There are many animals in the weasel family, including polecats, ermines, stoats, and ferrets. Most well known among the weasel family of creatures is the ferret. Ferrets are a popular household pet and are considered domesticated, while wild weasels are undomesticated. If you're looking to adopt a pet weasel, there are some things you'll need to know.
What to Know Before You Get a Pet Weasel
What is a weasel? Weasels are small, slender creatures that range in size from six to nine inches long. Weasels are wild, meaning that they are not typically kept as pets. These mischievous animals live in burrows similar to prairie dogs.
What is the difference between a weasel and a ferret? Weasels are wild creatures that are not easy to live with. Their family member, the ferret, is part of the weasel family and a better option when choosing a weasel for a pet.
Ferrets are named for their coloring, with sable being the most common. Sable ferrets have:
- Dark brown fur, legs, and tail
- Dark mask around the eyes
- Light/beige undercoat
If you have children. Since weasels are carnivores, they have very sharp teeth and claws. While older children may understand to be careful around weasels, they are not suitable pets if you have younger children. When weasels bite or claw, they can cause serious damage. As wild animals, weasels are difficult to train in regards to biting and chewing since they have aggressive demeanors.
Are weasels legal to keep as a pet? Since weasels are considered wild animals and exotic pets, they are illegal to possess in some states and localities. California, Hawaii, Washington D.C., New York City, and other localities ban keeping weasels and ferrets as pets. Before deciding to adopt, talk to your vet first about any limitations or bans in your area.
Prepare for the care of a weasel. Even though they are small, weasels require more attention than their domesticated family member, the ferret. While they are typically kept in cages, your pet weasel will also need several hours a day to play freely but supervised. Other considerations for weasels and ferrets include:
- Weasels and ferrets are social, so it’s a good idea to adopt more than one at a time
- Vaccinations are important in keeping your weasel or ferret healthy and preventing rabies
- Spaying or neutering your pet weasel will decrease the likelihood that she/he gets sick
- Weasels and ferrets mark territory similar to skunks and have a naturally pungent odor, so you may wish to remove the anal glands that produce the smell.
Preparing your home for weasels. As with any pet, you’ll need to prepare your house for your weasel, which means you will have to:
- Child-proof cabinets and drawers so your pet weasel can’t open them
- Remove small household appliances like fans that are easy to knock over
- Cover any small spaces like air and heating ducts that weasels can get into
- Pick up small items and toys that are fun to chew on but may hurt their intestines if eaten
- Move anything that is easily broken when knocked over
- Check electrical outlets and plugs to make sure your weasel can’t get electrocuted
Weasel accommodations. When it comes to your weasel’s cage, the bigger and more intricate, the better! The smallest recommendation for a single ferret or weasel is six cubic feet – about 18 inches tall and 24 inches wide and deep. The cage should increase in size for each additional pet you are housing.
Since weasels like to chew, a metal cage is better than plastic because weasels can’t chew through the material. Since weasels are very curious, add multiple levels, hammocks, and crawl spaces within the cage.
Food for your pet weasel. Similar to cats and dogs, your weasel needs food designed for him as a species. Weasels are carnivores and require a high-protein diet. Instead of fruit, vegetables, and high-carb alternatives, talk to your vet about food made primarily of meat and protein.
Of course, treats are encouraged. But keep in mind that sugar and too much fiber are harmful to your weasel’s digestive system. You may purchase special ferret treats or give fresh-cooked meat as an occasional treat.
Weasels drink a lot of water, so keep a sipper bottle in his cage. This is specifically recommended since weasels tend to knock things over. A bowl of water would leave a mess in the cage and your pet without anything to drink.
Since weasels are wild animals, training them isn’t always possible. However, their ferret kin are domesticated, and with ferrets, consistency is key.
Toilet training. Ferrets are easy to litter box train, and so may be your weasel. The biggest consideration is the type of litter you put in the cage. Paper pulp is preferable because your weasel is less likely to chew on it.
Clay litter may bother their sinuses, and clumping litters can stick to paws and fur, irritating them. When you begin to train your weasel, place his feces in the litter box, so he smells it and associates the smell with a place to relieve himself.
General training. Since weasels are curious by nature, they tend to explore places you may prefer they wouldn’t. As with any training, consistency is important in building good habits and breaking bad ones. Focus on reinforcing positive behaviors instead of punishing your weasel for “bad” behaviors.