Friday, January 29, 2010

Ferrety Misconceptions

Well, ferrety Friday has arrived once again, and it seems to be the only topic I’ve been able to write about lately. I’m not terribly unhappy about that since all the ferrety posts will provide a lot of information to anyone contemplating getting a ferret. But I haven’t been motivated to write about much else. I do have dozens of ideas floating around my head, but haven’t felt like sitting down and putting them into words.


Today’s post will consist of a list of common misconceptions about ferrets. By writing them down and offering a brief explanation about each one, perhaps some of them will dissipate, although I’m not entirely convinced of that. Some people are so dogmatic that even when presented with facts that dispel their delusions misconceptions, they just won’t budge. These people are beyond help.


Now, the question is: “Why have ferrets gotten such a bad rap?” I don’t know, but there always seems to be some poor animal that ends up with a reputation it doesn’t deserve. Most misconceptions about ferrets are really outrageous and leave you wondering how in the world people came up with them. But a couple may have a smidgen of truth in them that has been blown completely out of proportion. I’m hoping that by listing the most common myths, it will help clear some of the cobwebs in many ‘misguided’ minds.


10) Ferrets Bite

Of course they do. And so does Fido the dog, Fifi the cat, Fluffy the rabbit, Frisky the hamster and any other four-legged, furry creature you have living in your home. All animals have the ability to bite and ferrets are no exception. But the fact in the matter is that dogs are five times more likely to bite than a ferret, and their bite is much more damaging. Ferrets are perceived as dangerous when they are far from that. These little animals, when properly cared for, are quite gentle. And like any other animal that is abused or provoked, a ferret can become aggressive.

9) Ferrets Sleep More Than 20 Hours A Day

They certainly can. But if they do, they’re either bored or depressed. A healthy, happy ferret that is allowed out of its cage (if you cage it) will sleep 15 – 18 hours a day. Ideally, your fuzzy should be allowed out to play four hours daily. If a ferret isn’t given enough exercise, it will become sluggish and out of shape, which will lead to it curling up into a little ball to sleep more than it should.

8) Ferrets Are Wild Animals

This is a misconception that is way out in left field. Even though the domesticated ferret has been a common house pet longer than the cat, people still think it’s a wild animal, like the squirrel that invades bird feeders and destroys gardens, or the raccoon that rummages through garbage cans. The truth in the matter is that ferrets depend on humans for their survival and would readily perish outdoors.

7) Ferrets Use Litter Boxes Like Cats

There is definitely quite a bit of truth in this, although it’s important to understand how this works. Yes, ferrets can be trained to use a litter box, but they will never use it the way a cat does. In other words, while a cat will go looking for its litter box no matter where it’s sleeping, playing or hanging out in the house, a ferret won’t. If you don’t have a litter box in the same room where the ferret is playing, it will use a corner as its toilet. I have read a case about a ferret that would go running to its cage to use the litter box in there, but this is extremely rare. When it comes to a litter box, the ferret’s motto is: “Out of sight, out of mind”

(I’ll write a lot more about this in a later ferrety Friday)

6) Ferrets Can Be Kept In A Cage All Day

No. No. No. A ferret is not a hamster. Or mouse. Or some such animal that can be left in a cage indefinitely. Ferrets need to get plenty of exercise by running around and playing. Make sure your pet is allowed out of its cage a few hours a day, minimum 2, but preferably 4. A ferret left in a cage for too long will become bored and depressed, and may develop bad behaviour.

5) Ferrets Are Nocturnal

Nope. Ferrets are active mostly at dawn and dusk. They are able to sleep through the entire night, unless they’ve been left in their cage all day long and instead of exercising, they’ve been sleeping. And if that’s the case, then who can blame them for being wide eyed at night.

4) Ferrets Carry Rabies

This is another one of those ‘way out in left field’ misconceptions that people get stuck on. The fact is that ferrets are quite unlikely to become infected with rabies because they are extremely resistant to the virus. Furthermore, studies have shown that even if a ferret does become infected, the amount of rabies virus found in the saliva of this animal is negligible. For your information, there has never been a recorded incident of a person contracting rabies from a ferret, and there have only been a handful of reported rabies cases in domestic ferrets in the entire 20th century. When it comes to rabies, I’d be more concerned about Fido’s saliva. So come out of the fog about this one, people.

(By the way: You should still take your ferret in for its annual rabies vaccination, just to be safe.)

3) Ferrets Are Short Term Pets, So It’ll Be Easy

Now where in the world did you get this idea? Ferrets typically live anywhere from 6 – 10 years, so you’re looking at quite a long-term commitment. And because of that, you should know what you’re getting into. Ferrety Fridays is a good place to start.

2) Ferrets Need To Eat Vegetables

Okay, you have to come a little closer for the answer to this one. A little closer...just a bit more… There… [smack upside the head]. What part of obligate carnivore have you not understood from previous posts? [smack…smack…] Now, listen carefully: “Ferrets are strictly carnivores; they are unable to properly digest vegetables. Moreover, a small piece of undigested vegetable matter can cause an intestinal blockage and put your pet’s life at risk.” Got it? Good.


1) Ferrets Are Rodents

What? Oh, come on. You can’t be serious. How can you possibly still think that ferrets are rodents after all the times I’ve written that they’re not? Repeat after me: “FERRETS ARE NOT RODENTS. They are carnivores that eat rodents. Amen.” Are you finally getting this? Good. Now don’t let me hear you call a fuzzy a rodent again. Or else.

That’s it for now folks. I’ll admit that I had some of these misconceptions too. But now I know better.

Finally, let’s check in with Bailey and see what she has to say:

[rolling eyes] Okay Bailey...


  1. Hi Martha : )
    I think all of these points will truly help people understand about ferrets or their nature much better ! I know you have enlightened me about them .. you can never have too much information about the little creatures we love : ) and Bailey plus Nacho are loved to bits !

  2. Thanks for another interesting post, Martha! I must admit that I am guilty of Misconception #10. Mainly because I've heard so many people talk about encountering a biting ferret. Of course, I could see that Miss Bailey wasn't that kind of ferret! :-) I really have enjoyed your enlightening Ferrety Fridays.

    My regards to Her Royal Highness Bailey.

  3. Hi Joy, I hope this information helps people understand these cute little creatures much better. I never in a million years thought we'd have a ferret in the house, but she's here now and we love her. And because she's so unique in her needs, it's important that people understand what they are. So like I said, I hope my posts help a little. I'm certainly no expert, and I'm learning as I go along.

    Hi Beth! Don't worry; I had my share of misconceptions. And the one I'm most guilty of is the last one, believe it or not. Yup, I'm one of THOSE people. I thought that ferrets were rodents. It's shameful, I know, but I'm all better now :) And as far as Bailey is concerned, she's pretty well cared for - like a princess!

  4. Aww, I used to have two ferrets years ago. Loved them.

  5. Hmmm... I think Bailey and the kitten can square off on the royalty issue! :) All my cats seem to think so.

  6. Gina, I never would have thought ferrets could be so adorable. They are such a joy!

    LOL...Tatiana, you are right! I guess I have two princesses in the house!