Ferrets are extremely interesting animals. The first time I saw a ferret I knew I had to have one; it was love at first sight. The fact that they look so cute but are also highly intelligent animals is what I love. They are the best proof of that old saying: “There is more than meets the eye.” Even though ferrets are soft and cuddly, there are also facts which left me surprised when I started learning about them six years ago. I have learnt so much about them that I wanted to share the most interesting facts, so you can learn more about ferrets as pets.
Ferrets are domesticated about 2,500 years ago. In the past their main job was to hunt rabbits, rats and mice. Ferrets were very useful because they were fast, small and they can fit into small holes. Their flexible body made them more attractive than cats when it comes to pest control. There were people in America who ran the business with ferrets. They went from home to home and provided people fast and effective pest control – ferrets.
Ferrets aren’t ordinary pets and you can put them in the same category as cats, dogs or hamsters. Most people confuse them with rodents, probably due to their short legs and long body, but that can’t be further from the truth. Ferrets are a part of mustelid family, like otters.
The best nutrition for ferrets is raw meat diet. They have very fast digestive system and their body can’t digest plants. But, you don’t have to worry if you don’t want to feed your ferret meat, you can feed them with ferret or cat kibble. That kibble should be high quality – high in meat and fat, without corn or vegetables. The best kibble for them should have first three ingredients meat (for example chicken, turkey liver, turkey…) and no vegetable on the ingredients list.
Ferrets have sharp teeth and you have to teach them not to bite. (just like puppies and kittens) When a young ferret comes in new family, he will invite family members to play with biting. Ferrets have thick skin so when they bite each other they don’t feel anything (even though it may look painfull for us). They don’t know that human skin is soft, so you have to teach your ferret not to bite. They won’t bite you because they are evil, they will bite you because they communicate like that.
Neutering and spaying ferrets is a must. A female ferret can develop aplastic anemia if she isn’t spayed. When a female ferret is in heat she has to mate. If she doesn’t mate she will continue to be in heat. That condition makes their body produce too many hormones which causes an disbalance and the result is aplastic anemia.
You can train a ferret to do tricks. Ferrets are very intelligent animals, but they love to explore. They don’t find training amusing, so you have to have some kind of bribe for them. Find a treat your ferret loves and teach him many tricks. Easiest tricks to teach are roll over and stand up.
One of the things that makes ferrets great pets is that they love to sleep. Most ferrets sleep from 18-20 hours a day and they can easily adapt to your lifestyle. But, don’t get me wrong ferrets aren’t caged animals, they need their daily dose of investigation around the room to spend their accumulated energy. Great thing is that you can let them out of the cage in the morning and in the evening. The rest of the day they can be safe in the cage, sleeping like angels.
Another thing connected to their love to sleep. There is one behaviour unique to ferrets – ferret dead sleep. When a ferret sleeps it can look like it is dead. You can grab it, put it somewhere else and he won’t move a muscle. You will feel like you are holding a doll. The only way to tell if your ferret is alive is by their light breathing. That behaviour scared many ferret owners, but it is completely normal.
“Ferretproofing“ is a term well-known for all ferret owners. Like I mentioned, ferrets aren’t caged animals and they need to run and play every day for few hours. Ferrets behave like puppies entire life, they simply won’t grow up. J Every waking minute they spend playing and sniffing around. Since ferrets love to crawl into dark and narrow spaces – to explore, they can get in trouble. A ferretproof is a term for making a room safe for your ferret. Basic ferretproofing means: remove the plants, remove glasses of water (ferrets love to tip them over), cover holes behind/under the furniture, making sure your ferret won’t get stuck somewhere.
Another term well known for all ferret owners is “dooking”. Ferrets are mostly silent animals and they won’t make a sound, except in extreme situations. When they are very excited, ferrets produce a clicking sound called “dooking”. “Dooking” is mostly connected to another unique ferret behaviour and that is the famous “war dance”. A ferret “war dance” is a high energy dance which consists of jumping, running, “dooking” and running into furniture. It looks like your ferret is celebrating!
Written by Anja of Friendly Ferret for LAA Pet Talk. Friendly Ferret started back in 2012 with Anja’s plan to learn about ferrets because of her owning one-year-old Frida. The main intention was to show people what are ferrets and whether they’re good pet. Anja shares stories and tips on her blog. In 2016, Friendly Ferret got another member, an energetic cinnamon ferret Yoda. Every problem or challenge Anja has ever encountered with ferrets is documented at her blog.
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