10 Incredible Ferret Facts

Written by Jennifer Gaeng
Published: June 12, 2022
Image Credit iStock.com/Irina Vasilevskaia
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Today we will be learning some facts about the ferret. Ferrets are a part of the Mustelidae family and are closely related to stoats, minks, and badgers. However, ferrets are domesticated. In fact, they are one of the most humorous and interesting pets that you can own! Let’s learn some interesting and incredible facts about the adorable and domesticated ferret!

1. Domestic Ferrets Are NOT Like Their Wild Counterparts

Male cinnamon pet ferret in a harness playing in the garden.
A domesticated ferret is different from a polecat.

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The common ferret has domesticated over 2,500 years ago and derives from the European polecat. There are wild ferrets that are often referred to as black-footed ferrets, but their scientific names are American Polecats. American polecats live in North America and primarily eat prairie dogs! As for European polecats, they are commonly used for rabbit hunting. This is why releasing a common ferret into the wild would mean certain death for it.

2. ‘Ferret’ Translates To “Stinky Little Thief” In Latin

feisty ferret home
Ferrets are quite sneaky.

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The scientific name for ferrets is Mustela putorius furo which can translate to a few different terms such as “funny little thief” or more commonly, “stinky thieving weasel”. The name is not far off from these animals because they are quite sneaky and often steal things like raccoons and bandits. Some even have bandit markings around their eyes to fit the part even more! As for the stinky part, that is also true because domesticated ferrets have a certain uncanny stench about them.

3. Ferrets Are Sleepy

Two weeks old cute ferret baby in human hands
Much like a cat, most ferrets sleep up to 16 hours a day!

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Ferrets are most active at dawn and at dusk, so their natural sleeping schedule is adjusted to the time in-between early mornings and early evenings. In fact, these animals sleep for nearly 16 hours per day, which makes them the best pets for people who work full-time hours. When they do sleep, they often sleep very deeply, and can sometimes be hard to wake up, so it’s best to just let them get the rest that they need!

4. They Are Born Without Fur

Ferret (Mustela Putorius Furo) - pink babies
Ferrets have no hair when they are born. It starts to come in white as it grows.

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All ferret babies are born without fur. When the fur begins to come in, it comes in as white. However, around 3 weeks of age, they begin to develop their true coloring which can range anywhere from sable, albino, cinnamon, chocolate, white with markings, sable with a dark mask around their eyes, and panda coloring! These animals really range anywhere from white to tan, to brown, to grey, to black. They also have various markings, such as mitten markings on their feet or masks around their eyes.

5. They Have Many Names Depending On Many Factors

Ferret (Mustela Putorius Furo) - standing against white background
Ferrets go by many different names depending on their sex and if they are fixed.

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Ferrets aren’t the only name for them. Many other names are given to them based on their age and whether they are male or female. Jill is a female ferret that has not been fixed, whereas a sprite is a female ferret that has been fixed. Unfixed male ferrets are referred to as hobs and fixed male ferrets as gibs. Young ferrets, or “kits,” are commonly referred to as such. And finally, a group is a business of ferrets.

6. Ferrets Will Stink More If You Bathe Them

pet ferret on a leash
Bathing ferrets makes them stink more.

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One of the many interesting things about domesticated ferrets is that they are sometimes stinky. This is because their anal glands secrete a smell to make their territory. While many people think that bathing them on a regular basis may reduce the smell, this has proven to be a myth. By bathing your ferret on a regular basis, you are stripping their scent, which in turn makes them produce more oils to compensate. The best way to minimize the strange stench of your pet ferret would be to litter box train them and clean their cage on a regular basis. You can still clean your ferret, just make sure to bathe them at most once a month.

7. When They Are Not Sleeping, They Are Continually Active

ferret toys
Ferrets are high-energy animals.

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Just because ferrets sleep nearly 16 hours a day doesn’t mean they aren’t active creatures. They sleep so much and so deeply because they play hard and exert all their energy during the brief time that they’re awake. These guys love to run around, chase things, go through tunnels, burrow, and jump. It is said that let ferrets should have a maximum of 4 hours of playtime per day during their active hours.

8. Ferrets Can Dance!

Ferret playpen
Ferrets display a dance when they are excited or sense danger.

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Although ferrets are known for running and playing, they can also dance! The actual term for this is called the weasel war dance and is often displayed when they are excited or when they sense a threat is near. It is said that weasels in the wild that display this movement are doing it to confuse or disorient their prey. When both wild and domesticated ferrets do this, they arch their back, frizz their tails, and often hop sideways, often at a sporadic pace.

9. There Is A Sport Called “Ferret Racing”

Two ferrets looking out of their wooden house
There is a sport called ferret racing, where ferrets would race through different pipes and tunnels.

Also popular in England, ferret racing originated in the USA when ferrets were used to haul light lines through long gas pipelines that were being laid out through the desert. While their jobs were important, this later developed into a popular sport where ferrets were to race through different pipes and tunnels. It has become a popular countryside sport and a popular sport to host at state fairs.

10. In Some Places, It Is Illegal To Own A Ferret

ferret cage
Owning a ferret in some states in the U.S is illegal.

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In most states throughout the US, owning a ferret is both legal and common. However, in some places such as Hawaii, New York City, and Washington DC, it is illegal to keep a ferret as a pet. This is due to the possibility of wildlife threats, agricultural threats, and public safety because they can spread rabies without proper vaccinations.

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About the Author

A substantial part of my life has been spent as a writer and artist, with great respect to observing nature with an analytical and metaphysical eye. Upon close investigation, the natural world exposes truths far beyond the obvious. For me, the source of all that we are is embodied in our planet; and the process of writing and creating art around this topic is an attempt to communicate its wonders.