Ferrets are cheerful and playful, providing colorful body language cues to their owners. As adorable as they are, though, they can have sharp tempers, especially if something unexpected occurs. So, if you’ve recently heard the infamous ferret “hiss,” you might want a translation.
Just know that this is always a sign of fear or discomfort, so finding a trigger is essential. Here, we explain potential reasons that your ferret might hiss, how to calm them, and how to keep yourself safe when handling them.
What Is Hissing in Ferrets?
Just like any other vocal behavior, hissing indicates an emotion. In ferrets, it’s a sign of warning and potential aggression. They feel that something is wrong for whatever reason, and they’re trying to tell something—or someone—to back off.
The 5 Reasons Why Ferrets Hiss
If you look around to assess the situation, you can probably tell what the problem is. Still, there are a few different emotions that come along with the behavior.
1. Your Ferret Is Angry
One of the first things that likely comes to mind is that your ferret is angry—and you may be right. Something has set them off, and they are ticked off about it.
Be very careful handling your ferret when they are this upset because ferret bites can be quite painful.
2. Your Ferret Is Hurt
If they’ve been wounded and you don’t know it, it might cause them to hiss. Any time they are in pain, both externally or internally, they might give this response as a way to show you that something is wrong.
If you find that your ferret is in pain for some reason, veterinary attention is crucial. It could be something as simple as a strained muscle or as severe as a progressive underlying health problem.
3. Your Ferret Feels Threatened
If you have another animal or strange ferret around, your little critter might be feeling threatened by the newcomer. If they are, their hissing is likely the direct response, warding off any potential rivals.
If you can see that your ferret is stressed out about a meeting, keep both parties safe—separating them, if need be. Always make introductions slow.
4. Your Ferret Feels Scared
If you accidentally scared your ferret, you might get a slight hiss at first. But once they realize that no harm is lingering around, they will calm down.
Ferrets may also fear outside stimuli, like thunderstorms or other loud noises. If your ferret is frantic, just give them a few minutes to regain their composure.
5. Your Ferret Is Hormonal
When your ferret reaches sexual maturity between 4 and 8 months of age, things start to change. Intact males can begin to get a little feisty with this new surge of raging hormones. Personality changes are highly common and expected.
If hormones are playing a part in a ferret’s hissing, they might be acting bothered in general. Many exotic veterinarians recommend spaying or neutering ferrets to prevent aggressive behavior.
Finding a Trigger
To stop your ferret from hissing, you need to find out why it’s happening in the first place. Take note of anything that has changed around the household to see if you can spot the problem.
Most commonly, hissing occurs when your ferret feels like their safety is at stake. They aren’t inherently aggressive animals, but they can respond quickly to potential problems.
If it starts happening frequently, you might want to get them to the vet to check their overall health. With a general exam and possibly some bloodwork, your vet can rule out any significant concerns.
Safely Handling an Upset Ferret
Ferrets have ultra-sharp teeth and claws. Their teeth are comparable to those of cats, causing quite a gaping wound if they snap hard enough.
If your ferret is upset, leaving them alone until they calm down is your best bet. However, if that’s not an option, protect your skin with multiple layers, and wear thick gloves if you can.
After you subdue them, put them in their enclosure carefully and give them some space.
- Related Read: How to Hold a Ferret Correctly (With Pictures & Video)
Just like many other odd noises and behaviors, hissing is something that you’re bound to hear at least once during your ferret’s lifetime. Most of the time, it is a startle response that is entirely manageable. However, it could also relate to an underlying illness or hormonal problem.
If your ferret’s hissing persists, contact your chosen veterinarian for guidance and possible testing.
- Do Ferrets Make Good Pets? 10 Things to Know Before Getting One
- How to Get Rid of Fleas on Ferrets: 5 Easy Steps
Featured Image Credit by Mitskevich Uladzimir, Shutterstock