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While adopting an older ferret can be difficult for first-time owners who may not be as good at spotting health problems, I would advise first-time pet owners to consider an adult rather than a baby animal, and ideally one from a rescue that can tell you a bit about the animal and its personality.
The reasons for this are pretty simple:
1) The tough stuff is often done. Generally, an adult ferret is already nip trained. The animal may already know some tricks, and the odds of the ferret ingesting a portion of a toy and getting an intestinal blockage from eating something strange has been reduced (the threat is still there, however, baby ferrets are far more likely to destroy and then eat a piece of a toy or a random object that an adult ferret would ignore). Litter training may also be included in this package (well, as much as that particular ferret can be litter trained), but if not it can be more easily taught. Adopting an adult ferret is a bit like adopting a pre-trained, well-behaved adult dog rather than adopting a baby dinosaur and attempting to turn it into a dog… I know that that sounds a bit far-fetched, but the reality of the situation is that many first-time ferret owners have never even met a ferret before adopting their first animal and have no idea how to turn an unruly kit into a well-behaved and well-balanced adult… it’s not impossible, but it is a huge and sometimes overwhelming task.
2) Training is easier. This may sound counterintuitive to some people, but in reality, it is much easier to train an adult than a baby. Adults have longer attention spans and better memory retention than babies. Training requires less repetition and though, in the case of adult animals, it may involve some re-training to break bad habits, it is generally rather simple. The adage “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks” is not only misleading but is also downright false – it is much easier to teach an old dog (or ferret) a new trick than it is to teach a puppy (or kit) ANY trick.
3) They WILL bond. Having a ferret as a kit does not ensure that the animal will connect with you any more than an adult ferret will. I have had both kits and adult ferrets and have found that the bond between the person and the animal depends more on how you treat and interact with the animal than how old it was when you got it. Some ferrets will bond quickly with their owners and trust them almost immediately, others are more suspicious and take longer. This is true whether or not the animal has ‘baggage’ from a previous home.
4) Getting a ferret as a baby will not make them cuddle. Some ferrets are more cuddly than others, regardless of when you get them. This depends on the animal’s personality rather than its age. I have two ferrets nearly the same age. I got them both at a young age – one 3 months, one 4-6 months. The one that I got at 4-6 months old is and always has been a much cuddlier ferret than the one that I got at an earlier age, but neither is as cuddly as the male that I got at 5 years of age, or the 3-year-old male that we fostered for a brief period.
5) If you are adopting from a rescue, the rescue volunteers are often very knowledgeable about that particular animal and more than willing to offer post-adoption support. This can be invaluable if you are concerned that the animal is ill, or if you have any questions regarding the animal’s behavior. Most shelters are more than willing to take the animal back if things don’t work out and though you may not get a refund, you can feel confident knowing that the animal will not be euthanized or sold to an inappropriate home.
In short: yes, babies are cute and fuzzy, but for first-time owners, adults are often a better option, and no, getting an adult will not rob you of any ferret affection.