25 Ferret Myths and Misconceptions

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Ferret myths and misconceptions are very common.

Myths and misconceptions abound for ferrets.

From stories about ferrets carrying rabies to being stinky biters, they get a bad rep based on a bunch of falsehoods. Here we debunk 25 of those myths and misconceptions.

1. Ferrets are silent creatures.

Tell that to ferret owners. Ferrets can make noises and often do so while playing or dancing (known as “dooking” by some ferret owners). While they may not be the most vocal animals, they are certainly not silent.

2. Ferrets can’t be trained.

They certainly can be trained: to use the litter box, come on command and even do tricks. And if you still don’t believe ferrets can be trained, check out the tricks up Demon’s sleeve in this video:

3. Ferrets have great vision because they burrow in the dark.

Ferrets do not have good vision and can see only in reds and blues.

4. Ferrets can’t use a litter box and poop everywhere.

They can — it just takes time and patience with training and a lot of litter boxes in corners (ferrets typically “go” in corners).

5. Ferrets must be caged.

Not true. In some homes ferrets have free run of the house just as a cat or dog would enjoy. You will need to proof your home, though (close openings, remove small objects, cover cords, etc.).

6. Ferrets will bite you.

Not all ferrets. In fact, not most ferrets. Although any animal with teeth has the potential to bite, the key to prevention is socialization, proper care and training. With these necessities covered, ferrets will not be prone to biting. Ferrets that do bite have typically endured abuse and are fearful. Ferrets that receive proper care are affectionate and friendly.

7. Ferrets attack people.

Ferrets don’t attack people as recently portrayed on an episode of Two and a Half Men titled “Ferrets, Attack!” Ferrets will try to get away from the source of harm first, although abused ferrets may be more prone to biting as a form of self-protection. They do not chase after people in packs on command as shown on the show.

The episode angered the ferret community. If you missed the ferret episode and want to see it, click here. A rabies misconception is at 11:45 and ferret attacks are at 15:15 and 18:44.

8. Ferrets don’t need vet care.

Yeah, they do, just like any other animal. Annual exams and screenings are important for a ferret’s health, along with exercise and good nutrition. They also receive vaccinations such as rabies and distemper. The earlier you catch and treat an ailment or disease, the better chance of recovery you give to your ferret.

9. Ferrets need to eat fruit.

Giving ferrets fruits (and veggies) regularly can actually cause health problems such as tumors. Ferrets need protein from a high-quality food. And by the way, they’re carnivores.

10. Ferrets are rats.

Ferrets descend from a polecat and are mammals — not rodents (not that there’s anything wrong with rodents). They are a member of the weasel family along with skunks, otters and badgers to name a few.

11. Ferrets are wild animals.

There isn’t a wild ferret colony hiding in the woods. In fact, ferrets would have a hard time surviving outdoors with their limited eyesight, lack of fear, and inability to endure heat and dehydration. Ferrets were domesticated a long time ago and are indoor companion animals. There are black-footed ferrets that were reintroduced to the wild after captive breeding because the animals had become endangered, but these are in specific areas and monitored by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Check out the antics and funny moments of these four ferrets. Funny dancing appears at 3:25 and some hopping that looks like piloerection:

12. Ferrets are illegal.

Only in some places. Ferrets are legal in most states, although city and county laws can be stricter than state laws (and in some cases ban them). You may need to provide proof of a rabies vaccination to obtain a license for your pet ferret in some areas. Always check the local laws before adding a ferret to your home.

Yep, there’s more! Keep reading here: Page 2

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From Around the Web

  • amy_barbe

    Love it! Should also stress to people the costs of these guys. Great pets have great responsibilities, especially the doctor.

    • http://www.petsadviser.com/ David Deleon Baker

      Good point. Thanks Amy.

    • Ferret Wolf

      Yeah, once they get sick, the vet bills and meds add up quickly. So finding an inexpensive ferret knowledgeable vet is critical. My first ferret that needed surgery was quoted as $2700 with almost no chance of survival by the emergency vet. The next ferret that needed surgery for almost the same thing had it done by a ferret vet for under $300, and altho unsuccessful, I did manage to keep him alive and happy for another 4 weeks.

      I currently spend about $40 a month for meds for my 6 y/o ferret. Not to mention his every 18 month $100+ implant.

  • Cheryl Chervitz

    I personally don’t like ferret’s, but I do know people who have them. They run all over the house, just like a dog or cat. They do poop in a box, and I have never been threatened by one. But just like any animal, they take time and money to raise and keep them properly.

    • Kristine

      You’re right Cheryl. In some households they are as free as a cat would be. They are a little more expensive when it comes to vet care, but ferret owners say it is well worth the companionship they get in return. Thank you for stopping by and leaving a comment!

  • Alison

    Great article! Check out the upcoming film The Ferret Squad that will show ferrets in a positive way, or the short film Jake & Jasper: A Ferret Tale which does the same! http://www.facebook.com/TheFerretSquad http://www.facebook.com/TheFerretMovie

    • Kristine

      A ferret movie? Awesome! Thanks for sharing this Alison.

  • http://www.facebook.com/verenduschuck Chuck Doe

    no mention of insolinoma a wasting disease thats heart wrenching to watch. usually caused by a poor diet.

    • Kristine

      Hi Chuck. While this is not a comprehensive list of ferret health problems, you are right that insulinoma can be very painful to endure and witness. I do hope our focus on proper diet will be appreciated, as a proper diet is a recommendation when dealing with insulinoma. Thank you for your reply.

      • Sheh Ri

        Yes, your focus on proper diet is SO appreciated! I’ve seen so many health problems come up because of bad diet. The link you posted is the best food chart I’ve found.

  • Jen@MyBrownNewfies

    Great educational article! I’m wondering what type of litter is used than for ferrets? Recycled newspaper?recycled cardboard?

    • Sheh Ri

      Hi Jen,
      I prefer to use unscented recycled newspaper type litter such as Yesterdays news, or I just use actual newspaper.

      • Jen@MyBrownNewfies

        Great Sheh! Thanks for the reply!

    • Ferret Wolf

      I like the hard wood pellets. 40 pounds for $4. They really eat up the odor, so you can go away for a weekend w/o coming back to a smelly house.

  • Rebecca

    Terrific article, I really enjoyed it!!! I would like to say that I disagree about ferrets being hypo-allergenic, since I have adopted ferrets from people who developed allergies to ferrets after they bought them!!! One of them was my own daughter. She had to give up her ferrets, because she breaks out in hives when she handles them. So does my grandson!!!

    I have adopted 5 ferrets from Broward Ferret Rescue, got great ferrets, and made some awesome friends!!!! Thank you for mentioning the rescue!!!

  • Ferret Wolf

    I totally disagree with the non allergenic comment. I have met many people with ferret allergies, and it is very sad to see how many are given up shortly after having been purchased because the owner finds out that they are allergic. I am extremely allergic to adrenal ferrets and have had rashes go all the way up my arm over my shoulder and down my back.

    Also, the biting part is misleading. What us ferret people call nips which we don’t consider bites, are considered bites by non ferret people. If you ask the shelter mom, I’ve never been bitten. I say that I’ve been bitten twice, others think I get bitten a few dozen times each day. I don’t consider nips that draw blood to be real bites, but even my vet thinks of them as bites.

    Otherwise, good article.

  • Alison

    Hi any chance you could post our new trailer for The Ferret Squad movie somewhere on the site?

    • http://www.petsadviser.com/ Pets Adviser

      The trailer looks cool, Alison! Interested readers can follow that link above to check it out.

  • CommonSense

    “Giving ferrets fruits (and veggies) regularly can actually cause health problems such as tumors.” NEVER give fruits to ferrets. NEVER. Same goes for vegetables, grains, etc. RAW meat is what they should eat. And for treats (which are not necessary at all) freeze died meats.