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Ferret behaviour

Ferrets make wonderful pets becuase of their engaging personalities, playful activity and fastidious nature. They can also be easily trained to use a litter tray because they tend to habitually urinate and defaecate in the same places.

Your questions answered

How do I know if my ferret is exhibiting normal behaviour?

Ferrets are extremely intelligent, naturally inquisitive and generally have an affinity for people, and the older a ferret is, the more mellow it is likely to become.

To ensure you interact better and bond with your ferret, it is important that you understand your ferrets behaviour. The following are some of the most common ferret traits.

Backing up

This is seen in response to fear, and if so is usually accompanied by hissing and/or their hair standing on end; if this happens to your ferret, the best thing to do is to leave him be until he calms down. Ferrets also back-up when they go to the toilet, which is usually into the corner of their litter tray or run.

Biting/nipping

Young ferrets (kits) ten to be nippy, but no more than a new kitten or puppy, however they tend to nip with a little more enthusiasm! Some kits never nip at all, but those that do usually grow out of it.

Many new owners mistake nipping for viciousness, even though the same behaviour in a new kitten or puppy is accepted, but nipping is normal play behaviour between littermates and is often transferred to their human companions. Because this can be the case, parents should not allow small children to play with kits to avoid any unecessary nipping behaviour.

There have been a number of documented cases of ferret attacks on infants and very small children, some of which involved serious injury to the child. Parents must either forbid encounters between pet ferrets and their infants or very young children, or closely supervise all of these encounters. It is important to point out, however, that these unfortunate encounters are far less common than those involving household dogs and cats.

Puffy tail

If accompanied by backing-up and/or hissing, a puffy tail probably means that your ferret is frightened and he should be left alone to calm down.

On the other hand, if your ferret's tail becomes puffy while investigating his environment or playing, it will mean he is very excited.

Hissing

The meaning behind this normally depends on what is happening at the time.

Hissing could mean your ferret is angry or frightened and you should leave him along to calm down, or if playing with other ferrets, hissing can be a means of communication.

Your ferret's body language will usually give your ferret's mood away!

Shivering/trembling

Ferrets can often be seen shivering or trembing. This usually occurs when they first wake up and is due to excitement and anticipation.

Ferrets very rarely shiver because they are cold.

Tail wagging

Like dogs, this is a sign of excitement, and is usually seen when they are playing.

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