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10 Fascinating & Fun Ferret Facts You Never Knew

Nicole Cosgrove

Are you thinking about getting a pet ferret? A member of the weasel family, the ferret is a small and unique animal that is full of personality. In this article, we will discuss 10 interesting facts about ferrets you probably never knew!

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About Ferrets

These cousins of the weasel are thought to have descended from the European polecat. They remain the only domesticated species in the Mustelidae family. Though they are less common than cats or dogs, there are about 6 million domesticated ferrets in the United States.

ferret closeup
Image Credit: Pipsimv, pixabay

Physical Characteristics

Ferrets are long and slender with small, rounded ears and a tail. Males can grow to be up to 22 inches long, including their tails, while females tend to measure around 18 inches long. Ferrets can come in many different colors, including sable, chocolate, and cinnamon. On average, ferrets live to be 6-8 years old.

Habitat

Understanding your ferret’s natural habitat can help you create a more ideal living space for your pet ferret. Wild ferrets can be found in grassy plains. Because they are not very good at digging their own tunnels, they tend to live in tunnels built by other animals, such as prairie dogs. Domestic ferrets also enjoy cozy and enclosed spaces, especially when they sleep. It’s not a bad idea to provide your pet ferret with a tunnel system in or around its cage. Some ferret cages come with tunnels already attached for your ferret to explore or sleep inside.

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10 Fascinating & Fun Ferret Facts:

1. Ferrets have a long history as domesticated animals.

While we don’t know exactly when ferrets were first domesticated, there is documentation about ferret-like animals that date all the way back to ancient Greece. There are also many examples of Renaissance portraits involving weasel-looking creatures. Notably, Queen Elizabeth I has been depicted in paintings holding a white ermine, which belongs to the same family as the ferret. Cecilia Gallerani is depicted holding a creature that looks like a weasel in a Leonardo DaVinci painting; while the painting is titled “Lady with an Ermine,” some scholars think the creature may actually be a ferret.


2. They can dance.

When threatened, wild ferrets and other weasels will “dance” in order to confuse their predators. They also use it to disorient potential prey. While domestic ferrets don’t need to worry too much about predators or hunting for their own prey, they will still perform the dance for play. They move from side to side, arch their backs, and puff their tails as a sign of excitement or happiness.


3. A group of them is called a business.

A group of ferrets is not a pride, herd, pack, or family, but a business.


4. They can be put to work.

You might know that ferrets are excellent at burrowing, but did you know that they can actually put those skills to use in other ways? Because they are small enough to run through narrow tunnels or pipes, ferrets can do the work that humans sometimes can’t. They even helped run the sound, TV, and lighting cables for London’s 1999 Party in the Park concert!


5. They sometimes participate in ferret racing.

You know about horse and greyhound racing, but did you know that ferrets sometimes participate in their own races? Ferret racing is a particularly popular event in the UK. Instead of a racetrack, ferrets run through pipes. First ferret to make it to the opposite side of the pipe wins!


6. Females need to mate to stay healthy.

Ferret in the wild
Image Credit: MichaelSehlmeyer, Pixabay

Females that aren’t spayed can produce too much estrogen if they do not mate often enough. This overproduction of estrogen can cause estrogen toxicity, which in turn can lead to blood clotting, anemia, or even death. If you have a female ferret that isn’t being used for breeding purposes, make sure to get her spayed!


7. They are not legal to own in every city or state.

If you live in Washington, D.C., New York City, Hawaii, or California, you, unfortunately, cannot keep a ferret as a pet. Individual localities may also have bans on pet ferrets. Make sure to check your local rules and regulations surrounding pet ownership before bringing a ferret home.


8.   They don’t do well with some other animals.

If you have pet rodents, small rabbits, birds, or small reptiles, you should probably avoid getting a ferret. Why? These animals are natural prey for a ferret. Conversely, you should be very careful about getting a ferret if you have a cat or dog, as a ferret may trigger your cat or dog’s prey drive.


9. Ferrets are very social creatures.

Unlike cats and some dogs, ferrets crave social interaction and will be happiest if you set aside time to interact with them on a daily basis. If you have space, consider getting at least one more ferret so that your pet ferrets have companions.


10. They can be trained to use a litter box.

Ferrets do not have an instinct to dig when they eliminate the way that cats do, so training a ferret to use a litter box is usually more challenging than training a cat to use one. However, with time and patience, it can be done. They tend to back into a corner when they use the bathroom, so you can try placing a litter box in the corner of your ferret’s cage. When they are allowed to roam outside of the cage, it’s a good idea to place a litter box in the corner of the room to help reinforce the behavior.divider-ferret

Final Thoughts

Ferrets have been kept as pets for centuries, and it’s easy to see why; they are fascinating, social, and intelligent creatures that can make a wonderful addition to your home. We hope that you learned something about your pet ferret in this article!


Featured Image Credit: GuilleNeT, Pixabay

Nicole Cosgrove

Nicole is the proud mom of Baby, a Burmese cat and Rosa, a New Zealand Huntaway. A Canadian expat, Nicole now lives on a lush forest property with her Kiwi husband in New Zealand. She has a strong love for all animals of all shapes and sizes (and particularly loves a good interspecies friendship) and wants to share her animal knowledge and other experts' knowledge with pet lovers across the globe.