Ferrets are playful and they are very entertaining to watch. They are also smart and very curious, and thus require training and lots of interaction with people to bond with them.
Ferrets live about six to eight years on average, though sometimes up to 11 or 12. They tend to sleep a large part of the day, usually around 18 hours, and are active at dawn and dusk. However, they usually adapt their sleeping and active times to the fit the schedules of their owners.
Males tend to be larger than females in length and weight. Females are 13-14 inches long and weigh anywhere from 0.75 to 2.5 lbs, whereas males are on average 15-16 inches long and weigh 2-3.5 lbs if neutered and are even larger (4 or more lbs) if not neutered.
Females ferrets are called jills, and males are hobs. Baby ferrets are called kits. In North America, spayed females are sometimes called sprites and neutered males called gibs. A group of ferrets is a "business of ferrets." Most ferrets obtained in North America are spayed or neutered and descented at a very young age before being sold.
Are Ferrets Domestic Animals?
There are often misconceptions and debate about whether ferrets are domesticated, and the short answer is they are. They have been domesticated for probably 2000 years or more, and were brought to America as pets as long as 300 years ago. Nevertheless, in many places they are still not recognized as a domestic animal for the purposes of laws pertaining to animals kept in captivity.
The domestic ferret is sometimes also confused with its wild cousin, the black footed ferret.
Ferrets and Odor
Ferrets have an undeserved reputation of being smelly. It is true that they have a distinctly musky odor, but it is neither offensive nor overpowering. This smell comes from their skin glands and is present whether the ferret is descented or not.
While occasional baths are recommended, frequent bathing will not reduce the scent, and will likely make it worse as the skin will get too dry and the glands will produce more oils in an effort to combat the dryness.
Ferrets are usually descented in North America, which involved removal of the scent glands. Their scent glands similar to that of a skunk, and they will release (not spray) the contents if threatened. However, ferret scent gland secretions are milder than those from skunks and the smell dissipates quickly and washes away easily. The routine removal of scent glands, which is most commonly done in North America, is now being questioned since the musky odor of ferrets is not due to the scent glands and discharge of their scent glands is not a big problem.
Fun Facts About Ferrets
- The name ferret is derived from the latin furonem, which means "thief." Ferret owners can attest that this is a well deserved name, as they will happily steal anything they can get their paws on and hide it in their house.
- Ferrets come from the same family ("Mustelidae") as badgers, wolverines, otters, mink, weasels, black footed ferrets and polecats.
- The distant ancestry of the domestic ferret is somewhat of a mystery, although they are very closely related to the European polecat.
- The scientific name for ferrets is a somewhat controversial topic -- Mustela putorius furo is traditionally used, although recent scientific evidence has suggested they should have a name of their own, Mustela furo.
- Ferrets have relatively poor eyesight but a keen sense of smell and hearing.
- Ferret owners have a variety of fun nicknames for ferrets: ferts, fuzzies, carpet sharks, furballs, and more!
Next Page: Ferret Care Guide
The following links cover a variety of aspects of ferret care and health issues which all ferret owners should be aware of. Further down the list you will find general interest items such as articles about ferret bans and fun pages like the ferret photo gallery and names list.
- Feeding Your Ferret - what to look for in a ferret diet.
- Top 10 Ferret Cages - 10 good sized cages available online.
- Toys for Ferrets - Ferrets love to play - here are some of their favorite playthings.
- Top 10 Toys for Ferrets - 10 great ferret toys available to buy online.
- Ferret Training Tips - a primer on training ferrets not to nip and to use their litter pans.
- How to Litter Train a Ferret - quick summary of litter training steps.
- Adrenal Disease - a commonly seen ferret disease.
- Insulinoma - another common ferret disease.
- Aleutian Disease - a complex and devastating problem.
- Ferrets and the Flu - ferrets get influenza too.
- Best Ferret Care Books - 5 good books to help you care for your ferret.
- Book Review: "Ferrets for Dummies" - a fun and educational book for any ferret owner.
- Ferret Ban in New York - why ferrets are banned in New York City.
- Ferret Ban in New Zealand - ferrets recently banned in New Zealand.
- Ferret Names - list of names submitted by visitors to this web site.
- Ferret Photo Gallery - photos sent to us by visitors to the site.