Courses for Kids
Free study material
Offline Centres
Store Icon


Last updated date: 23rd Apr 2024
Total views: 320.1k
Views today: 4.20k
hightlight icon
highlight icon
highlight icon
share icon
copy icon

Introduction to Ferret

The ferret is a domesticated version of the European polecat, a mammal of the Mustelidae family that belongs to the same genus as the weasel, Mustela. The ferret Latin name is Mustela putorius furo.

The Mustelidae are a family of carnivorous mammals, including ferrets, weasels, martens, badgers, otters, minks, and wolverines, among others. Mustelids are a diverse group that make up the order Carnivora, suborder Caniformia's largest family. They are made up of 56–60 species divided into eight subfamilies. Their hair is usually brown, purple, white, or a combination of these colours. They measure 51 cm (20 in) in length, with a 13 cm (5.1 in) tail, weigh between 0.7 and 2.0 kg, and live for 7 to 10 years in the wild. Male ferrets are far heavier than female ferrets, making them sexually dimorphic predators.

[Image will be Uploaded Soon]

What is a Ferret?

The ferret animal has been a domesticated animal for 5000 years.

Ferret sketches, drawings, and even bodies have been discovered in a variety of ancient civilization. They've been used for rabbit and rat shooting for both practical and recreational reasons. Ferrets were sent as presents to visiting royalty by Queen Victoria of England. Despite their long history of living near humans, there are still many myths and misconceptions about ferrets in general, and especially when it comes to them as pets.

[Image will be Uploaded Soon]

Ferrets are not pests, and they are no more likely than dogs or cats to bite humans.

Weasels, mink, ermine, martens, skunks, badgers, otters, wolverine, and the black-footed ferret are all members of the Mustelidae family, which includes weasels, mink, ermine, martens, skunks, badgers, otters, wolverine, and the black-footed ferret. They have much of their family's physical characteristics, such as scent glands, but lack the body mass and wild instincts of their feral ancestors. Males usually weigh 2 to 3 1/2 pounds, while females weigh 1 to 2 1/4 pounds. Sable and white are the two basic colour classes.

Breeding females are referred to as "Jills," while spayed females are referred to as "Sprites," and breeding males are referred to as "Hobs," and neutered males are referred to as "Gibs."

Male and female ferret offspring are referred to as "Kits." Temperature and length of daylight determine the breeding cycle of Jills and Hobs in the wild. A Jill's gestation cycle is around 6 weeks, and she normally gives birth to 5-8 Kits. Around 6 and 8 weeks, the Kits are weaned. If Jill is not born again, she will stay in heat and inevitably die of aplastic anaemia. If Jill is going to be kept as a family member, she should be spayed between the ages of 5 and 7.

Since ferrets are so closely related to polecats, they can easily hybridise with them, resulting in feral colonies of polecat–ferret hybrids that have harmed native fauna, especially in New Zealand.

As a result, the holding of ferrets has been restricted in New Zealand and other areas of the country.

In addition, the ferret meaning is some mustelids, such as the black-footed ferret, an endangered North American species, are also known as ferrets.

History of Ferret Domestication

The original reason for ferrets being domesticated by humans is unknown, as it is for most domestic animals, although it may have included hunting.

The ferret was domesticated from the European polecat (Mustela putorius), according to phylogenetic analysis, and most likely descends from a North African lineage of the breed. Ferrets have domesticated about 2,500 years ago, according to mitochondrial DNA analysis. The ancient Egyptians are said to have been the first to domesticate ferrets, but no mummified remains of a ferret, no hieroglyph of a ferret, and no wild polecats have been found in the region, so that theory seems unlikely.

The Romans most likely used ferrets for hunting.

Feral ferret colonies have established themselves in locations where there is little threat from predators of comparable sizes, such as the Shetland Islands and isolated New Zealand regions.

Hybridization is popular where ferrets and polecats coexist. According to reports, New Zealand has the world's biggest wild ferret–polecat hybrid population. Farmers in New Zealand demanded the introduction of ferrets into the country in 1877 to combat the rabbit population, which had been introduced by humans as well. In 1879, five ferrets were shipped, and between 1882 and 1883, 32 shipments of ferrets from London totalled 1,217 animals.

Ferret Classification

Kingdom: Animalia

Phylum: Chordata

Class: Mammalia

Order: Carnivora

Family: Mustelidae

Genus: Mustela

Species: Mustela putorius

Characteristic of Ferret

Ferrets have a long and slender body shape, which is characteristic of mustelids.

They are about 50 cm (20 in) long on average, with a 13 cm (5.1 in) tail. Red, black, white, or mixed colouration can be seen in their pelage. They are sexually dimorphic, with males being significantly heavier than females, and weigh between 0.7 and 2.0 kg. Females will have two to three litters per year, with an average gestation period of 42 days. The litter size ranges from three to seven kits, which are weaned after three to six weeks and become self-sufficient at three months. They reach sexual maturity at about 6 months and live for 7 to 10 years on average. 

[Image will be Uploaded Soon]

Behaviour of Ferret

Ferrets sleep for 14–18 hours a day and are most active at dawn and dusk, indicating that they are crepuscular. If they are kept in an enclosure, they can be let out at least once a day to exercise and satisfy their curiosity; they need at least an hour and a safe place to play. Unlike their polecat ancestors, who were solitary creatures, most ferrets prefer to live in groups. They are territorial, like to burrow, and sleep in a confined space.

Ferrets, like many other mustelids, have scent glands near their anus, from which the secretions are used in scent marking. Individuals, as well as the sex of unfamiliar individuals, may be recognised by ferrets using anal gland secretions.

Ferrets can also use urine labelling to indicate sex and identify individual ferrets.

[Image will be Uploaded Soon]

Ferrets, like skunks, can emit anal gland secretions when shocked or frightened, but the odour is weaker and dissipates quickly. In the United States, most pet ferrets are sold de-scented (anal glands removed). De-scenting is considered unwanted mutilation in many other areas of the world, including the United Kingdom and other European countries.

When they are agitated, they can engage in an action known as the "weasel war dance," which involves frantic sideways jumps, bounces, and bumping into nearby objects. It is not offensive, despite its common name, but rather a cheerful invitation to play.

It is sometimes accompanied by a distinct light clucking sound known as "dooking."

Ferrets hiss when they're afraid, and they squeak quietly when they're angry.

Diet of Ferret

Ferrets are carnivores by nature.

Their wild ancestors' natural diet consisted of entire small prey, which included meat, lungs, bones, skin, feathers, and hair. Ferrets have a fast metabolism and a short digestive tract, so they must feed regularly. The highest nutritional value is seen in prepared dried foods made almost entirely of meat (such as high-grade cat food, though speciality ferret food is becoming more widely available and preferred). To better imitate their normal diet, some ferret owners feed their ferrets pre-killed or live prey (such as mice and rabbits). Ferrets don't have a cecum in their digestive tracts, so they can't eat plant matter.

Many breeders and pet stores suggested fruit in the ferret diet before anything was learned about ferret physiology, although it is now understood that such diets are unacceptable and could even be harmful to ferret wellbeing.

Ferrets begin to imprint on their food at the age of six months. This will make it difficult to introduce new diets to an ageing ferret, and even simple changes in kibble products can be met with opposition from a ferret who has never eaten the food as a kitten. As a result, young ferrets should be exposed to as many different kinds and tastes of suitable food as possible.

[Image will be Uploaded Soon]

Types of Ferret 

1. Albino Ferret 

[Image will be Uploaded Soon]

A real albino ferret has red or pink eyes and a pink nose and is white to cream in colour.

Albinos are ferrets with pink eyes and noses that are white or cream. Due to a gene mutation, albino ferrets have no other colour but white. It simply means they are unable to develop pigmentation. Albino ferrets can be sensitive to direct sunlight and artificial light due to their lack of pigmentation in their skin. Albino ferrets, despite having a genetic defect, are as stable as any other ferret.

2. Cinnamon

[Image will be Uploaded Soon]

Cinnamon ferrets have a reddish-brown colouration, identical to the spice. Cinnamon ferrets have a lighter brown to reddish colour and are not very common, although they are not technically an AFA colour. Cinnamon has a white to golden undercoat, and the colour of its nose can range from beige to pink to brick red.

3. Sable Mask

[Image will be Uploaded Soon]

The most famous ferrets are sable ferrets. This popular brown ferret can be sold in pet stores all over the United States. The guard, or top layer of fur, is a dark brown, while the undercoat is lighter, ranging from cream to white and sometimes gold in colour.

4. Black Ferret

[Image will be Uploaded Soon]

True black ferrets have black guard hairs and a white undercoat, making them darker than black sable ferrets. It would also have black eyes and a black nose, though the nose can be visible on occasion.

5. Chocolate

[Image will be Uploaded Soon]

The guard hairs of the chocolate ferret have a milk chocolate look with a white undercoat.

The eyes are dark, but the nose may be pink or brown.

6. Black-eyed White

[Image will be Uploaded Soon]

A dark-eyed white or black-eyed white ferret has white to cream fur but burgundy skin, which distinguishes it from an albino ferret.

7. Black Sable Colour

[Image will be Uploaded Soon]

A black sable ferret differs from a normal sable ferret in that it has darker guard hairs and a cream or white undercoat. The disparity between the blackish-brown guard hairs and the lighter undercoat is more noticeable.

Uses of Ferret

  1. Ferrets have been used for hunting, or "ferreting," for centuries. Ferrets are well suited for getting down holes and catching mice, rabbits, and moles out of their burrows, thanks to their tall, lean build and inquisitive disposition. In certain nations, including the United Kingdom, where farmers deem rabbits to be a plague species, they are also used for hunting. In some nations, the procedure is illegal because ferrets are thought to upset the ecological equilibrium.

  2. Ferrets are an effective laboratory animal model for human influenza, and the 2009 H1N1 (swine flu) virus was studied using ferrets. Smith, Andrews, and Laidlaw (1933) used human nasopharyngeal washes to inoculate ferrets intra-nasally, resulting in a strain of influenza that spread to their cage mates. The human influenza virus (type A) was spread from an untreated ferret to a junior investigator, who was then re-isolated.

  3. Ferrets have been used in a wide range of trials, including the pathogenesis and management of a wide range of human disorders, such as cardiovascular disease, diet, respiratory diseases like SARS and human influenza, airway physiology, cystic fibrosis, and gastrointestinal disease.

  4. Ferret racing is a common attraction at rural fairs and festivals in the United Kingdom, with spectators betting on ferrets as they race through pipes and wire mesh. Unlike'serious' betting sports like horse or greyhound racing, where financial bets are placed, the event is solely for entertainment purposes.

  5. Ferrets are often used as experimental models of scientific research in areas such as virology, reproductive physiology, anatomy, endocrinology, and neuroscience because they share certain anatomical and physiological features with humans.

  6. The SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus, which causes COVID-19, was effectively blocked by a nasal spray in a small experimental sample of ferrets.


In conclusion, ferrets are domesticated species, not "wild animals." They can be different from cats and dogs, but with a little knowledge and empathy, they can be almost as enjoyable, offering enjoyable and exciting companionship.

FAQs on Ferret

Q1. Define Ferret.

Answer: Ferret meaning is a domesticated polecat used chiefly for catching rabbits. It is typically albino in colouration, but sometimes brown.

Q2. Are Ferrets Good Pets?

Answer: Ferrets are wonderful companions for those who have the time to devote to them and who have a strong relationship with animals.

Ferrets are calm, polite, inquisitive, intellectual, and sociable by nature. They are still very busy at some times of the day and may get themselves into trouble if they are not watched.

Q3. Are Ferrets Smelly?

Answer: Behind this, “ferrets have a naturally occurring musky smell due to other perfume glands in their skin,” Fiorella said.

Due to those hormones, an unneutered ferret would also have a better odour, according to Fiorella. Following that, filthy ears, over-bathing, and failing to keep their living room and bedding tidy are also major contributors to ferret odour. While you can control some of the odour with tactical tactics, bear in mind that your ferret will almost certainly have some animal smell associated with it.

Q4. Do Ferrets Bite Hard?

Answer: Strangers who reach into the nest to pick up their babies are attacked by some jills with babies, which is fair protection.

They bite hard to inflict as much pain as possible. If you move your arm or hand away from the nest while the jill is still attached, she will normally release you and return to her boys. Avoiding this kind of bite by not disturbing a jill with newborn kits is the only way to avoid it.