Looking for some facts about ferrets for kids? You've found them!
Ferrets are small mammals that are similar to weasels. They are largely domesticated and have become popular pets.
Physical Description of Ferrets
Ferrets are small animals with a cone-shaped nose and a pear-shaped body with short legs and long claws.
They are long and slender and have an average length of about 20″ including a tail that's about 5″ long. They weigh between 1 1/2 and 4 lbs.
They have fur that can be brown, black, white, or mixed. All baby ferrets, known as “kits,” are born with white fur. Their adult coloring comes in at about 3 weeks old.
A ferret's normal heart rate is 200 to 250 beats per minute.
Ferrets can spray natural oils from their anal scent glands similar to skunks. It is smelly, so most pet ferrets are de-scented.
Ferrets don't have very good eyesight, but they do have a great sense of smell and hearing.
Ferrets have flexible ribs that allow them to flatten themselves and crawl through small spaces. Just one of the cool facts about ferrets!
Newborn ferrets can fit inside of a teaspoon.
Pet ferrets can be kept in a cage, but it's recommended that they spend a few hours every day outside of the cage.
The ideal temperature for ferrets is between 60 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit.
Ferrets around the world live everywhere, from mountains to deserts and forests. It mainly depends on the particular species of ferret.
Ferret populations in the wild live in a variety of habitats. Depending on the species, they can live in any of these areas: plains, forests, mountainous regions, deserts, tundra and grasslands.
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Facts About Ferret Habits
Ferrets like to sleep. In fact, their sleeping patterns have them sleeping between 14 and 18 hours a day. They're most active around dawn and dusk.
When ferrets get excited, they may do the “weasel war dance” which involves jumping sideways, leaping, and bumping into objects. This isn't really an aggressive behavior. Instead, it's the ferret's way of asking you to play with it. You may hear the ferret “dooking” which is making a soft clucking noise.
Scared ferrets will hiss, and upset ferrets will squeak softly.
It’s good to know these facts about ferrets! Otherwise that weasel war dance would be scary!
Ferrets need to eat a high calorie diet frequently because they have short digestive systems and a quick metabolism.
They are carnivores. Because of the anatomy of their digestive tracts, they have trouble digesting plant matter.
If you have a pet ferret, you can feed it prepared dry foods consisting of almost entirely meat like some cat foods. But commercial ferret foods are now available and will be better for your pet.
Some ferret owners will feed their ferrets live prey such as mice and rabbits because that's closer to their natural diet. They also like fresh chicken.
Female ferrets have an average gestation period of 42 days. They can have two or three litters each year with each litter usually having between three and seven kits (the word for baby ferrets). Those little kits are weaned after about three to six weeks, and the young ferrets become independent when they're about three months old.
Classification/Taxonomy of Ferrets
Here is the ferret's scientific classification.
Species: M. putorius
Subspecies: M. p. furo (mustela putorius furo)
A ferret may be a descendant of the European polecat which is the same genus as the weasel. We aren't quite sure when ferrets became domesticated, but it's likely it was at least 2500 years ago.
A ferret's lifespan is between 7 and 10 years.
One species of ferrets, the black-footed ferret, was declared extinct in 1979, but in 1981, a wild population was discovered in Wyoming. The US Fish & Wildlife Service began a captive breeding program which helped reintroduce them into several states.The reintroduction sites included eight western US states, Canada, and Mexico.
Interesting Facts About Ferrets
- The name “ferret” is derived from the Latin word furittus which means “little thief.” This is probably because ferrets like to hide small items.
- A male ferret is called a “hob.” If it has been neutered, it's called a “gib.” Vasectomized male ferrets are called “hoblets.”
- A female ferret is called a “jill.” If it has been spayed, it's called a “sprite.”
- Ferrets that are less than one year old are called “kits.”
- A group of ferrets is know as a “business” or “busyness.”
- Ferrets have four types of teeth–twelve small incisor teeth used for grooming, four canine teeth used for killing prey, twelve premolar or bicuspid teeth used like scissors to cut meat into smaller chunks, and six molars used to crush food.
- Ferrets were originally used for hunting or “ferreting.” Their long lean build and inquisitive nature make them perfect for going into holes to chase out rodents, rabbits, and moles.
- From 1860 until the start of World War II, ferrets were used in the American west to protect grain stores from rodents.
- In the United States, ferrets started becoming popular as pets in the 1980s.
- There are some states and individual cities in the US that have restrictions on keeping ferrets as pets.
- Countries such as Australia, Brazil, New Zealand, and Japan also have some restrictions or bans on having a pet ferret.
- Ferrets have been used as in medical research studies.
- Some rural fairs or festivals in the United Kingdom have ferret racing, with people placing bets on ferrets that run routes through pipes and wire mesh.
- Some ferrets are albinos with white fur and pink eyes.
- There is an American Ferret Association that promotes the domestic ferret as a companion animal, protects them against anti-ferret legislation and mistreatment, and provides current information that is of interest to ferret lovers.
- The American Ferret Association national shows and even a Ferret of the Year award.
- April 2nd is National Ferret Day.
- Ferrets can be trained to use litter boxes.
- Ferrets only bite if they're threatened.
- According to Fluffy Planet, ferrets have been in a number of movies including Dr. Doolittle 2, The Big Lebowski, and Kindergarten Cop.
- Ferrets have been used to pull wire through underground tunnels when it can't be pushed through with rods. Their long thin body can squeeze through tight places.
- Ferrets and falcons can work together. The ferret chases prey out of the ground, and the falcon collects it for their owner.
- Ferrets are zoonotic meaning that they can pass germs and viruses to humans. Make sure you wash your hands with soap and water after handling or playing with your ferret.
- If a pet ferret escapes, it won't be able to survive more than a few days.
- Ferrets in the wild will use old prairie dog tunnels and the burrows of other animals as their homes.
- 90% of the black-footed ferret diet is comprised of prairie dogs.
- Black feet ferrets are about the size of a mink.
We hope you've enjoyed these fun facts about ferrets! Let us know what other interesting things you know about ferrets.
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