Ferrets & Children

There is a big difference between having both children and pets and getting a pet for your child. Please remember that a ferret is a lot like a cat or dog, and will require the same kind of attention and care. It is not at all like keeping a pet hamster or guinea pig. If your child is responsible, careful, and not too young, and you are going to supervise and help out with the care, a ferret will be a great pet. Otherwise, consider getting a low-maintenance pet you can keep in a cage instead.

Supervise children with any pets

It is definitely necessary to monitor interactions between young children and ANY pets closely and to make sure children know the proper way to handle pets. A living creature needs, and deserves, to be treated with more care than a toy. Ferrets in particular love to pounce and wrestle when they play, which may frighten children, and children tend to play rather roughly, which may prompt a more vigorous response from an active ferret than from a typical cat. Ferrets may bite when they play. These playful nips can startle you and a frightened response from the child may cause more problems.

Just as some very friendly dogs become nervous around children because they don’t look, smell, or act like adults, some ferrets who aren’t used to kids don’t quite know how to behave around them. Make sure both your child and your ferret understand what’s expected of them, and what to expect from the other one.

What about ferrets attacking babies?

There are several stories floating around about ferrets attacking babies, some more true than others. Ferrets are unfamiliar to most people, so it’s easier for them to make sweeping statements on the basis of a tiny amount of information. Some of the reports are simply rumor, or the result of confusing another animal with a ferret. Others are based in fact, but omit important information (for instance, that the child and pets had clearly been neglected or abused prior to the attack). A small number are unfortunately true.

However, plenty of children have been attacked and even killed by dogs and cats. The number of people injured by ferrets each year is a tiny fraction of the number wounded or killed by dogs. People don’t claim that all dogs and cats are too dangerous for pets, but rather that more responsible parenting and pet ownership is needed. The same is true for ferrets.

According to Dr. Bruce Williams, DVM:

I can say from personal experience that there are many, many more bite incidents with the household dog or cat, and that either of these species tend to do a lot more damage. I have seen children require over a hundred facial stitches from getting between the dog and its food, but never anything like this with a ferret. But I’ve also been nailed by my share of ferrets too. Personally, I don’t recommend ferrets for people with children under 6 or 7 – either the child or the ferret ends up getting hurt.