Ferrets are great at pulling at your heart strings and can easily tempt you to take them home. When you consider that the average cost of a ferret can range between $65 – $250, it does seem like a real bargain. However, that delightful price tag is only the beginning costs of inviting this creature into your home. You will also have to add other costs like vaccinations, veterinary exams, basic supplies to set up his home, spaying or neutering, food, toys, grooming, and legal licenses that may be required in your area.
The Initial Cost of Setting Up Your Ferret
There is a reason why not too many people own ferrets. Unlike a dog or a cat that can be trained to roam free around the house, ferrets can get into a world of trouble when they are let out of their cages. One of the first expenses you will have when buying a ferret is establishing a safe environment for them. The cost of getting a new ferret set up with the right accommodations can vary greatly depending on what you already have at home and what you need to buy. It may also vary from one location to the next, so the prices we show you here represent only an average expense of what you might expect.
The initial cost of setting your ferret up can be estimated to be between $465 and $995. These are not the only expenses you can expect, there will also be monthly, annual, and emergency expenses to factor in as well. There is a lot more to look at when considering having a ferret for a pet.
Buying a Cage: You definitely don’t want to go cheap here. Yes, you will find lots of cages to choose from, but to ensure that your ferret doesn’t get injured as he roams about his domain, you need to shop wisely. His cage should have a good balance of both comfort and security.
Never use price as the sole determining factor on deciding cages, as there is a huge difference between them. A cage may look right for a ferret, but if it hasn’t been decided specifically for them, it may pose a hazard for them in some way. So, what may be good for a rabbit or a hamster could prove to be very dangerous for a ferret.
Ferrets also love to roam outside of their cages, but this should only be allowed with supervision. They should never be permitted to wander about when you don’t have the time to dedicate to watching them. Their cages have to be able to offer them some semblance of entertainment, to prevent them from becoming bored or depressed. This means they have to have a high quality cage that will allow them room enough to run and play and explore. When purchasing a cage, first and foremost, you want to think size. In most cases, the bigger size is better. However, if your ferret spends a lot of time outside of his cage, then you may be able to get away with buying a smaller cage instead. Make sure that the cage is at least 36” long and 18” wide, with as minimum of 18” of floor space for each level for one ferret.
Cages made for other similar sized animals are not usually designed with the ferret’s physical abilities and unique needs in mind. They are either too small, do not provide the sense of security your ferret needs, nor are they comfortable enough for them without making costly modifications. It is best to get a cage that has been built just for your little critter. To protect your pet, you’re going to have to cough up a little extra dough to get the best cage for him. It may cost you a little more, but not nearly as much as you would pay for the modifications of a cage designed for another animal.
If you are looking for a good quality, decent sized ferret cage, look to spend anywhere between $110 to $300. You can find more information by reading our article on how much ferret cages cost.
Every ferret has his own unique needs and preferences, so what works best for your ferret will depend a lot on him. However, the multi-tiered design seems to be the favorite for many ferrets and should prove to be one of the better investment options for you. The good news is that once purchased, there is very little reason to buy a new one in the future. A good quality cage should last your ferret his entire lifetime and sometimes even longer.
Litter Pan: Another cost you can expect is that of a litter pan. Ferrets can easily be house broken, but it means providing them with the type of litter pan that is easily accessible and usable for them. You will find a wide variety of litter pans on the market, and many shop owners will recommend the typical round or square pans, but ferrets have their own unique tastes and often prefer to take care of their business in a corner. They generally prefer corner pans that have high walls and can fit snugly into a corner where they can be secured to the sides of the cage. These types of litter pans usually cost anywhere for $10-$15.00.
Consider the fact that your ferret will be highly active when he is awake. That means that he will be moving about his cage quite a bit. Even if you have only one ferret you might need to have more than one litter pan for him to use. So, that $10-$15.00 could be doubled or tripled depending on his level of activity.
Litter: Along with the litter pan, you will also need to regularly purchase a good quality litter. Keep in mind that while the litter is primarily for odor control, you also have to think of your ferret’s safety. You can’t buy just any litter, the best litter for your pet should be made with paper or wood pellets. They absorb very well and are comfortable to use. To save money, some people will purchase cat litter, but that is not recommended. Many cat litters are made from clay, which can be extremely toxic for ferrets. If you do decide to purchase cat litter, make sure it is not made from clay but is made with paper pellets instead.
Ideally, your first choice should be paper pellets, then wood (pine or oak). Both are extremely affordable and can be found at almost any hardware store. Look for those that DO NOT have any chemical additives and are dust free. The larger the pellets, the better. Once used, they will curl up, so they can be easily scooped up and removed saving extra work for you.
The cost is quite reasonable. A 5 lb. bag can cost anywhere from $7.00 to $25.00 depending on the quality of the pellets themselves.
Water and Food Dishes: Food and water dishes need to be sturdy enough to hold up against their activity. They will try to move or climb up on them, and if they’re not strong enough, they can easily be flipped or get lodged in places that may not be so easy for you to remove. Not to mention, that your ferret could be injured while trying to play with them. You can’t just think about the dish as just a place for them to eat. Flimsy dishes may cost less, but you’ll either end up constantly cleaning up the mess or making visits to the vet because of some injury later on. Better to pay a little extra and get a dish that can be secured to the sides of the cage, preventing such hazards from the start.
Ferrets do not have a set time to eat or drink, they eat and drink throughout the day. Don’t think that because they are small that only a small bowl is necessary. The dishes should be large enough to hold at least a one day supply of food and water. To avoid them moving the dishes around get the kind that locks to the side of the cage. This will help to reduce the number of spills and messes that they may make. If you choose to get a water bottle rather than a water dish, look for a quality lock-on bottle. They may cost a little bit more, but it is only a one-time purchase and it should last you for the life of your ferret. As far as maintenance is concerned, a quality bowl and dish will only need to be regularly washed to keep them bacteria and germ free.
Food Costs: Care should also be given to food cost. Ferret food has been prepared to meet their very unique nutritional needs. It may be tempting to replace their food with dog or cat food, but that would be a mistake. Food is not just something to fill them up when they are hungry but it has to have the necessary nutrients ferrets need to maintain their health.
You have to really pay attention to the ingredients and find foods that are close to their natural diet in the wild. The percentage of the ingredients is key. Ideal ferret food should consist of:
- 40% protein
- 18% fat
- 3% fiber
- 0% grains, fruits, and vegetables
- The first ingredient on the list should be either chicken, duck, or turkey
Of course, you may not find the perfect combination of food for your ferret, but these are the minimum percentages your ferret should have to maintain his good health. Use this guide as a baseline to follow.
If you can’t find a good quality ferret food, kitten food is the closest and most compatible, but make sure that the main ingredient is meat and not some other form of protein. Avoid grains, carbohydrates, fruits and vegetables.
The cost of good quality ferret food could run you around $10 – $15/month depending on the brand and where you buy it.
Bedding: Ferrets are very active creatures and when they are awake, they will be very busy moving throughout their play area. When they are not playing, your ferrets will be sleeping. In fact, they can sleep as much as 18 hours a day, so they need bedding that will be comfortable and inviting.
There are two different types of bedding you can find for your little guy. There is the standard bed, which can be something as simple as a soft, fluffy towel crumbed up in a corner, or a regular bed that looks something like a cat or dog bed.
Another option would be to use a hammock. These are pretty simple; you just clip the four corners to the sides of the cage and your ferret can literally bury himself in the hammock and rest for as long as he wants. Both are very good, but if you had to forego one, you could get by without the bed. Ferrets do prefer hammocks to beds, so you should at least purchase one or two hammocks for them to sleep in. Even if you plan to only have one ferret, two hammocks will make him more comfortable and give him a little variety. Ferret beds and hammocks should set you back between $10-$20.00 each. Of course, you could find some that are more expensive, but they aren’t necessary for your ferret’s well-being.
Make sure that the bedding is of good quality and doesn’t pose any suffocation or choking hazards. Make sure they are made of materials that won’t harm them if they are chewed on and swallowed. And also look for bedding that is designed to be absorbent. That way, you won’t have to worry about constantly cleaning up accidents and spills and can keep the odor under control.
Toys: Toys take up a big part of a ferret’s life, so at the very least, you’ll need to have several of them. They are a great way to keep him from getting bored and depressed. You might get overwhelmed when you see just how many toys there are to choose from. The toy that seems to be the favorite for most ferrets are stuffed animals. They enjoy chewing on them, tossing them around, and even hiding them. They also love to play with noisemakers like balls with bells inside and enjoy running through tunnels that lead to surprisingly new places in their play area.
Get a nice assortment of them so they have a little variety. The costs can vary greatly, but you don’t have to spend a lot on them. You can even give them a rolled up pair of old socks and they won’t know the difference. You can find some toys as little as $1 or $2 and as much as $20.00. It’s a good idea to buy a new toy every now and then so they get some variety in their lives.
Grooming Supplies: A healthy ferret will be able to groom himself. In fact, if you take care of your ferret and maintain its health with proper nutrition, there’s a good chance that your routine won’t require a lot of extra care for your little guy. When you consider that in the wild, they didn’t need such care, it stands to reason that you shouldn’t have to do much either. However, they are not living in their natural environment and no matter how much we do to imitate their natural habitat, they will need a little help to keep them looking prim and proper. There are several areas where you can help them to maintain good grooming habits.
Their coats: Their coats need to be examined daily. When you take the ferret out, check for patchy areas that may be developing. This is usually the first sign that something is wrong. This is especially important if they’re not eating a proper diet. They could cause them to develop parasites or other intestinal issues.
To take care of their coats, you’ll need a rubber brush made for small animals. You should also give them a hairball preventative treatment to help them pass any swallowed hair through their digestive tract. This could cost you anywhere from $3 – $10, so make sure you have at least one bottle or tube of it on hand. If you don’t catch it early, the hairball can become lodged in the intestines, setting you up for an expensive vet bill.
Their nails: You will need a pair of nail clippers. Ferrets need their nails clipped once a week. Generally, in the wild, they would wear these nails down burrowing into the ground or climbing trees, but they won’t get that experience in your home, so you’ll have to do it yourself.
Their teeth: The same is true for your ferret’s teeth. In order to prevent a build-up of plaque, they will need to be brushed at least once every two weeks, especially if their eating a diet of kibble. For this, you will need a ferret-friendly toothpaste. Human toothpaste can be quite toxic for ferrets. And you’ll need a rubber finger-brush that is designed to go over every tooth.
Their ears: Their ears need to be cleaned at least once every two weeks. Use cotton balls or swabs dipped in their own ear cleaning solution. This will help to keep away mites or infections.
Baths: Ferrets don’t need baths very often because they are very good at grooming themselves. They do have a naturally musky odor to them, and no amount of washing is going to remove that. In fact, too much washing will make it worse. But occasionally your ferret will get into something unpleasant and you’ll have to take care of it. Otherwise, you should only consider bathing them once every six months or so with a special ferret shampoo.
These are all supplies that you will need for regular grooming. Before you bring your ferret home though, you will have that initial outlay of cash so that you have these supplies on hand. That initial cost could give you a little sticker shock, but once you have everything available, you’ll only need to pay for replacements as you run out.
Ferret grooming brush – $8-$20
Nail clippers – $8-$10
Ferret toothbrush – $7-$10
Cotton swabs or balls – $5-$10
Ferret shampoo – $7-$10
Ferret toothpaste – $4-$10
Ferret ear cleaning solution – $7-$10
Meal supplements – $5-$7
As you shop for your grooming supplies, you’ll probably see a wide selection of options. You may be able to save a little money by purchasing a grooming kit, but make sure you’re getting good quality products in the kit otherwise, it may not stand up to regular use and you end up replacing it, which could cost you more money later on.
Other Basic Supplies
Another area where you’ll have to put out some cash to bring a new ferret home are one time purchases. These should last you for the life of your ferret.
Pet Carrier: you will need to take your ferret to the vet several times during that first year. So, a good pet carrier will be essential when you take him out of his regular environment. $30-$50
Harness and leash: If you’re planning on taking your ferret out for walks or in areas where he might wander off, you’ll need a good harness and leash. Ferrets love to go for walks, and you’ll love it too when you realize it’s a great way to tire them out. $10
Collar: Collars are a great help for when you take your ferret out. They are easy to clip a leash onto, but they are also helpful for putting on an identification tag. Just in case, he wanders off and gets lost. $4 – $8
First-Aid Kit: Ferrets are notorious for getting into areas that they are not supposed to. It is not uncommon for them to suffer injuries from time to time. It is important to have an animal first-aid kit on hand for emergency situations. You can provide them with temporary care to sustain them before you get to the vet. $15-$50
Treats: It is not necessary to have treats on hand for your ferret, but it does help. If you choose to buy treats, make sure that they are the kind that they are easily digestible. Dog or cat treats are not a good idea and could end up making them sick, especially if you give them for a prolonged period of time. $15-$40
Initial Health Check Cost
cost can vary greatly depending on the age of your pet, your location, and the kind of care he needs, but we’ll attempt to give you a basic guideline to follow here.
Much of the care your ferret needs will be random vet visits for common illnesses or injuries. However, much of these costs can be avoided by making sure he has a proper diet and a clean and safe environment to live in. Adding nutritional and fatty acid supplements to his meals is a great way to protect their health for the long-term.
But health issues aside, there are some initial vet costs that you will have to pay for before you bring your little guy home.
Cost of spaying or neutering a ferret:
Spaying $75 – $100
Neutering: $45 – $80
Cost of vaccinations:
Rabies $15 – $20
Canine distemper $15 – $20
Cost of descenting a ferret: $75 – $100 (usually discounted when done at the same time as spaying or neutering)
Cost of heartworm test: $45 – $50
Fecal exams: $25 – $45
Heartworm prevention: $140 – $200
Regular Monthly Expenses
After the initial set-up, your monthly outlay shouldn’t be very much. You should figure on paying out monthly for food, litter, treats, and hygiene.
Depending on the food you buy, it should cost between $10 – $15
Litter costs should be around $60 for 50-pounds of biodegradable, flushable litter specifically created for ferrets.
Disinfectant and cleaning products to keep their cage clean and sanitized will cost about $12
Treats will cost between $3 – $20
Regular Annual Expenses
For annual expenses, you can add at least one visit to the vet for a check-up and it is recommended that you set aside between $5 – $10 a month for emergency visits. Ferrets are notorious for getting into places that they’re not supposed to, and usually end up getting injured or sick because of it. You can almost bet that they’re curiosity is going to get the best of them and you wallet if you’re not careful.
A good way to avoid emergency visits to the vet is to ferret proof your home. That will add to the initial cost, but if you do it well, you may only need to tweak your work every now and then, but don’t expect that to completely eliminate the cost of emergency vet visits. Ferrets are smart, and given enough time, they’ll figure out a way to outsmart any system you have in place, so expect to revamp your set-up at least a few times a year, if not more.
Licenses (if needed)
Some areas require you to have a ferret license. In some states, it is illegal to own one. If you bring one into an area that doesn’t allow home pets, set aside a hefty amount of cash for penalties and fines if you’re found out. However, in most areas where ferrets are considered legal house pets, expect to pay around $5 – $10 if they are spayed and neutered and around $25 if they are not.
Ferret Proofing Costs
When ferret proofing your home, the costs can vary greatly depending on the number of dangers you may have to protect them from. To determine how much it’s going to cost, you have to first decide what preventive measures you have to take. Consider just what will attract them to all the dangers lurking about your home.
Ferrets love to chew on things, climb, and burrow underneath things. They are inquisitive and really enjoy playing, discovering and hiding things. Here are some things you need to buy:
- Door stoppers
- Blocks/screens to prevent escape through open doors and windows
- Plywood or linoleum for underneath sofas and chairs
- Latches for cabinets and toilets
- Duct tape to seal off vents
- Plastic tubing for electric cords
- Child proofing locks
- Covers for fans, space heaters, fireplaces, etc.
This is only the beginning of a long list of supplies needed to ferret proof your home. Keep in mind that while most of these things will not cost a lot (a few dollars each for most of it), it is a revolving expense. Because ferrets like to chew and dig, chances are that it is just a matter of time before whatever you have needs to be replaced. So, while the whole lot of these things may only cost you between $50 – $100, expect to repeat this at least two or three times a year, if not more.
So, the next time you see a cute little ferret in the pet store window and are tempted to bring him home, consider the costs. Ferrets are fun-loving creatures that will have you giddy with joy, but not before you meet all the costs related to raising such a wonderful pet.
If after considering all of these things, you feel that you can manage the cost of bringing a ferret into your home, then go ahead and take the plunge. It can be a truly wonderful experience that will bring lots of joy for the entire family.
Keep in mind, this is the cost of having one ferret. The cost of an additional ferret will be more, but not as much. You can easily house two or more ferrets in a large cage, and much of what you purchase can be used by all of them. Additional costs for other ferrets would be in terms of food, grooming supplies, and veterinary visits. Whether you have one or four, ferrets make great fun-loving pets, but they do cost, so never purchase one without counting the costs and making sure you can handle it.