If you have recently acquired a ferret, but consider yourself somewhat inexperienced, this information is for you. Even veteran ferret lovers may discover something they didn’t know.
What are ferrets and where did they come from?
- The scientific name of ferrets is: Mustela putorius furo
- Ferrets are mammals not rodents and are not even related to rodents. Domestic ferrets are related to minks and weasels, and to the black-footed ferret, a wild, weasel-like animal native to North America.
- Ferrets have been domesticated for thousands of years, as long as dogs and cats.
- About 300 years ago, the first ferrets worked their way to North America from Europe, controlling rodents on ships of the early colonists.
- There are no wild ferrets such as the domesticated ferret we have as pets anywhere.
- Hunting with ferrets is now illegal in the United States. In the past, they have been used to hunt burrowing animals such as rabbits and groundhogs. The ferret doesn’t usually kill the prey, but chases it out of a burrow.
- The American Ferret Association reports there are approximately 4 million ferrets in the United States.
- The majority of ferret owners have more than one ferret.
Here’s a glossary of terms. You’ll need to know these when you’re talking to an experienced ferret owner.
Jills – Intact female ferrets, generally for breeding purposes
Sprites - Neutered (spayed) females
Hobs – Intact male ferrets, generally for breeding purposes
Gibs - Neutered males
Kits - Baby ferrets until around the age of 10 weeks
These basic facts are just to get you started. You will learn a lot about ferret health, behavior and nutrition in the years ahead by caring for your own ferret. Then you’ll be the expert.