Not far from where I live is an exotic pet store. They handle all sorts of animals, from fish to lizards to snakes to bunnies to monkeys to... well, you get the idea. They also have ferrets.
My experience with ferrets is quite limited--very limited, actually. Once I was petting one of the little guys and he decided to crawl up the sleeve of my jacket and nestled on my upper arm. It took one of the employees (and not a small bit of twisting and turning on my part) to get him out.
I find ferrets to be very cute, but also feel that--as a pet--they would be a handful. To clarify, I asked Beth Anz, ferret owner and overall nice person, for some details about these little mischief makers. Her ferret, Tanuki, sounds like an endless source of fun!
Pets Lady: Tell me a little about yourself.
Beth Anz: I am a wife and a step mom to an amazing almost 11 year old. My husband is the lead guitarist for local band The Contenders. I enjoy geeky things and I'm a big fantasy/sci-fi fan. Lately my daughter and I have enjoyed going out and playing Pokemon Go around town.
PL: So, of all pets to have, why did you decide on a ferret?
BA: Well, the Ferret really picked us. My brother-in-law found him hiding under a car in a rainstorm, and couldn't find the owner. Just before Christmas my Quaker Parrot lost a long battle with an infection, and I was devastated. I wasn't looking for a new pet, but as soon as I saw [the little ferret] I fell in love. Everyone falls in love as soon as they meet Tanuki. He is named after the Super Mario suit, which is based on the Japanese Raccoon Dog.
PL: Not having much experience with ferrets (except for one climbing up the arm of my jacket at a pet store—but that's another story), how do they differ from cats and dogs?
BA: They are quite unique, I tell people it's like having a cat, a dog, and a tiny toddler all in one. They have the friendliness of a dog; he loves to meet and greet new people. They have the playfulness and curiosity of a cat; most cat toys will peak their curiosity, although there are specific ferret toys too. You have to be careful because their teeth and claws will get caught sometimes. Like a toddler, they get into everything; they crawl, they climb and are curious about everything.
PL: Do they require special care?
BA: Well, the biggest thing is keeping an eye on them and "ferret proofing" the house. When he is awake, he needs to be supervised. Thankfully that is not all the time. Ferrets sleep about 16- to 20-hours a day, but when they are up they are usually very active. They can both crawl and climb in very tight spaces, and love to get into everything. We had to get creative [when it came to "ferret proofing"]. We removed the legs from our couch because he kept crawling under it and digging up into it. We have to keep doors shut or baby gates around the house. More than once we have found that he climbed onto the kitchen counter. Also they are often underfoot and fast; you need to shuffle your feet when he's up.
BA (continued): Other than that they need a good cage to sleep in. A ferret's favorite thing is to find comfy places to sleep in. He will crawl into anything in the house and sleep. He's crawled into laundry, under and on the bed, under chairs, in my cloth shopping bags, every blanket... We keep towels in his cage for him to crawl into.
PL: I have heard that they smell funky. If this is the case, is there a way to take care of this?
BA: They do have a musky smell, but I don't find it strong. I only notice it when I'm holding him near my face and it's not bad. I have heard that in America, they remove most of the smell glands before they are sold. The smelliest part is the litter boxes. Ferrets are semi-litter trained. They will usually back into the nearest corner so it's best to have several litter boxes in the house, and they have to be high backed. We give him a treat when he goes in the litter box to train him, and he will scratch on the door if I am not in the room so I see him going in the right place so that he gets his treat. Like I said, he is really smart.
PL: Do they require special food? I mean, obviously there are ferret food products, but are there any foods angled toward their health?
BA: They are straight carnivores and are not made to process other foods, so we strictly feed him food made for ferrets. We go for the ones with the highest protein content. He gets treats for good behavior; his favorite flavors are chicken and bacon.
PL: How are they when outside? Do they need a leash or can they just hang out on your shoulder?
BA: We tried a leash once; he walked right out of it. He tries to get outside whenever he can. He's too much of an escape artist, so he stays inside. Unlike a parrot, he will not hang out on you. If he's awake, he's on the run. If he's asleep however, he's like a rag doll; you can take him anywhere.
PL: Do they bite?
BA: Yes and no. Mine won't. When he's playing he will play nip you. He just rubs his teeth on you he never bites down. I would imagine some ferrets get overly excited when they play and will bite. If we give him a toy he will bite it's neck and try to "kill it".
PL: Would you recommend having a ferret around small children?
BA: Not very small children, both for the safety of the ferret and the kid. They are often underfoot and too easy to get stepped on. Also a little kid may not know how to handle them [properly]; they are like floppy rag dolls so you need to be careful.
We want to thank Beth and Tanuki for their time. It appears that, with a little patience and a lot of love, ferrets make great little companions. If I were in a slightly different environment, I would consider getting a ferret buddy; my cat has a great disposition and would probably enjoy the very energetic company!
If you want to see more adventures of Tanuki, feel free to visit his Facebook page!
All images provided by Beth Anz (and Tanuki, of course).