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The welfare of ferrets (Mustela putorius furo T): A review on the housing and management of pet ferrets

By Claudia M. Vinke, Nico J. Schoemaker

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Ferrets are very agile and lively animals, and their behavioural needs are not easily met in housing conditions like our living rooms. Nevertheless, ferrets are increasingly popular as pets. The present paper aims to review and discuss the available knowledge on our pet ferret. Topics are discussed like ferrets’ behaviour priorities, common housing conditions and management conditions. Behaviour problems, as well as medical topics that are considered important to optimise the welfare of pet ferrets, are elucidated. The topics are discussed in consideration of ferrets’ behavioural priorities, physical and physiological needs and/or capacities. We conclude that the main points of interest in a pet ferrets’ behaviour in relation to welfare are: (1) their high motivation to explore and forage, (2) the necessity of available adequate resting opportunities, (3) play opportunities, and (4) their social organisation with respect to interspecies aggression and territoriality. Therefore, good socialisation is of the utmost importance to prepare a young ferret for its life in a human surrounding. The provision of a daily activity program, variable (food) enrichments and comfortable hiding and resting places, might be helpful to fulfil ferrets’ behaviour priorities to a higher extent and may prevent behavioural disorders and problems for the owner. Social matching in ferrets should always be carefully done. The focus of the medical topics is on those for which potential preventive measures can be taken, such as routine annual examination by a veterinarian and subsequent treatment of parasites, vaccination against viruses and prevention of endocrine disorders through preventive (chemical) neutering. Referring to medical issues, the main points of interest for the pet ferrets’ welfare are nutrition, hyperoestrogenism, hyperadrenocorticism, insulinoma and Helicobacter infection and gastric ulcers. The latter infection appears to be often associated to the presence of stress in the ferret's environment.

Publication Title Applied Animal Behaviour Science
Volume 139
Issue 3
Pages 155-168
ISBN/ISSN 0168-1591
DOI 10.1016/j.applanim.2012.03.016
Cite this work

Researchers should cite this work as follows:

  1. Behavior and behavior mechanisms
  2. Diseases
  3. Ferrets
  4. Housing
  5. welfare