What influences how long a ferret remains in the shelter before it finds a new home? Obviously appearance (albino prejudice is very common), age, health and behavior issues are going to be factors. Two issues that are less evident are whether or not a ferret is part of an established pair and whether or not a ferret likes other ferrets. This article is intended to encourage you to consider adopting one of these types of harder-to-adopt cases the next time you are in the market for an addition to your ferret family.
Impulse buyers don't seem to mind splurging on a pair of ferret kits, and pet stores encourage the concept that "they do best in pairs", which result in a large percentage of ferrets arriving at shelters in groups. Lots of people want to adopt one or the other of various pairs of ferrets, but aren't interested in them as a set. For example, CFN gets lots of emails stating, "I want to adopt Zest" or, "Is Zinc still available for adoption?", but once I explain that Zest and Zinc are an established pair, I never hear from them again. Even people that are willing to adopt a pair reject wonderful sets of ferrets because one or the other of the pair is the wrong color, too old, or has some sort of health issue and instead pick two single ferrets rather than an established pair. CFN gives a discount on the adoption fees of established pairs to encourage people to choose them rather than "mixing and matching" single ferrets.
Most people want to adopt a single ferret either because they want a friend for the one they already have (which they purchased from a pet store before they knew about shelters) or because it is their first ferret and they are worried about taking on more than a single ferret at the beginning. For first time ferret owners, a pair of ferrets takes no more work or adjustment to your routine than a single ferret. Although two ferrets will consume twice as much food and require double the cost of vet care, the additional ferret takes little extra time to care for because both ferrets share the same cage, litter pan, food and water, and of course, your time and attention, but they give back much more than double the fun and love. If you need a friend for the ferret you already have, consider adopting a pair instead of a single ferret. Some authorities recommend three ferrets as the ideal number because when one of the three dies, there is still someone around to keep the other company, avoiding the depression some ferrets go through with the loss of a cage-mate.
Even long-term, multiple-ferret households seem to acquire their ferrets one at a time. Why not add more than one ferret that are in extra need of a good home? Many ferret pairs available for adoption through the CFN already live and play in larger groups, so chances are great that they'll easily work in with your existing group. The new ferrets will also have one another for reassurance during the adjustment period in their new home.
Of course some ferret(s) simply refuse to accept new additions, in which case the owners have the option of creating a multi ferret group household, where each group of ferrets gets out on its own. The hardest to adopt ferrets, whether single or in pairs, are those that don't accept other ferrets. (You are a true ferret advocate if you have multiple ferret groups). Two ferret groups means two complete cage setups and an extra set of play periods each day, but the costs and care are about the same as for a larger single ferret group with the identical number of ferrets. This situation is more work, but you get multiple sets of appreciative ferrets demanding your attention. Even though it takes extra effort, you are doing something extra special for the shelter and the ferret(s) when you knowingly adopt hard-to-place individuals, they will reward you twice over for your generosity!