Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Ferret Ownership: the debate and popular myths and misconceptions

So to start off with in this post I am going to discuss keeping ferrets as pets vs. banning them. Obviously I side with the first, keeping them as pets. Many people are under the impression that ferrets should not be pets and that they don't make suitable pets. I completely agree that ferrets are not suited for everybody, but they can make great pets. Not everyone believes this however, which is shown by the fact that they are actually illegal to have in some states and in other states you must have a special permit to own one.

Now, you may be wondering why on earth would ferrets be illegal? I am all for making ownership of certain "pets" illegal if they are: wild animals, dangerous (such as animals like tigers, chimpanzees, bears, etc) (I am not referring to any dog breeds, for some pit bulls may come to mind but I believe they are wonderful dogs, but I will talk about that in another post). And if the pet trade of a certain animal is threatening the wild population I understand the need for the pet trade of that animal to be prohibited.

However, I don't see any reason that owning a ferret should be illegal. Ferrets are not wild animals, they are not dangerous, and because they are not wild animals, there are no wild populations to be threatened.

This is off the topic, but it is getting very difficult to concentrate on this because I have a furry rabbit playing with my sweat shirt. That is one of his favorite things to do.

Anyway, back to the ferret topic:

Now you may be asking why ferrets are illegal in some states and considered to be unsuitable pets. The answer is myths and misconceptions. A lot of people are under the impression that ferrets are wild animals and that they will probably give you rabies.


Here's why: As I said before ferrets are NOT wild. There is no such thing as a wild ferret. Ferrets are domesticated animals and cannot survive in the wild. They have been this way for a very long time(I will not tell you how long because that would spoil my quiz!). At this point in the discussion I am going to point something out. The Northern Black-Footed Ferret is a wild animal. However, despite the name, they are not ferrets. They look like ferrets but they are actually only very very very distantly related. The closest wild animals to ferrets would be weasels and minks. So there are no wild ferrets. None.

And now for the next misconception. Yes under very very very rare conditions I suppose a ferret could possibly maybe get rabies and might by a very small chance give it to it's owner. But that would be the owner's fault. Any ferret owner should know that there is a rabies vaccine for ferrets. And even without a vaccine it would be incredibly rare for a pet ferret to get rabies. A pet ferret is fairly isolated as it lives in the house so it doesn't come into contact with wild animals and anything that could be carrying rabies. And when ferrets do get rabies they tend to die very quickly. So quickly that they don't really get a chance to spread it.

So, ferrets are not wild animals and they are not dangerous and common carriers for terrible diseases, but not enough people understand that.

Here are some more common ferret myths:

Ferrets are mean.
 No ferrets, are not, "mean". They do have a habit of nipping and sometimes biting when they are young, but it is almost always in play. I have never ever in my life ever met or heard of an aggressive ferret. And they can be taught bite inhibition just like dogs. (learning that nipping and biting is bad behavior).

Ferrets are evil.
I have heard a few people say that and heard that it is a fairly common thing said about ferrets. All I can say is, ferrets are not evil. I can't even think of how that myth got started.

that is all of the myths I can think of.

Here are some ferret truths.

Ferrets are playful (well most ferrets anyway)
They are typically friendly
They sleep a lot
They stink. (No matter how many people wish this was a myth, it is unfortunately a true fact.) However, it is not as bad as most people make it out to be. They will always have that ferret smell, but with a clean cage, regularly cleaned beds and blankets, and occasional baths, it is not too bad. Usually.
They are cute. Okay, this isn't a fact, it is my opinion, but I really think they are.
They are actually fairly clean and tidy. (as long as you provide a litter box and secure things to the cage) Out of all the pocket pet cages at the shelter, the ferrets are usually the quickest and easiest to clean.
They aren't for everybody. They just don't appeal to everyone. That's understandable. Everyone is different, I mean some people don't like dogs, but it doesn't mean that they don't make good pets.

Next topic: common myths and misconceptions about pit bulls.

Just a note, I am not trying to convince my mother to let me have a ferret with this post. I just love ferrets, so I like doing posts about them. I can't handle more pets than what I already have (and my betta fish who will hopefully be coming soon).

Update: another reason why ferrets are banned in states like California: it could be harmful to the native animals. Ferrets don't know how to function in the wild so even if one were turned loose, it probably wouldn't cause much harm and would probably die very quickly.
And I just thought that I would point out that there are only really two states that really ban ferrets (California and Hawaii) (others do have vaccination laws and other ownership laws, but I think those are fine) and it obviously isn't a big concern for the states which ban ferrets like California, because they obviously don't enforce it because it is actually estimated that their are more ferret owners in California than any other state. Just thought that was interesting.


  1. Interesting post! I'm not keen on ferrets because I was in the house of someone who had a ferret and I just didn't like the smell or the way it moved around the house. I'm a dog lover first and other pets (cats are okay) would just take away from my dog time. (I have a lot of grooming, training and exercising to do with ours.) I do love to see other critters - just not in my house.

    Some of the myths about ferrets are strange. People will believe anything without knowing the facts. Thanks for giving us those facts. (I'm sure your mom is reassured by your post.)

    -Still an Old Animal Lover

  2. That was very very very interesting.

    I'm glad you learn so much about ALL pets, not just the ones you own. I noticed someone at the shelter had commented on your volunteer spotlight that you help educate the staff with the information you learn about all of their animals. That's great!

    Love and hugs,