A Ferret sitting in a bucket

Ferret Body Language: How To Identify And Understand your Ferret´s Behavior

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Ferrets are small furry creatures that come with a large amount of personality. They have been domesticated for thousands of years, and many people keep them as pets. Some owners find it hard to understand their pet and know how they can tell their ferret is thinking or feeling.

This article will help you identify the different body language signals your ferret gives off so you can better understand your animal friend!

Ferrets don´t give off too many signals, but the ones they do give off are easily recognized. Their key body language indicators are eyes, ears, body, and tail. Plus, you have to see it all in context to each other.

Let’s get started

The Bottle Brush Tail

There are some reasons why a ferret might be showing this kind of tail. The reason does not always mean the same thing but could be a sign of anger and/or excitement, for example:

  • When they’re exploring or in a new environment, the hairs on their tail might stick up like a bottle brush.
  • This could also happen when they are meeting another pet. Like meeting a dog or cat, they didn´t know yet.
  • When they smell weird perfumes or something like that, they sometimes do it too.
  • Sometimes when they are hurt or startled.

Tail Wagging

You can see this mainly when your ferrets are excited or happy when they are playing with you or each other, for example.

High Tail

Potty Time! If you see your ferret doing this, high positioning of their tail and backing up, you know they are getting ready to visit their litterbox in conjunction with backing up.

Tail in Relaxed Position

You see them doing that when they run around – tail lifted just a little bit of the ground.

The Weasel War Dance

That´s how ferrets invite you or other ferrets to play with them. It´s also called the Dance of Joy. Flailing their bodies around and whacking themselves into everything – it’s the funniest thing ever!

You might see the pretend to lunge at another animal or yourself to get you to play. Your ferret is just bursting with joy and energy.

The Alligator Roll

The alligator roll is a form of intense play or wrestling between ferrets in which one ferret grabs the other by the back of the neck and flips him upside down.

This is one of the most common form when ferrets play with other ferrets and can also occur while scruffling each other.

While some may interpret this as an action to show dominance or/and establish hierarchy, research has shown that this is not the case. Ferrets don´t form any form of hierarchy.

Scruffing

Just like mama dogs carry their puppies, so does the mama ferret carry her kits. It´s not meant to be a punishment or anything like that.

Scruffing is a signal for “let´s go to sleep now” or just cuddling.

Backing Up

This could be to encourage you or other ferrets to come and play – or in combination with a high tail could be a sign for “I need to go to the bathroom”

If a ferret backs up while wagging its tail vigorously, this is usually an invitation to engage in play and maybe give chase if you’re not too busy!

It might also mean that they need more personal space or want some alone time with their chosen companion.

Variation of Body Positioning

a white ferret playing with a ball

I’ve seen kits arch their backs to look threatening or sink to the ground. I’ve seen this a lot when they’re exploring new areas, but they don’t give off too many body cues.

Ferrets can sometimes show interest in playing, fear and aggression by arching their backs up high with the hair standing on end while hissing loudly at you from about two feet away where they keep watching your every move – it’s called being sassy …

Stashing and Digging

Those habits are deeply seeded into every ferret. They might dig a hole, stash some food or bury their toys.

It’s so fun to watch them play and explore in the privacy of these little dens they create for themselves!

When it finds an object of interest, often the ferret will drag it off to its “lair,” – Make sure they don´t snatch any stuff that could be dangerous for them.

But sometimes, you’ll see your ferret digging in places that they shouldn’t, such as the carpet near your doorway.

The Butt Drag

They´re done doing their business – and now they are wiping their butts (on your carpet, on their pee pad, litterbox, you name it…)

It´s an instinctive behavior to mark off their territory—nothing you can do about it. Make sure to clean up after them.

Speed Bumping

After excessive playing with you or other ferrets – they just let themselves fall onto the ground, with body flattened, eyes open, and back legs splayed. It´s a sign that your ferret had enough playtime and is tired.

Vocalizations

Ferrets are known not only for their piercing, high-pitched squeaks, and chatters.

The squeal can be a sign of pain or fear – it is often difficult to tell the difference between these two signals if you are not familiar with ferret sounds.

The Hiss

Ferrets do hiss when they are:

  • playing
  • angry
  • upset
  • confused
  • sometimes when in pain

You could say that ferrets use their “hiss” in many different situations.

Duking

Duking is sometimes called chirping or barking. You hear them duking when:

  • they’re playing
  • they go outside
  • they explore something new
  • they were “bad Ferrets.”
  • sometimes when in pain

Screaming

Deaf ferrets are known for it. Although not exculsively something only deaf ferrets will do.

Ears and Eyes

Ferrets don´t use the position of their ears to show their surroundings what they are up to, unlike dogs.

Same goes for their eyes. Most ferrets have black/dark eyes (well, actually not true, ferrets can have various eye colors).

Unlike with a cat, I am trying to say that you can actually see how their pupil dilates and contracts – your ferret’s eyes are more or less black.

Summary

The body language of ferrets is not as wide as with dogs, for example. But many things such as the alligator roll, backing up, how they hold their tails can give a lot of information about their mood.

There are many articles and video’s on the internet that provides more in-depth explanations for each signal, so please feel free to do your own research!

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