The Ferret Owners Manual


Speaking of myths, the ferret is the subject of a few. Here are the more common ones you are likely to hear. Some are amusing. Some will make your blood boil.

“The ferret is a vicious animal.” – Actually the ferret is one of the least likely of the companion animals to cause a serious injury. Bite statistics show that any given domestic ferret is about 200 times less likely to bite than any given pet dog.

“The ferret is a wild animal.” – Well, less so than a house cat or poodle. Either of those can survive on their own; a ferret can’t. Dogs and cats will eat what’s available. Ferrets will literally starve to death in the presence of eatables – they just don’t recognize it as food.  If they haven’t eating it before they were 3 months old, chances are they won’t recognize it as food. Ferrets were believed to have been domesticated at least 2500 years ago for rodent control and as aides in hunting rabbits.

“The ferret is a rabies carrier.” – The ferret is one of the least likely companion animals to catch or transmit the rabies virus. The IMRAB-3 rabies vaccine was only approved for the domestic ferret in 1990, yet since 1958 less than 25 cases of rabies in the ferret have been reported. Compare this number to the thousands of dogs, and thousands of cats that have been found carrying the rabies virus. The Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta has said that there has never been a reported case of a ferret transferring rabies to a human or another animal.

“The ferret doesn’t have any backbone.” – No, the ferret does have a backbone. He is just remarkably flexible, allowing him to turn around in a very small space. Even though flexible, he can be injured through rough handling or a fall.

“The ferret is a rat [or rodent].” – No, the ferret is a carnivore (meat eater), distantly related to the dog, which is why they are more prone to canine diseases. One look at the structure of their teeth will show you that they are not rodents. They do not have the chisel-shaped front teeth characteristic of rodents. In fact, their teeth resemble those of a cat. Ferrets are more closely related to the weasel, and mink. Some ferret owners affectionately refer to their pets as “weasels”. In fact, one person told me, “Ferret owners are the only people I know, who, if you call them a weasel, take it as a compliment.”


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