Ferret as pets


Crixus, The only True Undefeated GaulNo. Ferrets are not rodents.


Rodents: Rats, mice, squirrels, beavers, hamsters, gerbils, prairie dogs. Rabbits used to be listed under rodents, but new findings have them reclassified. Others are also possible candidates for reclassification though there is ongoing argument over it. Guinea pigs apparently headed up that debate. Lol. Right, guys – blame it all on the adorable guinea pigs, huh? (Love how they ‘purr’ – like a Star Trek Tribble!)


To date, one of the easiest ways to get an idea of whether an animal is a rodent is a question – do their teeth continually grow longer? Not an infallible distinction, but it’s a start and will certainly prevent mistaking a ferret as a rodent. Or mistaking a cat or dog as a rodent.


Ferrets are not rodents. Pet ferrets are from European polecats. Think Weasel.

The ferret (Mustela putorius furo) is the domesticated form of the European polecat, a mammal belonging to the same genus as the weasel, Mustela of the family Mustelidae.


Kingdom: Animalia – Phylum: Chordata – Class: Mammalia – Order: Carnivora – Suborder: Caniformia – Superfamily: Musteloidea – Family: Mustelidae.


Mustelidae chart from TexasFerret.org

Mustelidae chart by TexasFerret.org


Mustelidae is the largest family within Carnivora. Some sources state there are 65 species and others claim 56 species within the Mustelidae family. For fun, here are a few of those related species.


Badgers – weigh 20 – 24 pounds.


Photo credits: Wikipedia, Wildlife Hotline, Nature Mapping Foundation, Mayra Ahtari

Photo credits:
Wikipedia, Wildlife Hotline, Nature Mapping Foundation, Mayra Ahtari


Grison – This image is a South American Wolverine, though grisons include any mustelid in the genus Galictis. Wolverines can weigh 20 – 55 pounds.


Photo credit: Wikipedia by Ken Erickson, kenvanportbc@gmail.com

Photo credit:
Wikipedia by Ken Erickson, kenvanportbc@gmail.com

Least weasel – can be as small as one ounce!


Least Weasel

Photo credit: Wikipedia, no photographer name available

Tayra – ranges between 6 and 17 pounds.


Photo credit: South Lakes Safari Zoo

Photo credit: South Lakes Safari Zoo



Last thought about ferrets not being rodents: Ferrets would include rodents in their diet just like any other weasel if they aren’t imprinted on kibble when very young.

Ferrets as furred family members

After learning about what a ferret will need from us for a full, healthy, and happy life it’s wise to learn about what kind of life you will enjoy with this ferret. Are they like dogs in temperament? No. Like cats? Absolutely not, although they play like kittens all their lives. Ferrets sleep for up to 18 hours of the day and will adjust their sleep time to when their humans are available. They easily learn to come when called – if they aren’t terribly involved with some exciting ferret-investigation at the moment. Ferrets can be taught many tricks, like dogs. Ferrets bond with their humans so deeply that they can experience depression and even death when losing that human, especially if the human is their only family member – i.e., they are not also bonded with another ferret. Your ferret will require, not just enjoy – but require, 2 to 4 hours each day interacting with you – playtime and time out and about with you.


Ferrets are obligate carnivores. Obligate means “by necessity” so be aware that meat, organs, and bone are their ideal diet; their diet will not include any vegetables, fruits or starches. When feeding manufactured kibble, this means you will pay a higher price for those formulas that have the least non-meat ingredients. You will need to keep up to date on current formulas if kibble feeding. For example, sweet peas (added partially to provide starch necessary to produce kibble) have been proven to cause kidney stones in ferrets. Your favorite ferret kibble manufacturer will sometimes change their formula and will not give advance notice. Ferrets need access to food at least every four hours. This means that you will free-feed to be sure your fuzzbutt has food available when needed. There are several very good raw meat diets available for your ferret, if he will accept them. They often are imprinted on kibble at an early age, making a transition to a meat diet often a tricky venture. On that note there are many resources available to help you transition to a meat diet! One excellent resource is the Holistic Ferret Forum.


In short, a ferret is not a pet to consider if you’re not prepared to devote time and thought into making her life happy and healthy.


Are they quiet and snuggly? Content to just lie in your lap? Some are more prone to snuggle than others, but ferrets won’t devote the majority of their awake time to lying around. Ferrets live each moment of life to its fullest; for that reason, they can be a pet that teaches their humans to take joy in each moment. They are curious and most happy when playtime includes interaction. They are very intelligent, so those who make a good match for a ferret pet will enjoy games and active playtime activities.


Worth repeating: Ferrets are very intelligent. Depending on the source, they are said to be as intelligent as a 2 – 4 year old human child. They will get into trouble. They will dig up your plants. They will take your stuff and stash it. In fact, they will be offended when you retrieve that stuff because ferret logic says that if they see it, touch it, or smell it – it belongs to them. They usually will forget how to get back home if they escape the house and please note that they are 100% dependent on you to keep them safe.


Toys commonly loved are often clean paper bags, safely made small balls that make jingle noises, or simple cardboard boxes arranged so they can scurry from one box section to the next. Taping together cardboard boxes with holes between them for ferret access can be tons of fun. Inserting short tunnel toys from one opening to another adds to the fun! Try putting a hole in the top as well. Use a standard cat toy on a ‘pole’ to ‘fish for ferrets’!


Video below is from http://ferrets.positive-pets.co.uk.

Please visit the link above to learn about ferret training from an experienced and lovely group of people! While you’re there, do get to know Private Pixel.






Be part of the efforts to bring humane conditions to ferrets while attempting to repair the damage done to the species by greedy, uncaring ferret farms. All animal lovers and those who value life will want to get involved. The way we treat our animals tells a lot about who we are as humans.


Sadly, American ferrets tend to cancers at mid to late life. Research points to many factors:

Regulate Ferret FarmsNeutering as infants.

Poor breeding management.

High carb diets.

Light exposure is likely a factor.


There is no way to shut down the huge businesses that breed ferrets and other animals in unhealthy environments, utilizing poor animal husbandry techniques, and often proven guilty of cruelties difficult to fathom. They make too much money from selling directly for scientific research for concerned citizens to have them shut down.


We can, however, pressure our senators and representatives to enact adequate regulations –  and enforce them – to prevent the most heinous abuses these businesses commit.


Support Rescue




Bright, P. 2000. Lessons from lean beasts: conservation biology of the mustelids. Mammal Review, 30: 217-226.


Koepfli, Klaus-Peter; Deere, K.A.; Slater, G.J.; Begg, C.; Begg, K.; Grassman, L.; Lucherini, M.; Veron, G.; Wayne, R.K. (February 2008). “Multigene phylogeny of the Mustelidae: Resolving relationships, tempo and biogeographic history of a mammalian adaptive radiation“.BMC Biology 6: 10. doi:10.1186/1741-7007-6-10. PMC 2276185


Sato, J., T. Hosada, W. Mieczyslaw, K. Tsuchiya, Y. Yamamoto, H. Suzuki. 2003. Phylogenetic relationships and divergence times among mustelids (Mammalia: Carnivora) based on nucleotide sequences of the nuclear interphotoreceptor retinoid binding protein and mitochondrial cytochrome b genes. Zoologial Science, 20: 243-264.


Whitaker, J., W. Hamilton. 1998. Mammals of the Eastern United States. Ithaca: Comstock Publishing.


Wilson, D., D. Reeder. 1993. Mammal Species of the World, A Taxonomic and Geographic Reference. Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution Press. Accessed July 028, 2015 at http://nmnhgoph.si.edu/msw/.


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