How Long Do Ferrets Live?

Just about any animal lover can tell you the average lifespan of your typical dog or cat, but the question gets a little murkier when it comes to ferrets. Though not quite as common to the American household, ferrets can nonetheless make just as wonderful pets as puppies and kittens do. This is especially true for families seeking a new four-legged companion thats not quite as large as a Labrador and slightly more playful than a Persian. But anyone considering adopting a ferret should have a fair understanding of how long the jovial critter will be in his or her life.

When the ferret craze first took off in the United States, the only option for eager owners was to import their prospective critters from across the Atlantic.

How long do ferrets live as pets?

If well taken care of, healthy ferrets can live up to 10 years of age. However, their average lifespan is approximately 6 years. Find ferrets available for rehoming on our find a pet page.

How long do indoor ferrets live?

A healthy domestic ferret can live between six to 10 years, according to the American Ferret Association. In comparison, the black-footed ferret — the wild cousin of the domestic ferret — has a lifespan of just three to four years in the wild.

What is the longest living ferret?

Next time you visit the Fort Collins Museum of Discovery, be sure to say hi to the oldest living black-footed ferret in captivity. Nine-year-old Two Bit earned the distinction last week, according to the National Black-footed Ferret Conservation Center. She’s about 126 years old in human years.

Do ferrets like to cuddle?

Ferrets really enjoy spending time with their human companions are usually happy to be picked up and cuddled. If they’re frightened or accidentally hurt, ferrets can give a strong bite. Getting them used to being picked up when they’re young is really important.

The answer to this question is a bit complicated. Back when ferrets first became popular in the United States, they lived for about 10 years. They were imported from Europe during this time.

As you might imagine, ferrets that arent fed or exercised properly wont live as long as those who are. Check the ingredient list of any commercial ferret food to ensure that it contains mainly meat.

An annual vet visit is critical to ensure that your ferret isnt developing an underlying problem. Damage to the gums can give bacteria direct access to the bloodstream, which can harm organs. Many ferrets may develop more infections later in their life, so it is vital to get periodontal disease under control before something else starts attacking their immune system.

Image Credit: Couperfield, ShutterstockMany people know that their ferret needs high-quality food and proper vet care. They benefit greatly from a range of mental stimulation starting at a young age. This is mainly due to improper breeding that focuses more on the aesthetic qualities of the ferret over their health aspects.

This has caused their lifespan to decrease, primarily as breeders focus more on temperament and aesthetic traits. However, an unhealthy ferret may live and make a great pet in captivity, especially if they have a good temperament.

Kits (young ferrets) should be vaccinated for distemper at 8,* 12 and 16 weeks of age then at one year of age. Reactions to the licenced distemper vaccine are common.

Grocery store cat and kitten foods most often contain too little animal source proteins and or fats. Nutritional supplements such as Linatone, Ferritone, Fer-vite are well accepted and may be offered as occasional treats, rewards, or diversions from noxious experiences (such as nail trimming).

Most ferret owners chose to cage their friends during the hours that they are not home or awake to supervise their activities. Corncob bedding is not recommended as it harbors mold, is not digestible and can be a source of intestinal impaction if swallowed. Additional laboratory work, a blood chemistry profile, and an x-ray, particularly if your pet is exhibiting signs of illness, may be recommended.

How Long Do Ferrets Live?

Unfortunately, such information is a bit more difficult to nail down than it may be in the case of some other popular pets. “There are books out there that tell you that ferrets live for ten years, but that’s not happening anymore,” said L. Vanessa Gruden, executive director of the Ferret Association of Connecticut. According to Gruden, the lifespan of the modern American ferret is substantially shorter than that of its 1980s counterpart, which when the species, indigenous to Europe, first gained popularity in the United States.When the ferret craze first took off in the United States, the only option for eager owners was to import their prospective critters from across the Atlantic. “Since [Europe is] where ferrets started out, that’s where they tend to live longer,” Gruden said. Today, domestic breeders are hardly unusual, though perhaps not the best source for healthy critters.Vickie McKimmey, office manager of the American Ferret Association, stresses a similar inconsistency among ferrets. “[A ferret’s lifespan ranges] from five to nine years,” she said. “[It’s] a pretty large gap and it’s mainly because the ferrets in pet stores live on a shorter time frame, whereas if you get a ferret from a breeder … you get a longer age range.”According to McKimmey, the lifespan difference between a ferret purchased from a breeder compared to a ferret purchased from a pet store may have to do with how early the ferret was spayed or neutered. “Ferrets in pet stores are fixed before they go into the pet store, so you’re looking at the ferrets being fixed at like five weeks of age, whereas a breeder will recommend you wait until a ferret is at least a year old. That way, it’s had all of its hormones fully developed,” she said.

Factors That Affect a Ferret’s Lifespan

You can help your ferret live a longer lifespan by ensuring that they are well taken care of. As you might imagine, ferrets that aren’t fed or exercised properly won’t live as long as those who are. How you take care of your ferret has a significant role in how long they will live.Here are a few factors to consider.

1. Food

Ferrets should be fed ferret-formulated food. Just like dog and cat food, ferret food is not all made equal. Some are higher quality than others. Ferrets are carnivores, so their diet should contain as much meat as possible. Check the ingredient list of any commercial ferret food to ensure that it contains mainly meat.While cat food once had to be fed to ferrets, there are now commercial options available. We do not recommend feeding them cat food.You should also work to keep your ferret the correct size. If your ferret becomes obese, it can severely affect their health.

2. Vet care

Ferrets are prone to many different diseases. It is crucial to find a vet who knows how to care for ferrets. Many are not specifically trained to treat these animals.An annual vet visit is critical to ensure that your ferret isn’t developing an underlying problem. Many diseases may not show symptoms until they have progressed. Often, it is best to treat these quickly before they start severely affecting your ferret’s lifespan. Routine testing is often the only way that you can identify these problems.Dental cleanings should also be considered. Like dogs and cats, ferrets can get periodontal disease. This affects their whole health, not just their teeth. Damage to the gums can give bacteria direct access to the bloodstream, which can harm organs. Many ferrets may develop more infections later in their life, so it is vital to get periodontal disease under control before something else starts attacking their immune system.

3. Mental Stimulation

Many people know that their ferret needs high-quality food and proper vet care. But many do not consider their ferret’s emotional and mental needs as well.Ferrets are curious and intelligent creatures. They benefit greatly from a range of mental stimulation starting at a young age. Be sure to provide your ferret with plenty of different toys and interact with them daily. These pets need just as much attention as a cat or a dog. They are not “lower maintenance” than any other typical pet.If you can’t commit at least an hour a day to interacting with a ferret, you shouldn’t adopt one.Many ferrets will also benefit from having other ferrets around, so many people will adopt them in pairs. However, this can vary from family to family. It isn’t a good idea to adopt two ferrets if you can only correctly take care of one.

Do Ferrets Die Easily?

Ferrets are relatively hardy creatures. However, improper breeding has lowered the lifespan of the average ferret considerably. As ferrets gained popularity in the 1980s, many domestic breeders popped up.Some of them bred ferrets to improve the species, while others bred them primarily for profit. In some cases, aesthetic traits were encouraged over those that were healthy. Therefore, this has negatively affected the ferret’s lifespan.Nowadays, many ferrets can die quite quickly. Most of the time, these ferrets are from pet stores, as their suppliers focus on making money. Some ferret breeders are a bit like puppy mills, producing as many ferrets as possible, as cheaply as possible.If you want a ferret that will live a long time, we recommend adopting from a high-quality breeder. Breeders who only sell directly are usually more concerned about where their ferrets end up, which should tell you something about how much they care about their pets.Ferrets can be a bit more expensive from these breeders, but you often get more bang for your buck. Usually, these ferrets are better socialized and have received more vet care. Some breeders even use genetic testing to help breed out certain genetic conditions that ferrets are prone to.

Can a Ferret Live for 10 Years?

Ferrets usually live closer to 5 or 7 years, but some record breakers can live as long as 10 years.Over the decades, the average ferret’s lifespan has gotten lower, not higher. This is mainly due to improper breeding that focuses more on the aesthetic qualities of the ferret over their health aspects. Some breeders also operate like puppy mills in that they focus primarily on producing as many animals as possible, with little regard to the animals’ health.While puppy mills are illegal in many places, there are often no regulations on how ferrets should be bred.Therefore, you must do your research, especially if you want your ferret to live a full lifespan.

Do Male or Female Ferrets Live Longer?

There is no difference between a male and a female ferret in terms of lifespan. In captivity, most ferrets have been sterilized, anyway, though the exact age that they are sterilized varies.Lifespan should not be a significant part of your decision-making process when you consider what ferret to get. There are a few differences in sex, especially among intake animals. However, these are typically small and largely anecdotal. There is no objective study that shows a significant behavioral difference between these two sexes.

Spay / Castration

We recommend spaying or castration at 6 months of age. This allows kits to develop their normal sexually influenced size and body characteristics.*

Descenting

The purpose of “descenting,” or removing the anal sacs, from a ferret is to keep them from “spraying” or “skunking,” that is spraying the contents of their anal sacs when frightened or excited. This procedure is unnecessary for most ferrets and should be reserved for those ferret that have proven to be a problem.**The great majority of ferrets we see today are from large farm operations (such as Marshall Farms). These kits have been spayed, castrated, descented, and have had a single distemper vaccination at 5 ½ to 6 ½ weeks of age. Because they are so young at the time they are vaccinated these ferrets still require the same number of vaccinations as other ferrets.

Annual examination and vaccination

It is very important to have your ferret examined on an annual basis. The importance increases with age. The majority of ferret diseases are treatable when detected early. Rabies vaccinations are repeated annually. We are working with laboratories to provide a test for the level of protection a ferret may have for distemper. If and when this test is available we may recommend that your ferret be tested and vaccinated only if it’s level of immunity is low. If you chose not to vaccinate your ferret for distemper after it is one year of age, do not neglect the annual examination.

Diet

Ferrets are consummate carnivores and require a diet high in animal source proteins and high in fats. We recommend that one of the following diets be fed: Mazuri (Purina Mills) Ferret formula, Totally Ferret, Bandit Brand (Marshall Farms) Ferret food, Sheppard and Green ferret food, Science Diet Kitten formula, or Iams Kitten formula. Many of the lesser brands are inadequate or have a poor level of acceptance. Grocery store cat and kitten foods most often contain too little animal source proteins and or fats.

Supplements

Nutritional supplements such as Linatone, Ferritone, Fer-vite are well accepted and may be offered as occasional treats, rewards, or diversions from noxious experiences (such as nail trimming). No other dietary supplement is necessary or recommended. A variety of items may be used as treats or rewards for training, bribes or for good behavior. Many ferrets enjoy raisins. They may be fed as treats or rewards in limited numbers.

Caging

Most ferret owners chose to cage their friends during the hours that they are not home or awake to supervise their activities. A large all metal cage is recommended. They are easier to clean and deodorize than wooden cages. Multiple levels should be connected by long sloping ramps (steep ramps are dangerous, especially for older ferrets) or tubes. The cage should be easy to clean with easy access to all levels and removable shelves and floors. Food bowls should be heavy crocks or should be attached to the side of the cage. Water is most often supplied via a water bottle with a screw on lid (don’t use bottles with rubber stoppers as ferrets will chew and swallow the rubber).

Litter box / Litte

The litter box can be a source of medical problems as well as training frustrations. Clay kitty litter or clumping litter have proven to be a problem as they can cause upper respiratory irritation (dust), dry dirty coat (they roll in it), and airway obstructions (gets in nose and mouth). Corncob bedding is not recommended as it harbors mold, is not digestible and can be a source of intestinal impaction if swallowed. Pine and cedar shavings contain volatile pine oils and turpentines that cause upper respiratory irritation and have been shown to cause liver enzyme elevation and can cause respiratory tract and skin irritation in the human household members.We recommend the use of paper bedding products. These products are absorbent, and inhibit bacterial growth. A few brand names are Care Fresh, Yesterday’s News and there are many more.