Oliver the white-coated ferret loves to hike, kayak, and nap across the country.

By Kelli Bender / People.com
March 10, 2020
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Credit: Lauren Smith

Dogs, cats, hedgehogs, pets all over the world are trying out the great outdoors, and many are finding they enjoy the adventuring life.

One of the newest furry friends to join the ranks of animal adventurers —like Vlad the Kitty Explorer and Henry the Colorado Dog — is Oliver the Hiking Ferret.

This white-coated cutie lives in the Denver, Colorado area with his owner Lauren Smith. Smith got Oliver, her first ferret, as a pet after hearing that the animals sleep 18-20 hours a day. But it turns out Oliver wasn’t destined for a life dedicated to relaxation, though, of course, he enjoys a good snooze.

After first bringing Oliver home, Smith found the ferret had a lot of “destructive energy.” To help the pet do something constructive with all this energy, and to keep him from digging up another couch, Smith decided to bring the ferret outside with her.

“I figured if it worked to take a dog out for a walk to burn off some energy, why couldn’t the same work for a ferret? I began by just getting him used to wearing his harness, which was a feat that involved a lot of treats,” Smith told People of her process to turn Oliver into an outdoorsman.

From there, Smith started taking the frisky ferret to local parks for short walks, building up to hikes on the trails surrounding their Colorado home. Soon, the formerly reluctant-to-explore Oliver was begging to go outside and burn some energy.

“He has gotten to where he will ask to go out with me by running and standing by my front door whenever he hears it opening,” Smith said.

Now, the 4-year-old ferret is open to all types of adventures, including snowy mountain climbs, soothing kayak rides, and sand desert frolics. Smith picks where the pair travels by what’s on her bucket list, like the numerous national parks within driving distance, and where has dog-friendly trails were Oliver is allowed to walk.

“He loves smelling the different plants and rubbing in his face in the grass,” Oliver’s owner said of what the ferret enjoys most about their journeys. “On kayaking trips, I take a blanket for him and he just goes to sleep in the blanket.”

Oliver spends most of his hikes on a leash walking in front of Smith. But when the hike is long or a little too hot, Smith will carry Oliver part of the way so he can relax and enjoy the views safely.

“Oliver will hike a mile or two depending on how he is feeling that day. He will squirm around if he wants to walk, and will lay down in the trail if he wants me to pick him up,” Smith said. “When we hike and he gets tired he will ride either in the hood or pocket of my jacket or in my backpack.”

As Oliver has grown and become an adventurer, he has also mellowed out and become a “very chill” ferret. On car trips to hikes, Oliver will spend most of the drive sleeping in his hammock, something Smith brings on every trip along with food, water, litter, and Oliver’s cage.

While Oliver is chill, the people who spot the ferret out in the wild are often pretty excited.

“People’s reactions to Oliver have been very positive,” Smith said of the reactions her pet usually gets. “We have had a lot of people stop us on the trails to meet him. Many people have never seen a ferret, or have not seen one outside, so he is a hit on the trails.”

When he isn’t in the great outdoors amazing hikers, Oliver can be found at home sleeping in a sock drawer or in his hammock. Occasionally, he will literally ferret away one of Smith’s socks.

“Ferrets are notorious thieves,” the owner explained.

All of Oliver’s adventures, both indoor and outdoor, are documented on his Instagram @hikingferret, which has over 5,000 followers. Smith hopes people who follow Oliver’s account take away a love for travel and a better understanding of what fun pet ferrets can be.

Not surprisingly, Smith and Oliver have big plans for the summer. They are planning a trip to Utah and South Dakota, and want to try stand-up paddleboarding together.