9 Reasons Ferrets Are High Maintenance Pets

Pet ownership has increased in recent years, with 76% of US homes owning at least one pet as of 2022. With many people exploring their options, maybe you’re looking at exotic pets, and are wondering if ferrets are high maintenance?

Their reputation definitely suggests this to be the case, which can be disheartening for new owners. You may not have the time to dedicate 24/7 care to an animal but owning a ferret is your dream. We can empathize.

Ferrets are high maintenance, proved by this ferret hiding in the jean jacket of his owner

At Small Pet Support, we believe in honesty when it comes to pet ownership. We will not lie to you, which is why this guide provides a no-nonsense guide to how high-maintenance ferrets are.

We will also discuss potential measures you can take to make your ferret less high maintenance, and signs to look out for.

Are Ferrets High Maintenance Pets?

Despite their limited lifespan and small stature, ferrets are extremely high-maintenance pets. They require as much care and attention as larger pets, like cats and dogs, and can be incredibly expensive. They require lots of care and attention to raise a tame ferret who isn’t at risk of damaging local ecosystems, so they aren’t the best option for everyone.

9 Reasons Why Ferrets Are High Maintenance Pets

Ferrets are high maintenance, but you might not understand what that means. Here are 9 different reasons ferrets might not be as easy to look after as you originally thought.

Illnesses Aren’t Always Obvious

Even the most well-trained exotic vets can struggle to identify and diagnose your ferret’s illness in a timely manner. Often, precious time is taken away from potential treatments to fully understand what the vet is dealing with.

This can make owning ferrets incredibly expensive, especially as they get older. They may opt for more serious investigations like x-rays and surgery far earlier than they would in other animals.

You can learn when your ferret is feeling unwell by keeping a close eye on them. If they start to show untamed behaviors, like biting or acting out of character, it may be an earlier sign of more serious problems going on.

By taking them to the vets as soon as you notice these behaviors, you have more of a chance of catching an illness before it becomes serious. Like humans, early intervention in ferrets is key.


Ferrets are small animals, but incredibly quick, and have a habit of getting under people’s feet. Whether yours or someone else’s, stepping on a ferret can cause serious injuries, so you must keep an eye on them at all times.

This is even more important if you take your ferret on walks, as other people won’t be looking out for a ferret in the grass like you know to.

Ferrets bred specifically for hunting purposes are also at an increased risk for injuries, like scratches and abscesses. This is because some of their prey, like rats, will not give in without a fight. Although the ferret will ultimately succeed, it could cause difficult injuries to handle.

If your ferret does experience a serious injury, like breaking a bone, recovery times can be extensive. Having to rest when they are used to being active may also be difficult for them.

Taming Takes Time

Some people think ferrets can be tamed overnight, but this isn’t necessarily the case. Moreso, when ferrets have new owners, the taming process starts over again as ferrets learn to trust their new go-to human.

When you first get your ferret(s), you will need to spend hours building your bond and a general trusting relationship. Only once this has been established can you begin taming untamed behaviors.

This can seem overwhelming, but if you can make them trust you, you have the fundamentals down. Our guide to taming ferrets goes into all the detail you need to do this process successfully.

It does take time, however, which is why ferrets are too high maintenance for some people.

Escape Artists

If a ferret is given half a chance, it will try to escape. Being small creatures, this can happen in seconds, so you really do need to supervise them outside their cage. Not only can ferrets pose a risk to ecosystems, but you also don’t want to lose a beloved pet.

Owner waits patiently for ferret to gain confidence to leave its cage / ferrets are high maintenance

Ferrets Need A Lot Of Time Outside Their Cage

Ferrets are mistakenly thought of as caged animals on a regular basis. While most owners will use a cage to avoid them escaping, ferrets do, however, need a lot of time outside of their cage.

The exact amount of time needed depends on an individual ferret, but they should have at least four hours a day. Five or six hours is more ideal.

This can rule ferrets out as an option for people in busier households, or who work long hours, as ferrets cannot be out of their cage unsupervised. You should always keep an eye on them when they are out of their cage to make sure they do not escape or harm themselves.

State Restrictions & Permits

Ferrets are categorized differently from common household pets like cats and dogs and hold a lot more restrictions. You need a lot of knowledge about local and state law before going into the process of purchasing a ferret.

While ferrets are only illegal in four states, most others will have restrictions you need to follow. This often includes having a permit and rabies vaccination, but it can vary.

Our handy legal ferret guide can provide you with more state-specific advice bout potential restrictions in your area–saving you time that could be spent researching the more hands-on side of ferret ownership.

They Need A Specific Diet

In an ideal world, ferrets would be fed a completely raw, prey-led diet. This includes rodents like rats and mice and is similar to the diet that wild ferrets would have had years ago.

Though raw feeding ferrets isn’t possible for most people, around 70% of their diet needs to come from a meat source.

It’s not necessary as easy as picking up the first ferret kibble you see as not all contain the best nutrients. You want to look for one with a high meat content and other vitamins that will benefit your ferret. There are also supplements you can use to improve your ferret’s health over time.

Surprisingly, kitten food isn’t a bad option for ferrets; but you should avoid cat food at all costs.

When it comes to feeding them, ferrets are definitely high maintenance!

Regular Cleaning Required

You might think I’m stating the obvious here. All animals require regular cleanings of their environment, right? Indeed.

But ferrets are high maintenance, and cleaning is often on another level.

Ideally, you should aim to clean their litter trays twice a day, though one is fine. During the training process, leaving some of the feces behind can help them familiarize themselves with their litter trays.

You want to be cleaning their cage regularly, too. At least once a week is recommended, but you may choose to do it more often.

Male ferrets in particular are prone to smelling so bad it can stink out their entire environment. The way to handle this is to clean their environment, and air it out as much as possible. In this instance, you may end up cleaning the cage and their toys on a several-times-a-week basis.

Ferrets Can Be Expensive

Ferrets are not cheap, contrary to popular beliefs.

In some states, restrictions are so tight that breeding a ferret is difficult, driving up the purchase price. You may find a ferret cheaper, either through marketplace websites online or rescue centers, but there is less guarantee.

You are looking at paying anywhere up to $500 for a single ferret, depending on the state you live in, where you’re purchasing it from, and what colour you go for.

But purchasing a ferret isn’t the only expense you will have to face, though. Upkeep costs also add up incredibly quickly. Here is a list, by far not exhaustive, of some other costs associated with ferret ownership:

  • Veterinary Treatment (Averages around $300 a year)
  • A Cage
  • Pet carriers
  • Litter trays
  • Toys
  • Bedding
  • Food
  • Water bowl or bottle
  • Flea and Heartworn tablets

All things considered, you’ll be looking at spending on average $1.5K-$2K a year on your ferret. While this isn’t outlandish for a pet, it’s definitely more than rodents, and is something you need to think seriously about before committing to purchasing a ferret–or ferrets!

Can You Make Your Ferret Less High Maintenance?

Ferrets are high maintenance; there are no two ways about it. But there are things that can help handle the intensity.

Once a ferret becomes comfortable with its environment, for example, it will adapt to your routine. This is something known as an adaptive sleeping habit, and it can make all the difference.

If you’re busiest in the evenings, for example, your ferret will adapt to sleep during the day. Ferrets sleep up to 20 hours a day so this won’t affect their ability to sleep at night.

This could backfire, however, if your routine isn’t regular or you cannot spare enough time for your ferret daily. They may exhibit untamed behaviors and start attention-seeking because they feel isolated.

Giving your ferret a friend can also be beneficial, as wild ferrets were used to going around in packs. Although ferrets are completely domesticated now, giving them a friend allows you to continue with your routine while they are entertained.

Most owners will agree that you should ideally have at least two ferrets at any one time.

Finally, you can deal with the cost side of their high maintenance by buying in bulk where possible. Things like bedding, and even kibble, can be bought at a discounted rate if you buy a larger quantity.

Choosing farmer’s stores may also be cheaper than pet stores, and will definitely be cheaper than specialty stores. It’s worth not all farm stores will cater to ferrets, however, as they are exotic animals.

Final Thoughts

Ferrets are high maintenance, but it’s important to know it isn’t always their fault. Things like cost and state restrictions are something you need to be aware of as their owner, but not anything ferrets can do anything about.

Despite this, owning a ferret is still an incredibly big commitment, regardless of the above. You need to be prepared to give up a lot of your time, especially in the beginning while they are still adapting.

Largely, they are high maintenance because they require a lot of supervision. You need to watch them when they are outside of their cage, which they should be for at least four hours a day, to make sure they don’t escape.

This practice may also help you determine changes to their behavior that could be indicative of an illness, and catching it early is beneficial to their overall outcome.

If you are looking for a pet who offers companionship and commitment, however, ferrets are the perfect pet for you. They will show their love and gratefulness through the bond they create, and their loving affection.

If you are still considering adopting a ferret(s), our website provides lots of advice about the next steps and things to look out for in your journey.

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