Thinking of Giving Away Your Ferret?
Is it really necessary to give up your pet? Here are a number of common situations that, with patience, compromise, and a little effort, can often be resolved.
Age & Health
It’s important to consider the age of your ferret. We find the average lifespan of a ferret is 5 to 6 years. At 4, we consider a ferret elderly. For an elderly animal, it is VERY stressful to lose their home. Sadly, when we accept older animals, we sometimes lose them within weeks due to the stress, common stress-induced viruses that pass among animals, or being housed with young animals that may harass them.
Older animals come with a high risk of developing a health issue, if they don’t have one already. Few people will adopt one. While FACT does not euthanize animals due to age or treatable illness and attempts to find permanent foster homes, our resources are limited and we ALWAYS have more animals needing foster care than we have caretakers.
Many illnesses can be managed at low-cost; please read our health section for both discussions of specific diseases and tips for managing veterinary expenses. If your ferret is both elderly and seriously ill, the kindest step may be to have them put to sleep in consultation with your veterinarian.
Elderly ferrets ask for very little time from their owners. Many are happy to spend time in a limited space and are unlikely to get into trouble – you may be easily able to block off a small area so they are not continually caged.
Problems with the Ferret
If the ferret has a behavioral issue, we may be able to help. Biting or poor potty habits can be improved! Visit Living With Ferrets on our website to read more about dealing with behavior problems. ANY behavior problem will get better as long as you use positive reinforcement, patience, and consistency. If your specific problem is not covered, contact us and we will try to assist.
Almost always, ferrets are given up due to changes in people’s lives. Some issues are not easily fixed – an owner’s death, immediate eviction/foreclosure, hospitalization or serious medical problem. However, many less overwhelming problems have potential solutions.
- Find an apartment that accepts ferrets BEFORE you sign the lease! Not all landlords accept pets and “sneaking them in” puts your home and your pets at continual risk. But many apartments accept animals, especially small, caged ones. Some may require an extra security deposit. You may also have better luck working with a small-scale landlord; good tenants are hard to find and even if their ad states “no pets,” if they like you, they may make an exception. Be sure to let them know that someone who is a responsible, caring pet owner is usually a responsible tenant, too!
- A current landlord cannot just change their pet policy without notice! If your lease is not up for renewal, you cannot be evicted if you have a pet that was already accepted either formally or informally. The most important cause of eviction is nonpayment of rent. Even then, you can appeal to a housing court and often gain leniency for a month or more. It costs landlords money to evict; try to work with them and keep your payment current.
- Ferrets are legal in all states except California, Hawaii, and the territory of Puerto Rico. There are also some cities that ban ferrets. Enforcement of such regulations varies. Moving to another state should not mean you have to give up your animal. But it will require planning to find housing that will accept pets. A nationwide directory of resource for pet friendly housing can be found on the Animal Humane Society website.
- Public housing is subject to federal Fair Housing Act regulations. To find if a housing unit is covered by this act, visit the US Department of Housing & Urban Development website. An excellent article on Fair Housing laws and negotiating with a landlord is available on the Animal Sheltering website.
When looking for housing options, we suggest you also search for Pet Friendly Apartments – Connecticut (or the name of the state you are researching) using google or your favorite search engine. Vary the term “apartments” to “rentals” and try different search engines as the results will sometimes vary. Also be sure to try Craigslist and, of course, your local newspapers.
True allergies to ferrets are relatively rare. Ferrets do not constantly shed like a cat or dog, so lots of dander is not released into the air. Normally only direct contact with a ferret will cause an allergic reaction. Make sure the animal does not live in the bedroom of the allergic person and don’t use cedar chips as bedding or litter, as they often aggravate the problem. Allergies can “build” depending on other allergens in the home. Don’t assume the ferret (or cat or dog!) are the cause of reactions. Some doctors simply tell you “get rid of the pet” rather than have you go through a more strenuous campaign of removing wall to wall carpeting, drapes, or fabric covered furniture. HEPA filters or dander-reducing shampoos for animals may also help.
People can survive financial downturns without giving up their pets. Sometimes it’s a matter of rearranging your priorities. Ferrets are not very expensive to maintain as they eat far less than a dog or cat. Don’t listen to people who imply it’s inhumane to feed “only the best” ferret food. It’s far more inhumane to abandon an animal. While not the first choice, ferrets can and have lived long lives on inexpensive cat kibble if that’s what will keep the animal in its home.
Veterinary costs can be managed, also. This site has information under Health on what to to watch for and identify illness early. Preparation can be key in caring for your pet. The important thing is to not wait until the ferret is desperately ill before treatment. You can also work with many vets to try to make payment arrangements. This is especially true if you already have a working relationship with a vet BEFOREand accident of illness strikes.
Ferrets do NOT carry toxoplasmosis, which is a virus found in cat feces. Pregnant women can change a ferret’s litterbox safely.
Problems with Other People
Sometimes the “problem” with your ferret is actually a conflict with someone you live with. Is this a permanent or temporary situation? If temporary, perhaps you can compromise by limiting the ferret’s activities to one room. You might consider temporary foster care or boarding your pet. Maybe you need to upgrade your pet housekeeping. It’s unfair to ask anyone – including the ferret – to live with a stinky cage. Cages and bedding that are regularly cleaned and sanitized will not have strong odors.
If you are moving in with someone who refuses to accept an animal you love, please think hard about your choice! If your boy/girlfriend was aware of your pet before you got serious they should be able to accept you and your pet. You are a package; like having a child. There is something to the saying “Love me, love my dog!”
This is a common complaint. We live in a hectic, busy world. Ferrets, fortunately, do not make huge time demands and, as they age, require even less time as their activity level decreases. Perhaps your time crunch is temporary and “this too shall pass.” Consider ways to reduce their maintenance and perhaps you can free up some time to spend together.
First, will the time crunch be longterm? A good rule of thumb is to think about what will last longer, the situation or the pet? Few situations last forever and remember that one of the reasons people keep pets is to ease the stresses of life.
Consider some of these options:
- Can you change their living space? Cages can be time consuming to keep clean. Get a playpen or block off a small room so they get enough time free – you may be able to cut the cage altogether. A ferret-safe playpen costs about $50 and room barriers can be built from very inexpensive wood or masonite and installed with a couple screws in the door frame. (Cheapest is closing the room door, but it lack of airflow might worsen odors.)
- You do not have to actively entertain your ferret while they are out. Toys, tubes, and space to roam will provide mental & physical stimulation. If you add a few minutes of interactive playtime with a toy, they will be perfectly happy. Ferrets play for a while then go back to sleep. Schedule playtime while you watch a favorite TV show and you’re using your limited time effectively.
- If you have an “only ferret,” a companion ferret may keep them from demanding your full attention. They will play with each other and two ferrets are not much more work than one.
If we can offer any additional support in your effort to keep your pets, please contact us.