The purpose of this blog is to share general information and is written to the author's best knowledge. It is not intended to be used in place of veterinary advice. For health concerns, please seek proper veterinary care.
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Ferrets are a fun, unique pet to have. They are high-energy animals that love to play and entertain themselves with their antics.
However, because ferrets are rare pets, there are not as many resources out there to help you understand their behavior and how to best care for them. You may be confused by some of their behavior, such as jumping around.
If you’ve noticed that your ferret is jumping around, that is perfectly normal behavior for these animals, as strange as it may seem to owners. Here is everything you need to know about your ferret’s jumping habits as well as some of its other body language.
The Ferret Dance of Joy
Have you ever noticed your ferret puffing up its tail and throwing its head around? It usually follows up this aggressive pose by jumping around.
This does not mean that your ferret is feeling aggressive or threatened—quite the opposite. Ferrets perform a series of hops and jumps when they are happy and overwhelmed with the excitement of playing.
This motion is called the ferret dance of joy or ferret war dance. The ferret’s wild cousins use this dance to scare prey into submission, but your ferret is probably performing the dance to celebrate catching a toy or to invite you to play.
If you see your ferret jumping around and performing this dance of joy, that is a good sign. It means that your ferret has a high quality of life and is happy with the care that you are providing.
Watching a ferret dance can also be a fun piece of entertainment for you! Sit back and watch your ferret jump around and careen around the house. These silly animals often love an audience, particularly if the person watching is their beloved owner.
What If My Ferret Crashes Into Things?
It will inevitably happen. Your ferret is happily jumping around and zooming around your living room. Then—crash! It bumps into your wall or furniture.
Your first instinct as a pet owner is probably to check for injuries, start putting up padding, or wondering if your ferret needs its eyes checked.
The truth is that for creatures that love running around, ferrets are actually extremely clumsy. Overwhelmed by the excitement of playing, ferrets tend to lose control of their legs and crash into whatever is in their way.
They also have poor vision and depth perception at the best of times, relying on other senses to get around. When they’re too excited, they forget to look at where they’re going.
Unless your ferret shows serious signs of injury, it is probably fine after crashing into your furniture. These small creatures are tougher than they look.
How Can I Tell If My Ferret Wants to Play with Me?
Jumping around and the ferret dance of joy is one way that ferrets show that they are in a playful mood and invite nearby companions, such as their owners, to join in. However, there are other ways to tell if your ferret wants you to play with it.
One common behavior that ferrets do is nipping at your feet. Nipping is how they get other ferrets to play with them, and they don’t realize that human skin is more sensitive than ferret skin. Your ferret isn’t attacking you, but if they are hurting you, tell them to stop and redirect with a toy.
Ferrets love chasing games, so another sign that they want playtime is when they try to start a game of tag. Your ferret may come up to you and get your attention by nipping or pawing at you, then running away. Sometimes it lunges at you to make sure that you get the message that it is playtime.
Finally, another sign that ferrets want playtime is when your ferret is pawing the ground. This is a way of getting your attention. To respond, make similar motions with your hand or tickle the ferret. Although you’re too big to play-wrestle with your ferret, you can still mimic the behavior with your hand. Wrestling is one of a ferret’s favorite games.
What If My Ferret Is Making Noise While Jumping Around?
Sometimes, you may hear your ferret making chattering or clucking noises as it is jumping around. It often resembles human laughter.
This is called “dooking” and is the sound that ferrets make when they are happy. If you hear your ferret clucking or laughing to itself as it is running around, that means that it is extremely happy. It may also want you to join in on its ferret games.
However, if your ferret is hissing while moving around and jumping, that could be a sign that it is frightened or in distress. The best way to calm down a hissing ferret is to give it a calm space to self-soothe and leave it alone for a bit.
How Can I Tell If My Ferret Is Unhappy?
In most cases, if a ferret is jumping around, that means that it is happy and feeling playful. However, sometimes hyperactivity could be a sign that your ferret is in distress.
Sometimes, what looks like a ferret’s “dance of joy” is actually a sign of aggression. The differences are subtle, but they exist. If your ferret is baring its teeth or moving away from you, that is a sign that it is angry or distressed.
You can also tell the difference between happy jumping and aggression with noises. The dance of joy is accompanied by chirping or dooking, while unhappy ferrets will hiss at you. Very upset ferrets will also scream. These animals are not shy about sharing their feelings!
Be careful—if your ferret is feeling threatened, it may also try to bite you. Aggression bites tend to be stronger than playful nips and your ferret will usually start hissing as well.
What If My Ferret Hasn’t Been Jumping Around?
Now that you know that jumping around is normal, happy behavior for ferrets, you may be worried if your ferret isn’t doing the same. All ferrets sleep for about 15 hours a day, and some ferrets are by nature very lethargic.
However, if your ferret was previously very energetic and is now spending most of its time sleeping or hiding, that could be a sign that something is wrong. If it is spending more time in its cage or hiding, it may need time to adjust to its surroundings, particularly if you’ve moved or rearranged recently.
Your ferret could also be sick. Other signs that a vet visit is in order include a loss of appetite, hissing when you try to touch it, teeth grinding, or trouble breathing. If you notice these symptoms, take your ferret to the nearest exotic vet as soon as possible.
Ferrets and Jumping
If you see your ferret jumping around a lot, that’s probably a sign that you are taking care of a very happy, satisfied ferret! Ferrets perform their happy dance when they are excited and playful. You may notice your ferret jumping around and even running into the furniture while chirping and laughing.
A ferret jumping is a good sign unless it’s accompanied by hissing or bared teeth. Then, it’s a sign that your ferret is feeling aggressive or in distress.