Ferret Family Services offers a placement service helping people find homes for their ferrets and to help people find ferrets to add to their family. Advice is offered on behavior issues that might be corrected so the family can stay together and I can help with guidance on home supportive care for some health issues.
You may not be familiar with ferret emotions so I'll explain a little here. I have worked with ferrets since 1985 and have my own group that are free roam in our home.
Ferrets stress easily and they bond very closely with their families and their companions. One year in ferret time is the same as 10 years human time so sharing your life with a ferret for one year is like 10 years to a ferret.
When moving ferrets to another family, sometimes, depending on age, bonding and situations, the ferrets do not do well - they grieve for their people and their home. I've had personal experience of this with Culla who was 5.5 and his companion who was 3. They grieved for a very long time, months and Culla never did act like the other ferrets - he was heartbroken. I have helped others place their ferrets and sometimes they do very well, but in some cases the ferrets have mourned to the point of sickness and in one case death. Each particular ferret and each new family could have different outcomes.
Ferrets bond extremely close to each other and their people and separating their ferret family can have dire consequences, emotional and health-wise. Which ones are bonded closer than others? There really is not a definite way to tell. Think of it as a family group, living together for 20 years (one year to us is like 10 to ferrets so that would be 2 actual years), then something devastating happens and two of the family members disappear. The remaining group and the two that disappeared would be devastated.
The ferrets will rely strongly on each other for support and comfort if rehomed so separating them is not a good or kind option. Ferrets are very much an animal that do not do well with change. Not only will they be losing their human family, but their loving home as well.
It can be difficult, but not impossible, to find a home for a group of ferrets. I often try to help with ideas of how to make things work for everyone and keep families together whenever possible, though I do understand there are times when life throws us curves and it is in the best interest of the ferrets that they be rehomed.
When placing in a home there are cautions to be aware of. One never knows how well the ferrets will be cared for. Some people talk a good talk when they want something but that does not mean they follow throughWill the new family just leave them in a cage all day?
I have worked with ferrets for 25+ years and have seen the results of rehoming ferrets into what people thought were good homes that were not. There are good homes out there, it is taking the responsibility to make sure you find one and not being taken in by a good talker.
If you find what you believe may be a good home, take your ferrets there to visit and to make sure the conditions are suitable. People sometimes sound very good over the phone or email and could be completely different in person. I recommend several home visits before placing ferrets, to make sure they will be kept in a clean loving environment and you can see how the people interact with them.
An important issue with ferrets is their food. Ferrets don't switch foods easily and sometimes not at all so please make sure the new home is willing to buy the same foods you are feeding and also be sure to send a new bag of food with your ferrets to the new home. Please make sure that if they are going to switch the ferrets, they know to do it slowly and monitor closely.
Another issue is water. Ferrets are very much sensory little beings so they can tell the tiniest difference in water flavor. A good idea is to take a gallon or two of their current water to the new home so they can slowly mix it with their own till the ferrets are switched.
Making a list of their regular routines, likes and dislikes can be helpful in the transition. Do you have specific times your ferret is playing with family members? Is there a special treat, bed, or toy they like? Does your ferret like a special type of affection such as a back scratching?
To the ferrets, when being removed from the family, it is suffering grief of loss as a human would loss of a loved one. Ferrets may not show emotion in the way we are use to seeing it, but they truly do experience the full range of emotions in my experience.
In some situations there may be a way to work out keeping your ferrets with a few minor lifestyle changes. Working out a schedule that works for everyone, perhaps giving the ferrets their own room where they will have plenty of activities to keep them busy, making temporary arrangements till things settle down, or adapting a schedule to the time available. Rehoming may not always be the right answer.
A good option to consider when rehoming would be to find someone local to you that could visit your home several times a month and get to know the ferrets well before making the move, then having overnight ferret stays at their house so they are eased into the new family environment.
I hope this information helps you to make the decision that works well for everyone and one that you will be satisfied with.