10 Interesting Ferret Facts

Having ferrets as pets doesn’t sound like a walk in the park, but the truth is different. They may seem like they are high maintenance pets, but when you do your homework about them, you will see that there aren’t that different from other pets. But, to learn more about those wiggly pets, let’s talk about 10 things you should know about them.

Close up of tiny white and black ferret

1. Are ferret rodents?

Most people confuse ferrets and rodents, which makes ferret owners frustrated. Ferrets are related to weasels, skunks, and stoats and they are close to rodents as they are to donkeys.

Rodents belong to the order Rodentia. Ferrets belong to the order Carnivora. They are also called Mustelids from the family Mustelidae like ferrets, skunks, badgers, and otters.

Short answer: They aren’t. 

2. Where did the name “ferret” come from?

The Latin name, and scientific name, for a ferret, is “Mustela putorious furo“. It is interesting because roughly translated it means “little thief” and it suits them perfectly. Ferrets are known for stashing things like keys, paper tissues, and slippers under the couch. The most common ferret color is sable, a brown ferret with a light brown face and brown coloring around the eyes – like a mask for a thief. Sounds a lot like a thief, right? ☺

3. When are ferrets domesticated?

When people see a ferret, they assume it is a wild animal, but actually, ferrets are domesticated 2,500 years ago. They can’t survive in the wild on their own. The only feral colony of ferrets exist in New Zealand. Humans released them into the wild to decrease the number of rabbits few hundred years ago.

Ferret in cage

4. Are ferrets legal pets?

Even though they were domesticated 2,500 years ago, check laws in your city before getting a ferret. There are still many places where these little creatures are illegal to keep as pets. Some states in the USA, such as Hawaii and California, ban people from keeping ferrets as pets. But, legalization didn’t keep them from becoming the 3rd most popular pet in the USA, right next to cats and dogs.


Ferret laying on a blanket

5. What can ferrets eat?

One of the things that make a ferret very unusual pet is nutrition. They have a very fast digestive system. Due to their fast digestive system, they can’t eat any kind of fruit, vegetables or grain. Their natural nutrition is raw meat. Yup, ferrets are obligate carnivores and any kibble which has grain or vegetables in it is bad for them. You can feed them special kibble or raw meat, bones and organs. There are many videos and guides on the internet where people feed their ferrets with bananas or peanut butter, but that is a big NO-NO for ferrets.

6. What is a ferret dead sleep?

There are few things which make ferrets good pets and sleeping is one of them. They can sleep from 18 to 20 hours and they are awake for approximately 6 hours. They can easily adapt to your schedule and sleep in the cage while you are away from home. Some ferrets can sleep so heavily that they may appear dead. That is called – Ferret dead sleep. Their body becomes lifeless, like a doll and you can see they are alive only by their shallow breathing.

Close up of ferret with open mouth

7. Can you bathe a ferret?

Like cats, ferrets are very clean animals and they spend most of their time grooming (when they aren’t playing). It is recommended to bathe them 3 or 4 times a year. If you bathe them more often their skin will produce more oil which causes them to smell more and to scratch more.

8. Do ferrets smell?

Ferrets aren’t smelly creatures. Like cats and dogs, they have their own smell. The best way to get rid of their smell is to clean their cage and replace bedding often. Spaying and neutering a ferret can also help decrease their body smell. Most ferret and dog owners say that their dogs smell more than their ferrets.

9. Can you travel with a ferret?

If you are planning to travel with your ferret, don’t worry, they make excellent travel companions. Put your ferret in a transporter with a hammock and it will sleep most of the trip. But, be careful if you are traveling over the summer. Ferrets can’t sweat and are prone to heat strokes so always have freshwater by your side. Even better, use an ice pack to help it cool off.

You can take your furry friend out with their own harness

10. What is a ferret legging?

There is one extreme sport with ferrets – ferrets legging. It comes from the UK and it was played in bars across the UK. You need a ferret or two and few brave men. Men put ferrets in their pants and the winner is the one who can endure the longest with a ferret in his pants. The recorder had a ferret in his pants for more than 5 hours! Impressive!  


About the Author: Anja has a website Friendly Ferret dedicated to ferret owners. Her goal is to educate people about ferrets, to make products especially for ferrets and their owners. In her blog, she writes about her two ferrets Frida and Yoda and tips and tricks to make your ferret happy and healthy.  


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Thinking of adopting a ferret? You might want to start with these items

ferret cage

Ferret Kit with Tubes (31″x17″x20″)

package of ferret chew sticks

N-Bone Ferret Chew Treats – Bacon Flavor (1.87 oz)

Tube of high calorie nutritional gel for ferrets

Tomlyn Ferret Nutri-Cal (4.25 oz)

Three packages of Living World harnesses

Living World Harness/Lead Medium Assorted Colors

2 replies
  1. Jane rogers
    Jane rogers says:

    Ferrets can exist in the wild. There is a native population of black-footed ferrets in the United States. Thought at one time to be extinct, the population has recovered slightly and now numbers 100 or more.


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