Last Updated on
Ferrets (Mustela putorius furo) are domesticated small mammals and members of the Mustelidae family, which also includes weasels, minks, otters and badgers. They’ve been domesticated for thousands of years, first in ancient Egypt where they were kept as pets by ancient Egyptians. They also had their own cult that worshipped them. Now, they’re the ninth most popular household pet and contribute to a $1 billion pet industry in the United States.
What Do Ferrets Look Like?
Like most other domesticated animals, ferrets were bred over time from their wild cousins to be smaller in size and have various colors – such as brown or black – instead of just gray like their ancestors would’ve had.
Ferrets are small to medium sized mammals with a high average length of around 2 feet, depending on the sex, and weighing in around 5 pounds. Their head is small but has a large nose and ears that are round to oval in appearance. They have long muzzles with soft fur around their eyes but usually little feathering. Their tail is generally short and thin with a bushy tip and may also vary in color from brown or black (albino).
Their coats can be any length and thickness depending on the coat pattern, which may be sparse or complete – it’s mostly referred to as the genetic factor for the coat length.
Where Do Ferrets Live?
Ferrets, like all domesticated pets, can be found everywhere. However, they’re illegal to own as pets in California and Hawaii. In some countries and states where ferrets are banned, there have been petitions to legalize them – such as UK citizens who fought hard to overturn a recent ban on ferrets.
Ferrets in the wild are mostly found in the northern half of North America and are scarce in South America. They’re most common around prairies, tundras and arctic regions and are also only found along the east coast of Asia. Wild Ferrets can be found in forests, grasslands and swamps although they typically live in burrows and holes left behind by the original muskrat. They mostly live in areas with low nutrition and not much sunlight.
What Do Ferrets Eat?
Ferrets love to eat a meat based diet and crave a variety of small prey such as rodents, rabbits, frogs, lizards, snakes, birds and insects. They’re built for hunting and can kill prey that’s much bigger than them – such as a rabbit – due to their powerful jaws. Their paws also have sharp claws to dig into their burrows when they need to escape or look for food.
For a healthy diet, all ferrets should eat food high in protein, meaning fish and meaty treats. Rats and micro chip mice are also good choices of food depending on the ferret’s age. It’s important to note that the diet of a ferret is very similar to that of a mouse! Although many people believe ferrets are carnivores, they are actually omnivorous as they can eat grass or even fruit.
Ferrets do eat frequently but can have unlimited access to food. However, they should not be allowed to overeat. Ferrets should eat regularly during the day and have access to water at all times. Food dishes must be replaced every 4-6 hours and fresh water should be available at all times. Most ferrets will also drink from bowls if available, but to remain healthy should avoid milk or any other dairy products.
How Fast Do Ferrets Grow?
Female ferrets can reach sexual maturity between 6-12 months while male ferrets are sexually mature between 7-12 months. Males’ testicles will descend around the age of 5 weeks and they’ll continue to grow until they’re a year old. Female ferrets will usually have their first litter when they’re about 10 months old, with litters ranging from 4-9 kits, depending on the breed. They can have as many as 3 litters (baby ferrets) per year if not bred when a female has already given birth once before.
Are Ferrets Good Pets?
Having a pet ferret can be very rewarding. Healthy ferrets are intelligent, inquisitive, playful and affectionate animals that will thrive with a little love and room to run around. They love playtime, toys, and treats. Feeding them is easy too, as they will let you know when they’re hungry. Young ferrets as pets must be taken care of and brought into the home in a certain way. They’re not as easy to care for as dogs or cats, but if you follow the following requirements it should be no problem:
- You must have a secure cage that’s big enough for your ferret(s) to move around in, preferably with some bedding and toys.
- Ferrets are nocturnal so they’ll generally sleep during the day and play throughout the night, if you get one that is. If they’re young then you’ll need to let them out during the day when they’re awake so they can learn how to use their litter box properly (they’re not born knowing how to).
- You must also give them regular access to water to drink so they won’t get dehydrated.
- You’ll need to provide food for them every day.
- You’ll need to be around your domesticated ferret(s) so they can learn how to interact with the family and potentially any other animal around the house.
- You must handle your ferret(s) every day for at least a short period of time (5 minutes is plenty).
- Once they’re about 18 weeks old then you can start letting them run around outside in their litter box area.
- If you plan on getting more pet ferrets after the first then wait until the previous ones are around 2 years old before getting them.
- Some older ferrets may require special feeding plans, for example, vitamins or dry food ferret food from pet shops
The best thing about owning a ferret is that they don’t require a lot of attention since they’re nocturnal. They’ll also never be too far from you since their cage can be fixed somewhere in your bedroom or living room so you can check on them at any time of the day.
Do Ferrets Make Good Pets For Children?
Yes! Domesticated ferrets are very cuddly. When they have a human companion they love, they can be affectionate, playful, and loyal. They love to explore and learn new things just like a child would. A ferret is a great and quite popular pet for any family, as long as you take time to properly care for it and train it properly when young. It’s important to remember that when choosing a pet, ferrets can bite and sometimes not release their jaws easily so it’s best to supervise kids whenever they’re around the animal until you’re sure the kid can treat it safely.
How Long Can A Ferret Live?
According to the RSPCA, their lifespan is typically 6 years but can reach up to 10 years depending on health conditions and diet. Ferrets are not so easy to age, which is why it’s best to get them at a young age and take them to the vet for proper care.
Are Ferrets Dangerous?
Domesticated ferrets are usually not aggressive, but it is strongly recommended that they’re kept in a large cage with a wide opening where they can get in and out on their own without having to be carried everywhere. If you want to know if your ferret is aggressive and interested to see its natural instinct, just watch how they behave when they see other pets or people.
Do Ferrets Kill Cats?
A cat can kill a ferret, and so can a ferret kill a cat. However, considering they are both predators in nature, they generally get along.
Like most of the other animals in this family, ferrets are wild by nature, which is why it’s important to train them properly when young so they won’t get too accustomed to the family since larger (and popular pets like dogs) will be a potential threat to them.
They’re also very curious which means they can get into your cat’s food and scatter it all over your house. It’s best to put your ferret in its cage when you’re not around or supervising them so you don’t have to worry about any animal accidents.
Do Ferrets Smell?
Yes, according to the American Ferret Association, ferrets have a musky smell that comes from their scent glands. These are primarily the sweat glands that release odour when triggered as a defense.
They are naturally odorless like dogs but their natural musk develops with age. It’s recommended that you bathe your pet ferret at least once a year because their skin can also become itchy.
Are Ferrets Rare?
Not really. They’re now one of the most popular choices as pets in the 21st century and many have been adopted from shelters and rescues. Black footed ferrets (mustela nigripes) on the other hand are an endangered species and are extremely rare; you’ll not find these in pet stores like the mustela putorius furo.
Sources and References
Top 10 Reasons Ferrets Make Good Pets – thesprucepets.com