How Long Does a Ferret Live?

When any owner brings home a new pet, there is oftentimes the expectation that their animal will be a part of their family for a long time to come. However, the lifespan of every animal differs, making this belief a bit misleading. When it comes to ferrets, how long do they live? 

According to the American Ferret Association, ferrets live anywhere between six and ten years. This gap in lifespan is due to the fact that ferrets bought from pet stores tend to live shorter than those that are purchased from a breeder, which tend to live longer. 

Ferrets are not the most common household pet, but they still have a presence for those who want a pet to love without having the same responsibility that more common pets like dogs and cats require. Continue reading to find what you need to know about the lifespan of ferrets, what affects how long ferrets live, other important aspects that contribute to their overall happiness and health, and how to tell if your ferret is at the end of its life. 

How Long Do Ferrets Live? 

Ferrets have long roamed the earth but were domesticated about 2,500 years ago. These tiny mammals were first used as hunting tools to help catch wild game like rabbits and small rodents. Their small bodies were able to catch small animals easily, as they were able to get down into burrows that larger animals simply could not pursue. They were then used to protect grain stores from rodents and became popular house pets in the 1980s. 

With the history of ferrets being one that uses them for hunting and protection, this information would beg the question of just exactly how long a ferret lives? If people were using these animals for substantial jobs, they would have to have the capability of living longer than a few years so that they could not only be properly trained, but could be a useful tool for those individuals once they understood their duties. So, how long do ferrets live? 

Ferrets live anywhere between six and ten years, but the length of their life is largely dependent on where the ferret was purchased, how the ferret is cared for, and what type of diet the ferret regularly consumes. Ferrets are long-term pets that will be around for years if cared for properly. 

If you are considering bringing home a ferret as your new household pet, understanding that these animals typically live quite a long life is something you should consider. Although ferrets are relatively simplistic to care for, they will require this care for the entirety of their life. If you think that a six to ten year commitment of care is too much for you, consider finding a pet that may require a little less, or one that has a shorter average lifespan. 

What Affects the Lifespan of Ferrets?

Knowing that the lifespan of a ferret ranges anywhere from six to ten years may leave potential owners and current owners wondering what accounts for such a large gap. Of course, there are individual factors that play into each ferret’s lifespan, but when it comes down to it, there are a few large contributors that will either cause your ferret to land on the sooner or latter part of this average lifespan. 

The various aspects that influence the lifespan of ferrets include whether or not they were purchased from a pet store or breeder, how well they are physically cared for, and the type of diet your ferret is given. These components will be what either shortens or lengthens your ferret’s life.

It is true that many people do not seek to purchase a ferret from a breeder. These pets can be easily found at pet stores, making them much more accessible to the general public. However, convenience may come at a price when it comes to the lifespan of your pet. Ferrets that are purchased from a pet store have already been spayed or neutered, which does not allow them time to develop completely hormonally. 

Full hormonal development typically occurs after ferrets have reached a year old and is necessary to help them lead a long and healthy life. If you were to purchase a ferret from a breeder, they would advise you to wait this length of time before spaying or neutering, which would allow for proper hormonal development and thus, a longer life. 

Two other aspects that affect the lifespan of your ferret include how well your ferret is physically cared for and how well it is fed. They always need fresh water and their cages should be regularly cleaned and sanitized. For food, ferrets should always be given high-quality, ferret-formulated food that is high in protein. By keeping these aspects in control, your ferret may live a longer and healthy life. 

Other Important Factors to Keep Your Ferret Happy and Healthy 

When bringing home a pet, owners want to keep their animal with them as long as possible. Through weeks, months, and years of care, relationships develop and that pet soon becomes a part of the family. As noted, when it comes to extending the life of your ferret, some of the most important factors include where you purchase your ferret from, how well they are cared for, and the diet they receive. But what are some other ways you can keep them happy and healthy?

Other important factors that influence your ferret’s happiness and health include regular dental care, physical and mental stimulation, and human interaction. By implementing these components into your ferrets’ everyday life, they are more likely to be content which leads to better overall health.

Dental care is not essential for young ferrets, which is why this does not fall under the biggest components to a longer lifespan. However, as your ferret ages, they can be predisposed to dental disease such as adrenal diseases and lymphoma. This can be prevented by cleaning their teeth with a soft toothbrush and ridding the surface or any plaque buildup that may have settled its way in between their teeth and gums. 

Beyond dental care, your ferret is also in need of mental stimulation. Although these animals are happy to be in their cage for a certain amount of time, they are very playful creatures whose curiosity needs to be fed. To make sure this is happening, give your ferret plenty of play toys that you notice they obviously enjoy. Even more, they need ample time outside of their cage so they can freely run and explore, which will keep them physically and mentally sharp. 

Speaking of getting out of their cage, when this happens, ferrets also need a good amount of time spent with their owners playing. Ferrets are social creatures who love interaction, therefore, getting on their level and playing a few games with them daily can benefit them in so many ways. By stimulating them mentally and physically through play and human interaction, they are fueled to a degree that remaining in their cage alone simply will not do. 

Signs That Your Ferret is at the End of Its Life

Knowing that a ferret has six to ten years worth of life before passing may cause owners to put the thought of death in the back of their minds. After all, there is plenty of time between bringing your new ferret home and having to say goodbye. Although this is not the most pleasant topic to consider, it is important to look for signs that your ferret may be at the very end of its happy life. Take a look below to see what those signs are. 

Lethargy 

If your once playful and energetic ferret is a bit slower to run after a ball, will not scurry from couch to chair any longer, and spends more time sleeping than it does playing and searching about, this may be a sign that age has gotten the best of your pet. They may also be harder to wake from sleep or slower to get started once they are awake. 

Lack of Appetite 

© librariansarah / Flickr

Ferrets are glutenous little creatures and will be happy to gobble up just about anything in sight if given the chance (although they should receive a strict diet of ferret-formulated food). If your once ravenous ferret is now very slow to gobble up its meal or will only eat a few bites at a time, this could be a sign that he or she is nearing the end of its life. 

Uninterested in Playing 

This section can also be tied with lethargy, but when it comes to the specific component of play, if you notice that your ferret would rather be in its cage than outside playing with its owner, it could be a sign that age is slowly creeping up on them. Ferrets are generally very playful pets, so when you notice that they are no longer interested in this activity, it can be a quick giveaway that something may be awry. 

More Willing to be Handled 

© John Rohan / Flickr

Ferrets are social creatures and enjoy playing with other ferrets and humans alike, but when they are young, they want to do that playing away from the grasp of their owner. Young ferrets will tolerate being held, but they are typically very squirmy and want to be put down. If you notice that your ferret is now much more apt to sit and cuddle with you, it could be an indication that their time is limited.

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