There are cat people and dog people, but did you know there are also ferret people? And they are just as passionate about their furry pals as any canine lover or feline fanatic.
Ferrets can make great pets, so long as they are socialised and trained from an early age. They are quite similar to cats and dogs in terms of playfulness and inquisitive nature, however they are higher maintenance pets.
Music therapist Joanna Poulden and her fiance Stephen Barrow, an accountant, live in a Parramatta apartment with their four ferret babies - Blizzard, Yoda, Rocket and Meeko.
While their landlord wouldn't allow cats or dogs, they did allow guinea pigs. But when Stephen turned out to be allergic to the hay needed for cavies, Joanna started looking into ferrets. They purchased a pair for his birthday just over a year ago. A few months later they bought two more and now have two desexed males and two desexed females. "Ever since then we have fallen more and more in love with their personalities every single day," Joanna said.
Joanna and Stephen believe ferrets are misunderstood creatures. "Ferrets are honestly just a kitten or a puppy that don't grow up. I love mine," Joanna said. The couple allow their ferrets to roam freely indoors, however they did put in the work necessary to be able to do so. The ferrets have been litter and nip-trained, so they won't bite.
"As long as they have access to food, water, a litter and have room to run around, they are very independent," Joanna said. "They love to explore anywhere new, everything in the house is theirs and they love to steal and hide small items they can drag away with their mouths."
They do require a safe environment to run around in and if ferrets are left free in the home, owners must ensure there are no gaps or holes they can escape through. Ferrets are carnivores so they need to be fed a good diet of meat, otherwise they will become sick. "They will try to steal food if you leave it around - especially chocolate," Joanna said.
Ferrets are social animals, but they tend to be more connected with their own kind than their owners. "They do create a bond with you," Joanna said. "All of mine will come find me multiple times throughout a day, just to give me a quick lick or a cuddle and then go back to play or sleep. They love sleeping in dark places. Ours currently sleep in a drawer under the bed or under the couch." Ferrets sleep around 16-18 hours of the day.
One thing to be mindful of Joanna said, was playing too rough with ferrets. "Their bite is strong, and if you are rough with them, they will be rough right back. If we ever get bitten it is normally a nip and they are put in time out, which is a cage on their own for five minutes and then they are let out again."
Are they an easy pet? Joanna and Stephen say yes, but it comes with a caveat. "I think they're an easy pet for me because I dedicate time to them," Joanna said. "However just like any pet if you are not willing to train them when they are young or put the time in everyday to clean litter and give them some love then they are not for you."
And for those wondering if they smell, Joanna said yes, they do have a musky scent, but it's not something she notices anymore. Desexing can help with reducing odour. It's worth noting, ferrets have a lifespan of around five to eight years, and they can not be kept as pets in Queensland or Northern Territory. You will require a license to keep a pet ferret in the ACT.