“Human life is lit with animal life: we play cat’s cradle or have hair-brained ideas; we speak of badgering or out-foxing someone; to squirrel something away and to ferret it out.”~ Jay Griffiths
Did you know that ferrets and humans have enjoyed one another’s company for about 2,500 years? Over 2,000 years ago, people domesticated ferrets, which they used to hunt and chase rabbits and rodents out of their holes–hence, the expression “ferret out.”
Beginning in the last half of the 1800s, ferrets protected grain stores from rodents in the American West. If you fast-forward to the 1980s, ferrets became popular pets due to their adorable, curious, fun-loving natures.
So you’re interested in bringing home a ferret as a pet but unsure whether you should buy ferrets in pairs? The answer is that, yes, you should strongly consider buying two ferrets.
Although they are highly social animals, it’s possible for some ferrets to be happy on their own if their owners can provide them with enough attention and playtime. However, many of us won’t have sufficient time to spend with a pet ferret–due to our need to work every weekday, take care of our family, run errands, and so on.
Therefore, in most cases, it may be best to bring home a pair of ferrets. You can keep same-sex littermates or a male and female together. But in the latter case, it’s essential to have the male and female neutered to prevent unintended baby ferret litters.
Yes, ferrets crave companionship and will get lonely if they have nobody to socialize with for long stretches. So you’ll need to put aside sufficient time every day to play and connect with your ferret–particularly if you have just one ferret, as noted above.
Make “fun time” with your ferret a key part of your daily schedule. The more time you set aside to play and engage in activities with your ferret, the more your pet will bond with you.
Furthermore, ferrets are very smart and can even be trained. Keep them mentally stimulated to make them happy!
Even if you have more than one ferret, it’s still important to spend sufficient playtime with them every day. Keep your ferrets in a well-ventilated cage that is as large as possible, providing adequate space to walk and turn around easily, stretch, explore, and play.
If you have a pair of ferrets or more, you’ll often find them engaging in impromptu play, springing at each other, romping, and charging around the cage. In most cases, when they’re sleeping, they’ll also choose to snuggle together.
Although ferrets are social animals, bonding two ferrets can take time. In some cases, ferrets may bond in just days. But in others, this process may take weeks or even months. Rarely, a ferret may not want to socialize with other ferrets.
If you’ve had two ferrets who were companions, but one has passed away, definitely consider getting another ferret. Introducing a new ferret companion will be comforting since your ferret may be lonely, grieving, depressed, and unused to being alone.
If you have a ferret who has never had a ferret companion, bringing a new ferret home can ultimately lead to a beautiful friendship. But do not introduce them immediately. Keep your new ferret in a separate cage or another room for at least a week. In the interim, be sure to bring your new ferret to the vet to ensure a clean bill of health.
Because ferrets are typically territorial, introduce the two at a neutral location rather than in your original ferret’s territory. Introduce them to each other in another room of your house–one where your ferret has not entered, if possible. Because they will both be in an unknown territory, neither will feel that the other is trespassing.
When you first introduce your ferrets, they may completely ignore each other, begin to play, lightly fight–or even draw blood while fighting. If you see blood, stop the introduction and give them a break since one or both are experiencing stress. If they begin to fight when you re-introduce them, keep them together for only 10 to 15 minutes, separate them, and repeat the introduction every few hours.
During their initial introduction, if they begin to fight and you detect an odor such as waste yet do not smell blood, you can allow them to continue. If they bite at each other but there is no odor, recognize that they are probably simply playing and may not need to be separated.
If one of your ferrets will not stop biting and drawing blood, you can take several steps to help your ferrets gradually begin to bond. Try one option over a few days. It may eventually work, but if it doesn’t, try another approach for several more days. If that also isn’t effective, try the next method, and so on. Such options include the following:
- If one of the ferrets tends to bite the other at the same spot, use ferret treats as a helpful distraction. For example, put some salmon oil (a favorite ferret treat) on that spot. When the ferret approaches the new ferret for another bite, your ferret will smell the oil and begin to lick rather than bite.
- When your ferret bites the other, try acting like the ferret’s natural mother, gently picking up the ferret by the scruff of the neck, hissing, and even giving a light shake. (Be sure to be gentle.)
- If your ferret continues to be stubborn about biting, place the ferret into a time-out box for three minutes that you haven’t used for your ferrets before. (Don’t put your ferret in a cage since they may associate the cage with punishment rather than the ferret’s natural comfort zone.)
- Use a spray bottle with water to spray the ferrets whenever they begin to fight to surprise them out of fighting. Many ferrets do not like water, so this can be an effective method to stop their brawling and help to begin their bonding.
- In rare cases, two ferrets may not bond and hate each other. Should this occur, keep them in separate cages. At first, try letting them out of their cages at the same time. If they begin to fight, allow them to do so (of course, unless they start to get out of control). However, if they continue to fight every single time you let them out at the same time, you’ll need to take them out of their cages at different times.
The bottom line: In the overwhelming majority of cases, your ferrets will bond and become best buddies even if it takes months to do so. Just remember to be patient.
Many ferret owners who start with a single ferret and later bring home another ferret companion vow that they’ll never keep a single ferret again. Also, if your ferret is acting depressed and mourning the loss of a ferret companion, strongly consider bringing home another ferret to provide comfort and companionship.
Many owners also believe that their ferrets care much more deeply about their ferret companions than their human companions. The choice is up to you, but if you don’t have sufficient time to spend with your pet every day, your ferret will be grateful when you bring home a new, furry partner.