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A domestic ferret.
Several ferrets with different colors.
Ferrets at play

A ferret, the domestic ferret (Mustela putorius furo), is a small animal from the Mustelidae family. Several other Mustelids have the word "ferret" in their name, but they are not the same. A male ferret is called a hob, and a female ferret is called a jill. They live for about 7-10 years. They are very sociable creatures, so it's best to keep them in groups of two or more.

Characteristics[change | edit source]

It looks like a weasel or a rat, with a long thin body. Ferrets can have a lot of different colours and markings on their fur. A lot of ferrets in one place will sometimes have a strange scent. This is because of natural oils produced by the ferrets.

Behavior[change | edit source]

Ferrets tend to sleep during the day and are most active at night. This deters many people from getting them although most ferret owners say their ferrets change their sleeping schedules to that of their owners.

Ferrets and humans[change | edit source]

Domesticated ferrets are used for hunting, or can be kept as pets. Hunting with ferrets is called ferreting. Because of their thin body, they can go down into holes and hunt rodents and rabbits. Ferrets have been kept as pets from as far back as the Middle Ages.

Health[change | edit source]

Ferrets are known to suffer from several distinct health problems. Among the most common are cancers affecting the adrenal glands, pancreas, and lymphatic system. Viral diseases include canine distemper and influenza. Health problems can occur in unspayed females when not being used for breeding. Certain health problems have also been linked to ferrets being neutered before reaching sexual maturity. Certain colors of ferret may also carry a genetic defect known as Waardenburg syndrome. Similar to domestic cats, ferrets can also suffer from hairballs and dental problems

Ferrets as pets[change | edit source]

Ferrets are legal to have as a pet in most places though a few places in the United States have banned them. Ferrets should be vaccinated similar to cats and dogs, most when purchased from a breeder or pet store will be spayed or neutered and also de-scented. Ferrets can spray the natural oils from their anal glands similar to that of a skunk if not de-scented. Sterilization is important in pet ferrets particularly in the female ferret which can die if she comes into her heat cycle and is not breed. Ferrets are typically housed in a cage or a room which as been made safe for them. Ferrets are very flexible as they were breed to fit into small holes to flush rabbits or rodents. No open vents or holes in walls or floors should be left open or they will get through. Ferrets also tend to chew if not given enough entertainment or things to occupy their time so cords should be put up where they cannot reach them and electrical plugs covered. Contrary to many beliefs ferrets are very good climbers so if curtains are touching the floor they can easily scale them, keeping them 10-12 inches off the floor will prevent you from finding your ferret on the curtain rods. Ferrets should be kept in a group, unless you can provide them with multiple hours of activity, they can get quite bored alone. Ferrets tend to sleep curled up together in a ball usually making them undistinguishable from one another.

Diet[change | edit source]

Domestic ferrets eat a diet based on where their owners live though the basis remains the same. Ferrets are carnivores and cannot tolerate grains or vegetable matter well. Their diet should consist of around 20% fat and 80% meat. Ferrets need a high calorie diet commercial dog and cat foods do not contain enough fats and protein to suit them and contain far to much corns or other grains. Feeding them such a diet while convenient will ultimately shorten the ferrets life.

Ferrets are subject to insulinoma and as such they should not be given fruits except on rare occasions as a treat. Raisins are a favorite of most ferret but should be given extremely sparingly. Fresh chicken, turkey or even duck is a good choice for your ferret. Commercial ferret foods are available but many contain grains and also fruits and as such are not suitable for them. Research brand ingredients or find a recipe to make your own.