It’s time for another Animal of the Week, Defenders! This time we have an awesome mammal that has been domesticated for over 2,000 years, and only grows in popularity. That’s right, it’s the domestic ferret! Present day ferrets came from domesticating the European polecat, a mustelid native to Eurasia and northern Morocco. Mustelids are a family of mammals that include ferrets, weasels, stoats, and more. The domestic ferrets we commonly know are usually some mix of brown, black, and white. Ferrets are also sexually dimorphic, with the males being much larger on average than the females.
Are Ferrets More Like Cats or Dogs?
Before looking at the differences between ferrets and the most common house pets, it’s important to know the laws! Ferrets are legal pets in 48 states of America, so in most places there isn’t an issue with owning them. However if you’re in California like us at Critter Squad, you’ll know that it’s illegal to own a ferret in the states of California and Hawaii. This doesn’t mean all ferrets are banned, there is just a special permit you need from the Department of Fish & Game to possess a ferret in these states. Ferrets are truthfully fairly different from cats & dogs, although these are the closest pets in size and also being furry mammals. The lifespan of a ferret is only about 7 years, so cats and dogs usually live twice as long. It’s also very important to pet-proof a house that will have a ferret, as their long & slender bodies can easily sneak into places you wouldn’t expect. On the plus side most ferrets are much quieter and rarely make loud sounds at all.
Do All These Mustelids Stink?
While ferrets are good on the volume scale, their scent is a whole different story. Just like the majority of mustelids, ferrets have scent glands near their anus that they use for scent marking. They can release these secretions when startled, but the smell is not as potent nor does it last as long as a skunk. That said, a domestic ferret does have a natural smell that you should be prepared for. Some places across the United States sell ferrets with their anal glands removed. Many places across the world do not do this and believe it is animal mutilation.
Are Ferrets Aggressive?
Ferrets are very playful and curious, and just like any other pet they need training from a young age. It is in their nature to enjoy games like play-fighting and chasing/hunting so a ferret must be taught not to bite or nip. While ferrets usually aren’t aggressive or angry in their biting, they do not understand what hurts us humans and what is just playing, so it’s important to teach those boundaries when they are young.
Do They Like Baths?
Many people think about bathing their ferrets often to combat their smells. While ferrets are fine with a bath now and then, it’s important not to bathe them too often. Bathing a ferret will dry out their coat and removes essential oils from their skin. When bathed too often the glands work harder to replace these oils and they can end up smelling more! At most once per month is appropriate for a ferret so they stay clean without drying out their skin & coat.
How do I know if mine is happy?
Paying attention to a ferret’s body language is the best way to understand how the ferret is feeling. Being such playful animals, a ferret really wants a lot of attention and enjoys playing and getting exercise. Ferrets often do a “weasel war dance” which can look a little scary – they will hop sideways, bare their teeth, and leap around. This is actually an invitation to play, and is the ferret’s way of letting you know they want to play. It might be a little scary to see your ferret lunge right at you but they just want to chase and be chased! Running around with your ferret or tapping your hand across the ground for them to chase are great ways to play together.