Are Ferrets Domesticated? A Clear Answer

Ferrets are domesticated animals. They have been domesticated for thousands of years, primarily for hunting purposes. The domesticated ferret (Mustela putorius furo) is a subspecies of the European polecat and has been selectively bred to display a different coloration, temperament, and sociability than their wild counterparts.

Recently, ferrets have become popular pets due to their playful, curious, and affectionate nature. They require specific care and attention to stay healthy and thrive in an environment with plenty of social interaction and mental stimulation. Being curious creatures, they tend to explore and can get into tight spaces, making supervision essential.

History of Ferret Domestication

Ferrets have been domesticated for thousands of years and have a long history of serving humans. Their domestication date is unknown, but it is believed to have occurred in ancient times, possibly as early as 1500 BC.

The ancient Egyptians were known to have used ferrets to control rodents in their grain stores. The Greeks and Romans also kept ferrets as pets and used them for hunting. The use of ferrets in hunting was especially popular in Europe during the Middle Ages, where they were used to hunt rabbits and other small game.

The domestication of ferrets was likely a gradual process over many generations. The ancestors of modern ferrets are the European polecat (Mustela putorius), a wild carnivorous mammal native to Europe, Asia, and North Africa.

The domestication of ferrets is believed to have occurred for two main reasons: hunting and rodent control. Ferrets are natural hunters and can catch rats, mice, and other small rodents that can be a nuisance to humans. They are also skilled at hunting rabbits and other small game, making them valuable to hunters.

Today, ferrets are primarily kept as pets and are popular due to their playful and curious nature. They are also used in some countries for rodent control, particularly in rural areas.

Characteristics of Domesticated Ferrets

Physical Attributes

Domesticated ferrets are small, carnivorous mammals that are typically kept as pets. They have a long, slender body roughly the size of a small cat and can weigh anywhere from one to five pounds. Ferrets have short, soft fur that can come in various colors, including white, black, brown, and gray. Their tails are long and thin, with sharp claws for climbing and digging.

Behavioral Traits

Domesticated ferrets are known for their active and playful nature. They are social animals that enjoy interacting with their owners and other animals. Ferrets are also known for their curious nature and love to explore their surroundings. They are intelligent animals that can be trained to do tricks and respond to commands.

Ferrets are also known for their naughty behavior. They are known for stealing small objects and hiding them in their nests. They are also known for their tendency to nip and play bite, which can be trained out of them with proper socialization.

Legal Status of Domesticated Ferrets

Ferrets are widely kept as pets in many parts of the world. However, their legal status as domesticated animals varies depending on the location. In some places, ferrets are illegal to own as pets, while in others, they are legal but subject to strict regulations.

United States

In the United States, ferret ownership is legal in most states, but there are some exceptions. California, for example, has a ban on ferrets as pets. However, some cities in California, such as Los Angeles, have lifted the ban and allow ferrets as pets. It is important to check local laws and regulations before owning a ferret in the United States.

New Zealand

New Zealand has a complete ban on ferrets as pets. This is because ferrets are considered a threat to native wildlife, particularly birds. The ban has existed since the early 1900s, and importing or owning a ferret in New Zealand is illegal.

North America

Ferrets are native to Europe and have been domesticated for hundreds of years. In North America, ferrets were introduced as pets in the 1980s. Since then, their popularity has grown, and are now widely kept as pets. However, their legal status varies depending on the location.


In some places, ferrets are completely illegal to own as pets. For example, in New Zealand, ferrets are banned, and importing or owning them is illegal. In some parts of the United States, such as California, ferrets are also illegal to own as pets.


In some places, ferrets are not completely illegal, but there are restrictions on their ownership. For example, in California, ferrets are banned as pets, but some cities have lifted the ban and allowed ferrets as pets.

In conclusion, the legal status of domesticated ferrets varies depending on the location. It is important to check local laws and regulations before owning a ferret as a pet.