Dr. Laura Jenkins-Hardy, a veterinarian at Dundee Animal Hospital of Elgin, said the number of people having ferrets as pets has had a period of sustained growth for the past 15 to 20 years.
That was not the case for potbellied pigs, interest in which has waned, Jenkins-Hardy said. And she expects the current trend for sugar gliders — a type of flying squirrel that requires a good deal of maintenance — will dwindle, too.
With ferrets, those who fall for the critters “wind up getting several,” said Jenkins-Hardy.
That’s in part because ferrets are highly social animals and need companionship, either from other ferrets or especially from their keepers, Jenkins-Hardy and Dwyer agreed. They also are fun to watch playing in groups.
High-strung and energetic, ferrets love to play with humans and with each other, and need at least a half hour a day out of their cages, Dwyer said. Still, ferrets sleep 16 to 20 hours a day, but adjust their time awake to their owners’ schedules.
They can be litter-box trained and taught tricks. But their nature, including that they wiggle about and can nip, doesn’t make them the best pet for people with very young children. Dwyer also noted that it is hard to break ferrets of being mischievous, hiding things and/or squeezing into tight spaces, meaning you have to take precautions.
Jenkins-Hardy recalled one client whose ferret got behind the bathroom wall and didn’t come out until it was hungry. And one time she was pet-sitting for a ferret who found it amusing to wander behind the home electronics systems to unplug the television set Jenkins-Hardy was watching.