10 Incredible Ferret Facts

Written by Jennifer Gaeng
Updated: August 16, 2023
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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!

Ferrets sleep for nearly 16 hours per day, which makes them the best pets for people who work full-time hours.

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.

©JLRphotography/Shutterstock.com

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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.

©AJSTUDIO PHOTOGRAPHY/Shutterstock.com

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!

©Rashid Valitov/Shutterstock.com

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.

©Rashid Valitov/Shutterstock.com

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.

©Eric Isselee/Shutterstock.com

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.

©Tom Lester/Shutterstock.com

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.

©Couperfield/Shutterstock.com

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.

©iStock.com/Delecrouix

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.

©iStock.com/Harald Schmidt

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.

©Okrasiuk/Shutterstock.com

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.

The photo featured at the top of this post is © iStock.com/Irina Vasilevskaia


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About the Author

Jennifer Gaeng is a writer at A-Z-Animals focused on animals, lakes, and fishing. With over 15 years of collective experience in writing and researching, Jennifer has honed her skills in various niches, including nature, animals, family care, and self-care. Hailing from Missouri, Jennifer finds inspiration in spending quality time with her loved ones. Her creative spirit extends beyond her writing endeavors, as she finds joy in the art of drawing and immersing herself in the beauty of nature.

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