ferret (Mustela putorius furo) is a domestic animal originally from Europe. It is a subspecies of the polecat (Mustela putorius). It belongs to the family of weasels (Mustelidae).

It is estimated that it was domesticated around 2.500 years ago, at the same time that the donkey and the goat were domesticated.

Face of a ferret
Face of a ferret

Features

The ferret is slightly smaller than the polecat, averaging 51 cm in length, including the 13 cm long tail. They weigh between 0,7 - 2,0 kg. Sexually they are dimorphic animals, since the females are smaller than the males.

The body is elongated and slender with a coat that includes brown, white or black black. It is distinguished from the polecat by having yellowish white hair (sometimes brown) and pinkish red eyes.

Like other mustelids, they have scent glands near the anus that are used to establish a scent mark. These marks help them to recognize individuals, even if they are unknown. Alternatively, they can use urine marking.

Behavior

Ferret spends between 14 - 18 hours sleeping daily. They are clepluscular animals, that is, they are most active during dusk and dawn, when it is completely dark.

If they are in cages, they have to be taken out daily to exercise and satisfy their curiosity. They will need an hour and an exclusive area to play.

Unlike their ancestors, the current ones coexist in social groups without problems. These groups are called "companies." They establish a territory, in which they dig, and prefer closed places to sleep.

They are known to hide objects, which is more common in those that are kept as pets. I do not know what criteria the ferret uses to choose what to hide, but some owners have found hidden from toys to remote controls, keys, bags of onions and slices of pizza.

Ferret resting
Ferret resting

When aroused, they perform a behavior called the "weasel war dance," which involves genetically jumping sideways, hopping, and colliding with nearby objects. It is accompanied by a unique and soft cackling sound, known as "dooking." When scared, they whistle; when they are upset, they squeak softly.

Like skunks, they can release secretions from the anal gland when frightened or threatened, although the scent is less potent and dissipates quickly. In the United States they are sold without anal glands, which in Europe is considered unnecessary mutilation.

Habitat

The ferret lives in forests where they build burrows between rocks or tree roots. If they find an abandoned burrow, they won't be long in using it.

As pets they live in cages. It is convenient that they simulate as much as possible to a burrow so that it feels comfortable.

Distribution

The ferret is native to central European forests. Being a predatory species, if it is introduced into another country, it is likely to become a pest.

In countries like the United States and New Zealand there are laws to restrict adoption as pets.

Food

The ferret is a small carnivorous mammal, therefore the diet is made up of meat. The natural diet of their ancestors consisted of entire prey including meat, organs, bones, skin, feathers, and hair. They have fast metabolisms, so they need to eat frequently.

Currently the food consists of meat, which includes high quality cat food. With the increase of this type of pet, there is specific food for the species and they are preferable. Some owners prefer to feed them pre-killed or live prey (such as mice and rabbits) to mimic their natural diet.

The digestive tract is unable to digest plant matter as it lacks cecum. Feeding him something other than meat can create negative ramifications on his health.

Young people, around six months of age, "put away" the food they eat. This makes introducing a new food to an adult ferret extremely difficult - even a simple change in brand of food can cause it to reject it. Ideally, offer her a lot of different foods during her youth, as much as possible.

Predators

The ferret in the wild has owls, foxes and badgers as predators.

Currently, most are in human-cared homes, therefore they lack predators.

Reproduction

The ferret has a gestation period of about 42 days and they have between two or three litters each year. The size of the litter varies between three and seven pups that are weaned once they have reached three to six weeks and become completely independent at three months. At six months they reach sexual maturity and their half-life is between seven - 10 years.

The female is an induced ovulator, that is, she releases the eggs once she has had sex, and not as in the case of humans who release the eggs periodically, called "spontaneous ovulation."

State of conservation

The ferret is not on the IUCN red list where the conservation status of all the animals on the planet is registered. However, if the polecat (Mustela putorius) ascending ferret.

It is understood that being a domestic animal, its survival is in the hands of humans. As soon as they are no longer useful, they may disappear as happens to XNUMX/XNUMX cup salted butter or the mula.

Relationship with humans

The ferret was used to expel rabbits, rats, and other vermin from their underground burrows. Thanks to its elongated, flexible tubular body and the short limbs of the ferret, as well as its aggressiveness in hunting, it is ideal for entering burrows. This method has been practiced since the time of the Romans in Europe and even for a little longer in Asia. In the case of the rabbit, it enters the burrow and it is scared when it sees it and runs away through one of the exits of the burrow. This is when the hunter takes the opportunity to shoot.

Today, it has become an increasingly popular pet as they become tame, playful, and inquisitive in captivity. Together with humans they become very dependent, despite their adaptability. They cannot survive without your care, and if they are lost they will die within a few days. They are able to subsist on a diet of water and meat, similar to that of the domestic cat. In certain countries, there are laws that restrict their possession, since they can become a pest by not having natural predators. Due to the prodduction of their legs, the cages must be kept incredibly clean.

They are also used in veterinary research.

Popular culture

The ferret, being a domestic animal, has been closely linked to humans, and therefore they are mentioned in their culture.

In some Latin countries there are localities that refer to the ferret. For example, in Spain there is the town of Hurones, located in Burgos.

There is evidence that in ancient Egypt they were used to control rodent pests. There was a community of North American Indians, also known as Wyandot, who lived in small communities of 1.000 individuals.

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