I’ve been considering getting ferrets as pets for quite a while now. My husband (and his sisters and parents) had ferrets a number of years ago, so he was already familiar with them. I did my research, but I knew there was one thing I’d need to find out in person: what do they smell like?
There’s a lot of discussion on the smell of ferrets. Some people say they smell gross, and you can tell as soon as you walk into someone’s house if they own ferrets. Some people say that if you have a strong sense of smell (and I do), you may not be able to stand having ferrets. So I knew I would need to go to a store and stick my nose in a cage. So last Friday (5/12), my husband and I drove up to Pet Supermarket to check out their ferrets. I stuck my nose in the enclosure and thought “They smell like animals, but it’s not a gross smell.” In fact, after having the girls for a week, I’m not sure why there’s such a big deal around their scent. Most ferrets sold in this country are de-scented, although they do still have the scent glands in their head/face/wherever. And yes, there is a smell associated with the ferrets, but it’s just a general animal smell.
I wonder if gross-ferret-smell is really associated more with a failure to clean up poop in a timely manner. After all the ferrets will jump around and end up in the litter box while they play, so if there’s poop in there, they’re going to step in it. So I try to stay on top of it. Both litter boxes in the cage get cleaned up as soon as I wake up. I also keep an eye on the play-pen throughout the day, and clean up their poops as they happen if I can. We’ve had friends over and they say the house doesn’t smell like ferrets or anything, so it seems to be working so far.
Of course, I didn’t really intend to buy ferrets that day. But I knew what I wanted, when I was going to buy ferrets: two of them, preferably already acquainted and friendly with each other, same gender, different colors. When we got to Pet Supermarket, they had exactly what we were looking for! Before making a purchase, we drove to two other pet stores, just to gather more information and check prices. And then we went back to Pet Supermarket and bought our two new babies, a cage, and lots of items to care for them. We also ordered a child’s play-pen, and even more toys, so we could set up a space for them in our office.
Color: Dark Sable Hooded Milk
Nicknames: Bitey McBiterson, Monkey
Favorite Toy: All of them!
Color: Silver Panda
Special Skills: Climbing & Jumping
Nickname: Mountain Goat
Favorite Toy: Kong Teething Stick
The goal is to keep them in the cage in our bedroom while we sleep. Then when both of us are up out of bed, the ferrets come to the office (which is where we spend most of the day). Then, once they’ve zonked back out for the night, they go back into the cage. Some may feel that we’re spoiling the ferrets, but we don’t see it that way. We want to ensure they’re mentally stimulated, and have plenty of room for exercise and play. I’ll share photos and details about both the cage and the play-pen in a later post.
At first, Onyx bit me every time she got close enough to do so. Sometimes they were gentle play-nibbles, but there were plenty of times that it seemed like she was trying to do harm. As the week has worn on, however, she’s biting me less and less. Opal hasn’t bitten me at all, but she bites Onyx HARD. She bites her ear, yesterday morning she even bit her whole face! So I wonder if Onyx was initially more aggressive because she’s subordinate to Opal, and Onyx was trying to establish herself. But whenever I hear Onyx chittering in pain, I run over and pry Opal’s mouth open. I shield Onyx’s ears and block Opal’s attempts to keep biting her. Alternately, I take one of the ferrets out of the enclosure so Opal just doesn’t have access to Onyx for a while. I wonder if this is why Onyx has stopped biting me so much – because I’ve tried to shield her from Opal? Or maybe she’s just getting used to me, who knows.
Also, when we first got the girls, Onyx had a small pea-sized (soft) lump on her belly. I asked the employees at Pet Supermarket, and they said it’s just an “outie” belly button. I looked around online and it seems like this may not really be a thing, so I was starting to think maybe Onyx was a boy. But the lump got smaller, and has now disappeared, so I really don’t know what it was. Onyx also has a quarter-sized bare patch on her back. When I asked the store about this, they said it was from “rough play”.
We’re taking them to the vet today to get checked out. I’ve never been to this vet before, so it will be an introduction for me as well. I have quite a few questions and topics I want to cover, including:
- What is the bare patch on Onyx’s back?
- What are the possible causes of the now-gone lump?
- Given that both girls are eating exactly the same food, why are their poops TOTALLY different colors? (I am bringing a photo to demonstrate.)
- How can I properly trim their nails without harming them?
- Do we really need to use the “bath” spray that we purchased? Is it safe?
- Sometimes one of the girls (or the other) gets into a sneezing fit, and sneezes a dozen times in a row. They’ve also woken up a couple of times itching like crazy, and they scratch and rub on the floor of the cage. I can’t find any fleas, I’m not sure if they’re having an allergic reaction to something.
I am looking forward to many years with our new baby girls. They’re adorable and sweet and they make me very happy. I am so glad we went ahead and bought the girls, because they’re bringing us so much joy already.