The ferret (Mustela putorius furo) is a domestic pet. It is not a wild
animal, although ferrets are descendents of the European polecat (weasel)
and are, therefore, close relatives of skunks, mink, otters and badgers.
Ferrets were first domesticated in the fourth century B.C. and were used by man
for help in exterminating snakes and rodents from his living quarters. Later,
ferrets were used in the hunting of rabbits. In recent years, ferrets have been
widely used as laboratory animals.
TYPES AND TERMS
There are two basic varieties of ferrets, based on coloration. Fitch
ferrets (the most popular) are buff‑colored with black masks, feet, and tails.
Albino ferrets are white with pink eyes. The female ferret is called a
"jill;" the male is called a "hob." Babies are
The gestation period of ferrets is between 42 and 44 days (average, 42
days). The average litter size is 8 (range 2‑17). Kits are born deaf and with
their eyes closed. Their eyes open and they begin to hear between 3 and 5 weeks
of age. Their deciduous ("temporary") teeth begin to erupt at 2 weeks
of age, at which time the kits can begin to eat solid food, although kits are
generally weaned onto commercial kitten chows between 4 and 8 weeks of age.
Kits reach their adult weight by the time they are 4 months old. Males are
typically twice the size of females, but both sexes undergo periodic weight
fluctuations. it is not uncommon for the average ferret to add 30 to 40% to its
body weight in fat deposited beneath the skin in the Fall and lose this fat and
the weight it represents the following Spring. The average life span of ferrets
is 9‑10 years.
For more detailed information about Ferrets, please see our Client Information Handouts:
Housing & Handling