So You Want to Adopt (or Foster) a Ferret
Chances are very good that your adoption or foster of a ferret will be a wonderful, rewarding experience for both you and that special little fuzzy who needs you. The “Adoption Option” is a wonderful way to bring a little ferret into your life precisely when that ferret needs you most. The purpose of this publication is to provide you with all the information you'll need to adopt your new ferret. The only difference between adoption and foster care is that when you take a ferret for foster care, you can expect to have the shelter cover veterinary costs for you, and you can also expect to be returning the ferret to the shelter and providing information about what you have observed of the ferret’s behavior that will enhance its chances of finding a suitable permanent home.
If You’ve Never Had a Ferret Before
First of all, you must educate yourself as much as possible about all aspects of ferret care. If you have never had a ferret before, you should do this by talking to other ferret owners, to the shelter operator, and to a recommended veterinarian. Look for books on ferret care at the pet store or your library, or look at a series of informational documents called the Ferret FAQ (for Frequently Asked Questions). The Ferret FAQ is a rich and incomparable resource on all aspects of ferret care and personality, it is available to you free of charge via the Internet, and is positively encyclopedic in its scope. See also the MaFF publication Your Ferret: A Lifetime’s Commitment of Care for information on the costs of care you can expect over the animal’s lifetime.
If You Already Have Ferret(s)
Most ferrets accept newcomers relatively easily. Read and learn all you can about 'introductions' of ferrets to one another. If you already have one or more ferrets in your family, we recommend that you take their personalities into account. Some older ferrets who have been 'onlys' for more than a year or so can have problems accepting a new ferret (whether that new ferret is a baby or an adult). Some people bring their ferret or ferrets to the shelter to meet with potential new family members. Be sure to call ahead and check with the shelter first about bringing your pets to the shelter to meet others.
Which to Choose: Adult or Baby? Male or Female? One . . . or More?
Adoption of an adult ferret can be particularly gratifying. An adult has already gotten past the early “baby-nippy” stage, and so is a good choice if you’d rather not deal with that phase of life, or have never had a baby animal in your care before. Older ferrets sometimes have difficulty being placed in homes, so if you have it in your heart to adopt an older ferret, that would be a particularly wonderful thing you could do for that individual ferret. Baby ferrets show up in shelters, too, but you should have a look at them all. Try not to arrive at the shelter with a strong preconceived notion as to what your adoptee should look like. Look with an open mind and an open heart, and you may just find that special little someone who captures your heart, but who looks nothing like what you had planned.
Size is about the only really strong difference between male and female ferrets. Each animal’s personality is so different, that generalizations on behavior between males and females are basically impossible. One definite advantage to adopting a ferret is that you can discuss aspects of personality with the shelter operator. Chances are very good that between the notes left by the surrendering party and the shelter operator's observations, you will be able to get a fairly clear description of each individual animal’s personality and be able to adopt based on that information. This is quite a different situation from buying a kit in a pet store. In an adoption situation, you will benefit from a great deal more information and knowledge about your individual potential pet.
Often a shelter will receive a pair, trio, or more as a group. Ferrets do bond with one another and can experience loss and depression if separated. It can be a “handful” to take on more than one ferret at a time, but if there’s room at your house, a group of ferrets can be a wonderful experience! It’s like an “instant family,” and since most people end up getting more than one ferret eventually (ferret owners call this phenomenon “ferret math”), getting more than one to start means that you won’t have to work with a ferret “introductions” phase, either!
A Word About Our Tiny “Hard Luck” Cases
Often we will take in a ferret who is quite elderly, has been abused, or is experiencing particularly difficult behavioral problems. Here’s where real heart comes in. If you are an experienced ferret owner or have a lot of confidence and experience with other animals and want to make a difference in a ferret’s life, adopting or fostering such a ferret can be particularly gratifying. Devoting your love and care to a ferret who needs you is all the more reason to adopt or foster a ferret in a tough situation. People willing to take on a difficult ferret are so very rare. You may be one ferret’s last chance at a warm and loving life. And you should know that the little ferret you help out in these circumstances will likely become the one you treasure most.