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Facts & Info
DISCLAIMER: I am not a vet, a breeder, or anything other than a ferret enthusiast! I've provided this information based on written & electronic references, and personal experience. It is not intended to be expert advice. For any medical concerns, please contact a vet!
Info Index
Is that a squirrel?
Page 1: Preparation, Needs

Page 2
: Behavior, Training

Page 3
: Medical Concerns
I can't tell you how many times I heard this when walking Sculley, Buster and Baby. The domesticated ferret is a relative of the weasel, and is not a rodent. In fact, ferrets eat rodents - take a look at a ferret's fangs sometimes, you'll see what I mean! Their taxonomic name is Mustela furo. In the same family are otters, weasels, minks, wolverines, and polecats. The domesticated ferret is believed to have descended from the European polecat, making that their closest relative.
Despite the name similarity, the Black-Footed ferret (Mustela nigripes) is not the same as the pet ferret - and if it is, the Department of Wildlife will want to have a word with you. BFF's are highly endangered, and are not available as pets.
The Mustela furo was probably domesticated as far back as the
Roman Empire. They have been used in Europe as hunting animals for hundreds of years, as well as companion pets.
Pics of Domestic and Black-Footed ferrets
A male ferret is a hob, a female is a jill; and a group of ferrets is a business. A baby ferret is called a kit (see picture), and they are usually considered juveniles until around 6 months of age. Most ferret people stop calling them kits once they're about 4 months old, give or take.
The most common fur markings for a ferret are those of a sable. They are medium brown, with darker color on the legs and tail, with a dark mask across the eyes. A number of other markings are common, too - click here for pictures of a sampling of markings.
First things first: Getting a ferret
There are four places to get ferrets: from a breeder, from a pet store, at a shelter/rescue, and from a friend or other owner. My first instinct is to advise getting a shelter ferret - these guys have been given up for some reason, and have often been abused or neglected by their former owner. A kit at a store will almost always be taken home; a neglected, unwanted older ferret isn't often as lucky.
That said, there are other considerations. For a first-time ferret owner, a ferret without a "history" tends to be the better option. This is because a ferret with behavior problems or a history of abuse really needs an experienced ferret person to help them adjust to a new life.
If you
already own & know ferrets, getting a shelter ferret or a ferret from another owner can be a good option. However, an adult ferret will have an established personality & disposition, so you will need to monitor existing and new ferrets together and make sure they can happily cohabitate (more on this later).
Ferrets from a pet store are usually $100-$150; from a breeder, they can get more expensive since they often supply "specialty" requests (angoras, rare color markings, specific gene lines). At a shelter, ferrets are often adopted for anywhere between $50 and $150; and they often are adopted out in pairs if two ferrets have lived together all their lives.
But before you get the ferret, you gotta have the
Scooter the kit
Photo courtesy of Stacey at the
Ferret Pad
Toys & Hammocks & Treats - oh my!
Ferrets are not ascetic animals - they need a lot of stuff. Before anyone brings a ferret home, they're going to need a set of essentials. This can run an owner anywhere from at least $200 to over $400, depending on how extravagant one gets. Here's a list of some of the things needed to make an adequate "ferret kit" (no pun intended).
O A Cage - preferably two stories, with enough room for separate sleeping, feeding, and litter areas

O Ferret food, un-tippable water dish or bottle

Multiple litter boxes; dust free, perfume free, non-clumping litter

O Hammocks or sleep sacks - some extra bedding like old sweatshirts is also a good idea to strew around the cage

Collar with bell and a leash - if you plan to walk the ferret outdoors
O Petromalt, or similar feline laxative/ hairball treatment

Bitter Apple spray - to help in bite training

Nail clippers - the small ones for cats, with the cut guard, are good.

O The rest: toys (ferretproofed), Linatone or Ferretone, ferret-approved treats, more toys, ferret shampoo (liquid or powder) if you want to bathe them, did I mention toys?, a cat carrier for transportation, a ferret book (I recommend Mary Shefferman's), a ferret-knowledgeable vet, and oh yes, a few toys.
It would take a good chunk of my adult life to argue the merits and demerits of all the available ferret products. If you need more detail, please consult Ferret Central's FAQ; and look at The Ferret Store's food comparison chart. Or email me and I'll play advice dispenser.

So you've got the weasel and you've got the stuff. Now where are your shoes? Go to
the next section to find out...