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Ferret behaviour

Behaviour logo © RSPCA publications and brand 2010

 

Ensure your ferret is able to behave normally
 

Two ferret kits © iStockphotos

Ferrets need:

  • Constant access to safe hiding places (e.g. tunnels, closed hammocks) so they can avoid things that scare them.
     
  • Suitable things to investigate, safe toys and regular opportunities to play. E.g. squeaky toys, balls, somewhere to dig and opportunities to play hide and seek. Vary play and toys frequently.
    - Ferrets are curious - play and exploratory behaviours are essential behaviours for them.
     
  • A shallow water bath if they enjoy playing in water - some do, but it depends on the individual. Always supervise (ensure it’s shallow enough so they can always get out) and never force them to swim.
     
  • Daily exercise opportunities to stay fit and healthy - ideally, daily access to a safe play area.
     
  • Daily observation for any signs of excessive aggression in the group e.g. biting, with or without shaking or dragging of the other animal.
     
  • To be kept away from prey species. They are predators - predation comes naturally to them.
     
  • Interesting mealtimes. Make them search for food by hiding it/using food toys.
     
  • Constant access to everything they need e.g. space/food/water/hiding places/companions/toys.
     
  • Careful observation – changes in behaviour or showing regular signs of stress/fear could indicate distress, boredom, illness or injury - seek advice from a vet.
    - The way ferrets behave depends on their age, personality and past experiences.
    - Frightened or stressed ferrets may change their behaviour or develop unwanted habits e.g. fleeing/hiding/screaming/hissing/biting.
    - Signs of discomfort/pain include reluctance to move, weight loss, anorexia, trembling, collapse, crying, whimpering, and teeth grinding.
     
  • Kindness! Never shout at or punish them, they are very unlikely to understand and can become more nervous or scared. If their behaviour becomes a problem, ask your vet for advice.
     
  • To stay with their mother until at least 8 weeks of age – to learn how to behave in a group, e.g. how to communicate. Scent is important for communication (e.g. secretions, urine and faeces to mark territory.) Ferrets also communicate by using sounds and body language.