usa | world | animals | vocabulary | health | science | math | history


In general use, a ferret is a domestic ferret (Mustela putorius furo), a creature first bred from the wild European polecat at least 2,500 years ago. Contrary to popular belief, ferrets are not rodents, but members of the mustelid family, which also includes weasels, badgers and otters.


 


Scent Sacs: Like many other carnivores, ferrets have scent sacs near their anus. Secretions from these are used in scent marking. It has been shown that ferrets can identify whether such a mark was left by a male or a female ferret, without recognizing the individual. Like a skunk, a ferret can release this scent when startled or scared, but the smell dissipates rapidly. Most pet ferrets in the US are sold with these anal sacs removed, although this does not affect a ferret's natural musky scent. To eliminate this scent entirely, desexing is required, since it is through this odor that female and male ferrets find each other during the mating season.

Popular Pets: In the United States of America the popularity of ferrets has climbed exponentially over the past decade, making ferrets the third most popular pet in the U.S. just behind dogs and cats. In many ways, ferrets act like kittens that never grow up. They have energy, curiosity, and potential for chaos all their lives, and are always keenly aware of their surroundings. However, they are far more people-oriented than cats, and most actively elicit play with their owners.

Long Live the Ferret! Their lifespan can vary widely, but usually falls between six and eight years, though in rare cases they can live into their early teens. While there are two types of ferrets, the European and the Black-Footed, it is the European ferret that is the widely domesticated species. Thus it is the European ferret that breeders breed in order to turn a profit through the sale of the animals as pets.

Meat Eaters: Ferrets are obligate carnivores; their natural diet consists entirely of meat, and they lack the ability to digest vegetable matter. Ferrets usually have a fondness for sweets like raisins, bananas, peanut butter, and pieces of cereal. Such treats should be given sparingly (if at all), as their high sugar content has been linked to insulinoma and other diseases.

Big Sleepers: Ferrets spend most of their time (14 to 18 hours a day) sleeping, but when awake they are very active, exploring their surroundings relentlessly. Ferrets are crepuscular, meaning they are most active during dawn and dusk. If kept in a cage, they should be let out for a few hours daily to get exercise and satisfy their curiosity. When ferrets are kept in their cages for too long, their walking ability can be affected and they may become subject to depression or "cage stress". Ferrets, like cats, can use a litter box with training, though are not always 100% litter box trainable.

Garden Companions: Ferrets are also fine backyard companions and especially enjoy "helping" their owners in the garden. However, they should not be allowed to wander; ferrets are fearless to the point of foolishness and will get into whatever holes they will find, including storm drains. Whenever they are outside, they should be closely supervised and preferably kept on an "H"-shaped harness leash designed for ferrets.

Ferret Fun: Since ferrets are social animals, many of them are playful by heart and are happy to play with humans. "Play" for a ferret can involve hide-and-seek games, or some form of predator/prey game in which either the human attempts to catch the ferret or the ferret to catch the human.

Gentle... usually: Like a playful kitten, ferrets usually will not actually "bite" their human companions, but instead gently grab a toe or finger in their mouth and roll around with it. However, ferrets that have been abused or are in extreme pain will bite a human. Ferrets have strong bites and can sometimes bite through human skin, especially children's. Once properly socialized, however, domesticated ferrets will very rarely, if ever, bite humans.

War Dance: When ferrets are especially excited, they will perform the weasel war dance, a frenzied series of sideways hops. This is often accompanied by a soft chuckling noise, called dooking by many ferret owners.


Wonderful Pets: Ferrets can make wonderful pets for children. However, like all other domesticated animals, they should not be allowed unsupervised near infants or very young children. Given that young children and ferrets can both be excitable and prone to rough play, interaction between ferrets and young children must always be closely supervised -- for the protection of both the children and the ferrets.

Social Butterflies: Ferrets are extremely social animals, and most enjoy playing and interacting with other ferrets. They frequently bond emotionally with other ferrets, and bonded pairs are often observed to die just a few days apart from each other.
Many ferret owners recommend owning two or three ferrets for this reason, but there
is nothing wrong with owning one ferret, provided that it receives lots of play time
and attention.

All text is available under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License

   
 


 Kingdom: Animalia

 Phylum: Chordata

 Class: Mammalia

 Order: Carnivora

 Family: Mustelidae

 Genus: Mustela

 Species: M. putorius