The text files are posted around the 20th of each month to the rec.pets, alt.pets.ferrets, alt.answers, rec.answers, and news.answers newsgroups. It's stored on various internet access systems and BBS's, including Compuserve and (I think) AOL, and it can be found in either English or Japanese (possibly a slightly older version) in library3 of the FPETS forum in Japan's NiftyServe system. For information about translations of the FAQ, email me or see the list at Ferret Central . It can be found, along with hundreds of other FAQs on a wide variety of topics, at any of the news.answers archives or mirrors; for instance, by FTP or on the Web.
If you don't have access to FTP, or if the server is busy (as it often is), you can also request them by mail. You can receive all five parts in separate email messages by sending a message to <firstname.lastname@example.org> with the single line (in the body of the message)
GET ANSWERS PACKAGE FERRETTo receive only a single part, instead send a command like
GET ANSWERS PART1 FERRET
If all else fails, send me <email@example.com> email and I'll be glad to send you a copy.
However, over the months -- and years -- the FAQ grew, and its purpose broadened. More general questions, and especially more medical information, were included. Although I can't claim that this is now a comprehensive guide to ferret ownership, it is a good source of information and collective opinion about a wide range of subjects. Whether you're new to ferrets or a long-time owner, chances are this FAQ will have something interesting for you.
Special thanks to Chris Lewis and Bill Gruber, moderators of the Ferrte Mailing List; and to veterinarians Bruce Williams, Charles Weiss, Susan Brown, and Mike Dutton, for all their efforts on behalf of the members of the Ferret Mailing List and all "ferret friends". Thanks also to the dedicated ferret enthusiasts who have helped to translate the FAQ and Medical FAQs into other languages, inlcuding Japanese and French, with others in progress.
Thanks also to the many people from the Ferret Mailing List who contributed (perhaps unwittingly!) responses, comments, and corrections, too many to list here (at last count, the list included 97 different people).
Anyone who wishes to is encouraged to include a link to the main Index page of this document set wherever it might be appropriate. "The Ferret FAQ," "Ferret Central," and the silhouette of a ferret used in their logos are trademarks of Pamela Greene.
If you're looking for something to hand out at pet stores, vets' offices, club meetings, and so forth, you might want the Ferret mini-FAQ, a much shorter document which covers all the basics and is formatted to be printed out. There's also a single-page tri-fold brochure with the most important information, ideal for vets' offices and pet stores. They're each available as a Postscript or PDF file (which can be read using the free Adobe Acrobat Reader) by FTP, or you can email your postal address to me at <firstname.lastname@example.org> to get copies on paper.
There are also FAQs dedicated to several common diseases:
GET DISEASE PACKAGE FERRETTo receive only a single part, instead send one of these commands:
GET ADRENAL DISEASE FERRET GET INSULIN DISEASE FERRET GET LYMPH DISEASE FERRET GET SKIN TUMORS FERRET GET CARDIO DISEASE FERRET GET ENLARGED SPLEEN FERRET GET GREEN VIRUS FERRET GET GASTRIC ULCERS FERRETFinally, there is a single-part Ferret Natural History FAQ, which contains information on ferret biology, history, domestication, taxonomy, and so forth. It's available from Ferret Central , or from the CUNY listserver using the command
GET NATURAL HISTORY FERRETYou can also send me <email@example.com> email and I'll be glad to send you whichever files you'd like.
SEND FERRET DATABASEin the body. Note that the file is rather long, which may give some mailers problems.
The American Ferret Association (AFA) also maintains a list of shelters, and a local ferret club may know about one not on either of the lists.
SUBSCRIBE FERRET <first-name> <last-name>in the body of the email.
You'll get a note back detailing policies and such and explaining how to send letters to the list. Back issues of the FML are available by sending the command INDEX FERRET in the body of email to <firstname.lastname@example.org>, and an unofficial WWW archive is also available, though not quite as complete.
The Ferret Forum mailing list tends to be shorter and perhaps more international in flavor than the FML. To subscribe, send email to <email@example.com> with a blank Subject and either "subscribe ferret-forum" (for the regular version) or "subscribe ferret-forum-digest" (for the daily digest) in the body of the message (no quotes in either command).
The "Ferret Tails" mailing list is a digest of ferret stories, adventures, poems, and other entertainment. Email <firstname.lastname@example.org> with "subscribe ferret-tails <your email address>" in the body of your message.
There are other mailing lists, too, including several regional lists. A list is available, or email Christine Code for information.
Various IRC chats exist, on servers such as undernet.org, irc.mcgill.ca, irc.quarterdeck.com, or irc.eskimo.com. Specific server/channel combinations include
The Oregon Ferret Association has a clipart archive, and Bob Nixon maintains an archive with many ferret pictures, too. Files there which start with "clip-" are clip-art.
Most of the pictures at one site are also at the other.
An index of ferret information is available from Ferret Central .
Various ferret-related information is available from the file server at CUNY; send the command
INDEX FERRETto <email@example.com> for a complete list, with descriptions.
The most accurate description of the version of this FAQ is the date at the bottom. For really minor changes, I won't necessarily change the version number, but I'll always change the date.
They can be trained to use a litter box and to do tricks, and most of them love to go places with you, riding on a shoulder or in a bag. They sleep a lot, and they don't particularly mind staying in small places (a cage, for instance, or a shoulder bag) temporarily, although they need to run around and play for at least a couple of hours a day. A "single" ferret won't be terribly lonely, although the fun of watching two or three playing together is easily worth the small extra trouble. Barring accidents, ferrets typically live 6-10 years.
Finally, the importance of ferretproofing must be emphasized. Ferrets are less destructive than cats, but they love to get into EVERYTHING, so if you keep them loose you'll need to make sure they can't hurt themselves or your possessions. They love to steal small (and not so small!) objects and stash them under chairs and behind furniture. They like to chew on spongy, springy things, which must be kept out of reach or they'll swallow bits. Accessible boxes, bags, and trash cans will be crawled in, and houseplants within reach are liable to lose all their dirt to joyful digging. Finally, many ferrets tend to scratch and dig at the carpet. Naturally, these traits vary from one ferret to another, but they're all pretty common. If you're not willing to take the necessary time to protect your property and your pet, a ferret may not be for you.
Domestic ferrets are generally believed to be descended from the European polecat; they were originally used as hunting animals to catch rabbits and rodents. They weren't supposed to kill the prey, they just chased them out of their holes and the farmers (hunters) killed them. This practice is now illegal in the U.S. and Canada, but it's still fairly popular in the U.K. and some other places.
What are some of those invalid reasons, you ask? Well, a common one is that ferrets are seen as wild animals like raccoons or skunks, rather than a domestic species like housecats. Of course, ferrets have been domesticated for at least 2500 years. Another popular misconception is that ferrets pose a serious rabies danger; in fact, studies have indicated that it's very hard for a ferret to catch rabies, and when one does, it dies very quickly, so the danger is very small indeed. Besides, there's a ferret rabies vaccine which has been shown to be effective. A third common reason for banning ferrets is the idea that escaped pets (nearly all of which are spayed or neutered) will form feral packs and threaten livestock or native wildlife. There are no confirmed cases of feral ferrets (as opposed to polecats or polecat-ferret crosses, for instance) in the U.S., and a few deliberate attempts to introduce domestic ferrets to the wild have failed miserably, so this, too, is an unfounded fear -- even if one could picture a ferret harming a cow or breaking into a commercial poultry farm.
The only states which now ban ferrets are California and Hawaii. In the face of overwhelming evidence, many areas are being persuaded to change their outdated regulations.
Because of the similar names, domestic ferrets have also been confused with their cousins the North American Black-Footed Ferrets, Mustela nigripes. Black-footed ferrets (BFFs) are wild remote relatives of the domestic ferret. They are an endangered species: the only BFFs known to exist are in zoos or in a breeding program in Wyoming. However, despite similar appearances, the BFF is not very closely related to the domestic ferret.
You can find out about your town by calling the local Wildlife Department or Fish and Game Department, the humane society, or veterinarians (recommended in that order). Note that some pet stores in FFZs sell ferrets anyway, so the presence of one in your corner store may not be any indication of their legality, and I wouldn't necessarily trust the pet store to be honest about local laws.
Katie Fritz has compiled an extensive, though not complete, list of FFZs. If you have or want more information, contact her at <firstname.lastname@example.org> or on CompuServe at 71257,3153.
Here's a list of some of the larger places where ferrets are illegal, as of April 1997. A more extensive list is also available.
California, HawaiiThese lists are by no means complete, so check locally before you buy a ferret.
Washington, DC; Dallas, Ft. Worth, Beaumont, and various other cities in TX; Bloomington and Burnsville, MN; Tulsa, OK; Columbus, OH; London, York, and East York, Ontario, Canada; Puerto Rico
Although ferrets aren't actually illegal in New York City or Minneapolis, MN, they are not welcomed and may be confiscated or ticketed. Similarly, although it's legal to own ferrets in South Carolina, it's not legal to sell them there, and the state is known to be pretty ferret-unfriendly.
Many military bases ban ferrets. It seems to be at the discretion of the base commander.
Permits or licenses are required in order to own ferrets in the following places: New Jersey ($10/year), Rhode Island ($10/year), Illinois (free). Permits are also required in St. Paul, MN, and may be difficult to obtain.
Of course, there are also regular costs of caring for the ferret. They don't eat much, so food and litter aren't a huge expense, but there are also treats and hairball remedies, plus the annual checkups and vaccinations. In addition, though it might not happen, you should be prepared to pay for at least one $300 vet visit in each ferret's 6- to 10-year lifetime, from his getting sick, being in an accident, or eating something he shouldn't.
Descenting a ferret doesn't change the day-to-day smell. Only the scent glands near the tail are removed, which prevents the ferret from releasing bad-smelling musk if it's frightened, but doesn't stop the normal musky oils which come from glands throughout the skin.
The two big things you can do to cut down on your ferret's odor are to bathe him less -- yes, less -- often and to clean his bedding more often. Most of the musk stays in the cloth, on the litter or paper, and on your floors and furniture, not on the ferret himself. Cleaning them can be a big help. Also, right after a bath the ferret's skin glands go into overdrive to replenish the oils you just washed away, so for a few days the ferret will actually smell worse. Foods containing fish may make your ferret, or his litter pan, smell worse than those with chicken, lamb, etc.. You may also find that your ferret smells more during shedding season in the spring and fall.
Some people have had good luck with Ferret Sheen powder and various air filter systems.
Just as some very friendly dogs become nervous around children because they don't look, smell, or act like adults, some ferrets who aren't used to kids don't quite know how to behave around them. Make sure both your child and your ferret understand what's expected of them, and what to expect from the other one. At least one person suggests that ferrets brought up around other animals, including other ferrets, will adjust to a child better than ones only used to adult humans.
However, plenty of children have been attacked and even killed by dogs and cats. The number of people injured by ferrets each year is a tiny fraction of the number wounded or killed by dogs. People don't claim that all dogs and cats are too dangerous for pets, but rather that more responsible parenting and pet ownership is needed.
According to Chris Lewis, former moderator of the Ferret Mailing List:
The FML has carried confirmed reports of two, possibly three, cases where an animal identified as a "ferret" has seriously injured, and in one case, I believe, killed, infants. One in the UK, and one or two in the US. In none of these cases has it been proven that the animal was a ferret - particularly in the UK, it is quite possible that the animal was actually an European polecat which are raised for fur and sometimes for hunting (in the UK). And in each case gross child and animal abuse is well documented. But it's important to remember, that even the most pessimistic statistics on ferrets show that a ferret is about a thousand times *less* likely to cause injury than a dog. Indeed, every year there are hundreds of very serious or fatal dog attacks in the US alone. Worst case statistics show approximately 12 ferret attacks ever recorded in the US.Dr. Bruce Williams, DVM, adds:
I can say from personal experience that there are many, many more bite incidents with the household dog or cat, and that either of these species tend to do a lot more damage. I have seen children require over a hundred facial stitches from getting between the dog and its food, but never anything like this with a ferret. But I've also been nailed by my share of ferrets too.
Personally, I don't recommend ferrets for people with children under 6 or 7 - either the child or the ferret ends up getting hurt.
The albino is white with red eyes and a pink nose. A dark-eyed white can have very light eyes and can possibly be confused with an albino. These can actually range from white to cream colored with the whiter the color the better. A dark-eyed white (often called a black-eyed white) is a ferret with white guard hairs but eyes darker than the red of an albino.
The sable has rich dark brown guard hairs with golden highlights, with a white to golden undercoat. A black sable has blue-black guard hairs with no golden or brownish cast, with a white to cream undercoat.
The chocolate is described as warm dark to milk chocolate brown with a white to golden or amber undercoat and highlights.
A cinnamon is a rich light reddish brown with a golden to white undercoat. This can also be used to describe a ferret with light, tan guard hairs with pinkish or reddish highlights. Straight tan is a champagne.
A silver starts out grey, or white with a few black hairs. The ferret may or may not have a mask. There is a tendency for the guard hair to lighten to white evenly over the body. As a ferret ages each progressive coat change has a higher percentage of white rather than dark guard hairs. Eventually the ferret could be all white.
White patches on the throat might be called throat stars, throat stripes, or bibs; white toes, mitts (sometimes called silver mitts), or stockings go progressively further up the legs. A blaze or badger has a white stripe on the top of the head, and a panda has a fully white head. A siamese has an even darker color on the legs and tail than usual and a V-shaped mask; and a self is nearly solid in color.
The most commonly accepted phrase for a group is "a business of ferrets". Some people spell it "busyness" instead. Another possibility, "fastening" or "fesnyng," is thought to be due to a misreading of "bysnys" long ago.
Adopt, foster, or sponsor a ferret from a local shelter, or donate old towels, shirts, food, litter, cages, money, or time. Many shelters could use help with construction projects, computer setup and use, recordkeeping, etc., as well as day-to-day ferret care, cage cleaning, and trips to the vet. (However, shelter directors are very busy people, and may have established routines they'd rather not have disrupted, so don't be offended if your offer of help is refused. Ask if there's something else you could do instead.) To find a shelter near you, see the STAR*Ferrets list of clubs, shelters, etc. or contact a local ferret club.
Participate in the "Support Our Shelters" coupon book program, in which you send $25 and receive a book of grocery store coupons of YOUR choice worth at least $200. More information is also available by sending the command
SEND COUPON ORDER FERRETin the body of email to <email@example.com>.