Where to Get a Ferret
By John Bradley
It’s a question I get a lot since creating this web site. Most ferrets are acquired from one of three sources. Typically ferrets are purchased from a pet store, from a ferret shelter, or from a private breeder.
I’m not sure about other counties, but in the US, most ferrets come from pet stores. Pet stores have the advantage that they are easy to find. Just look in the phone book. Most areas have at least one or two local pet stores that carry ferrets. All you need to do is show up and you can pick out the ferret you want. Since pet stores get their ferrets from large scale ferret farms, they can offer baby ferrets on a year round basis. Ferrets from pet stores are fixed and descented. Pet store ferrets generally run around $125 which is pretty cheap considering that you are getting a kit (baby ferret) that in the short term just requires shots. The spaying/neutering and descenting has been taken care of. Sometimes the little bigger ones (i.e. the ferret that has been in the store for a little while) will sell for a little less.
We now move on from pet stores to ferret shelters. This of course is what can and does unfortunately happen in real life. Impulse buyers, or people simply misinformed about what it takes to take care of a ferret, may end up taking their pet store purchase to a ferret shelter.
Ferret shelters are a great place to get a ferret for a number of reasons. First of all by getting a ferret from a shelter you are helping out some unfortunate little fuzzy that through no fault of it’s own is without a home. It’s always nice to know you are helping control the problem of unwanted pets by adopting one that is without a home.
Another good thing about shelters is that the people running the shelter have a lot of experience with ferrets and will be able to answer a prospective ferret owner’s questions. While most pet shops won’t take back a pet once purchased, most shelters will since the purpose of a shelter is to find a good home for the ferret.
If for any reason you are unsure about if a ferret is a good fit for your lifestyle I would really recommend seeing if there are any shelters in your area. Unfortunately, that’s one of the downsides of shelters. Not every place has them. You may also be disappointed if you are looking for a kit. While shelters do get kits from time to time, the majority of ferrets are a little older. For a new owner I definitely would not rule out, for example, a one year old ferret. While real young ones are cute, they do grow real fast to adult size (and their still cute… just bigger). Also the real young ones tend to be wild and a bit on the nippy side. With a little training and age they outgrow this quickly, but by getting a little older ferret you may be able to completely skip this step.
In terms of price, ferret shelters are the cheapest way to go. Many charge depending on age with the young ones being more expensive.
I really get a lot of mail from readers looking for private breeders. Unfortunately there are not a lot of them. In fact, it is typically much easier to find a ferret shelter than a breeder. Certain areas of the country seem to have number of them concentrated in one area where in other parts there aren’t any to be had. To find a local breeder I would first suggest checking the list of breeder links on the site. If none are listed there, check to see if there are any shelters in your area. They may know of a local breeder. Finally a call to your local veterinarian may lead you to a local breeder, especially if they specialize in exotic pets.
Ok, now that we’ve established how to find a private breeder you may ask what is the difference between breeder and pet store ferrets. Most pet store ferrets come from large ferret farms where thousands of ferrets are breed at a commercial scale. Ferrets bred this way don’t have the chance to interact with humans as they would in a private home. Another drawback of some commercial ferret farms is that while some are known as “pets only”, many sell to both the pet trade and for laboratory use. This can be a real turnoff for ferret enthusiasts given the nature and intelligence of these animals.
The knowledge that a ferret was brought up in a home environment is a real plus in this ferret owners eyes. It’s nice to know that the kits from a particular litter were able to stay together until they are purchased as a treasured pet by their new owner.
Many times the small breeders will specialize in certain colors. If you are looking for a show quality cinnamon ferret, a breeder is where you want to go. Which brings me to another point. Many small scale breeders show their ferrets at ferret shows and they breed their ferrets for certain qualities. Be prepared to shell out some extra bucks for that show quality cinnamon, but if that’s what you want, a breeder is the place to get it.
Blood lines are another reason to get a ferret from a breeder. Some breeders in the US specialize in ferrets that have European bloodlines. Diseases such as adrenal disease are much less common in Europe. By incorporating European stock into the breeder’s ferrets, it is hoped that healthier ferrets will result.
Most ferrets from breeders are much larger than ferrets from pet stores. This is especially true in male ferrets. This is due for two reasons. First, the bigger ferret is a characteristic that tends to be bred for. Secondly, ferrets purchased from breeders are not fixed. It is up to the owner to get this done. While not spaying females is not an option, waiting until they are six months old is a good idea. This lets their bodies to fully develop with the benefit of all the hormones they are supposed to have. As for the males, leaving them intact until they are nine months old really makes a difference. Waiting to fix a male ferret will result in a ferret that is much bigger and stockier than his pet store male counterpart. Male ferrets are supposed to be nearly twice the size of the females. Because pet store ferrets are fixed so early the size difference is not nearly are pronounced.
So there you have it, the three most common ways to acquire a ferret. But come to think of it there is a fourth way of acquiring a ferret. That’s when the ferret seems to be searching for a owner. I’ve gotten a number of e-mails from people that have found ferrets that had gotten away from their owners and were lucky to find someone to take them in.