Getting a Pet Sable Ferret

Although they are less common than cats and dogs, ferrets are a popular household pet. They are small, energetic members of the weasel family that are intelligent and need diligent care. 

What to Know Before You Get a Pet Sable Ferret

What is a sable ferret? There is only one breed of ferret, although they are often identified by the coloring of their fur. Sable is the most common coloring. Sable ferrets have: 

  • Dark brown fur, legs, and tail
  • Dark mask around the eyes 
  • Light/beige undercoat

Are sable ferrets legal to keep as a pet? Ferrets are considered exotic pets. They are illegal to keep as pets in some states and localities. California, Hawaii, and New York City ban keeping ferrets as pets. Other areas around the country may have similar restrictions. If you are considering adopting a ferret, ask your vet about any limitations or bans in your area.

When to reconsider getting a pet sable ferret. If you have small children, you may rethink getting a sable ferret as a pet. They have very sharp teeth and bite. Animals in the weasel family, including sable ferrets, aren’t typically domesticated. While they can be trained, biting and chewing are in their nature. 

Prepare for the care of a sable ferret. Even though they are small, ferrets require more attention than a cat or dog. While they are typically kept in cages, your pet sable ferret will also need several hours a day to play freely. Other considerations include:

  • Ferrets are very social, so it’s a good idea to adopt them in pairs.
  • Rabies is a concern, so vaccinations are important to maintain.
  • Vets recommend spaying or neutering your pet ferret because it reduces the likelihood they will get sick.
  • Ferrets have a natural odor that some consider unpleasant and will sometimes spray to mark territory, similar to skunks.

Preparing your home for sable ferrets. As with any pet, you’ll need to prepare your house for a new pet. Be sure to: 

  • Apply child-proofing to cabinets and drawers
  • Check freestanding appliances like heaters that are easily knocked over
  • Secure any small spaces like air and heating ducts that sable ferrets can squeeze into
  • Remove small items and toys that are fun to chew on but may hurt their intestines 
  • Put up any fragile decorations, lamps, and vases that are easily broken
  • Check electrical outlets and plugs to make sure your ferret can’t get electrocuted

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Sable ferret accommodations. When it comes to your ferret’s cage, the bigger, the better! The smallest cage recommendation for a single ferret is six cubic feet. That's about 18 inches tall and 24 inches wide and deep. This size applies to each individual ferret you keep as a pet. 

Ferrets love to chew. A metal cage is best, because they can’t chew through the material. Ferrets like to climb and explore, so add multiple levels and cubbies within their cage. Remember to include a litter box. Ferrets are usually easy to potty train. 

Food for your sable ferret. Similar to cats and dogs, your ferret needs food designed for them individually. Ferrets are carnivores and require less than 4% of their diet to be fiber. Avoid feeding fruits and vegetables to them. Instead, look for a kibble or food designed for ferrets.

You may give baby food meat or fresh-cooked meat to your sable ferret as an occasional treat. Remember to maintain a supply of fresh water in their cage. A sipper bottle is recommended. Ferrets like to knock things over, and a traditional bowl would spill.

Training Sable Ferrets

Ferrets are generally considered mischievous animals. Proper training is the key to setting boundaries and keeping your ferret happy and safe.

Toilet training. Ferrets are very intelligent creatures. They are usually easy to litter box train. The biggest consideration is the type of litter you provide. Paper pulp is preferable. Clay or clumping litters can stick to your ferret and irritate them. 

When beginning your ferret's litter box training, move their feces to the litter box. Once they smell it, they'll associate the smell with the box as a place to relieve themselves. 

General training. Sable ferrets love to chew and get into things they shouldn’t. Training them is essential. Similar to other animals, it is important to reinforce positive behaviors instead of punishing your pet for “bad” behaviors. 

If your ferret goes somewhere you don’t want them to or has behaviors you want to discourage, try distracting them or showing them the desired behavior. Treats and praise are a great way to reinforce good behavior. 

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Amy Flowers, DVM on July 07, 2021

Sources

SOURCES:

American Ferret Association: “Ferret Colors and Patterns,” “Ferrets Love to Explore…Is Your Home Ready for These Tenacious Weasels?,” “How to Train Your Ferret!”

Ethos Veterinary Health: “Are Ferrets Illegal in the US?”

THE HUMANE SOCIETY OF THE UNITED STATES: “Is a ferret right for you?”

VCA: “Ferrets – Housing,” “Feeding Ferrets.”

Veterinary Partner: “Parents’ Guide to Selecting a Small Pet for Children.”

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