Friday, January 14, 2011

What In The World Is A Ferret?

If you’re new to Ferrety Friday, and to ferrets in particular, you’re probably asking yourself: “What in the world is a ferret?

Now, I’ve written about this in the past, but since it’s been a long time, I’ll reiterate.


First of all, ferrets are not rodents, and they are in no way related to rodents. They are small, carnivorous mammals belonging to the Mustelidae family, which includes weasels, polecats, ferrets, minks, fishers, otters, badgers, wolverines, stoats, martens, tayras and grisons (most of which I have no clue what they are).

Second, there are two types of animals that go by the name of ferret: 1) black-footed ferrets and 2) domestic ferrets.

Although the black-footed ferrets and the domestic ferrets look very similar and are in fact distant cousins (same genus but different subgenus and species), the two are poles apart. The black-footed ferrets, which are an endangered species, may look just as cute and cuddly as the domestic ferrets, but they will easily bite off a finger if you try to pick them up and kiss their little noses and scratch their little heads and tickle their little toes like you would with domestic ferrets. The reason for this is that the black-footed ferrets live in the wild, not in your home. Don’t attempt to play with these animals, kids; they’re wild. And I don’t mean party type wild but teeth-chopping-off-fingers wild.

On the other hand, domestic ferrets are adorable little balls of fur that you see in pets shops. They are the ones whose pictures you see splattered all over the internet; pictures of them playing, pictures of them acting like clowns, pictures of their little noses being kissed, their little heads being scratched and their little toes being tickled by ferret-obsessed pet owners (like me). These are not wild ferrets; on the contrary, they are sweet, good-natured – extremely domesticated (since ancient times, even before the cat) - little creatures that bond strongly with humans and others creatures (particularly with cats) that they may share a home with.

They are extremely friendly and often very cuddly; they make excellent pets. Other words that define domestic ferrets include: curious, docile, enterprising, intelligent, persistent, playful, fastidious, energetic (when they’re awake) and highly entertaining (downright clownish). They crave human interaction and form strong bonds with their owners. They also become very attached to other ferrets that they may share a home (and often cage) with. They can be trained to do tricks, to use a litter box and to come when called. But although they are in between a dog and a cat, similar to both of these popular pets in many ways, they are unique in their own special way and have their own special needs.

So, there you have it. Now you know what ferrets are.

And here’s a photo of my daughter’s two ferrets (Bailey on the left; Spaz on the right) that share a home with three humans and two cats.

Aren’t they just adorable?

We think so.

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