Ferrets are quirky, funny little animals with unique behaviors. Below I have listed some common ferret behaviors and a bit of explanation for each.
Alligator roll- Ferrets generally exhibit this behavior when they are playing with other ferrets. One ferret usually grabs the other ferret by the scruff and "flips" the other ferret over. This action is important in establishing dominance between two ferrets. The "alpha ferret" is the one doing all of the flipping, while the more submissive ferret is the one constantly getting flipped! Sometimes a single ferret will roll around by his or her self while excited during play. Young ferrets and ferrets who have not been nip trained will sometimes try to "scruff" and roll a human by grabbing lose skin on the back of a hand, socks, or feet. This is all done in good fun, however if it is painful the behavior should be discouraged. Ferrets have much tougher skin than humans, so what may feel like a "pinch" to another ferret can feel like a bite to a human.
Backing into a corner- Ferrets do this for different reasons. If your ferret backs up into a corner or wall while hissing and getting all "puffed" up, your ferret is telling you that he or she is frightened. It is important to not try to grab or pick up a frightened ferret. If your ferret is frightened, just speak soft kind words and leave him or her alone. Your ferret will soon recover once he or she feels that the threat or danger is gone. Another reason ferrets back into corners is a more common one. Ferrets will often back up into a corner to use the bathroom…. If you see your ferret backing into a corner, and he or she is not frightened, look out. Your ferret is about to do their business on the floor. It is helpful to quickly place your ferret into the nearest litter box as soon as possible (before
the deed is done).
Bottle brush tail- Ferrets will often get a "puffy" tail when they are frightened or excited. If a ferret has a bottle brush tail and is backing away from you and hissing, he or she is frightened and needs to be left alone until calm. However, if your ferret gets a "puffy" tail while exploring a new environment (like going outside for the first time), or during vigorous play, he or she is just very stimulated and excited. Puffy tail can also be a precursor to having a "wired weasel" on your hands! Our ferret Ed often gets a puffy tail when we let him out to play in the morning in our new house. A short time later he is taking off around the house like a rocket!
Dance of Joy- This is one of my favorite aspects of ferret behavior. The "dance of joy” consists of a ferret jumping around from side to side, flipping on the floor, bouncing off of furniture and generally losing all control! Your ferret may slightly open his or her mouth during the display and make "chirping or dooking" sounds. Basically, your ferret is telling you that he or she is full of energy, incredibly happy and ready for some serious playtime! Many first time ferret owners can be frightened by this display (I have had people write to me thinking that their ferret was attacking them). Don't worry. Your ferret is simply bursting with joy and energy.
Dooking- This term refers to the sound a ferret makes when excited and happy. The next time you play with your ferret, listen closely. Sometimes it is hard to hear the soft vocalizations ferrets make when excited. My ferrets will often "dook" quite loudly when playing with one another and when I take them outside.
Obsession with a particular object and Hiding Objects- Ferrets do become obsessed with particular objects or toys. Your ferret will probably pick his or her favorite toy and hide it in a secret hiding place. If you find the toy and remove it, your ferret could become very anxious, angry or stressed. For example, our ferret Ed is obsessed with his Winnie the Pooh stuffed animal with a built in teething ring/rattle (see picture below). He doesn't chew on it; he just moves it to different places around the house. At any given time of the day, my husband and I can hear the jingling of the rattle as Ed moves it to a new hiding place. If I find his toy and jingle it, he will come running out of any hiding place to get it back. He will then look for a new hiding place to store it. Ferrets can also fight with one another if one tries to take the other's favorite object. Your job is to make sure your ferret becomes attached to a safe item. Ferrets are notorious for stashing things that they like all over the house (even car keys and wallets!).
For more great tips on Litter box training and how to teach your ferret some Fun Tricks, purchase The EverythingFerret Complete Guide to Ferrets and Ferret Care.Our ferret trying to get her favorite toy from my son: