Domestic Ferrets: Habits and Behavior

In this article, we'll tell you everything there is to know about domestic ferrets, including their most common habits and behavior.
Domestic Ferrets: Habits and Behavior

Last update: 12 October, 2019

Domestic ferrets have become popular pets in recent years. Nowadays, you might even see owners taking their ferrets out for a walk, just like a dog. But what’s it really like to have a ferret as a pet? If you’re thinking about adopting a ferret, you’ve come to the right place. We’ll tell you everything you need to know in this article.

Ferrets are independent animals, unlike any other pet you’ll have ever owned. Learning to understand their behavior and body language is essential for building a good relationship with your new pet.

Domestic ferrets: understanding their behavior

To help you understand your ferret’s behavior, we’re going to take a closer look at some of their most common traits, and what they mean.

Ferret dead sleep

Sometimes ferrets enter a state of deep, almost hibernation-like sleep. There’s no real reason for ferret dead sleep, other than they’re simply very tired. They can often use up a lot of energy when playing or exercising, and use this deep sleep to recharge their batteries.

Ferrets in dead sleep are, for want of a better word, dead to the world. No matter how much you yell, pet them or prod them, they simply won’t wake up.

Domestic ferrets: digging

While you might think this is very dog-like behavior, ferrets are actually natural diggers. This isn’t a trait that you can simply train out of your pet – it’s an innate part of their lifestyle and personality. In fact, we would actually advise you to encourage this behavior, and would recommend that you provide your pet with a large digging box. This is a great way to enrich your pet’s environment and keep it entertained.

Don’t be surprised if you notice your ferret digging around in its food bowl and throwing it around its cage. There’s no point in scolding this behavior either, as it simply won’t understand. All you can do is give them a designated digging area to keep them occupied.

Tipping over their bowls

Domestic ferrets are very playful animals, and will play with anything they can get their paws on. If their food or water bowls are close-by when they decide they want to play, they won’t think twice about tipping them over. Plus, ferrets love playing in shallow water, so they simply can’t resist.

However, this habit of tipping over their food and water bowls can actually be a sign of boredom or frustration, and may be their way of telling you they’ve been stuck in their cage too long.

Biting your feet

If you own a ferret, we probably wouldn’t recommend walking round the house in slippers. If you’re not careful, there’s a good chance that they might try to nibble your toes. For ferrets, this is simply a game – they’re not actually trying to hurt you. Their skin is very thick, and these play-bites probably wouldn’t hurt another ferret.

For us humans, however, these playful bites can be extremely painful. Fortunately, it’s easy enough to put a stop to this behavior. Simply say “no” whenever you notice them approaching your feet, and give them an alternative, such as a toy.

Domestic ferrets: hissing

Hissing is a ferret’s way of expressing fear or anger. For example, if an unfamiliar ferret hisses at you, it’s best not to get too close. They may well try to bite or attack you. Even in the case of your own ferret, you should approach with caution, talking gently in soft, calming tones.

Obsessive behavior

When a ferret decides it likes something, it really likes it. They can even start to obsess over a particular item, becoming possessive and refusing to let you take it away from them. If they have a favorite toy, they may try to hide it to keep it safe. If you then try to take it and play with it, they can become anxious, nervous, or even aggressive.

A ferret.

In fact, ferrets have been known to fight one another over a favorite toy. So, try not to touch their toys if you can avoid it, unless you want to have your fingers bitten.

Marking their territory

Ferrets are also very territorial. If a new ferret arrives, or they go to a part of the house they haven’t been to in a while, they may mark their territory with urine or feces. Sometimes they may simply rub their chin or genitals against a wall or other object to signal to other ferrets that this is their territory.

As you can see, domestic ferrets have a unique variety of habits and behavior, quite unlike any other animal. Understanding this behavior will help you form a closer bond with your new pet.

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The contents of My Animals are written for informational purposes. They can't replace the diagnosis, advice, or treatment from a professional. In the case of any doubt, it's best to consult a trusted specialist.