How do we humans interpret ferret behavior? Most of the time they may seem alien to us but normally there's ferret logic behind their madness. So how do we read and know what they are saying to us? Hhhhmmmmm let’s find out…
“Yikes! What was that???” - Scared/ Afraid: This ferret behavior may mean your little fuzzy may start to tremble, cower down, shriek or hide when it’s scared. This could be caused by being in an unknown environment, being around someone unknown to them, loud noises or when something unexpected happens in their environment.
If you have just gotten a new ferret then allow it to slowly accustom itself to the new environment it is in, be patient with it and let it come out of its cage by itself rather then reaching in and grabbing it. If your ferret is scared it is more likely to
bite. You could try bribing it with a treat on a spoon to lure it to you or just let it wonder around discovering its new environment in peace and quiet (with your supervision off course). Once it gets accustomed to the area it is in s/he will be more likely to happily play with you, however keep in mind that all fuzzy’s are different, some take longer to adjust then others…all you can do in this situation is be patient and give it some TLC.
“Woohooo!!! I love life!!!” *BANG* (ferret crashed into the table or fell off the bed) - Excited: This is the emotion your ferret is feeling when it decides to perform the famous Weasel War Dance for you(very entertaining ferret behavior). It can also be very vocal at this time with a very loud dooking sound. The difference between a cautious ferret and excited ferret is that the first will dook with its head down, while the other will raise it’s head up and dook. An excited ferret has louder and faster dooks… it’s a sure sign that your ferret feels safe and comfortable in the environment it is in.
“F*#@! Get away from me!!!” - Danger: When a ferret really thinks that it’s going to get hurt by something or someone and feels threatened it can screech (trust me you do not want to hear a ferret screech your ear drums burst!), hiss (kind of like a snake), release a smelly (the stinkiest ferret fart you will ever smell – it’s a scent from the anal glands – phhheeeewwwww!!!), arch its back and puff up or poop itself. Either way none of this is good for you or the poor little ferret, so make sure you remove it from the environment and put it somewhere safer. Just watch out for this ferret behavior, scared ferrets are prone to biting at times.
“Hey? This was not here before! What is it?” - Curious: Some could say that ferrets are even more curious then cats! As soon as they see something new they can’t help but have to find out what it is. It’s actually really funny to watch them focus solely on one object…as they are normally scatter brains and tend to focus on many different things at once. When a ferret wants to check something new out it can either (depending on how brave it is) run straight up to it, go around it and sniff every part of it or keep their body’s low, slowly inch closer and circle the object to check it out. At times they can start making soft “dooking” noises if they get thrilled about what they just found.
“Im not too sure if I should go up to you.” - Fearful: This is when the ferret seems a bit uncertain about approaching something. It can shy away and hiss with its head down but is unlikely to run and hide like a ferret which is truly afraid of something. However, if any of your ferrets are anything like my big boy, Bear, they will run no matter what it is…he is such a chicken.
“Feed me…NOW!!!” - Hungry: Ferrets eat a lot. It takes about 3 hours for food to go in one end and exit the other…so therefore they will need to have food constantly available to them.
If you find a ferret hanging around its empty food dish or if it walks up to you and then walks to the dish…it’s giving you a pretty obvious hint(smart ferret behavior). Make sure your hungry little companion always has some dry, fresh food available. If the food has been sitting in its bowl a day or two then it is
probably stale and sometimes ferrets won’t touch it. Just change it and give them some fresh food…have you ever tried eating a stale piece of bread? YUK!
“Bugger Off!” - Mad: Just as humans do, ferrets can get a bit moody at times. This ferret behavior can be expressed through hissing, pouting, biting or chasing another ferret. But…you should also watch out, sometimes this anger can be taken out on the owner as well. However, this is rare in a properly socialized and established pet.
“Ouch! It hurts!!!” - Pain: If you have ever seen a couple of ferrets wrestling then you will know that these creatures are amazingly resistant to pain. Very rarely will they react, to what might seem to us as being painful. However, there are some exceptions. If they are not feeling well they might flatten themselves out on the ground and squint their eyes, in this case a trip to the vet might be in order.
If you step on their tail they might shriek, hiss and make a chuckling noise as if they are telling you off for what you have done to them. They also tend to make the same chuckling noise if they get stuck (eg. get their foot stuck in something), the louder and faster the chuckling noise the more they need your help in getting unstuck.
“Boohoo, hlip hlip, sigh.”- Sadness: You may be surprised to find out that ferrets can get depressed just as humans do. This is usually seen in ferrets that have lost a companion, be it human or animal. They may search for their companion in areas where their companion normally occupied. Some might also slouch down like they are in pain and sigh a lot, but wont squint their eyes like a sick ferret.
“It’s mine! All mine!!!” - Territorial: Ferrets can be territorial and possessive of certain objects…toys, litter boxes, beds and food. When I give my ferrets (defrosted) pinky rats as treats they all fight over them, they will shriek at and snatch them from each other. I always make sure I have enough for each one of them to reduce the fighting.
This normally only occurs between ferrets and not between humans and ferrets. However, there have been cases of ferrets being a bit protective of their food and biting anyone who goes near it…so if you have just brought home a new ferret just be cautious (at first) during feeding time. Once they get to know you it should be fine.
Another curious possessive ferret behavior that most fuzzbutts have is that they steal and stash things in their little hidey holes. I like to call this "ferret obsessive compulsive disorder" because as soon as they see something of yours they like...they take it. Eventually a whole pile of "lost treasures" can be found under the bed, couch, wardrobe etc.
My favorite game (and a bit of revenge) is to some days take out all their goodies and scatter them around the room. Wait till you see how focused they are on getting those things back!!! I have even allocated Bear a theme song... 'I want it all, I want it all, I want it all and I want it NOW!!! (I don't know who its by). It is absolutely hilarious ferret behavior.
If you have any suggestions/ thoughts on ferret behavior or you feel that I have left something out then please let me know.