Mustela putorius furo is the scientific name for ferrets. Though this does not have a literal meaning, one could roughly translate it to “thieving, smelly, mouse-catcher” which is a fairly accurate description.
Ferrets like to steal and hide small things, have a noticeable odor, and are excellent hunters of small game. The name ferret itself can be translated to “little thief”.
These creatures have a happy and inquisitive demeanor and love to play and explore.
They can grow to about 20 inches in length and weigh 4.4 pounds at most. They have a lifespan of about 8 years.
Breaking Down the Cost of Ferrets
This article will show not just the cost of buying a ferret, but also take into account the cost of maintaining them in terms of food, hygiene, medical services, and/or licenses.
One-time expenses required for a proper shelter like the cage and its accessories as well as toys will also be discussed. Finally, we look at some variables that can affect ferret prices as well as give you a few tips before buying them.
One Time Expenses for Having a Ferret
Ferrets can be bought from pet stores, shelters and private breeders. Pet ferret prices usually range from $100 to $275 but can go as high as $500 depending on the source, quality, age, freebies, etc.
Pet-Classifieds.com offers several ferrets ranging from $100 – $300 with varieties in terms age, gender, and color; some with free shipping and some sold with cage.
Aside from the pet’s actual cost, be sure to have a budget for the following expenses upon acquiring your new pet:
- Shelter Costs
Ferrets require a specific cage design and construction. This must be sufficiently spaced with multiple levels with wire siding to provide good ventilation but with wires small enough so the ferret does not escape. The floor should be solid, and of course, there must be a proper door/entrance that the ferret cannot open.
You can buy used cages but if you prefer a brand new ferret-specific cage, a 2-level metal wire cage which is approximately 36-inch x 24-inch x 60-inch cage will usually range from $150-$240. These cages can house 2 ferrets.
If you bought commercial cages, these will usually include casters to move them around. It will also contain ladders for the multiple stages as well as hammocks and hiding places.
Hammocks and hiding places cater to the natural tendencies and behavior of the ferret so even a simple box to hide in and a sweater tied across the cage can satisfy your pet.
Again, if you are looking for ferret-specific items, a large wooden hiding place will cost around $9 while plush material hammocks will have a price range of around $9 to $18. These hammocks will add another level to your cage as well as keep the ferrets warm at night.
The cage will also need some bedding. These will range from crumpled paper to wood shavings which are good choices because they are non-toxic, scent-free, and biodegradable. The prices range from $6 for 10 liters of paper bedding to $16 for 19.6 liters of wood shavings.
The ferret needs to be let out of the cage for at least 4 hours daily. Again, you can have another used cage for this purpose as long as it is big enough for a ferret to play in. A simple play cage of about 30-inch x 30-inch will cost around $43.
Of course, if you can also let them run around the house, there is no risk of the ferret running away or getting attacked by a dog or cat.
- Transporting Cost
If you are going to transport your ferret, it will be safe for everyone if you put it in a travel cage. A simple 10-inch x 16-inch x 10-inch carrier will cost about $21. A harness would cost about $5 while a simple collar with bells would be around $3.
- License and Permits
Before you buy a ferret, you should read up on the regulations in your area as some states require a license to own one. Some states do not even allow ferrets as home pets. You might end up paying hefty fines and your pet might be confiscated if you do not follow these regulations.
If allowed, this would cost around $5-$10 for neutered animals and around $25 for unneutered ones.
What are Included?
Pet stores will offer cages and food formulations that are usually branded or manufactured by the same farm that breeds the ferret being sold.
A small food portion might be included when you purchase the animal, enough to last a few days so your pet doesn’t have to starve while looking for a permanent source of food in case the pet store is too far from your place.
The pet store might also provide a temporary, often a cheap cage, for transport purposes only. However, most of the time, these foods and cages are sold separately.
Reputable rescue shelters and private breeders will provide the vaccines and neutering while the animal is still in their care and will provide documentation for all of these so you will have a smooth transition when bringing your pet to a new vet.
Recurring Cost of Owning A Ferret
- Food Costs
Ferrets are carnivores so their food must comprise mainly of protein and fat to maintain their health. They will eat small meals every few hours throughout the day but this will add up to about 1/3 cup ferret kibble per day.
A specifically-formulated ferret food will cost around $66 per 35-pound bag. This stockpile will last for about 10 months if you provide other food and treats, and about 9 months if you feed this exclusively.
If you want to give commercial treats, this should be formulated for ferrets as well. Treats should only be around 10% of what they eat daily. The majority of ferret’s calorie requirement must be provided by ferret-specific food.
A specifically-formulated ferret treat will cost $4 for a 3-ounce pack. If given as 10% of daily food intake, this will last for 2 weeks.
Food and water should be available throughout the day. A ferret bottle will cost $6 and a large eggshell dish costs $3. Ferrets like to move the bowls around so you may want to buy bowls that can be fixed in place. Having a set for both the play area and the cage will also be beneficial.
- Hygiene Costs
Ferrets can be trained to use litter boxes. Most cages include a simple litter pan with the set. But if you constructed your own cage or bought a second-hand piece, then you will have to buy a pan. It is wise to put another litter pan in the play area and other areas where the ferret spends considerable time in case of emergencies.
A simple plastic high back design will prevent the litter from spilling and will cost $5-$9. An animal litter scoop will cost around $2. Of course, you make your own or repurpose other materials as litter boxes.
You can simply use newspaper as litter. But if you are looking for a commercial product, pelleted paper litters are the way to go. A biodegradable, flushable, ferret-specific litter will cost about $60 for a 50-pound bag.
To maintain the shelter and prevent odors from being too strong, disinfect the cage, toys, and other contents about once a week with 3% bleach solution. A branded 121-ounce concentrated solution will cost about $12 and will last a long time when diluted to 3%.
As for the ferret, a monthly bath is necessary but conditioning sprays are acceptable as well because these do not strip the oils from their skin. A specialized deodorizing ferret shampoo costs $4 for 10 fluid ounces while a ferret waterless bath will cost about $7 for 8 fluid ounces. This simply needs to be sprayed and wiped; there is no need to rinse.
Ferrets need to be brushed daily with a soft bristle and this will cost another $4. A starter grooming kit including a nail clipper, shedding brush, bristle brush and a distraction chew toy will cost about $8.
- Medical Costs
Just like any home pets, ferret’s health is as equally important as any of its basic needs. Hence, it is important to ensure there are veterinary clinics nearby in case a need arises.
A trip to the vet typically costs a minimum of $30 for a simple physical exam and would cost more depending on the vet rate, location, and other tests required.
Aside from the regular checkups, ferrets need canine distemper and rabies vaccinations.
CD is an air-borne disease and contrary to common beliefs that only those pets that are in contact with dogs were the only ones exposed, even those who are fully-caged inside the house can also be at risk. And the sad truth is that not a single unvaccinated ferret can survive once it acquired this deadly virus.
On the other hand, rabies is very rare in ferrets. But this doesn’t mean there is zero risk. So it’s always better safe than sorry.
Ferrets need vaccinations for rabies just the same. Some say this is useless because a ferret is small and will die from wounds when bitten by an animal with rabies, for example, a coyote. Even though this is true, the vaccination will serve as protection for your pet in the sense that if your pet bites someone, they will not be seized and killed if they have a rabies vaccination certification.
Since ferrets are small animals, both vaccine shots cannot be done simultaneously. A common routine is distemper vaccinations when the ferret is 8, 11, and 14 weeks old and rabies vaccinations at 12 and 16 weeks old.
Both of these should be followed by yearly boosters. These ferret vaccinations cost $15-$20 each injection.
Toy selection for ferrets is very straightforward. A simple chew toy will cost about $3 but ferrets can be happy with homemade toys as well. They can spend a lot of time playing with something as simple as boxes.
Factors That Can Affect Ferret’s Price Near You
Unlike cats and dogs that have many regional breeds, domesticated ferrets are a single breed. They do have different colorations and different patterns created by these colorations. A cinnamon color is the rarest but these generally do not affect their price because these colorations and patterns change with the seasons and as the ferret ages.
The gender will also not affect the price, but will significantly affect maintenance. The substantially larger male will need more food while a female needs to be spayed because once in heat, it will remain in heat until mated, which leads to death by aplastic anemia. Spaying is usually more expensive than castration.
Ferrets bought from shelters are priced cheaper than average at about $100 but these are well cared for, well raised and are already vaccinated and neutered. The shelter will also provide assistance in terms of advice and professional help for you and your ferret.
The same can be said for ferrets sold by private breeders. However, their prices reach around $275. The high price is due to the fact that you are getting a ferret with a well-tracked family line with good breeding. These ferrets are also unaltered, but you can have them neutered for about $150-$300.
Pet shop ferrets can cost slightly more or slightly less than shelter-bought and privately-bred ferrets but generally fall in between. However, pet store ferrets will have to be tested for diseases and vaccinated because these are “farmed” for income. The breeders do not really care much for the animal and focus only on the retail value.
Location also plays a factor in the ferret’s price. If you do not have a private breeder in your area and you want to own a ferret, you will likely have to buy from a pet store. Marshall Farms, one of the biggest ferret farms and the primary supplier to pet stores, is located in New York. Transporting their ferrets to the other side of the country will incur additional costs that increase the retail price.
Already Decided On Buying? Here Are Some Tips
There are currently no online listings from Petco or PetSmart but the stores may offer ferrets depending on your location. Some Petco shops offer ferrets for about $85-$150, depending on where the store is located while some shops do not sell ferrets.
However, Marshall Farms offer them year round so if you want to acquire one, then, you can contact their customer service for more information.
Being resourceful can help reduce your total cost. For example, repurposing pans as your litter pans and using newspaper instead of litter will have a significant effect on your expenses.
You can also increase food variety while reducing the cost by giving your ferret human grade meat or meat scraps from a butcher. Just make sure you cook these thoroughly.
Emergency vet visits are hard to account for, but it is a good idea to set up a pet fund that will be used for pet emergencies. Even saving $20 every month will have a very significant effect in lightening the financial load when your pet does need to go to the vet.
Finally, it is wise to postpone buying a ferret until you are sure that you can provide everything else other than food. Don’t buy impulsively or you might find yourself in a situation wherein you need a large cage but you live in a small apartment or lacking financially when there is a medical emergency with your pet.