Depressed Ferret

Depression is one word with many different definitions.  In humans, depression usually means at least one round of therapy and lots of discussions about mothers.  But in ferrets, depression is another word for “moping.”  In other words, the ferret just does not seem to care about anything anymore, except, perhaps, lying in a corner of the cage and staring at you. 

Other symptoms of a depressed ferret are loss of appetite, sleeping far longer than usual and loss of interest in toys, other pets or just about anything else.  The ferret may also lose interest in grooming his or her fur.  Ferrets normally are as fastidious as cats about self-grooming, so a dirty ferret is not just odiferous, but could be depressed.

If You Know The Ferret

Ferrets, no matter what their age, are usually very energetic, playful and hungry individuals.  A sudden drop in activity, appetite or sociability with other ferrets or with their owners is a big red warning sign that the ferret is sick.  The illness could be draining the ferret’s energy levels, making him or her constantly tired.

Although all ferrets are individuals, just lying or being curled up in once place is not normal domesticated ferret behavior.  If you know the ferret well, you already know your ferret’s behavior patterns, such as how long he plays or how often she wants to eat.  Don’t wait to call the vet.  The illness could be minor, but it also could be something that gets progressively worse, like adrenal disease.

If You Don’t Know the Ferret

Discovering a lost ferret or having a ferret dumped on you can make depression diagnosis a lot more complicated.  Certainly, animal rescue workers see depressed ferrets every day and know that illness may complicate but is not the main cause of the problem.  Ferrets under stress such as surviving a natural disaster or getting dumped at an animal shelter will cause a ferret to be scared and to withdraw.

Even if the main cause is thought to be grief, fear or surviving a traumatic circumstance, the ferret still needs to be checked out by a veterinarian.  Ferrets that are very stressed out are more prone to getting sick.  They also are more prone to not eating.  Since ferrets have very high metabolisms, they need to eat every few hours when they are awake or they can begin to suffer from malnutrition.


Depressed ferrets may be in pain or may be very frightened.  Handling these ferrets is often unavoidable, especially if you want to get them to a vet.  But because they are so stressed, or may have an unseen injury that is painful to the touch, they may view your approach as threatening and will bite. 

You can prevent bites by wearing worker’s gloves or. If the ferret is still eating, by putting a bit of the ferret’s absolute favorite treat into a carrier and keep the door open.  Shut the door when the ferret goes inside.  Give the ferret more of the treat through the air slots or wire mesh when the ferret is inside.