How Long Do Ferrets Live?

By: Wendy Rose GouldPublished:

Photo of a ferret on a rock
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How Long Do Ferrets Live?

Whether your new ferret is a teeny, tiny youngster or an adult furball, caring for these small pets is an incredibly rewarding experience. You’re in for hours of entertainment and bonding thanks to their playful antics, inquisitive nature and endearing personality. But how many years of companionship can you expect with these pets? How long do ferrets live?

Ahead, we’re discussing ferret life expectancy; their life stages; and some helpful tips that’ll ensure they live a long, happy life.

How Long Do Ferrets Live?

A pet ferret’s average lifespan is 4-10 years in captivity with good health care, nutrition and protection, notes Teresa Manucy, DVM, a veterinarian based in Jacksonville, Florida, and pet health representative for Chewy.

Some ferrets can and do live longer or shorter than that. Ferret lifespan ultimately comes down to genetics, diet, lifestyle and general care. Note that this life expectancy range is in stark contrast to how long wild black-ferrets live; most don’t make it beyond three years in the wild.

Fun Fact: The record for the oldest living ferret is age 14. This was an exceptional case!

Ferret Life Stages

Just like any pet, ferrets go through different life stages. You can expect some slight variations in their temperaments and behaviors as they move these phases.

Infancy (Kit Stage)

One of the cutest things on the planet is an infant ferret! Referred to as the kit stage, this phase starts at birth and lasts until the ferret is 6 to 8 weeks old. Ferret kits are completely dependent on their mother for nourishment and care.

They are also born blind and deaf, but will start to open their eyes and ears around 3 weeks old. At this time, they’ll start diving into the world around them, exploring the many wonders, sights and sounds of their surroundings.

Young Juvenile

Ferrets grow quickly, and at around 6 to 8 weeks old they hit their “teenager” or young juvenile stage. This usually lasts until the ferret is 6 to 12 months old, Dr. Manucy says. During this stage, young ferrets continue to grow rapidly and develop their physical abilities, coordination and social skills.

Naturally, they become more independent from their mamas and start to explore their environment with confidence. Juvenile ferrets are full of energy and curiosity, often engaging in playful behavior and mischief as they learn about the world around them.

It’s also during this stage that both male and female ferrets may start exhibiting reproductive behaviors, like scent marking, vocalization, nesting and aggression associated with wanting to mate. When you’re purchasing or adopting a ferret from a ferret breeder or rescue organization, they are almost always already spayed or neutered, Dr. Manucy says. But spaying or neutering doesn’t stop their instinct to mate!


The adult ferret stage typically begins around 1 year of age and continues until the ferret reaches full maturity—usually around 2-3 years old. Adult ferrets are considered fully grown, and are a bit more settled in their behavior and temperament compared to juveniles. However, even adult ferrets are a bundle of energy, Dr. Manucy says.

“They tend to be very precocious and curious,” she says. “They were bred to hunt small rodents and other mammals, and so they tend to explore very readily and get into mischief with stealing household items, or hiding in places that they shouldn't be.”

Adulthood is the last life stage, though toward the very end of their life, they may slow down a bit.

Photo of a ferret eating from a person's hand
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Ferret Care: Giving Your Ferret the Best and Longest Life

Follow these tips to ensure your cute and lovable ferret lives a long and fulfilling life.

  • Ferret-proof your home: Dr. Manucy says your ferret’s environment should be very controlled and ideally ferret-proofed. This helps prevent them from getting into harm’s way. Invest in cord protectors and baby gates; secure any potential escape routes or hazards; and remove toxic plants.
  • Supervised cage-free playtime: Adult ferrets benefit from two for four cage-free hours of exercise and socialization per day. This should be supervised playtime, Dr. Manucy says, versus letting them roam free. She suggests creating a small ferret-proofed area where they can frolic.
  • Veterinary care: Domestic ferrets require annual vet checkups for preventive care, diagnostics and treatments. When you bring your ferret home, you’ll also want to make sure they get necessary vaccinations, including for rabies and canine distemper. Note that ferrets are susceptible to insulinomas and adrenal disease, which can occur in middle-aged to older ferrets.
  • Flea and tick prevention: Monthly flea and tick prevention medications will help ensure your ferret friend doesn’t get an uncomfortable infestation.
  • High-quality ferret food: These obligate carnivores thrive on high-quality diets. Fortunately, you can purchase pre-made balanced and nutritious ferret kibble at many pet stores. Dr. Manucy says treats aren’t recommended as part of a ferret diet.
  • Groom often: Grooming your pet ferret includes routine brushing, nail trimming, ear cleaning and teeth brushing. You should bathe ferrets sparingly—no more than once a month—as frequent bathing can dry out their skin. However, bathing can also help get rid of the musky scent they’re known for (which isn’t unhealthy; it’s just a bit of a stinky nuisance courtesy of their adrenal glands).
  • A clean environment: Keep your ferret’s cage and litter box clean and sanitary, Dr. Manucy says. Lightly tidy the cage daily; clean the litter box; replace bedding; sanitize cage surfaces weekly; and perform a monthly deep clean.
  • Enrichment items: Along with a clean space, provide your ferret with life-enriching items, like ferret toys and a cozy hammock (which ferrets really love, says Dr. Manucy).

Ferrets make for very good pets—as long as they're well cared-for. Tend to them well, and they’ll live a long and happy life.

Expert input provided by Teresa Manucy, DVM, a veterinarian based in Jacksonville, Florida, and pet health representative for Chewy.


By: Wendy Rose GouldPublished: