Opening disclaimer - we've had ferrets almost as long as we've been married. Delightful little guys that appear to have some dog-like characteristics when it comes to bonding with people - they are also playful like kittens for most of their lives. Every one has a very distinct personality.
People who study wild ferrets don't see the human interaction part and it appears it may have arisen from domestication - not unlike dogs. Sukie notes a fascinating paper that appears in PLoS ONE.
Man’s Underground Best Friend: Domestic Ferrets, Unlike the Wild Forms, Show Evidence of Dog-Like Social-Cognitive Skills
Anna Hernádi1,2, Anna Kis2,3*, Borbála Turcsán2, József Topál1
1 Research Centre for Natural Sciences, Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience and Psychology, Hungarian Academy of Sciences, Budapest, Hungary, 2 Department of Ethology, Eötvös University, Budapest, Hungary, 3 HAS-ELTE Comparative Ethology Research Group, Budapest, Hungary
Recent research has shown that dogs’ possess surprisingly sophisticated human-like social communication skills compared to wolves or chimpanzees. The effects of domestication on the emergence of socio-cognitive skills, however, are still highly debated. One way to investigate this is to compare socialized individuals from closely related domestic and wild species. In the present study we tested domestic ferrets (Mustela furo) and compared their performance to a group of wild Mustela hybrids and to domestic dogs (Canis familiaris). We found that, in contrast to wild Mustela hybrids, both domestic ferrets and dogs tolerated eye-contact for a longer time when facing their owners versus the experimenter and they showed a preference in a two-way choice task towards their owners. Furthermore, domestic ferrets, unlike the wild hybrids, were able to follow human directional gestures (sustained touching; momentary pointing) and could reach the success rate of dogs. Our study provides the first evidence that domestic ferrets, in a certain sense, are more dog-like than their wild counterparts. These findings support the hypothesis that domestic species may share basic socio-cognitive skills that enable them to engage in effectively orchestrated social interactions with humans.
Some years ago we had problems with a ferret and paralysis and had a special wheelchair made. I posted this photo and every now and again someone get in contact with a need for one. He stopped doing it for awhile, but is now at it again.
If you need one, here is the info:
GREAT news Robert still makes the firstname.lastname@example.org (830) 385-9513 cell only He needs the measurement from the back of the front legs to the front of the back legs, basically the abdomen area! $100 money order & ships ASAP - shipping included!!! Robert Morgavan P.O. Box 516 Burnet, TX e-mail him the measurement when you send the money order ( with the measurement) & he will start making it!!! Include your ship to info. & phone number as well.
Meeteetse is where Black Footed Ferrets were first rediscovered.
We are so happy to see the name, Meeteese, in there.
One of our domestic ferrets had that name. She was a little girl who had been battered at a pet store for biting and had a malformed tail left over from that. Her problem? A deciduous canine had turned on its side, been retained and caused a large gum infection. I was able to remove it right in that store and the pus just erupted from it in a fountain. After that she went home with us and she never bit anyone again.
Meeteetse would gently hold a person's big toe in her mouth if she felt ill and we luckily one day insisted on x-rays of her chest when she had begun a tiny cough and did that toe holding. She sounded fine when the vet listened but actually had severe pneumonia and pleurisy so they jumped fast when the images were seen and she was saved.
What our Meeteese was probably best known for was that she absolutely loved the voice of NPR science reporter, Richard Harris and would climb up and kiss the speakers when he was on the air. As a result she was on All Things Considered NPR several times, and when she finally passed away they had an obituary for her on the Weekend Science ATC show.