• Belong to the order Carnivora, family Mustelidae (which includes badgers, wolverines, pine martens, otters, weasels, polecats, mink)
Note: Skunks no longer belong to this family. In 2003, skunks were reclassified into their own family, Mephitidae, most likely because they use their musk for defense (in addition to scent-marking and courtship).
• Scientific name: Mustella (= weasel or mouse killer), putorius (=stench), furo (=thief)
Literally “stinky mouse-killing thief.” The name ferret comes from the Latin word furonem, meaning “thief”
• Thought to be a descendant of the European polecat, the domestic ferret has been bred in captivity since the 4th century B.C. Used to be bred for rabbit hunting.
• All mustelids have long slender bodies and short, rounded or pointed ears. Their limbs are short with five digits, each with nonretractable claws (for digging and grasping).
• They are nocturnal, terrestrial, and capable of climbing. (Pet ferrets sleep up to 20 hrs/day, but adapt to owner’s sleep/wake schedule)
• They have large canine teeth that hang lower than the lip flap, so are in view.
• Eyesight is poor; they have a limited ability to distinguish color (see some reds and blues)
• Hearing is excellent
• Sense of smell is excellent