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European Polecat
(Mustela putorius)

Interview with Miisa & Pauli

1. Positives of polecats as pets?
They are extremely wise and clean animals. Of course all polecats have different personalities but on our experience, we'd say they are really social and a huge trust in human family members.

2. Negatives of polecats as pets?
They are stubborn. They've got really sharp teeth and they bite much worse and more often than ferrets.

3. Anecdotes/stories about your polecat pet?
We've had our polecat Rico for a year now. We bought him from a fur farm when he was 3 and half weeks old. Many funny things have happened over the past year, but maybe the funniest and most amazing story is this: We had been over our friends house for a weekend and our ferrets Remu and Rocky and Rico had been with us. When we arrived home, Rico ran straight from the hall to our bedroom (”clucking” all the way), where he kept his most precious toy, Winnie the Pooh. First he took Winnie to the litter box, and after a while he picked the bear up and put him to the food bowl to have some dinner... While doing all these things he looked very concerned. We were amazed!

4. Do they have scent glands or an offensive smell?
They have scent glands, but they hardly ever use them. They do smell, like all weasels, but when they are neutered/castrated the bad smell will be gone.

5. What is their average lifespan?
Around ten years. (8-12)

6. Do they enjoy interaction?
Yes, they absolutely demand interaction both with human and with familiar polecats & ferrets. Again, I must say that all animals have different personalities, this is only our experience!

7. What is their general personality, disposition, and attitude?
Positive things to say about polecats personality, etc is that they are smart and energetic animals. When living in a good home they bond to people much stronger than ferrets. They are playful like little kittens and they often like to play rather with human than ferrets though they would be living in the same house. Polecats are curious and love new experiences and they are easily trained to travel with you. A bit by bit you can train your polecat to be very social and to rely on you in new, a bit scary situations. Negative things to say is that they are very wise and persistent which isn't a good combination. When they want something, they'll do ANYTHING to get it and won't stop until they've got what they want. Polecats are very ”hardheaded” and at least our polecat Rico acts like he owns the whole world... If someone tells him NOT to do something, he turns into a little devil: starts to bite and hiss... We've learned to ask him very nicely, if he could possibly stop eating our shoes etc... But with the right attitude from our (human) side there won't be any big problems. Lots of sense of humor and patience is required with polecats.

8. Are they sweet and petable, or mischievous and playful?
All of those and much, much more! Polecats can also be very suprising!

9. How destructive are they for an average household?
They are not destructive if given enough allowed things to do, for example tunnels, toys and going out on a harness. Taking a shower is fun and easy to arrange!

10. Do they climb or tear up furniture?
When having a polecat, the house must be ”polecat proofed” just like ferret proofed! They don't climb usually, but it's a good idea to supervise them just like ferrets and minks. Better to be safe than sorry!

11. Are there any problems associated with their claws?
Never declaw a polecat! Trimming the nails isn't hard.

12. How messy are their droppings?
Polecats are extremely clean animals, our Rico never misses the litter box! And they seem to prefer a clean letterbox than a box with old poops.

13. Can they be litter box trained?
They'll get the idea of a letterbox very fast!

14. Can they be trained?
As we said earlier, they are very wise. If you've got enough patience you'll be able to train lots of things to your pet. Polecats also got a great memory.

15. How are they with other pets, larger and smaller?
In the wild polecats are total loners, but when kept as pets we'd say they are very social. Still, they are little beasts, so reactions with strange animals can not be predicted, so always be very careful. When you get your baby polecat very young, introduce your other pets to it quite early. It will learn easily to live with your dog/ferret/mink/skunk or cat if only your other pets will get along with it!

16. What size cage do they need?
Polecats should NOT be kept in a cage, they need lots of room. But sometimes it's best for their own safety that they are put in a cage. For example when you've got visitors who aren't used to small, fast and super curious animals... The cage should be as large as possible and of course, safe to the animal.

17. What do you feed them?
All ferret dry foods are suitable, we feed Rico with James Well beloved Ferret Complete and Vitakraft, daily food for ferrets.

18. What vaccinations/vet care do they require?
A polecat should receive Distemink (canine distemper) vaccination, rabies vaccination isn't a must, at least not in Finland. All polecats must be neutered or castrated. It is also best to contact a reputable wildlife vet and seek their advice.

19. At what age would it be best to get one?
A lot before their eyes open, at three weeks of age.

20. Other Consideration for owners of Polecats?
Polecats are not ”easy” pets, we consider them more like a way of life than pets. They bite hard and sometimes they can be quite nerve-wracking. Most of our days are full of joy and play, but sometimes... Polecat shouldn't be the first weasel pet. Ferrets are much more tame and ”easier”. At least in Finland, polecats costs a lot less than ferrets, but keeping them (feeding, vet, etc) costs as much as having a ferret. So don't buy a polecat ’cause it's ”cheaper”. And because polecats are not bred to be pets, their personality is often quite wild and they are always unanticipated at the end...

21. What kind of person should own these animals?
A person who has got experience of keeping ferrets and knows the ”ferret lifestyle”, polecat lifestyle is much like it, only a lot more rough!

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