What first interested you in ferrets and when did you first become a ferret pet parent?
I have been a huge animal person since I was a toddler. My parents said I always gravitated towards animals and books about nature even before I could talk. I’ve had hamsters, rats, chinchillas, hedgehogs, dogs, cats, snakes, and lizards. Now I joke that I was searching for ferrets all that time -I just didn’t know it yet!
When I got Moose (my first ferret), I wasn’t actually planning on getting a ferret at all. I went to a pet store to purchase a hedgehog with my boyfriend at the time. I had already owned one so I knew what the care would entail. However, when we arrived at the pet store where we meant to go check out the hedgehogs, we were instead struck by how playful and adorable the ferrets were. Many people describe ferrets as a combination of the best qualities of a puppy and a kitten rolled into one. I can attest to that!
There was one particular little ball of fluff that caught my eye. He was very dark brown and sat all alone in the corner. I reached my hands into the tank and plucked him out. I set this little kit in the crook of my forearm, belly up, and he gazed right into my eyes. What really struck me is how calmly he sat there staring at me and taking this world in. That baby was Moose, of course, and it was absolutely love at first sight. I have been head-over-heels for ferrets ever since that day.
When did you establish The Modern Ferret? What was your inspiration?
I had to scroll all the way back to the beginning of my Instagram page to answer this one! My first ever post for The Modern Ferret was made on December 2, 2015. I cannot believe it has been almost 7 years!
My inspiration for starting The Modern Ferret was first and foremost to put more positive, beautiful imagery of ferrets out into our world. I joked with another ferret owner recently that whoever was doing ‘public relations’ for ferrets in the past needs to be fired! I was sick of seeing unflattering and frightening photos of ferrets all over the internet. It didn’t match my personal experience with Moose who was cute, calm, playful, sweet, and smart. In contrast, the internet seemed to want to portray ferrets as vicious, rabid, and ugly. I couldn’t stand idly by and let those kinds of lies keep spreading!
What started as a hobby Instagram profile grew into a large community page for ferret owners where they could share their advice and experiences with one another. It’s heartwarming to see the discussions that are had on The Modern Ferret’s Instagram, Facebook, YouTube, and Tiktok. After the photos came the videos. And even though I never claimed to be an expert, I noticed a need for easy-to-follow educational videos on ferret care and took it upon myself to research, write, and produce them to the best of my ability.
The Modern Ferret will always be one of the most fun, courageous things I ever did with my life.
What do you enjoy most about your life with your ferret family members?
Sometimes I can be known to take life too seriously. I wish I could claim to be mostly carefree but I’m not. I’m a worrier. I’d go so far as to say I waste too much time worrying about things outside of my control or within my control that really shouldn’t matter so much. My ferrets are one of the best antidotes to my constant worrying.
Oftentimes I will be lost in thought (worry) and my ferret will walk up to my foot and start licking it. That helps bring me back to the present moment. Other times I will be studying or writing a new video script and I hear a *CRASH-THUD* from the other room. I run towards the noise and see my ferret has decided to uproot all my houseplants! Things like this frustrate me at first but then they inevitably make me laugh at how silly our pets can be. My ferrets are constantly trying to cause trouble in my house and their antics keep me entertained for days on end.
My ferrets also keep me on a routine. Sometimes without pets we can create these irregular schedules for our lives that aren’t very healthy (waking up late, forgetting to eat, not keeping up with chores). In order to be a good pet parent I need to create structure and consistency for my pets so they don’t get stressed out. This in turn keeps me on a healthier schedule too.
Lastly, I enjoy how fun it is to introduce new friends to ferrets. So many people know nothing about this pet -or what they know is entirely wrong. I love the opportunity to shatter their misconceptions and win another person over to ‘team ferret’.
What is something that most people don’t know about ferrets and are surprised to learn?
I think the biggest misconception people have about ferrets is that they are part of the rodent family. There’s usually a lot of re-education that needs to take place when I get this question. I usually go into the fascinating animal kingdom chart that leads to ferrets. Ferrets are actually part of the carnivore order and are related to other prey-meat-eaters like minks, stoats, otters, and wolverines. In various times in history (as well as present day!) ferrets were used to hunt rodents, not befriend them! That is why I also make a point to let new ferret owners know to never house their ferrets with mice, rats, hamsters, guinea pigs, or anything similar.
On a similar note, are there any common misconceptions people have about ferrets? If so, what are they?
There is a lot of misunderstanding surrounding what a ferret should eat. This kind of goes with the last question. Because a lot of people assume ferrets are rodents, they often think their diet is similar to that of other rodents (plant foods like seeds, grains, and fruit). In reality, ferrets are meant to eat prey-meat or derivatives of prey-meat. They should not be eating fruits and vegetables or sugary treats.
I have also found that a lot of people interested in ferrets think that their new pet will spend a majority of his or her time in their cage. In reality, a happy and healthy ferret will do best free roaming certain ferret-proofed rooms in the house. The cage is more of a place to sleep and find food and water. It can also be used as a safe place to contain your ferret while you do any number of things that might be dangerous for them (e.g., leaving the front door open to move furniture, cleaning something with harsh chemicals). I actually made an in-depth YouTube series on ferret-proofing common rooms in the home because there are so many ways your ferret can hurt themselves!
The funniest misconception I get is confusing male ferrets for females. Many people mistake a certain part of their anatomy for a ‘belly button’ when in fact this is where your male ferret pees out of! How funny!
What’s your favorite activity to engage in with your ferrets?
I built a 1,200 sq ft enclosed ferret park in my backyard right before the pandemic started and I love to take my ferrets out there in the morning during breakfast to let them run around. It is so fun to see them crawl through the hollowed-out logs and scout out the perimeter. I also have a designated area full of long tubes (I call it “Tube City”) where they can get lost for a while in their own adventures.
One of my favorite things to witness is their little ‘popcorn hops’ when I first set them down in the garden. My ferrets become so excited they literally cannot contain their joy. They start exploding in cartwheels and flips!
What is the most important life lesson your ferrets have taught you?
I learn something new from my ferrets probably every day -and if it’s not a new lesson, it’s a refresher on something important they’ve already taught me but I need a reminder on.
My ferrets are excellent ‘mindfulness teachers’. They know nothing else besides the present moment. As humans we often find ourselves living in the past or worrying about the future. When we resign ourselves to autopilot and live life like that for too long, we can miss the whole point! Ferrets remind me moment by moment to be present and put my worries on the shelf (at least for a little while).
My ferrets also teach me to be happy with what I have. I often find my ferrets playing in an old cardboard box or rummaging through my closet. These are items they have had access to forever, and yet they still find something to be excited over. That is an attitude I try to take with me in my own life.
Lastly, my ferrets remind me how to slow down and rest. Ferrets sleep for a majority of the day and they always look so at peace when they nap!
What are some of your favorite ways that your ferrets show their affection for you?
Ferrets are very affectionate pets. After caring for so many different animals, I can honestly say that the emotional bond you form with a ferret is right up there with a dog or a cat. My ferrets show affection by constantly choosing to be near me. When I get ready in the morning, my ferrets will follow me around the house, room by room. I talk to them and even though they don’t understand, they look me in the face like they are listening. When I shower, they curl up on the bathmat next to the tub and lick my legs when I get out.
When I’m relaxing after a long day, my ferrets will climb up on the couch and curl up next to me. If they have a choice, they will always choose to sleep in clothing I have most recently worn, because it smells most like me, and I tell myself it’s because I make them feel safe.
I’m sure there’s about a hundred other ways they say ‘I love you,’ but that’s all I can think of right now!
What’s your favorite part of interacting with other ferret owners and enthusiasts online?
Ferret owners are a very unique group of people! We come from all walks of life but having a love of ferrets in common makes us similar in an important way. We are passionate about a pet that is not extremely well-known. That means this subject-matter attracts a lot of people who are willing to put in the work and do their own research. We also have so many helpful people in this global community. They will go out of their way to explain what has worked for them and their ferrets.
I will also say that every time I feel compelled to be vulnerable and share my own heart with other ferret owners on social media, they always show up to support me. They even take it one step further and share their own authentic experiences. What more could you ask for?!
What advice would you give to anyone who is considering adding a ferret or ferrets to their family?
I would say do some serious research on the pros and cons of ferrets first. Ferrets are amazing pets for the right person, but because of their unique needs they are not for everyone. I would spend some time talking to other ferret owners online (if you can’t find anyone in person) and, if possible, I’d see if anyone will let you babysit their ferret for a few days to see what it’s really like.
If you ultimately do decide to bring a ferret into your home, we would be happy to have you join our community! The Modern Ferret is just a bunch of ferret owners trying to become better owners a day at a time.