So I wanna get a ferret.
October 18, 2006 10:00 PM   Subscribe

So I wanna get a ferret. Am I making a mistake? Should I get a kitten instead?

I read the previous askMefi question about Ferrets as pets and got a broad range of experiences both positive and negative. But wanted to know of there were any other experences since then. Also: Some information on my current situation.

I live in a 800 square foot apartment, I like a clean home and I've lived with a cat before and know how to keep a litterbox clean enough to not have any cat smell in the place. I can handle the normal "aura" that a litterbox has around it with normal cleaning.
How does a ferret compare?
I can ferret proof the apartment and provide the ample supervision love, affection, vetbills, etc... but my main concern is smell, my apartment is carpeted for the most part, and while I can handle an occasional "oops" I don't want to have to clean up poop every day, or more often than once a week or so.

From what I understand the natural ambient smell of a ferret is okay as long as you clean the bedding and cage on a regular basis.

Will I need a litterbox in every corner of the room? Can I expect the ferret to run into the next room to use the box, or in order to use a box does the animal need to actually see a box nearby in order for the "i need you use a box" thought to cross it's brain.

Oh yea.. Breeder or petstore? Are males more affectionate than females? Thanks for your responces, most information I look up on the internet is written by people that are so "pro-ferret" that it comes across as more of a sales pitch than honest information.
posted by kzin602 to Pets & Animals (23 answers total)
Ferrets can be litter trained, but it will take more patience and effort than with any cat. I can't say as to how well they remember a litter box in other rooms, but they have both amazing intelligence and amazing lack of attention span.

Breeder, most definitely. Pet stores are fine for pet supplies, but I wouldn't trust one for an actual pet. The male I had was more affectionate than the female, but he was also far more excitable too.

Ferrets are amusing and fun, but they require lots of attention, rarely want to sit still and be pet for hours at a time like cats, and definitely require an owner who is as fun-loving as a ferret, but far more patient.

As for ambient smell, they definitely have a distinct scent. My ferrets were descented, but I still had to bathe them on a regular basis. They didn't mind as much as cats, but a soapy ferret is almost impossible to hold. If you get a ferret that has not been descented, be prepared for a few strong musky shots at times, especially before it feels comfortable in your house.

Good for you on doing the research necessary for a less-common pet. Ferrets are not for everybody, but they are wonderful pets for those who really are a good match.
posted by Saydur at 10:31 PM on October 18, 2006

Ferrets are a ton of work, and love getting into trouble, hiding in remote places and stealing things.

That's not to say they're not adorable and fun, but they're way more work to supervise than a cat.
posted by twiggy at 10:44 PM on October 18, 2006

A cat sounds like a more natural match for your situation, for the reasons described above. The people I've known with ferrets have not had odor-free apartments. (But of course, the causation could go either way on that.)

Is there something specific about ferrets that appeals to you, over getting a cat?
posted by LobsterMitten at 10:51 PM on October 18, 2006

Cat definitely. Especially with your username.
posted by Ironmouth at 11:07 PM on October 18, 2006

I knew some people with ferrets before they were banned here. They had two, descented, well looked after, large house, clean cages ... and the house smelled. It hit you as soon as the front door was opened and permeated the whole house. It wasn't a really bad smell or very strong, but it was fairly distinct. I've never noticed a cat smell like that, even in a small apartment.

I'm not sure that it's a deal breaker. The ferrets were cute as hell and had oodles of personality, and you don't notice the smell after a shortish while. The thing is, people coming into your house do notice the smell, at least at first, so it's up to you whether this is acceptable.
posted by shelleycat at 11:28 PM on October 18, 2006

Ferrets stink. You don't want to live with one. You especially don't want to become one of those people who get used to the stink and don't realize their place reeks of polecat.
posted by pracowity at 11:37 PM on October 18, 2006

Ferrets do indeed smell and tend to be much more apt to miss the litterbox when out of their cage. I rather like the smell of a ferret, but many people do not and it does permeate.

The other thing you should consider is ferrets tend to not live as long as cats. You get very attached to them and then they are sick and gone, while a cat should give you twice the lifespan, with any luck.
posted by Rubber Soul at 11:41 PM on October 18, 2006

posted by roomwithaview at 11:42 PM on October 18, 2006

As far as smell goes, I believe ferrets have strong musk scents and cats have a lesser amount (or almost nill).
posted by spacelux at 12:15 AM on October 19, 2006

Ferrets disgust me in the same way rats do. Its a deep red button that gets pushed. I know I am not the only one. So, get whatever you want, but I would bet more people will be disgusted by your ferret than by your cat, if that matters at all to you.

to the extent I would not go into your house if there was a ferret running around in it

And, ferrets do smell. There may be some mitigative remedies to this but every ferret I have ever met smells bad. Maybe some people don't smell them well, but to me, all the ones I've encountered (n > 8) smell bad.
posted by Rumple at 12:35 AM on October 19, 2006

re: the smell -- I lived in a house where someone had previously kept a ferret. Even after a year of no ferrets living there (and regular cleaning), the room it had lived in *reeked* of ferret. As others have said, it wasn't as noticeable after a little while, but when you came into the room from outside it was nasty. I think the carpet would have had to be removed for the scent to go away. That could be an especially big problem if you're renting and you lose your deposit over it.
posted by katemonster at 1:44 AM on October 19, 2006

Yes, ferrets do have a distinctive smell in their own right but Ive found its not very strong. The reason alot of people have smelly houses is because they dont clean the cage properly or enough, or their ferret is not properly litter box trained. Cause yes, pee on the carpet smells bad and doesnt go away. I would start with a young one and work with her/him alot to get it trained. Its absolutely possible and it makes a HUGE difference in the smell department.

Now that being said, I was a very proud owner of a ferret for several years and cannot wait until another situation presents itself and i can make a new friend out of a ferret. They are incredibly intelligent and curious and SO MUCH FUN! Your ferret should not bite as long as you get it young and treat the ferret with alot of love, ferrets bite because they are unhappy with something.

There is NO such thing as ferret proofing a house/apartment. Please, do your best at what you think is ferret proofing because it will eliminate alot of bad situations but your ferret will absolutely still find stuff to steal and trouble to get into. In my eyes thats half the fun.

I say try it, my ferret died of old age as it had belonged to a friend before me and I miss him very much, and Ive always been a cat person. (A side note, raising a kitten and a baby ferret today can make a great friendship but your kitten will be as mischevious as the ferret, do not bring an adult cat it.)

Make sure you have room for a very large cage with nice hammocks in it, you can make the bottom the litter box, as I have found that is the easiest way to get him familiar with it. Even if you let him run loose most of the time you dont want him loose when you arent home to supervise or when its bed time. He will love his home if their is a nice comfy hammock in it to sleep in.

Also try to go with a breeder, but if you know of a pet store that is family owned and the animals are well taken care of then you should be ok with that as well, I was looking at some healthy little ferrets at the local shop yesterday and they want someone to love them too.
posted by trishthedish at 5:57 AM on October 19, 2006

Having had both cats and a ferret, I vote strongly for kitten. Despite regular baths and careful cage cleaning, the ferret definitely had a scent. An unpleasant one. He was litterbox trained, but he still went to the bathroom in the corners waaaaay too frequently. And he *will* show up under your neighbor's bed/get stuck in your refrigerator/otherwise go missing. My ferret actually got out of my house one night, got in a guest's car, and showed up at their door several miles away a couple of days later.
posted by robinpME at 6:21 AM on October 19, 2006

If you're on the dating market, having a ferret will be a major turnoff to a number of potential partners.
posted by croutonsupafreak at 6:50 AM on October 19, 2006

As most have put, a ferret is more work than a kitten. However, much more fun (in a devious way).

If you're on the dating market, having a ferret will be a major turnoff to a number of potential partners.

And a major turn on to many others. I knew a guy who actually got dates because of his adorable ferret. You'd gain as much as you'd lose.
posted by justgary at 7:06 AM on October 19, 2006

Whew. I can say I am pretty experienced with ferrets after having owned 10 (at once) at one point in my life.

First off, in my experience, a ferret is not going to go to a different room to use the litter box when the nearest corner will suffice. If there happens to be a litterbox in the corner and the ferret decides hes not too lazy to get in it, rather than backing up into the corner that the box creates, then great.

Then comes the next problem. Ferrets do not cover their waste like cats. So, you will be cleaning out the box or at least covering it to stop the smell at least once a day... that is if you're lucky and it hits the box. Ferrets have a really short digestive tract, so you're basically cleaning up what went in, in about two hours. Even my very best litter trained fuzzies hit about 80% of the time. Others wouldn't use it if its already been used. It all depends on the individual ferret.

As for the smell, I bathed my ferrets far more often than you are supposed to (about twice a month) which probably didn't help my situation. They stop smelling like a ferret for about 10 minutes after the bath, then poof its back. Washing bedding often helps a ton. The smell I have had linger, is from where they sleep (which is usually avoided by washing bedding often).

Also remember that ferrets sleep a LOT. It's all or nothing with them. They run around like crazy asses one minute then the next they're out. When out of their cage they pretty much need to be supervised in any non ferret proof areas, but I've even had my share of accidents in ferret proofed areas.

In my experience, my males were always more affectionate.. but remember this is ferret affection we are talking about here.

A lot of the larger "farms" that supply ferrets to pet stores pretty much bang them out as fast as they can and alter them way too young. They are also more likely to get the diseases that plague the poor guys. Plus, there are many older ferrets in need of rescue out there :)

Don't get me wrong, I am pretty much pro ferret all the way, but the poop part of your thread screams "get a cat" to me :) If you have any other questions email is in profile.
posted by phox at 7:08 AM on October 19, 2006

As I said in the previous thread, about the only situation under which I'd have a ferret again would be if I had some sort of enclosed porch to keep them in. You can minimize, but not eliminate, the smell, and the 80% litter-trainable figure sounds about right to me. I loved my little guys, but it sounds like you should get a cat (as I eventually did).
posted by MrMoonPie at 7:45 AM on October 19, 2006

You said you read the previous questions, so I won't rehash my answer again. As for having carpet, I'd say that's a definite negative. Whatever mess the ferrets make (and they will), it's much easier to clean up on hardwood floors. My girlfriend and I lived in a carpeted apartment for a short time with the ferrets, and we had to do some serious scrubbing when we left. They also destroyed some sections by the doors, because they were determined to dig their way under.
posted by Gamblor at 8:58 AM on October 19, 2006

Ferrets are smelly and sneaky. Get a bunny! They are very easily litter-box trained and smell even less than cats.
posted by rmless at 11:01 AM on October 19, 2006

Ferrets are wonderful. I had two. These videos are all the evidience you'll ever need.
posted by JPowers at 4:56 PM on October 19, 2006

I've had ferrets for about ten years now, usually three at a time. I couldn't live without having ferrets around now. And they don't stink if you don't give them baths and just keep their bedding and cages very clean. Counteirntuitive to humans, but true.

However, given your thoughts about litterboxes, I would strongly advise you to get a kitten. An 80% hit rate on the litterboxes is about the best you can usually hope for - of our three, we have one who believes that the space right beside the litterbox is always the place to go, one who almost always goes to the box, and one who always uses the box except once or twice a day, when he goes to a spot right inside the front door (where you can't possibly put a litterbox). There's a lot of cleaning. And their health is always tricky and often depressing and expensive, too. If you have any doubts about ferrets and you would love your kitty - get a cat.

Check Ferret Central for more information in greater detail.
posted by dilettante at 5:24 PM on October 19, 2006

I don't know if your still reading responses to this, but for what its worth I would be very sure you want ferrets before you buy them. My brother and I each had a ferret when I was a teenager and we took care of them, but not enough. They get really, horribly smelly. Whenever I smell bleach, i think of my ferrets, and then i think of bleach mixed with ferret poop, and lets just say its very bad. We had to get give our ferrets away because we couldn't handle them. Sad but true, so be sure your ready for that kind of responsibilty.
posted by pwally at 5:45 PM on October 19, 2006

About the smell issue:

I don't know about everyone else's experience but I had four ferrets at one time. All female, all descented, and the smell was hardly noticable (per others comments not my own sense of their smell.)

I had two sets of all their bedding/cloth cage accessories and I washed them and swapped them out in the cage at least twice a week. The bedding absorbs their fur oils and begins to smell after a very short while. I also scooped the litterbox very frequently. As it has been noted they don't cover their waste.

Another key thing... don't over bathe them. I only gave mine a bath maybe twice a year if even that frequently. Frequent bathing -increases- the smell as their bodies work extra hard to produce more oil to recoat their skin and fur.

The bedding and the actual waste was the real smell. My ferrets didn't really smell like -anything- if you actually picked one up and sniffed the fur. No different than the smell of a cat if you sniffed the back of their neck. Dogs smell like dogs when you sniff their fur but cats and ferrets seem to have no scent.

Now as a side note... when I was a kid I worked in a pet store and we had a cage that had tons of boy ferrets in it and it -did- have a very very strong smell.
posted by JFitzpatrick at 8:58 PM on October 19, 2006

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