Ferrets are sociable and affectionate pets. They are also curious and busy little animals, during their waking hours. People new to ownership will often wonder whether ferrets need to be in pairs. Here’s all you need to know, with a short answer first.
Do ferrets need another ferret? Ferrets don’t necessarily have to live in pairs. They can survive in a number of social configurations if they enjoy enough interaction with another being, and have a stimulating environment to live and play in.
So, bottom line is yes, it is ok to have just one ferret. But if you do that, you should make sure the ferret is not lonely and is mentally stimulated. If you can’t guarantee that, then two ferrets are better than one.
In the rest of this guide I will explain more about the benefits of ferrets living in pairs, whether you can have 2 male ferrets, whether they should share a cage, and how to ensure they get along.
Handy Hint: You will need a large cage for two ferrets.
Do ferrets need to live in pairs?
As discussed, ferrets don’t have to come in pairs, but it can help. Personally, I would always think that two ferrets are better than one, as it’s impossible to keep a ferret occupied and 24 hours a day.
Some of the possible combinations you might consider include:
- Single ferret household.
- A pair of ferrets.
- Small groups of ferrets.
- Living with pets of other species.
There are pros and cons associated with each scenario.
1. Single ferret household
Keeping just one ferret will reduces the time and cost associated with keeping such a pet. You need less space, and will spend less money on food, litter and medical bills.
Depending on its nature, a ferret could potentially demand much of you and its environment, in terms of enrichment. It will want to cuddle and play, and generally spend time interacting.
This does not always translate into the expenditure of as much energy as a dog may need, for example, but will require you to spend time with your pet. One way of occupying a ferret is to play games with it that are mentally stimulating, e.g. hiding treats.
There are several tools and techniques available for enriching a ferret’s environment. An activity box filled with a variety of toys and interesting entries and exits will help to keep the ferret interested. They also enjoy exploring tubes, tunnels, cardboard boxes and packets.
The ferret will be comfortable sleeping in a fleece blanket or hammock, in a cage. For its waking hours, you could explore the option of opening up a fee areas of your home in which your ferret can roam freely.
Better still, open up different areas from time to time, in order to maintain the animal’s curiosity.
If you can adequately escape-proof an outside area, your pet will enjoy digging in some soil, and hiding among bushes. Soil baths seem to have a deodorising effect on ferrets.
Ferrets can be trained to walk on a lead. A daily walk will have the added benefit of giving you a reason to get out of the house for some exercise. It may even spark some interesting conversations with others you meet on the route.
Ferrets are crepuscular which means they are most active during the twilight hours of dawn and dusk. For the rest of the day, they will be content to rest in a dark, comfortable spot, preferably in its cage. You and your pet could happily interact until it is bedtime for the ferret and time for you to get on with your daily or night time routines.
Most ferrets are neutered before they are sold. This will greatly alleviate the frustration felt by a single ferret, in seeking companionship.
Something to also consider here is that often ferrets will bond very well with their human owners. Here’s how you can build a bond with your own ferret if they are solo pets.
But what about the consideration that ferrets need to be bought in pairs. Here’s how that sceniario could play out…
2. Owning a pair of ferrets
Like most species, individual ferrets have their own character traits, foibles and personalities. Pet ferrets range from loners to social butterflies, and there could be bullies in the mix.
It doesn’t always follow that one ferret will live with just any other ferret, so care needs to be taken when pairing roommates. It is a bit like dating. You need to find a good match as 2 ferrets do not always get along.
As with single ferret households, you need to eliminate complications by ensuring that both animals are neutered. The pair can be of the same sex or opposites.
You probably stand the best chance of forming a bonded pair by acquiring two litter mates, at the same time.
If you have one ferret ensconced in your home before acquiring the second one, introducing the two needs to be carefully managed. If it is possible, do so on neutral ground.
Start with a short period of introduction, with a barrier, such as a fence, between them. If their reactions do not raise any concerns, bring them together in the same space, restrained on leads, but also for a short period of time. Allow them to sniff and size each other up.
Check for signs of aggression and dominance. Take into account that females are naturally dominant in the presence of males.
If all goes well, allow them to play together in a confined space, under close supervision. Do this several times, for longer and longer periods, until you are satisfied that they will be able to cohabit harmoniously.
If you are introducing a new ferret to your household, you will need to establish a bond with the animal at the same time. To avoid jealousy from the incumbent, pay attention to the newcomer when it is alone with you, until the two ferrets have bonded.
Hopefully, you will soon be sitting back to be entertained by the two of them playing and cuddling.
One of the downsides of having a pair ferrets, is that the cost of consumables increases. You will be paying more for food, hygiene products, and medical bills.
It will also take more effort to feed and clean up after them. They should be able to share a cage, food bowls and litter trays.
Another negative aspect of owning a pair of ferrets is that if one ferret dies, the other will inevitable mourn along with you. You will need to console your pet and start the recruitment process all over again.
Handy Hint: If your ferret is losing weight and skinny it might because he is lonely and needs a ferret friend.
3. Owning a small groups of ferrets
As with a pair of ferrets, you need to ensure that the members of your small group of ferrets, otherwise known as a ‘business of ferrets’, all get along. You will be dealing with a range of personalities and the possibility of a number of the animals ganging up on a loner.
The process of introducing a new member to the group should follow the same principles and speed as with a pair of ferrets. The dynamics are slightly different as the newcomer will have to deal with more than one character at a time, and could feel overwhelmed.
The younger the ferrets are when introductions take place, the higher your likelihood of success will be. Once again, litter mates are a good bet for a happy household.
As with people, personalities change over time so keep checking for signs of bullying and unnecessary displays of dominance. To minimise unsettling changes in hormones, ensure that all members of the group are neutered. This will also eliminate the chances of unwanted pregnancies.
Obviously, the costs of feeding and cleaning up after the ferrets increases with each new addition, as do the medical costs. Depending on how big the business grows, you might also find yourself having to find extra living space for them to play in, as well as new cages, toys and bedding.
It also goes without saying, that having a house of ferrets increases how bad the smell will be.
Handy Hint: Ever wondered why ferrets smell so bad? Here’s the very stinky answer.
4. Living with pets of other species
You might not need another ferret if yours will get along with a cat or dog. Ferrets have been known to cohabit successfully with dogs and cats but extra caution is advised in the introduction phase.
The two species will not instinctively understand each other’s body language and misinterpretations could lead to aggression and conflict. Here’s how you can introduce ferrets and dogs if it’s a consideration.
Ferrets require a specialised carnivore diet whereas dogs and cats can tolerate more vegetables and starches in their diets. Ferrets can develop a chronic metabolic malfunction, similar to diabetes, from too much starch or grains in their diet.
By and large, cats, dogs and ferrets share the same diseases, and are susceptible to the same parasites and bacteria. Preventative measures such as vaccinations should prevent any of these diseases from spreading from one to the other species.
Although ferrets are small in stature, and often sold in the same section as rodents in pet shops, they are more closely related to predators such as cats and dogs. They consider rodents to be prey, regardless of the domestic status.
A relationship with your pet hamster or gerbil will probably not last very long.
So, that’s my take on whether ferrets have to live in pairs, but there are other considerations too.
Can two ferrets live in the same cage?
Two ferrets can happily live in the same cage as a pair, but it’s advisable to buy a larger cage and also ensure they are spayed or neutered to avoid any unwanted babies. It’s possible to keep a pair of ferrets together as males and females, or two of the same gender.
Can 2 male ferrets live together?
Two male ferrets can live together as a pair, and also share the same cage. But, you should make sure they have been neutered before. If you don’t get the ferrets castrated, they might fight during the breeding season.
Castration also comes with another benefits when keeping ferrets as pairs… the smell is less so you won’t have to work as hard at eliminating ferret odors.
If it were me, I would get another ferret. I base that decision on being in the ferret’s shoes. Surely he or she would want company and a friend in the form of another ferret? It’s a basic insctinct for most species.
So, to conclude I think ferrets do need another ferret and should live in pairs.
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Image in header via https://unsplash.com/photos/hn0AtxarNNw