The average lifespan of a ferret is between 3 to 8 years. Wild ferrets live up to 4 years, while domesticated ferrets can benefit from a much longer lifespan, depending on how well you take care of them and their health. Genetic problems usually decide how long your ferret’s lifespan can be, but you can also prolong its life with proper care.
In this article, we’ll talk about what you can do to improve and prolong your pet ferret’s life. This way, your pet will be able to live as long as possible.
What is the lifespan of a ferret? Male vs Female
Generally, there isn’t a difference between male and female ferrets when it comes to their lifespans. Both of them live for as long as their health and environment allow them to live. Health issues, predators, accidents, food poisoning, and other deadly problems can happen to any ferret.
However, where ferrets live can play an important role. Wild ferrets almost never make it to 4-years old because of predators. On the other hand, domesticated ferrets have been recorded to live up to 12 years.
You should expect your ferret to live up to 8 years, but if you’re taking proper care of it and never miss a vet visit, your pet could live more than a decade as well. Make sure the vet you have is specialized in exotic animals as a dog and cat vet is not very familiar with all ferret-related diseases and problems. But in an emergency (like a broken leg), a normal vet is great as well.
One thing that might make a difference between the lifespan of a male and a female ferret is whether or not the female is neutered and has access to a male in heat. Female ferrets can die if they don’t mate during the breeding season when they are in heat. This is why domesticated ferrets almost always come neutered.
Do ferrets live longer in the wild or as pets?
In the wilderness, ferrets have much tougher lives. They need to always hunt as their bodies require numerous meals per day, and they need to avoid predators at the same time. More than that, the prey they catch can be sick, full of parasites, etc, and may cause them to become very sick and even die. Generally, wild ferrets live between 2 to 4 years.
If the ferrets are great hunters and there aren’t many predators around, then they might have a slightly longer life in the wild. However, if the area is full of ferret predators, such as owls, wolves, foxes, etc, and the ferret is not too great at hunting, it will rarely get to live more than 2 years. More than that, albinism is very dangerous to ferrets as they become easy to spot in a forest. This is why albino ferrets are very rare in the wilderness.
Pet ferrets have a much safer and enjoyable life. They never have to worry about predators and their food always comes at a specific hour. This allows them to live at least 6-8 years, and some can even live more than one decade. Pet ferrets can get sick from different causes as well, but the fact that you can easily take them to the vet can save their lives. Wild ferrets don’t have that luxury.
The quality of the food in the wild can vary and some ferrets can go for months without getting all the necessary nutrients for their bodies. If they can’t catch enough prey, their health can take a hit. But pet ferrets get to enjoy special food that is carefully designed for all of their needs without any risks.
How do you make sure they live a long and happy life?
Many owners give their pets the absolute minimum that keeps them alive. However, you should always try to make sure your pet is thriving, not just surviving. This might require you to be a bit extra careful when taking care of your little ball of fur. There are things that seem small and insignificant to you but are actually very important in keeping your ferrets happy and healthy.
Ferrets are creatures that live in groups (a group of ferrets is called a “Business”), and they can very easily get depressed if they are kept on their own. Even if you have all the time in the world to spend with your pet, you should keep in mind that ferrets form much deeper bonds with each other. They can get to really like you, but they need that close bond to be truly happy.
Diet is another thing that is very important for every single ferret. They have a very fast metabolism and they need food that is easy to digest and lots of fresh and clean water. You should always be aware of the ferret food you can purchase around you and keep an eye on brands that might recall some of their products.
As you may have noticed already, ferrets sleep a lot. But those few hours when they are awake can feel like an eternity. This is because they can be hyperactive and can easily turn your whole house upside down in just 15 minutes, especially if they’re a group. They need the space to exercise as much as they need without the risk of injury.
Vet visits are always a must. And if your ferret seems fine but you haven’t been to the vet in a few good months, you might want to schedule a check-up just in case. It’s much better to find problems while they’re in the earliest stages than too late. A 10-minute checkup every 6 months or so can keep your ferret happy and healthy for a very long time.
The perfect diet for a healthy ferret. And are supplements needed?
The ferrets you can purchase today as pets have been domesticated for a very long time. However, their diet is still the same as their ancestors or wild cousins. This means they are obligate carnivores and they require whole prey to lead a healthy life. Their bodies are made to digest the entire prey. This includes the meat, skin, bones, fur, feathers, stomach contents, etc.
And while they can digest the contents of an herbivore animal, this doesn’t mean that they should be fed any plant matter. Their bodies cannot process veggies and fruits. This is also why dog food is always off the limits for them and you should be very careful about what type of cat food you’re feeding them in an emergency. Kitten food is approved but adult cat food contains less protein.
A healthy diet for a ferret needs to be low in carbohydrates and fiber, while also being high in protein and fat. Their bodies work fast and they need food that is easy to digest. Otherwise, their bodies simply don’t have the necessary time to absorb all the needed nutrients. This is also why they eat numerous meals each day.
Supplements are welcomed in a ferret’s diet as long as they are vet-approved. Sometimes, it can be hard to offer a good diet to your pet. Supplements can help ensure that your ball of fur is always healthy and won’t suffer from any deficiencies.
How much exercise does a ferret need, and how to give it to them?
Ferrets definitely love their sleep. But when they are awake, they are fully determined to make up for all the lost exercise. This is when they become very energetic and they absolutely need to be left out of their cage. They are not the type of animals that can be fine with a large cage. If they are not let out at least 3 hours a day, they can become extremely destructive and start turning the cage upside down.
A ferret needs between 2 to 4 hours of intense exercise each day. If they are two or more, this will be very easy as they love chasing one another and getting into fights. And this is not something you should be worried about. They fight very seriously but that’s their way of establishing dominance. But stop them if you see them ganging up on one ferret or if one of them screams in pain and runs away scared.
Toys are a must when having ferrets, especially if you value the room you’re letting them play in. You can purchase ferret toys or you can make them at home. Just make sure the toys won’t harm the ferret and that they’re not made from materials that are easy to choke on. They love chewing so don’t bother investing in expensive toys. Tubes are ideal as they are natural burrowers and they enjoy tight spaces.
Does a ferret do better when it has a partner?
Ideally, ferrets should always be kept in pairs of businesses. But if you stay at home 80% of the time and you think you will continue to do so throughout the ferret’s life, then you can keep a single ferret as well. However, you should give your pet constant care and attention. And if you work from home, it’s ideal to have its cage inside your office, so you can keep an eye on it.
But if you can’t play at least 4 hours a day with your ferret, then you should 100% consider a partner. Ferrets form very strong bonds with each other, much stronger than the one between them and you. This doesn’t mean that your ferret will stop playing with you. In fact, you’ll sometimes get a whole group of ferrets running towards you to get as much attention as possible. But they also need a partner or group that is always with them.
Ferrets can suffer from separation anxiety and they can die if they are abandoned. But if they have a partner, they are capable of adapting to a new home a bit easier. You need to be able to offer a lot of attention to your ferret every single day. If you cannot guarantee that, then you should look for a partner or another pet.
Ferret-proofing your home & avoiding accidents
The real fun begins before you even get your ferret home. You will have to take a day or two and ferret-proof every single room your ferret will be allowed into. These creatures are very well-known for their mischievous nature and you can expect them to cause quite a bit of trouble. This is why they are perfect for people that never want to have a dull moment in their house ever again.
Ferrets love squeezing through tight spaces, stealing anything they can carry, climb on every closet in your home, make a bed out of your clothes drawers, etc. Make sure that they won’t be able to even dig in a house plant. As there’s a big chance they won’t stop just there. You might find pieces of the pot everywhere and they can get hurt. Lots of owners seem to have a problem with their ferrets making their way into the kitchen and covering themselves in flour.
Other dangers can include getting crushed by something heavy falling, getting poisoned from expired trash, getting hurt from falling from a very high shelf, etc. It might take some time, but ferret-proofing your home is very important. And make sure you have extra ferret-proofing items around for when your ferret starts exploring your house. There’s a very big chance they’ll still find a way around most of your barriers.
Regular visits to the veterinarian
Taking your ferret to the vet is very important. But first of all, find a vet that is specialized in exotic pets. If you live in a secluded area, you might have to drive to another town or city to find one. If that’s not possible, then look into getting a cat or dog. A regular vet is not recommended for exotic pets as they are not trained for treating them. But they are excellent in case of an emergency.
Annual visits to the vet are a must. And if your ferret is not the healthiest around, you might want to go with it to the vet around twice a year. After the age of three, frequent vet visits become more and more important as this is when a lot of health issues tend to happen. It’s always better to be able to prevent the situation than to struggle to cure something very painful.
Complete body checkups and geriatric work-ups are very important. This will let you know if your ferret has a problem very easily. These checkups include blood tests, X-rays, urinalysis, EKG, etc. And if your ferret is quite healthy and happy, one vet visit a year is more than your pet needs. But make sure to never skip it no matter how healthy the pet looks.