Ferrets have an inquisitive nature and display a variety of playful behaviours. If well handled by people from a young age, ferrets can become socialized and learn to see humans as companions. They can form a strong bond with their owners. If well taken care of, healthy ferrets can live up to 10 years of age. However, their average lifespan is approximately 6 years. Find ferrets available for rehoming on our find a pet page. Your duty to care Owning and caring for a ferret can be great fun and very rewarding, but it can also be quite challenging and is a big responsibility and long-term commitment. If you own or are responsible for a ferret, even on a temporary basis, you are required under the Animal Welfare Act to care for him/her properly. Understanding ferrets’ needs Ferrets are domesticated animals. Their most likely wild ancestors are the European polecat and the Steppe polecat. Since no wild counterpart exists, we are still learning about the ferret’s natural needs, habitat and behaviours. There is no one “perfect” way to care for ferrets because every ferret and every situation is different. It is up to you how you look after your ferret, but you must take reasonable steps to ensure that you meet all of their needs. Read our expert reviewed pet care information to find out more about the needs of ferrets: Environment, Diet, Behaviour, Company and Health and welfare. Ferret factfile Ferrets (Mustela putorius furo) belong to the carnivore family of the Mustelidae. Despite their rather misunderstood nature, they have recently become very popular pets for their charming and cheeky characters. Why not view our full Ferret factfile (PDF 44KB) Ferrets enjoy exploring Ferrets are very curious and will test out most items with their mouths. Ferrets are sociable Domestic ferrets are sociable and usually enjoy living in groups, although this does depend on the individual animals. Ferrets like sleeping A healthy ferret may sleep between 18 and 20 hours a day. Ferrets use a range of methods to communicate As well as using smell to hunt, ferrets use scent to communicate with each other. Ferrets also use postures and vocalisations to indicate how they’re feeling. Relevant documents Ferret factfile (PDF 44KB) Ferret factfile reference list (PDF 114KB)
ferretnoun uk /ˈfer.ɪt/ us /ˈfer.ət/ › a small, yellowish-white animal with a long body, bred for hunting rabbits and other small animals Thesaurus: synonyms and related words Wild mammals aardvark anteater armadillo bandicoot big beast giant panda giraffe grizzly bear hedgehog hippopotamus pachyderm panda platypus polar bear polecat sloth stoat tapir vampire bat wallaby See more results »
The foreground, though, is dominated by the tall staves in the water that mark out the oyster-beds. The beds stretch all along the shoreline, their striated, rectangular forms looking like well-tended, submerged fields of vines. Oysters are revered here; they are not so much a local delicacy as a kind of tribal religion.
Hobs are, by nature, far more laid-back than jills and can be considerably larger. Temperaments shouldn’t be much different, as both sexes are equally playful and curious. Both jills and hobs can turn a little boisterous and difficult to handle during mating months because of the raised hormone levels but this is perfectly natural. Males have a more intense smell than females when mature and in season, but neutering or implanting can reduce this to some extent.
Exercise keeps ferrets fit when they are not working, so make sure they have plenty to do. The court should have separate sleeping quarters, which should be warm and cosy to keep them happy. Fitting separate ‘nest boxes’ is a good idea, however, you will often find all the ferrets sleeping in a big pile.
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Ferrets (Mustela putorius furo) are small members of the weasel family that have been domesticated for more than two thousand years. These energetic little bundles of curiosity are a big responsibility, often requiring as much, if not more, care than a cat or dog.
Capis a long lick of land, like a lolling tongue, located on the coast about an hour’s drive due west of Bordeaux. The road grows slower and lazier as you move further along it, and when it turns south into the peninsula, you know you’ve arrived. The cape is exposed on its western side to the Atlantic, while its eastern shore looks out on the Bassin d’Arcachon, a vast, shallow lagoon that is tailor-made for the business of ostréiculture. The cape supplies all of France with oysters, and so this is a working stretch of coastline. It is, in other words, a real place rather than a holiday resort.
Ferrets, like cats, are obligate carnivores. This means that they must have meat in their diet. High protein commercial ferret food (kibble) or a raw diet (including skin, organs and raw bones) or mix of the two is best. Don’t give them processed meats like ham, or cat and dog food. Whole raw eggs in their shells can be given as occasional treats and ferrets will also enjoy breaking through the shell.
TIP: Provide extra shavings, shredded paper or rugs for jills to make a nest. Don’t use hay as it can get damp or mouldy and can lead to health problems, especially for younger ferrets.
In the United States, ferrets were relatively rare pets until the 1980s. A government study by the California State Bird and Mammal Conservation Program estimated that by 1996 about 800,000 domestic ferrets were being kept as pets in the United States.
If excited, they may perform a behaviour called the “weasel war dance”, characterized by frenzied sideways hops, leaps and bumping into nearby objects. Despite its common name, it is not aggressive but is a joyful invitation to play. It is often accompanied by a unique soft clucking noise, commonly referred to as “dooking”. When scared, ferrets will hiss; when upset, they squeak softly.
Ferrets (Mustela putorius furo) belong to the family Mustelidae, and are closely related to European polecats (Mustela putorius). Mustelids are primitive terrestrial carnivores, with many anatomical features in common with the dog and cat. Male ferrets are called hobs, and females jills. They have short noses, with short furry ears, long, tubular bodies, and short limbs, allowing them to move freely in confined spaces and turn round in narrow tunnels.
From time to time, your ferret will need to visit the vet’s office. To transport your ferret safely, you’ll need a pet carrier with gaps small enough that your pet can’t worm his way through them. A leash and H-harness will also be useful.
Ferrets aren’t natural chewers but they can eat things they shouldn’t and may swallow small objects (especially rubber) which cause their bowel to become blocked. If they are allowed loose in the house make sure you remove any potentially dangerous objects first. They also like to sleep in dark and enclosed places, so check washing machines, tumble dryers and cupboards before closing or using them.
Ferrets can become friends with other household pets, like dogs and cats, but they should always be supervised if playing together. Even the scent of a ferret can be really stressful for prey species, like rabbits or rodents, so keep them away.
Ferret housing should be well ventilated, dry and draught free, Ferrets thrive in temperatures between 15 and 24oC, but will adapt to colder temperatures (7 to 10oC). They are susceptible to heat stress above 30oC though, particularly if humidity is also high. The optimum humidity is between 40% and 65%. Unweaned kits should be kept at a higher temperature (15oC).
Ferrets spend 14–18 hours a day asleep and are most active around the hours of dawn and dusk, meaning they are crepuscular. Unlike their polecat ancestors, which are solitary animals, most ferrets will live happily in social groups. A group of ferrets is commonly referred to as a “business”. They are territorial, like to burrow, and prefer to sleep in an enclosed area.
Nutritional requirements for ferrets have not been extensively studied. Ferrets have a typical carnivore digestive system, with large mouths, typical carnivore teeth and short, powerful jaws, which produce a shearing action when chewing. They have a simple stomach, and vomit readily. Both small and large intestine are short, leading to a short gut transit time; food passes through the entire intestine in only about three to four hours.
THE RARE SURGERY The small build of a ferret’s body means there’s minimal room to work with.Within the heart’s walls, where the wires must be sutured from the pacemaker, there are only millimetres of space.According to Emily Klocke, clinical associate professor of small animal surgery, the pacemaker is the same that would be used for a human but with special leads – the wires that bring energy from the machine to the heart muscle.
For millennia, the main use of ferrets was for hunting, or ferreting. With their long, lean build, and inquisitive nature, ferrets are very well equipped for getting down holes and chasing rodents, rabbits and moles out of their burrows. Caesar Augustus sent ferrets or mongooses (named “viverrae” by Plinius) to the Balearic Islands to control the rabbit plagues in 6 BC. In England, in 1390, a law was enacted restricting the use of ferrets for hunting to the relatively wealthy:
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Ferrets are an important experimental animal model for human influenza, and have been used to study the 2009 H1N1 (swine flu) virus. Smith, Andrews, Laidlaw inoculated ferrets intra-nasally with human naso-pharyngeal washes, which produced a form of influenza that spread to other cage mates. The human influenza virus (Influenza type A) was transmitted from an infected ferret to a junior investigator, from whom it was subsequently re-isolated.
Even when the ferrets have successfully gone through the breeding process, there are other things that could go wrong. Mated jills are still at risk of various infections, for example Pyometra, (see November/December 2015 issue of Shooting & Conservation magazine). All infections to the vaginal canal or uterus can be life-threatening and must be treated by a vet.
They might spend three-quarters of the day asleep but ferrets make fantastic pets. They are affectionate rather than aloof (like cats) and not too needy (like dogs). In fact, ferrets have such sunny personalities that some severely depressed or traumatised people spend time with ferrets as part of their therapy. Ferrets are also tougher than they look – their sharp bite means they can easily chomp a pencil in half. They can also carry three times their own body weight and jump four times their body length. Ferrets can even smell prey which is hundreds of miles away. If you do decide to adopt one as a pet, you need to take extra care if you have a girl ferret. Known as jills (males are hobs) they die if they go too long without having sex. Jills come into oestrus each spring and if they don’t have sex they simply stay on heat, creating more and more oestrogen. Too much of it causes the animal’s bone marrow to stop producing red blood cells, and the result is aplastic anaemia (where blood cells are not replaced) which is fatal. The only cures are to spay your ferret, give her a hormone injection called a ‘jill jab’ or find her a mate. Male ferrets have a hooked penis. After penetration, they can’t be separated until the male decides to release. Males will also bite the back of the female’s neck while mating.
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The UK accepts ferrets under the EU’s PETS travel scheme. Ferrets must be microchipped, vaccinated against rabies, and documented. They must be treated for ticks and tapeworms 24 to 48 hours before entry. They must also arrive via an authorized route. Ferrets arriving from outside the EU may be subject to a six-month quarantine.
Ferrets have a typical Mustelid body-shape being long and slender. Their average length is about 50 cm including a 13-cm tail. Their pelage has various colorations including brown, black, white or mixed. They weigh between 0.7 kg to 2.0 kg and are sexually dimorphic as the males are substantially larger than females. The average gestation period is 42 days and females may have 2 or 3 litters each year. The litter size is usually between 3 and 7 kits which are weaned after 3 to 6 weeks and become independent at 3 months. They become sexually mature at approximately 6 months and the average life span is 7 to 10 years.
Ferret cages are usually designed with two levels and a place to hang a cozy hammock. The cage should also contain a dark enclosure such as a wooden hut, where the ferrets can make a nest for sleeping. Towels and similar fabrics make good bedding. The bedding will need to be washed frequently, and the cage itself will need regular scrubbing.
Unless you plan on breeding your ferrets it’s also important that you have them de-sexed prior to reaching sexual maturity (between 6 to 12 months old). Not only does this reduce the smell associated with Ferret reproductive glands but it is also essential to ensure the health of female ferrets who, once in heat, remain so until mated. This can lead to a condition of the uterus, known as Pyometra, which can have serious and even fatal consequences for female ferrets.
Ferrets can catch and pass on human influenza viruses to other ferrets and to humans. They can easily get into scrapes or eat something they shouldn’t, leading to a costly vet bill, so it’s always a good idea to insure your pet.
Ferrets are very clean and usually choose one or two particular areas for the latrine, usually a vertical surface against which they can eliminate. They can be trained to use a litter tray. Ferret litter trays are normally corner-shaped and have two high sides, because their faeces are soft and when eliminating they tend to back into a corner and squirt upwards.
It is only a few steps to the bassin itself. The lagoon is sailable when the tide is in, walkable when it is out. And when it is out, the boats languish on their sides like fallen goldfish on a sitting-room carpet. The tide is transformational; it turns the Bassin d’Arcachon from a damp desert into a big boating lake and back again. The effect is like watching someone you love trying on a range of outfits for some special occasion: every time you look, the landscape is differently attired, but always alluring and attractive. Across the lagoon from Cap Ferret town is the Dune du Pilat, the highest sand-dune in Europe. It is an impressive sight, resembling a powdered pyramid. With binoculars, you can see that it is sometimes teeming with people climbing or descending its soft seaward face, like purposeless termites on a giant mound.
Ferrets are naturally gregarious, and can be kept in compatible pairs or groups without aggression, particularly if there is ample environmental enrichment. Ferrets produce a number of different noises. When playing, they may hiss and chuckle, when fighting, frightened or threatened, they may scream, and when foraging they may produce a low pitched grumble.
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Pet ferrets can live for five to 15 years, but the average lifespan is between eight and 10 years. Both sexes become sexually mature in their first spring, usually when they are around nine months old. Females are called jills and males are hobs. Males are usually larger than females and, if they haven’t been neutered, will have a strong, pungent smell.
There are also various risks to the kits. Poor diet or genetic issues can result in them developing all sorts of defects, for example, the Swimmers Syndrome. Kits will be lethargic, unstable and unable to lift their chest and bellies off the ground.
Ferrets are highly intelligent and social pets that do best in small groups. It is highly recommended you consider adopting a pair of ferrets so they will always have a companion to socialise with. Ferrets natural play includes nipping and training is required to ensure your ferret knows that nipping humans is not an acceptable behaviour. They are also extremely inquistive, anything you may have in your home IS of interest, so ferret proofing your home is must so they do not get caught in between, underneath or behind things.