By Rebecca Stout
“If only I had done things differently.” These are words we use too often in our lives. And hardly a ferret owner exists who hasn’t used them when thinking back to when they first invited ferrets into their lives. We asked ferret owners what they would do differently now that they’ve owned a ferret or ferrets. It turns out that most would change a lot of things.
1. Think About Flooring
A high number of ferret owners who responded to us wished they had prepared their homes better. Flooring is a common concern among ferret owners. Carpet should be avoided in common ferret areas if at all possible, because it is difficult to keep clean; ferrets can miss their litter boxes, and some do so quite often. In addition, some ferrets have a tendency to dig at carpeting around doorways and corners.
A great deal of ferret owners prefer laminate flooring while others prefer linoleum to prevent damage and enable easy clean up.
Lisa Daley, a long-time ferret owner and rescuer, uses linoleum because she experienced laminate floors warping over the years.
Carol Stocker from Facebook had another suggestion. “Lay down vinyl flooring in their ferret room,” she said. “I finally have my dream of having a whole ferret room — extra nice size bedroom — for the ones I foster for Five Points Ferret Refuge. I did get two horse mats and strips of the vinyl for the corners.” She added that she would lower her expectations for their potty habits and change her home. “And they are worth it!”
Christi Born replied on Facebook and suggested tile for a home, however she lives in an apartment with carpet throughout and cannot lay any down. She says she’d definitely get the house ready before bringing a ferret home — and that includes ferret-proofing.
“Put plastic down on the carpet where the doors are and all the corners and make it so they couldn’t get into the couches or box spring,” Born said. “I thought I was prepared, I thought people were exaggerating when they talked about them getting into everything. They weren’t.”
2. Get Into Ferret-Proofing
Many people found out too late that their home was not properly ferret-proofed before they brought their first ferret home, which resulted in damage to the home, escapes and worse — tragic accidents. So get on your hands and knees, and look around your home from a ferret’s perspective. Make sure all potential dangers are removed and possible getaways are closed off.
Marsha Durant Higginbotham, another respondent on Facebook, stressed the need for this. “Safety, safety, safety … for the ferret. They are so little and can easily be harmed if out of their enclosure.”
A great number of people wished they had started off with a ferret room by closing off a small area or designating a room of their home that is completely ferret-proofed. This allows ferrets to free-roam as much as possible safely and is incredibly convenient for ferret owners.
Ferret-proofing is a must, because ferrets can, and will, get into everything.
3. Buy That Bigger And Better Cage
How many times have we all wished we didn’t settle for second best and just paid for what we really wanted or needed to begin with? Not buying a cage that is appropriate and large enough to begin with is one of those things some ferret owners wished they had done differently. Not only did it create hardship, but they ended up buying a larger cage later on anyway.
Inez Gowsell, a ferret owner from British Columbia, Canada, sums up the advantages of starting out with a good cage and a prepared home.
“Get a bigger cage for the ferrets, preferably something that is easy for a person to clean,” Gowsell said. “The cage is for when I am sleeping or at other times when it is better to know exactly where they are. When I am not home, the ferrets can be out of the cage but confined to one room in the apartment. When I’m home and awake, they can free-roam. Ideally, I’d have a space with a room that I could turn into a ferret room and put all kinds of stimulating things in there for them.”
4. Prepare For Medical Emergencies
Speaking of finances, a good word of advice from experienced owners is to set up a savings account for your pets. I’ve neglected to do this, but I settled for a second option — a type of pet care credit card. Ferret health care can be costly. A savings account prevents undue financial and emotional hardship during trying times. A credit card set up specifically for your pets provides funds for emergencies, especially while your ferrets are in the care of someone else while you are away.
Reagan Early McGregor wrote about her experiences in her Facebook response. “The cost alone for treating adrenal disease in my 5-year-old ferret for one year, with blood test, adrenal panel, vet visit, and the Deslorelin implant, cost me around $1,200,” she said. “Your ferret will undoubtedly get hit with one of the awful common diseases, and the life-saving treatments are not cheap. Do your research and start with the proper nutrition at a young age to minimize health issues as they get older.”
5. Know The Food Options
A number of ferret owners who responded to us said that they wished they began with a different ferret food. Those that prefer a high-quality kibble made specifically for ferrets wish they hadn’t started off with a low-grade cat food. A great deal of other people wished they started out with a meat-based diet or a more natural raw diet.
“Definitely change the food,” said Lisa Ginkinger Silverstein on Facebook. “Knowing what I know now, I would have talked with someone who was well experienced with ferrets, and would have taken much of their advice!”
Not starting off on the optimal desired food is something that sometimes can’t be changed, because ferrets can imprint on food and then refuse to eat any other food.
Jazz Kellar from Facebook faces the consequences of not doing so, “I would feed a raw diet. My three ferrets I have now refused it, so I give them three different kibbles and baby chicken food as a treat so they get a variety.”
6. Enjoy Your Ferret Time
Don’t let your “if only” turn into true regret. Ferrets have a short life span. Sometimes the reality of this strikes owners too late. So spoil them and enjoy them every minute you can get.
Donna Weiss of Indiana currently has six ferrets. “I have often told people in the past that I would not have gotten that first ferret if I had realized how relatively short a ferret’s life expectancy is. I did a lot of pre-ownership research on care and feeding and ferret-proofing. Somehow, that short 7-year-average went right over my head.”
Ferret owner Kristina Brink is a board member and volunteer for Fox Valley Ferret Shelter. She said she would change her expectations quite a bit and go in knowing that ferrets can die younger than the reported average. This would have made her feel better about the ages of her ferrets when they passed.
“I wouldn’t carry the guilt and blame myself so much for their ‘early’ deaths,” Brink said. “… I would go in knowing that I could turn myself inside out to do everything perfect, and that the law of diminishing returns does kick in, so do not let perfect be the enemy of the good.”
Despite the heartaches, there seems to be absolutely no regret in becoming a ferret owner.
“Yes! I would do it again!” Weiss said. “I would get Gretchen again. That little albino bundle of fur — and all those who followed her including the ill and aged rescues — all retain a place in fond memories. The joy and love has been priceless, and I can’t visualize the emptiness of a life without them.”
In fact, many responses to the question took it a step further and said they wished they had known sooner how fun and wonderful ferrets are, so they would have gotten them sooner.
7. Never Stop Researching
The bottom line is research, which is something many ferret owners wished that had done more of. Doing that research can prevent most of your “if only I had done things differently” reactions so that your first introduction into the world of ferret ownership goes as smoothly, stress-free, and regret-free as possible.
Bon Temps Ferret Rescue reiterates this valuable advice. “Research and then do more research! Don’t be afraid to ask questions and make sure you are on other ferret groups and Facebook pages to learn all you can about these precious critters.”
See Rebecca Stout’s author bio, click here.