Friday, December 18, 2009

Where To Get A Ferret

Okay, so far I’ve written about what ferrets are (not rodents), how much they sleep (plenty) and how sensitive they are to heat (extremely). On today’s ferrety Friday (need I say that it’s the best day of the week), I’d like to write about where you can get a ferret. Because once you’ve done your homework on these fuzzy faces and you’re absolutely convinced beyond a shadow of a doubt that this is the right pet for you, the next step is to actually go and pick one up. But before you go and pick one up, you need to know where one can be picked up from.

“Well, duh, don’t you just go to the pet store?”

You can. But there are other options.

“Like what? The ferret factory?” [Snort]



There are four places where you can find a domesticated ferret:

1) Pet store
2) Shelter
3) Private breeder
4) Newspaper classifieds

Photo from SXC

Because writing information about all the locations in one post will prove to be quite long, I’ve decided to break it up into different posts. So today I will be concentrating only on the pet store. On the next 'Ferrety Friday', I will include information about adopting a ferret from a shelter, and, if it doesn’t take up too much space, I’ll include the private breeder and newspaper classifieds. Otherwise I’ll have to put together a third post.

“Hey, you didn’t include the ferret factory.”

Go away!

“Hmpf... You’ll miss me, you’ll see.”


The Pet Store

The first place that will come to mind when considering getting a domesticated ferret as a pet is – you guessed it – a pet shop. If this is where you’ve decided to go, there are a few things you should consider:

a) Choose a store with staff that is properly trained in day-to-day ferret care and reasonably familiar with a ferret’s emotional needs, quirky personality and unique behaviour. It’s important to deal with people that are able to answer all your questions and provide you with information that will help you better care for your newly-acquired pet.

Photo from SXC

b) Don’t assume for a second that large, chain pet stores are better than small, independent ones. A chain pet store may have a wider range of products available, but if the staff is unable to assist you in your purchases or is unqualified to answer your questions, more products for sale aren’t going to help you. The selection may be impressive but the assistance is poor.

(Example: Not too long ago, I visited a local chain pet store to inquire about a few things for Bailey (my daughter’s pet ferret, for those of you that don’t already know that). No one in the store was able to answer my questions about ferrets because no one in the store was familiar with them or their day-to-day needs, either through training or personal experience. The store was selling an assortment of products for ferrets, including food, toys, cages and vitamins, yet they couldn’t help with any of them. Basically, you were on your own.

On the other hand, the employees at the independent pet store where my daughter got Bailey from always chat up a storm when I make inquiries about ferrets and their care. Since their information coincides with the information I’ve gathered over the past year from magazines, books and online sources, it’s clear that they are well-versed when it comes to ferrets.

Now, one can argue that just because pet stores sell products for many different animals, doesn’t mean that they have to know something about all of them. I don’t agree with this. I think a big box store like WalMart that is a jack of all trades but master of none can get away with this because they don’t specialize in anything. They just sell stuff; lots of different stuff. You’re on your own at a place like this, which is expected. But a pet shop specializes in pets and pet products and, at least in my opinion, should be able to answer some (not necessarily all) questions about their products and the animals they pertain to. People go to these places primarily because of their expertise (at least I do). If no one in a pet store is able to assist you or answer any of your questions, you may as well just go to the big box store where a similar product may even be cheaper. Because if it’s just a point of picking something off a shelf and paying for it, why go to a specialty shop? And pay more money?)

[Stepping down from the soapbox...]

c) Make sure that the store you pick up your fuzzy from gives you a written health guarantee or health certificate. If they don’t, consider going elsewhere.

d) Visit each store more than once before making a final decision. Drop by at different times of the day (if possible) and speak to a few of the employees. Ask questions to determine whether anyone in the store has any reasonable knowledge of ferrets and their care requirements. Throw in a couple of trick questions and see what happens. Will the employee bluff their way through since they’ll believe you know nothing about ferrets, or will they try to point you in the right direction? One question you can ask is: “What types of vegetables should I feed my ferret?” If the employee at the pet store begins to make a list of veggies, head for the hills. Ferrets are strictly carnivores; they are unable to properly digest vegetables. Furthermore, a small piece of undigested vegetable matter can cause an intestinal blockage and put your pet’s life at risk.

If the employee answers (with horror in his/her eyes): “Ferrets are strictly carnivores. Their diet should consist of at least 36 percent animal protein. You should not feed them fruits or vegetables; it can cause illness and even death” then stick around. This is someone that obviously knows a little something about fuzzies.

e) Do not purchase a pet on your first visit to any store. Your initial visit (and perhaps second and third) should be to determine whether this is the right place to deal with. In addition to inspecting the animals in the store (all of them, not just the ferrets), you’ll want to walk around and inspect the store for cleanliness, product availability and orderliness.

f) Inspect the cage the ferrets are being kept in. Is it large enough for the fuzzies to move around in? Is everything reasonably clean? Water? Litter box? Bedding? Is there enough food? Is there any food?

g) Ask the employees in the store if the ferrets are ever taken out of their cage to play? Or if they’re ever taken out of their cage to be petted or held. Ferrets are inquisitive and very social; they need exercise and contact with humans to keep them healthy and happy. And although it’s unreasonable to expect the store to allow these little furballs to roam free (they’d disappear), setting up a playpen and placing them in it for an hour a day isn’t asking for too much. A happy, well-cared for ferret will make a happy, healthy pet.

All of the above points can be applied to any type of pet you are contemplating on bringing home. What you are searching for is a well-maintained store that employs staff that is reasonably-versed in the pets and pet products they are selling to the public.

And when it comes to choosing the right store for a ferret or ferret products, my advice is this: Do your homework; learn all you can about ferrets on your own and then begin to visit your local pet stores. The one that answers your questions confidently and as accurately as possible, is the one you should concentrate on. Remember, despite being similar to cats and dogs in many ways, ferrets are neither. They are different in many ways with their own set of unique needs.

And finally, let’s hear what Bailey has to say:

Shush’ll scare the readers!


  1. Awesome post, and I agree completely with big box pet stores - they are an abomination. These are living critters not vaccuums and require a certain degree of care that underpaid teenagers probably shouldn't provide.

    I'd go so far as to say most animals in box stores come from 'puppy mills' (insert your animal here) and are not the healthiest and most taken care of to begin with. Find a good breeder, a specialist or adopt from a shelter. (End rant).

    So... what does Bailey eat? Or is that a topic for another day? Or more to the point, what do they hunt in the wild?

  2. Hi Tatiana. I'm also not a big fan of big box pet stores. I have run into some employees that know a little something about the pets and products they're dealing with, but not often enough to impress me. Private breeders can be good choices if you find out that is a little ethical, not just in it for the money. And many poor little souls there that have been abandoned, and many times abused. It's sad.

    Bailey eats dry food that is specific to ferrets. You can feed domesticated ferrets high-protein kittne food, if you must, but I'd recommend sticking to food that's specific to this particular animal.

    In the wild they eat rodents and other small animals. I will write about all this eventually; it's a vast enough topic to fill up one or two posts.

  3. Can't wait - they're fascinating little creatures.