The ferret has a long, slender body. Their average length is just less than 20”. They can weigh up to a little over 2 lbs., with the males being substantially larger than the females. Females can have 2 or 3 litters each year, between 3 to 7 kits which are weaned after 3 to 6 weeks. They become independent at 3 months. The average lifespan of a ferret is 7 to 10 years. They have short digestive systems and a very quick metabolism, so they need to eat frequently.
Habitat & Diet
In the United States, ferrets are domesticated and do not live in the wild (with the exception of the black-footed ferret). As carnivores, their wild ancestors’ natural diet consisted of whole small prey; eating the entire body, meat, organs, bones, skin, feathers and fur. Domestic ferrets eat prepared dry foods consisting almost entirely of meat, but some owners feed pre-killed or live prey (such as mice) to their ferrets to more closely mimic their natural diet.
Ferrets spend 14-18 hours a day asleep and are crepuscular (most active around the hours of dawn and dusk). Unlike their polecat ancestors, who are solitary animals, most ferrets live happily in social groups – a group is referred to as a “business”. They like to burrow and prefer to sleep in an enclosed area.
Meet our Residents
- The ferret is the domesticated form of the European polecat, a mammal belonging to the same genus as the weasel.
- Ferrets were first introduced into the New World in the 17th century, and were used extensively from 1860 until the start of World War II to protect grain stores in the American West from rodents.
- They are still used for hunting in some countries, including the United Kingdom, where rabbits are considered a plague species by farmers.
- Because they share many anatomical and physiological features with humans, ferrets are extensively used in biomedical research including studies into cardiovascular disease, respiratory diseases such as SARS and human influenza (2009 H1N1 swine flu), cystic fibrosis and gastrointestinal disease.
Status In The Wild
Ferrets are domesticated and do not exist in the wild. It is illegal to own ferrets in California, Hawaii and in some cities in other states.