-Mustela Putorius Furo-
Besides being adorable, funny little creatures that are becoming more common as pets, Ferrets are carnivorous mammals from the Mustelidae family. They are commonly mistakenly associated with being related to rodents like mice and rats, or Guinea Pigs and Rabbits, when in fact, they are not related at all (though they may make a meal out of one)! They are actually part of the Mustela group, and are more related to Weasels, and share similar characteristics like long slender bodies, and short legs. They are also related to Minks, Fishers, Wolverines, Badgers, Otters, Martens, Stoats, and the European Polecat, the latter of which they are domesticated from.
The word ‘Ferret’ comes from the Latin word, “furittus”, which means “Little Thief”. This is very fitting for ferrets since they are known to steal objects, and stash (hide) them away. They have been known to steal keys, wallets, shoes, and even odd things like plungers. (This is why ferret-proofing is so important!)
Like the weasels they are related to, Ferrets are obligate carnivores, meaning they are built to consume meat. This becomes apparent when looking at their teeth and digestive tracts. Because of this, the best diet for ferrets is a well-balanced raw meat diet. If you choose to feed kibble, it should be one that is high in protein, but still appropriate for a ferret. (It is important to research what kibbles are best, as there are some cat kibbles that are healthier for ferrets than some ferret kibbles.)
Ferrets are crepuscular, meaning they are most active at dawn and dusk. They can usually be found sleeping the rest of the day, and through most of the night. However, they are also very smart, and will learn to adapt to their owner’s schedules, meaning they can be active whenever you are!
Speaking of smart, ferrets are very smart! While the success rate varies, they can be litter box trained. They are also smart enough to learn tricks. Many people are very successful in clicker training their ferrets to do things like stand up like a Meerkat, spin in circles, and other things.
Ferret lifespans can vary, but the average is 7-10 years. They are not the healthiest of animals, especially in the United States where they are mass produced and neutered too young. They are very prone to developing Adrenal Disease, Insulinoma, as well as growing tumors.
How did ferrets first become pets? Ferrets were originally used for ferreting. Ferreting is just hunting with ferrets. Their long slender bodies and short legs made them perfect for fitting into the holes made by rabbits and other rodents. There are still people today that use them for hunting, though the legality of it depends on where you live. Domesticating them for this eventually led to them becoming popular pets.
Some ferret Terminology:
- Hob = Male Ferret
- Jill = Female Ferret
- Gib = Neutered Male
- Sprite = Spayed Female
- Kit = Baby Ferret
- Business = Group of Ferrets
We always like to describe ferrets as a cute combination between a cat and a dog. Between their cute personalities, and different characteristics, they have also become affectionately known as: Carpet Sharks, Cat Snakes, Noodle Bears, Furry Slinkys, Fur Noodles, Limousine Mice, Woozles, Land Otters, or just plane Ferts. Whatever you decide to call them, they’re definitely making their way into people’s hearts and homes!