The ferrets are domesticated forms of the European polecat, which is a mammal that belongs to the same family as the weasel and other similar animals. They have become quite popular as pets all over the world, especially in the U.S.A.
Ferrets are usually 20in long (including the tail) and can weigh between 1.5 and 4.5lbs. When it comes to appearances, ferrets come in a very wide range of colors. This includes brown, black, white, sable, albino, dark-eyed white, silver, etc, The typical ferret is sable, which is a polecat-like color.
In this article, we’ll talk about what kind of animals ferrets are so you can understand your furry friend a little better.
Are ferrets rodents? Are they related to rats?
Ferrets are definitely not rodents, despite this being a shockingly popular misunderstanding. They are part of the same family as the weasel, which is why there’s another false rumor being spread around, which is that ferrets are as bad as weasels.
As pets, ferrets are as sweet and playful as dogs but as independent as cats. This makes them the perfect pet for a lot of people. And since they are so small, there are also people wondering if they are related to rats. The answer is that ferrets couldn’t be more different than rats and other rodents.
Ferrets are a part of the genus Mustela, which is from the Mustelidae family. And rats are part of the genus Rattus and are from the Muridae family. In fact, the only relationship these two types of animals have is of predator and prey.
What family does the ferret belong to?
Belonging to the Mustelidae family, ferrets are related to a lot of different carnivorous mammals. This includes the well-known weasels, badgers, otters, martens, minks, and even wolverines. When it comes to sizes, you will be impressed by how versatile this family is. The least weasel can be as short as under one foot in length, and the giant otter can reach an impressive size of 5ft and 7in.
Another popular misconception is that the skunk is a member of this family as well, and it was even considered a subfamily for a short while. However, they are from the Mephitidae family instead. Mongooses are from a different family as well.
Ferrets and Rodent Hunting (Ferreting)
Humans have used ferrets for hunting purposes for a very long time. This is because they are fast, smart, and don’t require a lot of food to live. Over time, this practice gained the name of “ferreting”, which is when ferrets hunt down rabbits and other rodents for different purposes. Some people use them to get rid of vermin, while others simply use them as hunting companions.
Today, there are not a lot of people that still practice ferreting but there are still a few experts around the U.K. and a few other European countries. Most places ban ferrets because of how invasive they can be, which is why ferreting is not a thing any longer. Plus that with time, we invented a lot of more humane ways to trap vermin.
For ferreting to be successful, there needs to be a deep bond between the ferret and the hunter. But since ferrets tend to fall asleep almost anywhere, they typically wear tracking devices so the hunter can find them if they decide to take a nap in a rabbit’s burrow.
Ferrets are excellent at getting rid of rats as they are natural-born rat killers. You can even get rid of rats around your home simply by placing a few poops of ferret around the garden. This keeps lots of intruders away, including moles.
Will Ferrets Eat Mice?
Ferrets are obligate carnivores, which means that they need raw meat to thrive. And since ferrets and rats are natural enemies, a ferret will definitely accept a mouse as a snack. These small predators have been feeding on rats for thousands of years, and their bodies are actually made to digest the whole rat. This includes the fur, bones, and contents of the stomach.
In captivity, you should make sure the mice are at least knocked out if you want to feed them to your ferret. This is because a mouse can bite and scratch the ferret in self-defense. It’s recommended to get the mice from someone that provides them as food. Going to a petshop and asking for mice to use as food for your ferret will get you turned away very fast. This is because they only sell mice meant as pets.
Freezing a bag of mice and keeping it in the ferret’s freezer is an excellent way to keep them fresh for longer. But when it comes to house mice, keep the ferret away. This is because they can have countless diseases and some of them might have been poisoned.
The truth is that a domesticated ferret doesn’t have a big chance of catching a rat. If it does, it’s safe to assume that the rat was sick from poisoning. Don’t let the ferret eat anything it catches in the garden either.