People Are Mistaking Ferret Penises For Belly Buttons And Kissing Them...
By Stephanie Warzecha
For years there has been a running joke in the ferret community about how some people mistake ferret penises for belly buttons. More experienced ferret owners tend to have a good laugh at this (as we know that it is a genuine mistake by people who don’t know about ferret anatomy). Memes are created in honor of this phenomenon (see below), and many laughs shared within the ferret community.
Generally, what happens is a person that doesn’t know the difference between a male and female ferret mistakes the little round bump in the middle of a male ferrets abdomen as a belly button and either kisses it, gently pokes it, tickles, rubs or blows raspberries on it.
People think ferrets are cute, and what they are doing is just a show of their affection without understanding that they are messing around with the ferret’s genitals.
It’s an innocent mistake that often leads to the person feeling embarrassed when they learn what the little “bellybutton” in the middle of the ferret’s abdomen is.
Why does the ferret penis look like a bellybutton?
Human males have a penis located on the exterior of the body. So I think we are just used to seeing a penis this way and subconsciously assuming that all male animal specimens might have a distinctly noticeable penis as well. However, a ferret’s penis is retracted into the body. The only sign of it is a small bump on the exterior of the abdomen.
Over the top of the penis is a fold of skin, known as the prepuce; the surface of the prepuce is hairy, while the internal skin is smooth. When the hob (unneutered male ferret) mounts a female, while engaging in coitus, the penis extends beyond and outside of the prepuce. After copulation, the penis is withdrawn back into the prepuce by a muscle, called the ‘retractor penis muscle.’
Interesting facts about the ferret penis
There is a delicate bone within the ferret’s penis, called an os penis (a j-shaped bone). It is important not to “poke around” the ferret’s genital area so as not to damage or break that bone. The os penis, or baculum, is a characteristic of many carnivorous species, and other groups of mammals. In the ferret, the bone can measure as much as 45mm (nearly 2 inches)!
The function of the os penis is to stiffen the penis, which helps the ferret during coitus (which most domestic ferrets will never partake in because they are desexed and castrated).
Still in disbelief?
When I recently posted a video on the Ferret-World YouTube channel titled ‘Stop Kissing Ferret Penis‘ to try to help educate people on the difference between a male and a female ferret (and stop them making this embarrassing mistake), I noticed a few judgemental comments.
It’s easy for a ferret owner who has been educated in the difference between male and female ferret anatomy to react in a judgemental way. Still, it is also important to remember that not everyone has this knowledge. A lot of the time, people making this mistake are either new ferret owners, friends or relatives of the person who owns the ferret. So their knowledge on ferrets is minimal. I’ve collected some stories from people of social media channels showing how this is a genuine (and funny) mistake (see below).
There were also a few comments that showed that people who work in pet stores didn’t know the difference between a male and female ferret, which led to confusion. This is concerning because if new owners are getting the wrong information on sexing their ferret, they most likely will be receiving the incorrect information on caring for their ferrets too. This is also one of the reasons why we don’t recommend buying ferrets from a pet store (there are too many people out there who know nothing about ferrets and are spreading the wrong information which leads to unhealthy and unhappy ferrets).
I recently recorded a video on this topic and posted it to the Ferret-World YouTube channel
People mistaking the ferret penis for a bellybutton is a thing (a funny and innocent thing). As ferret owners, the best that we can do is try to educate those that don’t know about it and help them get on the right track. You can be gentle and understanding with them or burst out in laughter and watch them coil away in embarrassment (just hope that you never make a genuine mistake that results in you being laughed at and feeling embarrassed about). Then, of course, there are also these types of people…
Ferret Breeding: A modern scientific approach by James Mckay 2006