I searched far and wide for a hypoallergenic pet, and a ferret is pretty close to being ideal so long as I take some extra cleaning steps.
My Mission for a Hypoallergenic Pet
When I got married 13 years ago, I married a man that is allergic to dust, every tree on the planet, and anything with fur.
I decided to go on a mission to see if I could find an animal that would be good for apartment living. I love animals, and so does he. We both wanted to find a small animal that he would do well with. I came up with a ferret.
Prior to meeting my husband, I dated someone who had ferrets. They are not as good as a dog, but they were fun and cute to watch run around. When they tired out, they would climb on your lap and fall asleep. So this is why I came up with learning more about ferrets.
What I found was encouraging. Ferrets don't have fur—they have hair like us. The information stated they are hypoallergenic. Yeah! We could have a fuzzy or two. I took this information to my husband. He thought it was worth a shot.
So off we went to the pet store and got the cage, bedding, feeding dishes, litter pan, litter, and food. We went home to set it all up before getting the fuzz balls to bring home. Then we went back to the pet store and got our two little ferrets.
There are a variety of colors and markings for ferrets. There are panda-marked ferrets, sables with very dark brown fur, chocolate . well, you get the idea. We ended up with a panda and a sable. My husband did fine with these ferrets for about five years.
Of course, I was the only one to clean the cage and bathe them so the ferrets wouldn't be too much in his face. He also was always sure to wash his hands after handling them. I cleaned the cage weekly top to bottom and also cleaned the litter each day.
When these little guys passed onto greener pastures, we didn't get another ferret for a few years.
When we had our son, we wanted him to have a pet. So when he was about three, we got him a gray and white ferret. Well, it was awful for my husband, and he landed in the hospital that night with an asthma attack.
Needless to say, the next day, the ferret went back to the store, and Petco was fantastic about taking him back and giving us a full refund. They felt awful about my husband's trip to the ER.
I think there is a difference between the color of the ferret's hair. The ferret with the lighter hair was softer. The darker ferret's hair was coarse. I have a feeling the softer hair is what did my husband in. But who really knows for sure?
About five years ago, we decided to try the ferret thing again. This time we got a sable ferret—little Rascal. My husband does have some sensitivity to Rascal, but it is manageable.
Here's what I do to keep my husband ok with her. With this, we can all enjoy having a pet in the home.
- I clean the cage with bleach twice a week. It sounds like a lot, but it only takes about twenty minutes to do. I also change the bedding at this time.
- I don't use bleach on her food and water dishes, just soap and water for those.
- Once a month, I break the cage down and wash it with soap and water to get all the fur and dust off it. This again sounds like a bit, but it only takes about thirty minutes.
The ferret cages on the market are easy to break down and clean. You can get them used, or of course, in the pet stores. Also, you can construct your own. I have friends that just did a wood frame with chicken wire.
I like the store cages because they are easier to clean where they are plastic, and the ferrets are less likely to get cut on them. They climb the cages, and the chicken wire is thin, which cuts the pads on the ferret's feet.
My husband doesn't handle her a lot. When he does, he makes a point not to touch his face. Once done with handling Rascal, he washes his hands. By taking these steps, he does do fine with her, and it is nice for our son to have a pet to care for.
So Are Ferrets Hypoallergenic?
Again my husband does well with the darker ferrets. I do have friends with allergies, and they have no problem with their ferrets as long as they keep the cage clean and wash up after handling them. I guess with lots of things in life, it depends on the individual.
Tips for Saving Money Owning a Ferret
Here are some cost-saving tips if you decide a ferret might fit with your lifestyle.
- Ferrets can eat a high-grade kitten or cat food. It is cheaper than ferret food and healthy for them. I get Newman's own cat food.
- They do sell bedding for ferrets. We did get a couple of the ferret hammocks. Ferrets like to sleep up high. When one is in the wash, we have a backup.
- For her bedding, we just use old sheets, blankets, sweatshirts, and t-shirts. If there are buttons, I cut those off, so Rascal doesn't chew and swallow them.
- We did purchase a litter pan. You do want a ferret litter pan. Ferrets do their business in corners. They have litter pans with three high sides and one low. The low so they can get in easily and the high so the business doesn't spill out.
- As for the litter, again, they make ferret litter, but it's expensive. I get the $1.99 kitty litter, and Rascal does just fine with it.
- The feed and water dishes need to be attached to the cage, or the ferret will just knock them over. They are not really big money.
I hope these tips help. Enjoy your ferrets! They are crazy fun little pets to have around.
© 2013 Alison
Furlover89 on February 06, 2019:
I’d be careful using bleach, ferrets are sensitive and can develop respiratory issues. God forbid there was enough residue to cause a fatal accident. Warm water with vinegar and little lemon juice works just fine. Best food source for ferrets is a raw diet, if dry kibble is all that’s available it needs to be high in protein/fat. Puppy pads in the corners of the room for when they’re free roaming, you can cut them to size to fit in the corners of the cage or yesterday’s news pellets work well too.
Isaac Ince from USA on September 10, 2018:
I thing the main reason is that their protein presents in the ferret's saliva. Feed your ferret rich protein based brand ferret food is a complete ferret food of Hypoallergenic diet. Cleaning floors and furniture, 75% reduce the allergies. https://www.bestferretcages.com/are-ferrets-hypoal... website. guidance and information aware you.
Brooke on March 13, 2016:
DO NOT USE CLAY OR CLUMPING CAT LITTER.
Ferrets breathe in the dust and if gets into their lungs, it'll clump up and slowly kill them. And make it hard form them to breathe.
Alison (author) from USA on January 07, 2014:
I do use clay litter which I have for the past 13 years & we lost our first ferret @ the old age of ten. Our current ferret is 5 years & no problems. I have also never had an issue with their order. I do keep cage super clean. Thanks for your point well taken & for others reading they'll have that in mind. Thanks for reading
Amber on January 07, 2014:
I'd be careful about using kitty litter a lot of kitty litter is made of clay and produces dust which can be very bad for the ferrets respiratory system unless your using pelleted cat litter which is recycled paper that doesn't produce dust just be careful I have five ferrets and was using clay litter until I read risks about it and switched to pelleted litter they seem a lot healthier and happier now and it really hides there odor well.
Alison (author) from USA on November 29, 2013:
True I use Paul Newman's own cat food and have never had a problem. You do need to use a higher grade cat food which is still a bit less money then the ferret foods on the market. Thanks for your point well taken. Happy Thanksgiving and Christmas ..
retewt on November 28, 2013:
be careful sometimes kat food is too high in sugar for ferrets, also the fish in some can make ferrets produce more odor
The most important point out of all, is that it takes a special human to own such a unique, funny, smart and affectionate animal. If trained and looked after correctly, what a ferret gives back to us is more than enough! They make for good pets and you’ll have a special bond.
If you have decided that you want a ferret as your new furry friend in the house, you need to understand that it’s a big responsibility and can be challenging at times. Under the Animal Welfare Act, if a ferret is under your care you are responsible for their well-being.
Learn more on How To Raise And Care For A Ferret by reading this article!
Owning a Ferret: What You Should Know
By: Ariana Finkelstein, DVM
Ferrets can make great pets, but it is important to know the pros and cons of owning one before you take the leap into ferret ownership. Most of the ferrets in the U.S. come from Marshall Farms. They are all spayed or neutered and de-scented at a young age before leaving the farm. Although they have their scent glands removed, ferrets still maintain their unique “musky” odor, so it is important that you and your family are comfortable with this smell. Marshall Farms ferrets have two green dots tattooed in their ear for identification. Owning a ferret is illegal in several states however, Texas is not one of them.
Ferrets Are Cute
With mischievous eyes and sweet faces, ferrets are undeniably adorable. They are a small size and can provide your family with a sweet long-term pet. Most ferrets live for about six to eight years, though some pet ferrets can live up to 12 years. Females ferrets usually grow to 13 to 14 inches long and weigh anywhere from three-quarters of a pound to two and a half pounds. Male ferrets are often slightly larger. They typically grow to 15 to 16 inches long and weigh two to three and a half pounds if neutered. They can grow larger (four or more pounds) if they are not neutered.
Ferrets can live until they are 10 years old, with the longest living ferret making it to the ripe old age of 13 years. If you aren’t sure what you will be doing in 10 years time, consider adopting an adult ferret or fostering a ferret instead. There are numerous ferret rescue organisations and this can be a great opportunity to give a ferret a new life.
Generally speaking, ferrets and very young children do not mix well, as ferrets have a tendency to bite if they are not handled gently. That being said, ferrets can make great pets for families with older children provided they are supervised and shown how to correctly handle them.
Ferrets are a flight risk and will make a mad dash for any open doorway to escape. If you like to keep doors around your house open then a ferret is perhaps not suited to you home. Similarly, ferrets love to get underfoot, so if your home is a high traffic area or has members of the family who are at risk of falling, then again these fur-balls might not be right for you.
Finally, ferrets can’t really be trusted with smaller pets such as mice, rats and even rabbits, if these pets are already part of your family then a ferret is probably not ideal. By the same token, cats and dogs probably can’t be trusted around a ferret, particularly unsupervised, even ‘friendly’ cats and dogs can risk hurting a ferret during rough play due to their size advantage.
For a full discussion on ferrets and other pets, check out our article Ferrets and Other Pets: Safety First.