Is this a good pet for you?

The Mustela putorius furo, more commonly known as the ferret, has been a domesticated animal for hundreds of years. In the early 1900s, New London, Ohio, was actually nicknamed Ferretville because it was home to several ferret breeders. Ferrets live or have lived in approximately 300,000 U.S. households.

Basic ferret facts. The average ferret spans between 18 and 24 inches, including tail length, and weighs between 1.5 and 6 pounds. The males tend to be longer and heavier than females. At birth, a baby ferret, called a kit, is deaf and essentially blind, as its eyes will not open until about 30 days have passed. It will also gain its hearing at this time. The newborns are white; ferrets don't obtain their adult color until they're about 21 days old. The ferret is sexually mature around 5 months old. Its life span is approximately five to eight years.

Pros. The ferret is a spirited animal that enjoys playing with its humans. However, it can be mischievous, which stems from its curious nature. Ferrets make good apartment or small living space pets, as they do not require a lot of room, just an appropriate size cage for sleeping and resting. They do require several hours a day outside their cage. They will enjoy their free time outside their cage, and some can be taught to use a litter box when not in the cage. Ferrets are quiet. The only sounds they generally make are slight squeaks and the equivalent of a chuckle, a sound called a dook.

Cons. Ferrets require significant attention. They crave interaction, and if an owner is not willing or able to provide this, the ferret will not thrive. Like dogs and cats, ferrets are prone to ear mites, but you can help prevent this by cleaning their ears routinely. In addition, a ferret does shed its coat in both summer and winter. This shedding is called "blowing a coat" and is not a medical condition, although the ferret will look scraggly until the new coat has grown in. Ferrets, like kittens, puppies and small children, are prone to eating random bits of nonedible items that may be found on the floor or tabletops. When the ferret is out of its cage, supervision must be provided for safety.

Before deciding if a ferret is a good pet for you, carefully consider the pros and cons. Consult a trusted veterinarian and visit a shelter that specializes in ferrets. Consider contacting an organization like the Ferret Association of Connecticut Inc., a nonprofit organization that can help provide answers to many questions prospective ferret owners may have.