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The ferret, also called FITCHET, is one of two mammals belonging to the weasel family. The common house ferret is a descendent of the European Polecat, a non-domesticated, much larger wild animal that lives in the woodlands of North Africa. The ferret is the only domesticated animal in the weasel family today.

FEATURES AND APPEARANCE
The common household ferret has brown, fuzzy fur and averages 20-inches in length. Male adult ferrets are called "hobs" (unneutered) or "gibs" (neutered), and range in size from 2-1/2 pounds to 4 pounds. Female adult ferrets are called "jills" (unspayed) or "sprites" (spayed), and weigh 1-2 pounds. Ferrets reach maximum body size at around 6 months. Ferrets have color vision, but poor eyesight, only able to see objects six inches in front of them. They also suffer a blind spot at the end of their nose, unable to see anything directly in front of them. The ferret's flexible skeletal and muscular structure allows them access to amazingly small, cramped areas.

CHARACTERISTICS
Ferrets are fun loving, social critters. Domesticated ferrets have become so dependent on humans, that they require daily interaction in order to survive. Ferrets have a very short attention span and appear to run at two speeds: stop and go. It is not uncommon for a ferret to run around for hours, only to plop down on their stomachs in an instant, heaving a heavy sigh and falling asleep so soundly, that they appear dead.

Ferrets are known for their musky odor. The odor comes from oil glands in the skin and can be repulsive in nature. Neutered or spayed pets do not emit such a stench.

COMMUNICATION
Ferrets communicate by clucking, hissing, screaming and barking. An amused and entertained ferret is completely capable of vocalizing that emotion to you with a series of fast or slow clucks, similar to the sounds a rabbit may make. Likewise, an unhappy ferret may scream or bark to display his outrage.

Ferret body language is another way that owners monitor and communicate with their pets. Tail swishing, the "weasel war dance," the otter-slide, and the "I'm laying on my back, belly-up, aren't I adorable" are all ways in which the ferret expresses himself. When tired, it is not uncommon for a ferret to heave a heavy sigh and flop onto their stomachs, as if completely exhausted.

FERRETS AS PETS
The ferret is a loveable, highly intelligent animal, now ranked the third most popular interactive pet across the United States.
Extremely affectionate, this social pet is more than willing to get along with existing animals in the household. Slow introductions to larger animals generally lead to a bonding of sorts between ferrets, cats and dogs. Though compatible with larger animals, ferrets have been known to eat pet mice, rabbits, hamsters, birds, gerbils and guinea pigs.

As you would with any other pet, ferrets must be supervised. Inquisitive in nature, this animal loves to crawl inside of things (including drawers, garbage, empty cans, etc.) to play and sleep. Ferrets are also fascinated by the outdoors, but are not capable of surviving in the wild. Pet ferrets should always be leashed, harnessed or caged for their own protection.

Ferrets love to travel. Special equipment now makes it possible for you to take your pet with you on the road. Ferrets love new challenges, and can easily be taught to walk with a leash or perform simple tricks and actions.

Ferrets should have a permanent home. Although they should be allowed out of their home daily to exercise, it's important to give your pet its own space. Cages, aquariums and glass boxes work well. Provide fresh water and food inside your pet's living area often. Ferrets typically eat and drink every three hours.

HEALTH
Ferrets must be "altered" (spayed or neutered) to be house pets. Females and males go into "heat" seasonally, but unlike cats, females do not come out of heat unless they mate. Not mating within 3 weeks usually kills the animal from prolonged elevated hormone levels and mineral leaching.

Ferrets need to be vaccinated from canine distemper. Canine distemper is 100% fatal in ferrets. Ferrets also require a rabies vaccination.

Most ferrets live 6-8 years and surprisingly, most usually die of some form of cancer. Pancreatic, Adrenal, Skin and Kidney cancers are all very common. Ferrets are also susceptible to enlarged hearts or slowed hearts.