet shop if the ferret you are looking to purchase has already been desexed or not.
Or they are desexed far too early - a ferret should be desexed at around 6 months of age (for females) and around 1 year (for males) - any sooner and it can lead to certain health conditions.
Ferrets are not vet checked or vaccinated - so you do not know if your ferret is healthy or not and you will need to fork out more money to have the ferret vet checked, vaccinated and desexed (if they are not already desexed).
No information on the lineage the ferret comes from or the health history of the parents - ferrets are already predisposed to getting a variety of diseases. So ideally, you would want to know if the parents of the your ferrets are healthy or not. This is not always possible to know though.
Ferrets in pet shops often come from commercial ferret breeding companies - unfortunately commercial ferret breeders see ferrets as a product that they can sell and make a profit from. So the quality of the ferrets being bred is not of the quality a really good breeder would have (because they are breeding for quantity, not quality). Its commonly agreed upon throughout the ferret community that ferrets from large commercial breeders tend to suffer from more health problems then those that come from a great, small scale breeder.
Are fed a poor quality diet - Even though pet shops have access to higher quality ferret foods they are often still fed a very poor quality diet...its all about the profit margins after all. So you will need to wean your ferret onto a better quality diet to avoid future health problems.
Not trained - baby ferrets, unlike older shelter ferrets, are not trained and can be very nippy with their sharp, needle-like teeth. So get ready for some painful nips and make sure you have lots of patience for your baby ferret.
Not handled as frequently - Pet shop ferrets don't get handled as frequently as shelter ferrets do, therefore they may not be well trained...thats something you will need to do when you take your ferret home!
No extended return policy - a good pet shop will have a 3 day cooling off period but they don't have a return policy if the ferret turns out to be not what you expected (which often is the case...that is why its vital you do your research before getting a ferret).
BUY A FERRET FROM A BREEDER
A high quality, good ferret breeder (they are extremely hard to come by) will:
Show you the parents of the ferret and know the health history - A credible breeder will have no hesitation to show you your baby's parents and give you information about the health history of the lineage.
Gives you papers along with your new ferret of the ferrets lineage and health history - your new ferret should come with papers and photographs on when it was born, who the parents are, any health problems the parents have had,
Will show you how all the ferrets are kept and will spend as much time with you to answer all your questions - their passion for ferrets will shine through. The cages will be clean, ferrets will be happy and healthy and well looked after and they will be highly educated on proper ferret husbandry and care.
Will find out as much information about you as possible - to make sure the ferret is going to a good home.
Has a 'Anytime-no-questions-asked' return policy - A good ferret breeder gets attached to their babies and never wants to see any of them end up abandoned or in ferret shelters.
Only breed healthy ferrets and try to strengthen the linage - they pride themselves on breeding only the best and healthiest ferrets around and go out of their way to ensure they only produce high quality offspring.
Will only wean the baby ferrets when they are ready (varies between breeders, usually from 8-12 weeks of age) - this means healthier and more mentally stable ferrets.
Handle all the baby ferrets on a regular basis - your new baby should come well behaved, trained and socialised.
High quality ferret breeders are very hard to come by - there are not many breeders out there that genuinely care for ferrets and are committed to improving the lineage of their ferrets to produce healthier ferrets.
Ferret breeders are not regulated - Because of this there is a MAJOR problem with 'back yard breeders' who either think it would be 'cute' to have babies and do not educate themselves on how to breed ferrets properly or they are just in it to make money therefore neglecting proper breeding practices, sanitation, often cause the animals significant harm and inbreed animals or breed sick animals which weakens the ferret line and costs ferret owners a lot of money in vet bills.
Most so called "ferret breeders" are back yard breeders - there is a massive problem with
It is very hard to find credible, high quality ferret breeders - I can literally count on one hand how many good ferret breeders I know of and I have been running a global ferret website for over 10 years...go figure.
They inbreed ferrets on a regular basis - this is a major problem and creates a much weaker line of ferrets and unhealthy, disease and problem predisposed ferrets.
They breed ferrets that are sick or predisposed to diseases - if they are in it for the money they won't care what type of ferrets they breed as long as you pay them.
Animal cruelty - Unfortunately a lot of back yard breeders are linked to a lot of cases of animal cruelty. So if you purchase one of their ferrets then you are encouraging them to continue their practices.
Babies are taken away too soon - I've known cases where baby ferrets have been taken away from their mothers before they even open their eyes (at around 3-4 weeks of age) and sold to people who do not know any better.
Why buy when you can adopt a ferret? - There are too many ferrets in shelters. So why buy a baby ferret when there are so many healthy, well trained ferrets already in shelters looking for forever homes?