The word “ferret” comes from the Latin word “fur”, meaning “little thief.” Which makes sense considering that ferret’s love to steal and hide things. They belong to the weasel, Mustelidae, family. Besides weasels and ferrets, this family of animals also includes otters, minks, badgers, polecats and sables. Take a look below for 28 more interesting and fun facts about ferrets.
1. A previously extinct species of ferrets, the black-footed ferret, has recently been rediscovered in the United States.
2. It’s illegal to own a ferret in California, New York City, Hawaii and Washington D.C., as well as in some small communities in other states.
3. Similar to cats, ferrets can be trained to use litter boxes; however, it takes a much longer time to train them than an average cat.
4. Ferrets that are neutered young have a chance of never growing as big as those that are neutered after they turn 6 months old.
5. Ferrets were domesticated 7,000 years ago. Their purpose was to help hunters flush rabbits from their holes, which was called “ferreting out,” and to catch small animals such as rats and mice.
6. They’re considered to be geriatric by the time they’re 4 years old.
7. Baby ferrets are called “kits.” Male adult ferrets are called “hobs.” Female adult ferrets are called “jills.” A castrated male ferret is called a “gib” and a spayed female ferret is called a “sprite.” Hobs and gibbs are usually twice larger than jills and sprites.
8. Even though ferrets were domesticated for 7,000 years, it’s only been a popular pet in the United States for the past 30 years.
9. There are between 5 to 7 million pet ferrets in the United States.
10. A group of ferrets is called a “business.”
11. “Ferret legging” is a contest where participants drop 2 live ferrets into their pants, without underwear, that are tied off at the waist and the ankles. The ferrets then claw and bite to get free. The winner is the participant who can keep the ferret in their pants the longest.
12. Ferrets are closely related to skunks, and like skunks, they can emit an odorous smell when they’re excited or afraid. However, in the United States, many ferret owners have their ferrets descented.
13. There are several groups of feral ferrets throughout the world. The biggest and most destructive of which lives in New Zealand. They were first imported from England from 1879 to 1883 to help control the rabbit population but have now began destroying the native bird population.
14. Ferrets imprint on their food at about 6 months old, which makes introducing new food to them extremely difficult.
15. When they’re excited they will perform a “weasel war dance,” which is a series of leaps, sideways hops and bumping into nearby objects. This is supposed to be an invitation to play and isn’t a sign of aggression.
16. The ferret is the third most popular pet mammal in the United States, right behind dogs and cats.
17. Ferrets are closer to cats and dogs than they are to mice and rats.
18. Queen Elizabeth owned an albino ferret, which actually appears in one of her portraits.
19. Ferrets can live up to 15 years, however most live to between 6 and 10 years.
20. Ferrets sleep for about 15 to 20 hours per day, usually for about 4 hours at a time. They’re known to sleep so deeply that their sleep is known as “ferret dead sleep.”
21. Baby ferrets are born both deaf and blind. They begin to hear and see when they’re around 34 days old.
22. While it’s not as common as with dogs, ferrets will wag their tail when they’re happy. Sometimes they also chortling or clucking sounds that are known as “dooking.”
23. They have been trained to carry cables through tunnels, pipes and other spaces that are too small for humans to pass.
24. Just like wolves can breed with domestic dogs, ferrets and European polecats can breed. There are even some polecat and ferret hybrids living in the wild in England. Polecats and ferrets can also interbreed with the European mink, through the male offspring will often be sterile.
25. Ferrets are the only members of the weasel family that can be domesticated by humans.
26. Female ferrets that don’t mate or aren’t spayed can overproduce estrogen, which can lead to anemia, clotting and death.
27. Falconers have used ferrets to help bring prey closer to the falcon. If ferrets are introduced early in its life, a falcon will accept it as a hunting partner.
28. The most famous ferret is the one in Leonardo da Vinci’s painting “Lady with an Ermine.” Scholars believe that the name of the ferret was “Ermine.”