5 Things That Make Ferrets Hiss and What to Do


Ferrets are the most sociable and lovable of pets, and anyone who owns one or even two will tell you just how much fun they can be! They are very chatty too, and will let you know in no uncertain terms how they are doing at any given time. This is their way of communicating with you, and consists of several different noises that are unique to ferrets. 

One of the most concerning noises they make, but by no means the only concerning noise could be hissing. Why do they do it?

A ferret will hiss for several reasons, but the main one is because they are very angry. They can also hiss when they are playing, or when they interact with other ferrets that they don’t like.

I’ve owned ferrets for years, and as you can see there are lots of reasons why they might hiss. The important thing is that a hissing angry ferret is something you will need to attend to right away. 

In this article, I’m going to share the five main reasons why a ferret will hiss, and the things to do about it in each situation.

Beige ferret in a cage

What Does A Hissing Ferret Sound Like? 

A ferret hissing is somewhat like a cat, but also not like a cat at all!

Many people describe ferret hissing as the same as a cat, but it is not quite the same. The upper tone of their hiss will be a straightforward hiss, but the underbelly of the hiss is more of a slight gurgle sound.

I know that might be hard to imagine, but their hiss isn’t straightforward. 

The good news is that once you get to know your ferrets a little better, the types of sounds they made are easier to understand and hear.

A ferret hissing is quite distinct from other noises they make. Once you hear it, you will know it is a hiss.

5 Reasons why your ferret will hiss 

There are so many reasons as to why a ferret will start hissing at you, or around you. It is important to know why ferrets hiss.

As a loving pet owner, you will always want to know the why about anything and everything to do with your pet.

It’s only natural. Although hissing is not as straightforward as you might think.

1. Your ferret is angry 

A ferret, like any other pet, will get annoyed on occasion.

They can get annoyed with another ferret that they normally play with, and to show this, they will start hissing furiously at the offending ferret.

In this instant, it is a type of language that they both understand. 

It is important to mention at this point that ferrets are super social, and their hissing hardly ever occurs in this situation. They will normally get on with each other like a house on fire!

Ferrets love the company of other ferrets, as well as their human for company, but like anyone, they have their moments too. 

If there is a bit of an argument going on between playmates, the best thing to do is to separate the ferrets until they cool down. 

2. Your ferret is playing 

Ferrets love to play, and they also love their toys too.

A ferret can play with a toy and also fight with the toy as if it is another ferret!

Particularly if it is a ferret toy! 

In this way, they can start to hiss at it as part of the play, pretending it is annoyed with the toy ferret or perhaps they are in their own heads, who knows!

Mostly this is just a playful thing, so you don’t have to carry out any actions in this way. Just let them enjoy the silly games they are playing. 

3. Your ferret just feels like hissing!

Ferrets can get a little bored, and if ever any animal deserved the middle-name of ‘mischievous’, it would be a ferret.

Sometimes when they are getting up to nonsense, they will just hiss for fun. There is nothing you can do about this, except to perhaps cuddle them and play with them a bit so that they are not so bored. 

Remember ferrets rely on us to keep them occupied, that is why we have them as pets. So do try and make their enclosures interesting as well.

Toys and bits and pieces help them, as well as other ferrets to play with, of course. 

4. Your ferret does not like another ferret 

This type of hissing is important. A newer ferret might have been introduced into the enclosure, and with this, a rare occurrence of instant dislike might occur. 

Again, this is rare, but often owners of ferrets will purchase more than one ferret at a time. If they introduce a ferret at a later date, the older ferret will be annoyed at the ferret entering their territory.

Often the fight is more about items around the enclosure.

For example, toys or bowls are being interfered with by the new ferret. The best thing to do is to always keep their things separate, which includes their bowls and toys.

Also, when you first introduce new ferrets, do it on neutral ground. Perhaps outside on the grass, within a safety pen of course. This way they can get used to one another and will eventually settle down.

 If this happens, separate the ferrets immediately until they have cooled down and check that their personal items are near to them.

Also, double-check that they have not bitten one another and might have an injury that needs attending to. 

5. Your ferret is not in the mood!

Perhaps you are playing with your ferret, and they start to hiss at you.

You would need to stop playing with them immediately and leave them alone.

You might be rough and tumbling, tickling them too hard, or other things, but animals like humans can get fed up with certain things, and this is how they will tell you. They might nip at you and bite if you do not.

So the best thing to do is stop. 

Once you have stopped, move away. Don’t be angry back at them, you never want to lose your pet’s devotion or confidence in you.

Ferrets like Most Pets Communicate Vocally

If you’ve had any other pets, from cats to dogs to horses and hamsters, you do get to know their needs and the noises they make, and ferrets are no different. 

Often when finding out what noise means, it is the context that is important. 

Ferrets in sawdust

Context, context, context 

If you hear a hissing ferret, but he is playing happily, then do not worry about it.

If you check up on your ferret, and he looks upset and things are not quite right, you will know this is angry or upset hissing. You will know what to do from here.

Ferrets can be persistent too, so don’t worry, they will let you know by continuing to make a certain noise until you deal with it. 

What Other Sounds Do Ferrets Make? 

If you have asked this question, you are quite right to do so. Simply because ferrets make a myriad of sounds. So what are the sounds? How do they sound? 

Some easy to spot sounds are:

  • Dooking 
  • Barking
  • Squeaking
  • Coughing 
  • Whimpering
  • Snoring
  • Teeth Grinding

Dooking 

Dooking is a delightful sound, meaning your ferret is ready to play, so hopefully, you are too.

It sounds like a deep chuckle in the base of their belly, and is quite rapid. Some say it sounds like machine-gun fire!

If a ferret is dooking, get ready for a great play session. If your ferret doesn’t dook that much, don’t worry. Like humans, each ferret expresses itself a little differently. 

Barking 

A ferret’s bark is more like the chirp of a bird. High pitched and fast.

They will do this for several reasons.

Perhaps they are bored and are trying to get your attention, or you are doing something they do not like. Some ferrets, for example, don’t mind bathtime others not so much, so they might chirp all the way through.

Again, it is a context thing. In this case, just gently finish his bath and soothe him along the way. 

Squeaking 

Squeaking is sort of like another form of dooking. A pitched playful squeak can often be heard when ferrets are playing together.

Which by the way, is so fun to watch.

Their long bodies entwined as they roll around together playing, which might be interjected with squeaks of delight!

Squeaking is generally a positive sound, they can even squeak with delight when they catch sight of you. A huge compliment indeed.

Coughing 

Coughing normally is high-pitched and slightly hoarse.

This is not something to ignore. Ferrets have very vulnerable respiratory tracks, and if they are coughing, this could mean they are ill. [Source]

The best thing to do is take them to the vet. It is always better to be safe than sorry if anything should happen to them.

You also don’t want other ferrets to become unwell either. So remove this ferret from the others until you have gotten to the bottom of why he is coughing.

It could be something simple, as in a substrate they hate the smell of more serious things. 

Whimpering 

Whimpering is a sort of short and guttural sound. If a ferret is whimpering, check on them to see if they are OK.

Mostly whimpering is simply a way of getting your attention for cuddles, or even snacks.

If you ignore whimpering all together, it could make your pet not trust his environment, meaning he cannot count on you for cuddles, so he might go off you! [Source]

Ferrets are a little like babies and need nurturing and understanding. In return, you will get tons of rewards in loves and cuddles, as well as fun and games. 

Snoring 

A snoring ferret is generally a happy ferret.

This is a noise of pleasure, often heard when they are getting lots of cuddles and strokes.

They can also snore whilst fast asleep, all tucked up in their fleece blanket!

Teeth Grinding 

Teeth grinding sounds just as it is called, tiny little teeth being ground together but quickly.

Some ferrets do this often after eating food. It is a way of ‘flossing’ their teeth!

Other ferrets will do this when they are not well. So again, you will have to be mindful of the context to know what to do next. If you suspect your ferret is unwell, take them to the vet. 

Is all this noise too much?  

Perhaps you have read this and now think that ferrets are very noisy, when in fact they are not at all.

They will only really make these noises when they need something. Cuddles, food, warmth or heat, and sometimes if they are just simply bored. 

There are ways to make your ferrets calmer at night, like for example, making sure their bedding is adequate and that they get good exercise during the day.

You can also make sure they do not sleep in your room either! Just in case they get playful in the middle of the night.

The good news is that they can sleep up to 20 hours a day, and probably will not make that much noise unless they need something.

Their sleep is a little sporadic, and they can over time get into sync with your sleeping habits. 

Summary 

Ferrets make noises, just as we humans do. They do it to communicate how they are feeling, either to us or to each other. It’s a very natural thing. The best thing about their very specific noises is that we get to know them better and have a better relationship with our pets. 

Part of looking after a pet correctly is to get to know them well. This includes the foods they eat, the homes they love and the noises they make. 

Always double-check the context as well as the noise. In general, for example, a hissing ferret is said to be angry, but he could also be playing at being angry. They after all more intelligent than we give them credit for!

Barry Gray

Barry is a freelance writer from Scotland. He has written about pets for over a decade, and his work has been turned into a range of ebooks, courses, and material for diplomas. Barry is passionate about all animals, but particularly dogs, fish, rabbits, birds and spiders. You can find out more about Barry at https://mercurypets.com/our-writers/

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