Ferrets can be good pets. They have been domesticated for thousands of years and even used as working animals. Ferrets are not a low-maintenance pet. They require special care and attention that may not be typical for other household pets.
If you’re considering adding a ferret as a pet, here are the things you should know.
What is a Ferret?
Ferrets are unique little critters, they are fun and mischievous, but they leave a lot of people left wondering, exactly what is a ferret?
Ferrets are believed to be related to the European Polecat. It is said that ferrets were domesticated from European Polecats about 2500 years ago.
They still have a lot of similarities today with only a few differences in appearance and characteristics.
Are Ferrets Rodents?
Ferrets are not rodents. Ferrets are mustelids. The mustelid family consists of 65 species. One major difference between rodents and mustelids is that mustelids are carnivores.
They are strict meat-eaters, unlike rodents, which are omnivores. Rodents can survive on grains, fruits, and vegetables, whereas ferrets require an all-meat diet.
Are Ferrets Related to Rats?
Ferrets are not related to rats. Rats are a rodent. Ferrets are mustelids. Some species you may recognize in the mustelid family include otters, badgers, weasels, and minks.
Ferrets are closely related to European Polecats, which are a species of mustelid.
History of Ferrets
Ferrets have a long history of being working animals, as well as household companions. European Polecats were first tamed and used by humans over 2500 years ago.
These domesticated polecats are what became the ferrets we know today. Today ferrets still strongly resemble polecats in their looks and characteristics.
Ferrets were used as rabbit and rodent hunters for many years. Their natural curiosity mixed with their slim and flexible body made them great animals for running into burrows after rodents. They are fast and intelligent animals which made them easy to train.
In the mid-1800s, grain store owners used ferrets to protect their products from rodents. They were used as working animals in the United States until around World War II.
Ferrets started gaining popularity as house pets in the United States around 1980. Their popularity grew because of their unique personality, and their stunning intelligence.
Ferrets do not have different breeds but there are many types of ferrets based on color, coat, and size.
Types of Ferrets
- Black Sable
- White Dark-Eyed
These are the Ferret coat patterns.
How Big is a Ferret?
Ferrets usually grow to be 18 to 24 inches long and between one and five pounds in weight. here are the different Ferret size types.
- Whippet – The smallest Ferret but the normal size you will see as pets in the United States.
- Standard – This is the common size of most Ferrets you find in Europe. These were the rabbit hunters!
- Bull or Bulldog – The largest Ferret! It has a more muscular body type and shorter legs. They are still fast though!
The Black-footed Ferret calls North America home and is one of the most endangered types of Ferrets in the world. It is estimated that there are only about 300 of the Black-footed Ferrets in the wild.
Why are Black-footed Ferrets endangered?
Loss of habitat, disease, and reduced food sources are the primary reasons Black-footed Ferrets are an endangered species.
Black-footed Ferrets find refuge and live in old Prairie Dog tunnels. Prairie Dogs are also the main source of food for Black-footed Ferrets. But the Prairie Dog population is rapidly declining due to loss of habitat and conflict with farmers as primary reasons.
What Do Ferrets Eat?
Ferrets are strict carnivores. They only eat meat. Ferrets have incisor teeth to tear meat apart. Don’t worry though, you won’t have to feed your ferret a raw meat diet, though they would probably love it.
There are a lot of ferret foods on the market to provide them with their total dietary needs. Ferrets require a high protein, high-fat diet with very minimal carbohydrates and little to no fiber.
Ferrets should avoid fruits, vegetables, and grains. A strict meat diet is the healthiest option. This is because ferrets have a short digestive tract and require nutrients that can be easily and quickly absorbed.
If you choose a raw meat diet for your ferret, you should make sure to choose high quality meats to reduce the risk of transmitting any diseases.
Ferrets are a very popular pet for a wide variety of reasons because of their unique and interesting traits and characteristics.
How Smart are Ferrets?
Based on their history alone, it is easy to see that ferrets are extremely intelligent. They were trained to be hunters and protect stores from rodents.
Ferrets are mischievous and will steal items from around your house and hide them. If you’re considering getting a ferret, make sure you have a safe place for your keys! Potential ferret owners are cautioned to “ferret-proof” their home to protect their property and the ferret.
Because ferrets are so intelligent, they can be trained to do a lot of different tasks. They can be trained to use a litterbox, which is convenient for owners.
You can train them to come when called. You can also teach them basic commands such as sit and rollover.
Ferrets can be trained using reward training, such as giving a treat when they follow a command. They can also be trained to walk on a leash.
Ferrets have even been trained in Hollywood. In the movie Along Came Polly, a ferret was trained to run at the sound of a buzzer.
Are Ferrets Nocturnal?
Nocturnal means that the animal is awake during the night time and sleeps during the daytime.
Contrary to popular belief, Ferrets are not nocturnal. Ferrets are considered Crepuscular. Crepuscular means the animal is most active during dawn and dusk but sleeps during the day and during the night.
Ferrets are fairly adaptive animals, so you can wake them at any time to play. They will sleep when you leave them alone. This is a great trait for Ferret owners because you don’t have to worry about trying to wake you up when you are trying to sleep.
How Long do Ferrets Sleep?
Ferrets sleep 14 to 18 hours per day.
How Long Do Ferrets Live?
Domesticated Ferrets have a lifespan of about 8 years. They are also susceptible to diseases such as heartworm, which can reduce their lifespan.
It is important to find a veterinarian for your Ferret so you can take preventative measures to protect their health.
A healthy diet, regular exercise, attention, and regular veterinarian check-ups, are all great ways to keep your ferret healthy.
Most reports say the oldest Ferret ever was 14 to 15 years old when it died.
Do Ferrets Smell?
One of the most common and biggest concerns people have when considering getting a ferret is whether Ferrets smell. Yes, they do have a scent, similar to other animals, like dogs and cats.
Depending on how you care for your Ferret depends on how potent that smell will be! Some people complain that ferrets smell horrible. Others state they really don’t have a bad smell unless you don’t care for them properly.
How to Reduce Ferret Smell
- Clean your Ferrets bedding frequently. Keeping their bedding fresh can greatly reduce the smell. Ferrets have a natural odor that is excreted through their skin.
That odor can stick to the bedding and cause it to become potent. Changing their bed frequently prevents the odor from building up.
- Clean their litter box every day. Cleaning out waste from the litter box will greatly reduce the smell. Just like with cats, allowing the waste to remain allows the odor to be worse.
- Removing waste every day will also reduce the chance of your Ferret stepping in the waste and tracking it into their bedding or around the house.
- Multiple Ferrets should have multiple litter boxes and a lot of room. If you plan on having multiple Ferrets, make sure they have a large cage with ample space to sleep.
Only having one litter box for multiple ferrets creates a build-up of waste in a small area, which makes the odor more potent.
- Bathe your Ferret, but not too frequently. Ferrets need baths, but bathing can remove the oils on their skin and actually increase the odor while drying out their skin.
How often should you bathe a Ferret?
Bathe Ferrets once about every two to three months.
How to bathe a Ferret
- Use shampoo made for ferrets, kittens, or as a last choice tearless baby shampoo.
- Use ‘warm to the touch’ water.
- Make sure the water is shallow enough your Ferret can stand and still easily keep its head well out of the water.
- Always support your Ferret well.
- Put something on the bottom of the tub or sink you are using so your Ferret does not slip.
- Use your hand to gently place water on your Ferret so they are all wet.
- After using the shampoo to gently clean them use your hand carefully start rinsing them. Don’t leave the shampoo on long, use too much, or get it in their eyes or mouth.
- Use a cup to continue to pour water on them until the shampoo is gone.
- Use a clean towel to gently dry them off. You can also place a towel on the floor and they may dry themselves off.
- 10. Don’t surprised if your Ferret displays some erratic behavior after taking a bath!
Ferrets became a beloved and popular pet in the United States around 1980. They are very unique domestic animals due to their mischievous nature and high intelligence.
But is having a ferret all fun and games? What are their other traits like?
Are Ferrets Good with Kids?
Ferrets are a very lovable animal, but are they good with kids? It’s hard to say. Ferrets have a very playful personality, and sometimes their play can be a little rough.
Remember, ferrets are carnivorous hunters. They are quick and frisky. They also wiggle a lot and can be difficult for small hands to hold.
Young ferrets can be especially frisky and difficult to keep hold of, because of this, it’s important that children and ferrets are supervised together. Ferrets are not bad with children, but they are not good pets for children.
A child and ferret residing in the same house would be fine. A ferret as a pet for a child should probably be reconsidered.
Are Ferrets Good with Dogs?
Ferrets and dogs can cohabitate and can even get along well with dogs. However the temperament of the dog should be taken into consideration.
Because ferrets can be extremely playful, especially in their younger years, and older or less playful dog may not appreciate their ferret antics.
Are Ferrets Good with Cats?
Ferrets and cats actually have a lot of similar qualities when it comes to how they play.
Ferrets can be a little too rough for kittens though, so it’s important to monitor the pets when they’re together to avoid injury.
Older cats may not be as playful or accepting of a new ferret. Knowing the temperament of the pets is very important when introducing the pets and allowing them to play together.
Do Ferrets Bite?
All animals bite. Anything with a mouth can bite. Ferrets tend to bite when they play, similar to how cats bite when they play.
They may also give a nip to get attention. Their playful bite shouldn’t be painful. If their bite is painful or aggressive, it might be because something is wrong medically, they might be in pain.
This is one reason ferrets may not make great pets for young kids. Because they tend to be frequent nippers, a child may perceive it as an aggressive bite and become scared and potentially hurt the ferret.
Do Ferrets like to Cuddle?
Young ferrets are extremely playful. During their waking hours, they may not enjoy cuddling much. However, as they age, they do calm down a little and probably will enjoy a cuddle.
Are Ferrets Affectionate?
Ferrets are very affectionate and enjoy attention from their owner.
An important part of owning a ferret is making sure you spend a significant amount of time with your ferret. Whether it’s playing or just showing affection, giving your ferret attention is very important.
Ferrets as Pets Pros and Cons
- They are playful
- They have a fun personality
- They are very intelligent
- They can be trained to use a litterbox
- They get along with common house pets such as dogs and cats
- They are affectionate
- They are crepuscular animals, so they will adjust to your sleep schedule
- They can be leash trained
- They do have an odor, though that odor can be mitigated with proper care.
- They will not do well with house pets that would be considered their prey, such as birds and rodents. They may try to chase or even eat a pet like that.
- They tend to be frequent nippers, and the “nipping” can be perceived as a problem by many people.
- They can develop a lot of health problems in their older years that require the aid of a veterinarian.
- They are sensitive to certain foods, such as fruits, grains, and vegetables, so their diet should be closely monitored.
- You will need to ferret proof your home. They are mischievous and curious animals, so they might get into places they should not be.
Note: Ferrets may also steal some of your belongings and hide them.
Are Ferrets Illegal?
No, Ferrets are not illegal in most states.
Where are Ferrets Illegal?
Ferrets are said to be illegal to have as pets in California, Hawaii, and New York City. Check your local laws before you try to purchase a Ferret.
The reasoning behind making Ferrets illegal to own as pets stems from a concern over rabies and possibly being bitten.
Are Ferrets Exotic Pets?
Some people would say a Ferret is an exotic pet but to me it is not. Ferrets have been domesticated by humans for thousands of years just like dogs and cats.
But if you ask a veterinarian they might just classify a Ferret as an exotic pet.
Is a Ferret a Mammal?
Yes, Ferrets are small mammals that eat meat.
Ferret Body Language
You can tell a lot about how happy your Ferret is (or not) by watching their body language.
Happy Ferret Body Language
- Hopping Around, Dancing, Jumping, Even Baring their Teeth is a Playful Manner
- Wagging Their Tail
- Playful Nipping at You
- Chasing You
- Grabbing Their Toys
- Making Noises, Barking, and Chirping
- Pawing the Floor
Not Happy Ferret Body Language
- Cowering Down (scared, fearful)
- Squinting Their Eyes
- Not Eating or Drinking
- Hiding From You Often
- Hissing, Screaming
- Hard Biting
- Crying Out When You Touch Them
- Sneezing, Hard to Breathe, No Energy (signs of sickness)
What does it mean when a Ferret licks you?
Happy to see you, loves you and sending kisses, trying to clean you, play with me, give me some attention please!
How do I know if my ferret loves me?
Ferrets are much like dogs in how they show their love for you.
- Rushing to greet you
- Licking your face
- Jumping up and down when they see you
- Even wagging their tail
These are all ways your Ferrets show you affection.
Female Ferret Names
Male Ferret Names
Cute Ferret Names
- Sneaky Pete
Do Ferrets know their names?
Yes, Ferrets do recognize their names and will come when called.
Are Ferrets Good Pets?
To answer this question, it really depends on what you are looking for in a pet. Ferrets are not easy, low-maintenance pets.
They require attention, gentle care, and monitoring. They may not make the best pet for a house with small children because ferrets play rough and use nipping as a form of playing.
Ferrets will require that you clean their bedding and litterbox often to avoid potent odor.
However, if you’re willing to put up with the maintenance, ferrets can be great pets. They have a very fun personality, they are smart and very playful. This is great for someone who wants an active pet.
Ferrets can even be trained to do perform tasks. The question really becomes, is a ferret a good pet for you?