Should you get a baby ferret or an adult?
By Stephanie Warzecha
A devilish ball of teeth and fluff. That is one very accurate way to describe a baby ferret. Obviously, they are also very cute. But that’s just their disguise, to draw you, sucker, in…for the needle-sharp, nippiest experience of your life. Don’t believe me? Ask an experienced ferret owner or ferret shelter manager. Most of them will say exactly the same things. Sure, baby ferrets can also be a whole lot of fun, but that fun should also come with a disclaimer stating that they have a boundless amount of energy, curiosity, and zest for life which will cause you to worry they will ingest something that could cause the dreaded intestinal blockage (which requires expensive surgery) and fight endlessly to keep them out of danger. Not to mention the teeth marks on your hands and toes!
Kits are cute and fun, but they are also a lot of hard and nippy work.
On the other hand, you have shelters full of wonderful adult ferrets that have already been assessed, handled, and socialized by shelter staff and vets. A lot of people are put off by shelter ferrets because they believe they may get sick quicker or that behaviorally, they may be inheriting other people’s problems. But shelter ferrets are no more or less predisposed to illness than their pet store or private breeder counterparts. And as for the ‘other peoples problems’ that shelter ferrets may come with, the ferret shelter owners generally get to know their ferrets really well and will let you know if there is anything you might need to work on with your new addition. At least with shelter ferrets, their personality and behavior have been assessed, while baby ferrets are a blank slate and you don’t really know what they will turn into.
I definitely understand the appeal of baby ferrets, but it’s important to understand what you may be getting yourself into with one. You will need a lot of time and patience and understanding, and there is also no guarantee that a baby ferret will bond with you more than a shelter ferret will.
Below I’ve listed a few more differences between the two that will hopefully empower you to make the right choice in regards to your next ferret.
- Baby ferrets can be very intense and a handful–nippy, mischievous, high in energy, still discovering the world. They can be very unpredictable, more destructive, and more likely to hurt themselves by accident.
- No guarantee that they won’t get sick. Genetics is a big problem in ferret breeding, especially amongst backyard breeders and large commercial breeders. There is no guarantee that a younger ferret won’t get sick.
- Not desexed and vaccinated OR desexed too early in life, which can lead to health problems in the future. Desexing and vaccination are additional expenses you need to consider with baby ferrets. Some large commercial ferret breeders desex and descent their ferrets around the age of 4-6 weeks, but research has shown a correlation between this practice and the development of diseases later in life.
- A benefit of a young ferret is that it can be a bit easier to start them off on a high-quality diet from the beginning. Some older ferrets can be a little harder to transition to a different diet, though it is not impossible.
Adult ferrets from a shelter
- Already nip trained. Adult ferrets generally have already been handled and socialized and don’t really have a need to bite anymore. There are those that might bite out of fear but generally, the shelter staff will let you know about any ferrets with special requirements or behavior problems and won’t let you adopt a ferret that is above your capabilities.
- Already assessed for health and behavior. Adult shelter ferrets can be perfectly matched to you as the shelter staff knows the ferrets’ individual personalities and traits.
- Desexed and vaccinated. Shelters generally have their ferrets desexed and vaccinated before they are released for adoption.
- You get access to a wealth of knowledge and experience from the ferret shelter owner. You can always ask them for advice on care, husbandry, and any other questions that might pop up for you in regards to your new addition.
This article originally appeared in Dook Dook Ferret Magazine (Issue 13). To receive 6 new Dook Dook Ferret Magazines per year + get access to other bonuses then join the Ferret-World Membership.