Should I get my ferret a friend?
Are ferrets social? Is my ferret lonely?
Artwork by Katelyn McManis for www.ferret.love. Do not reproduce without permission.
Are ferrets social?
Many people like to say "ferrets are social." This is a MYTH. Or more accurately, it's just an overly generalized statement.
While many ferrets are social, many are not. Some prefer to be alone. Some will bond closely with one or two other ferrets, but be unwilling to meet others. Some enjoy playing with other ferrets, while others prefer toys or exploration. As ferrets get older, they tend to get more antisocial. The key here is: every ferret is unique.
Note that when talking about being "social" I am referring to other ferrets. Almost all ferrets, unless they have a bad history of abuse or neglect, will enjoy and appreciate human interaction and companionship.
So if you're considering whether to get a friend for your ferret, keep that in mind. Younger ferrets tend to be much more playful and willing to make friends. If you have a single young ferret, then yes I think in most cases, it would be nice to get a friend for them.
If you have an older ferret that has been alone its whole life, it's probably used to being single and may either be afraid of or attack any new ferrets it meets. If you have a ferret that was bonded with a friend, and that friend passed away, you may be thinking "she misses her friend and needs a new one." That may be right, but it may be completely wrong.
Adopt, don't shop
The best thing to do in every case is to ADOPT. Most ferret shelters will allow (or even require) your ferret to meet many possible new friends before sending them home. That will give you a good idea of how social your ferret is and whether a buddy will actually be beneficial to it.
At the GCFA, we often see ferrets that come in to find a friend and leave because they didn't get along with anyone. But hey, although it's not the outcome they were hoping for, they at least know that they tried and that their ferret is happy as it is. We also see ferrets that will be timid around the first 10 new ferrets they meet, but then instantly bond with the 11th. Again, every ferret is unique.
The worst thing you can do is go buy another ferret (especially a baby) and force them to be together. Baby ferrets tend to annoy older ones because they want to play, while the older one does not. This can be extremely stressful to the older ferret. Older ferrets may also stress the young one out if they lash out in response to the baby's attempts to play. Stress is the #1 cause of illness in ferrets, and with an older ferret with a weakened immune system, it can be fatal.
But my ferret is bored!
If your ferret is bored and you think a companion will provide stimulation, that's probably not a great idea. You could very well end up with two bored ferrets instead. First ask yourself, how much time do you actually spend with them? Do you actively play with them? Do you give them engaging toys and activities? Do you take them on adventures? If you've actually done everything you can to stimulate them and they're still bored, then yes, it's definitely worth trying to find them a friend. If not, then try those things first.
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