Do ferrets like to cuddle?
By Jazmin Murphy
Ferrets’ personalities and quirks are so variable that, despite their cute and cuddly appearance, you may be left wondering: Do ferrets like to be held?
Though the answer may differ between people, the general answer is yes! Read on to learn more about how ferrets like to be pet and why your ferret might enjoy cuddling.
What to Know About Ferrets Social Behavior
As the domesticated cousin to the European polecat, ferrets have a deep-set biological need to engage in various types of physical social behavior with their family members (human or otherwise). For example, during their youth, ferrets are among the many animals known to participate in social play. Many of their play behaviors entail quite a bit of physical interaction. If this is the case, you may wonder: If these pets enjoy so much physical play with you and their furry buddies, do ferrets like to be held and cuddled, too? Absolutely!
Even Vet Street describes ferrets as “cuddly” pets that love to spend as much quality time with their human companions as possible. You can think of cuddling and similar forms of physical interaction as a critical “love language” shared between you and your fur-baby. Why? Because nearly all mammals rely on “social touch” as a key part of their bonding experience.
Source: Steve Tsang on Unsplash
The Importance of Cuddling for Ferrets and Other Mammals
Just like primates that groom one another’s hair in the wild, humans subconsciously run our hands through each other’s hair or gently cradle and pet our pets’ (in this case, our ferrets). Though these affectionate behaviors may seem trivial, they are surprisingly important to the strength of your relationships with your human and ferret family members.
Physical touch between humans and pets has several benefits that support both the physiological and emotional health of both the “toucher” and the “touchee,” if you will. These include:
- Stress relief
- Calmer nervous system activity levels
- Note: Positive physical touch causes the brain to release endorphins (a relaxation hormone), soothing the heart rate, and mitigating nervous behaviors.
- Stronger immune system
- Better sleep
- Deeper bonding between you and your ferret
With all this in mind, it’s clear that your ferret will not only like cuddling with you, but that it will deeply appreciate this quality time both emotionally and physiologically.
How to Get Your Ferret to Cuddle with You
The key to cuddling with your ferret is to get familiar with their personality, social limitations, and learn what makes them anxious (and what calms their anxiety) before pushing them to snuggle up with you. As you build your relationship with your fur-baby over time, these lessons will come naturally.
Give yourself and your ferret time to get to know one another and grow confident in your relationship. The guidance below will help you through bonding with and taming your baby ferrets, so you can enjoy cuddle time sooner than you might expect:
- Give your ferret time to acclimate to their new living environment. Some ferrets will take just a few days to get used to living with you, while others can take years. Allow your ferret time to grow comfortable in their new living space. Otherwise, you risk creating a negative association with your interactions.
- Note: Imagine being yanked from your home, then moving into a brand-new place with all-new sights, sounds, and smells. There might even be other animals and creatures around. This is a lot of new stimuli to take in, which can be overwhelming. That’s what your ferret may be experiencing, so be empathetic and patient.
- Allow your ferret to decide when and how they interact with you. Your ferret may not always appreciate being picked up by you or having you invade their cage. Instead, give your little one the freedom to approach you on their own. The more time you spend together, they’ll initiate more positive interactions and spend much more time snuggling.
- Let your ferret out of the cage for at least 4 hours daily. As you’ve likely discovered by this point, your ferret is chock-full of energy. They need time to let all that out! A lack of playtime can damage your relationship (and, therefore, your ability to form a close bond), as it may turn into aggression due to pent-up energy.
- Play games with your ferret. Playing games with your ferret and teaching them tricks are some of the best examples of how you can build trust, communication, and affection between you and your little one. These positive, fun, and engaging shared experiences will undoubtedly open opportunities for cuddling in the future.
Do Ferrets Like to Be Held?
In general, it is safe to say that ferrets like to be held. However, there are some factors that may make it challenging for you to find opportunities to cuddle up together.
For one, it will be much easier to find some snuggle time with your ferret in their adult years if you got them used to this type of interaction when they were kits. Spending quality time together like this when they’re young will certainly make it much easier to do in the future. However, young ferrets, as compared to adults, can be a challenge to cuddle with since they’re so wriggly and energetic.
Your ability to find those golden opportunities to cuddle with your ferret depends on the intimate knowledge you have regarding your little buddies’ preferences and habits.
The more attuned you are to how your ferret receives physical interaction, the more opportunities you will have to cuddle with them.
Why Does My Ferret Not Like to Be Held?
It may not necessarily be the case that your ferret does not like to be held; rather, being confined to one spot for an extended period is not its top priority. Your ferret may be very happy with sitting in your lap and being petted by you.
However, remember that your little buddy sleeps for up to 18 hours per day. When they’ve woken up, they are filled to the brim with energy. With this in mind, don’t take it personally if your ferret doesn’t want to sit still. It may just be ready to run and bounce around, and will come back to cuddle once all that energy is down.
Do Ferrets Like to Be Pet?
Researchers have repeatedly shown what ferret owners (and others with tiny mammal companions) have known for years: Small domestic mammals love being petted and touched by their human companions. They love it so much that the interaction causes the release of a rare neuron associated with calmness and pleasure.
Studies have also shown that direct physical touch is a crucial part of ferret sociality, family bonding, and communication, both in wild and domestic environments. With this foundation of research, it’s clear that cuddling should be a central part of you and your ferret’s every day routine.
Yet, it can be challenging to get your little buddy to stop bouncing off the walls and relax in your embrace. To make things easier for the owners, here’s a little guidance on how to cuddle with your ferret.
How Do Ferrets Like to Be Pet?
It’s best to avoid rough handling whenever possible. Although they are energetic little buggers, ferrets don’t appreciate things like playful slaps or other forceful types of touch. Instead, light scratching and gentle pets are best.
Is your ferret a bit rowdier than most? Do they like to play a bit wildly? Get to know their limits to determine what types of pets and touch are best for your ushering in a bit of cuddle time.
Where Do Ferrets Like to Be Pet?
You can never go wrong with a nice belly scratch! Ferrets are suckers for long, affectionate belly and back rubs, and they’ll show you how much they love it by licking and nibbling on your hands while you rub and pet them down.
(Petting from the neck down is generally the safest way to touch a ferret that you don’t know very well, as it will reduce your chances of being bitten. This is also the most children-friendly method of interacting with a ferret.)
Your specific pet may have different preferences than most. Do they like scratches behind the ears? Do they like getting pet on the head? Many ferrets very much enjoy face massages, especially when they’re snoozing.
Take the time to find out, and your little buddy will be much more willing to snuggle up with you if you play your cards right.
So, do ferrets like to be held and cuddled? Absolutely! Although the process of working up to such intimate interactions from people may differ between individual ferrets based on their background and environment, you can confidently look forward to the day you get to snuggle up with your little buddy.
Using this guidance, you can create a welcoming, comforting environment where your ferret can thrive and play, and grow closer in their relationship with you in no time.