How Long Do Pet Ferrets Live

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Ferrets are adorable little rodents, with their short tails and large ears. They’re also notoriously hardy they can go without water for up to two weeks at a time, eat trash, sleep in tight spaces, run around outside all day, climb on people, use tools on themselves (yes, really), and even help clean litter boxes. And as far as pets go, they don’t cost much money.


The average price tag for a pet ferret is $200 to $400 depending on whether they were rescued from a shelter or bought from a breeder. But just because they’re cheap doesn’t mean they’ll be easy keepers. Ferrets need lots of love and attention like any other pet does, but unlike dogs and cats, they require more than food, water, and affection.


They also need space to play, exercise, snuggle, hunt, hide, burrow, dig, groom themselves, catch bugs, get dirty, and pee on things. If you’re ready for your new best friend to join your family, consider these important questions before bringing home your first ferret.


What’s a Ferret?


Ferrets are small mammals that belong to the weasel family, along with polecats, stoats, mink, otters, ferrets, wolverines, and skunks. They’re native to Central and South America including Mexico, Brazil, Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, Argentina, and Chile. They’re not related to true rats and mice, which are found throughout North America. In fact, ferrets look so different from most rodents that some people mistake them for squirrels, rabbits, guinea pigs, or kangaroos.


Their size ranges between 4 and 11 inches (10.2 and 28 centimeters) tall and anywhere from 6 to 24 pounds (2.7 to 10 kilograms). Male ferrets weigh slightly less than female ones due to differences in fat distribution. As for coloration, males tend to be darker while females are usually lighter.

Both sexes have brown spots on their backs. Males have pink noses, red bellies, and black-tipped whiskers. Females may have white bellies and yellowish or cream colored whiskers.


While there are many types of ferrets, the only species that is commonly kept as a domestic pet is the European house mouse (“Mus musculus”). Other wild animals used for research include the African grass rat (“Arvicanthis dasytrichus”), the cane rodent (“Zyzomys palustris”), the swamp rat (“Oryzomyza hylobati”) and several species of shrews.


Many people aren’t aware that ferrets are actually predators, and therefore they need access to prey items such as insects, worms, and centipedes. Many shelters will accept donations of dead animals, however, so if you have no plans to eat your pet when he grows bigger, you can bring him home instead of buying one already purchased.


How Long Do Pet Ferrets Live?


As previously mentioned, ferrets are active creatures who thrive on interaction with their owners. To understand how long pet ferrets live, you must first realize that they don’t hibernate during cold weather months. The National Ferret Association recommends adopting a ferret that has been living indoors and is at least 8 weeks old, unless you plan to take care of an outdoor animal.


Your ferret needs a cage big enough for it to stretch out, play, turn around, stand upright, and lay down comfortably. It should also have plenty of hiding places where they can feel safe and secure. A wire top grate works well as long as the holes are larger than 1/4 inch (.6 cm) in diameter. An aquarium heater is recommended since they are sensitive to temperature changes.


You must also decide whether you want your ferret to stay indoor or outdoor. Outdoor ferrets tend to be calmer and more relaxed, but they need regular vet checkups and cannot be left alone for extended periods. They also have more accidents since they can get into anything. Indoor ferrets are easier to handle, but they often end up destroying everything in sight once they’ve broken free from their enclosures.


When choosing an enclosure, make sure it allows your ferret to move about easily. Otherwise, your ferret might chew its way through the bars or scratch away at the floor. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, though. Some ferret behavior comes from instinctual urges to escape captivity or relieve itself.


Once you’ve picked a good cage, you’ll need to buy bedding, toys, and treats. Bedding includes blankets, rugs, and towels. Treats are specially formulated for ferrets and come in various flavors, shapes, sizes, and textures. Make sure to pick something that appeals to both you and your ferret.


Toys should be durable, fun, interactive, and stimulate your pet by providing movement, sounds, scents, and touch. Consider getting a ball launcher or claw toy so your ferret can practice hunting its own prey. These toys also prevent boredom, allowing them to entertain themselves for hours on end.


Keep in mind that ferrets are small animals whose lifespans vary widely based on breed. For example, Siberian dwarf ferrets generally live longer lives than Russian standard dwarfs. On average, male ferrets live 5 to 7 years, whereas females typically survive 2 to 3 years. However, this is largely based on genetics rather than environment. Poor housing conditions, disease, malnutrition, abuse, lack of socialization, stress, and neglect can shorten your pet’s life.


Are There Any Diseases or Conditions That Can Affect Ferrets’ Lifespan?


If you’re thinking about adding a pet to your household, it’s always a good idea to learn about its health history. Unfortunately, many people don’t bother asking potential owners about their pets’ medical history.


Before you adopt a pet, find out if it’s ever had problems breathing, vomiting blood, diarrhea, jaundice, abscessed teeth, conjunctivitis, tumors, lumps on its body, skin disorders or infections, eye discharge, ear infection, kidney stones, respiratory issues, heart murmurs, or neurological diseases.


Most common illnesses affect domesticated ferrets. Ferrets have fleas, ticks, mites, ringworm, hookworms, roundworms, tapeworms, and other parasites. Flea infestation causes irritation, itching, hair loss, and sores. Ticks transmit lyme disease, which results in paralysis and death. Mites cause intense scratching and bald patches.


Ringworm can spread quickly and lead to blindness, deformities, weight loss, and death. Hookworms infect the intestines, causing severe pain, bloating, constipation, diarrhea, and intestinal blockages. Roundworms migrate to the lungs, leading to coughing, wheezing, difficulty breathing, and eventual pneumonia.


Tapeworm larvae develop into adult worms in the liver, brain, or lungs that produce eggs. Adult tapeworms grow to lengths up to 12 feet! Fortunately, these parasites are rare and can be treated effectively with medicine. Just like humans, ferrets get sick too. Certain illnesses can be passed among members of the same household, especially if everyone is exposed.


Viruses, bacteria, fungi, protozoa, and nematodes can trigger sickness symptoms. Illnesses caused by viruses include parainfluenza virus, canine distemper, adenoviridae, rhinotracheitis, hepatitis, measles, herpes simplex, mycoplasma, and rabies.


Viral encephalitides cause swelling around the brain, resulting in coma, seizures, tremors, hallucinations, muscle weakness, and ultimately death. Fungi can invade the body’s tissues and organs, triggering fever and flu-like symptoms. Tuberculosis is a bacterial infection that affects the lungs.


Parasitic diseases such as trypanosoma cruzi, leishmaniasis, schistosomiasis, toxocariasis, and hydrophobia are transmitted via infected saliva, urine, feces, milk, or bites. Finally, protozoan cysts can form inside the host’s digestive system, causing cramps, nausea, diarrhea, abdominal pain, weight loss, and eventually death.

It’s imperative that you discuss your lifestyle and habits with your veterinarian prior to adopting a pet. He or she can tell you if your lifestyle matches your pet’s needs, as well as recommend specific treatments and medications.