Ferret behaviour and welfare in Australia

16 MAY 2012

The rising popularity of ferrets as pets in Australia has led a CSU student to search for more answers about their behaviour and welfare.

The rising popularity of ferrets as pets in Australia has led a Charles Sturt University (CSU) student to search for more answers about their behaviour and welfare.
 
Bachelor of Animal Science (Honours) student Ms Sarah Talbot will survey ferret owners across Australia and examine the links between housing, handling, enrichment, fearfulness and behaviour in order to identify the specific requirements of ferrets.
 
“This will be the first large scale survey undertaken in Australia to study ownership, husbandry standards and behaviour of ferrets and will hopefully lead to further research being done on this animal,” said Ms Talbot, from Lakes Entrance in Victoria.
 
“Ferrets are inquisitive carnivores that form strong rewarding bonds with their carers and their popularity as a companion animal is growing in Australia.
 
“They require knowledgeable handling and appropriate housing facilities, otherwise behavioural problems can arise, yet there is little available information on how best to keep them.
 
“Currently there are no specific guidelines regarding the keeping of ferrets and what housing they require. Due to their complex behaviour, such guidelines are necessary in order to promote good welfare in this animal.
 
“Most people don’t realise that ferrets are actually highly intelligent and require a considerable amount of exercise.
 
“A lack of exercise and restricted housing can result in behavioural problems such as hyperactivity and aggression.”
 
One of Ms Talbot’s supervisors, Dr Skye Wassens from the School of Environmental Sciences at CSU in Wagga Wagga said, “This survey will be critical in developing best practice guidelines to inform current and future ferret owners”.
 
Legislation covering the keeping of ferrets varies throughout Australia; a licence is required in the ACT and Victoria yet no licence is required in NSW or Western Australia.
 
“The legislative inconsistencies provide an opportunity to examine if legislation concerning the keeping of companion animals has a measurable impact on animal welfare,” said Dr Raf Freire, Coordinator of Honours Studies in the University’s School of Animal and Veterinary Sciences.  
 
The online survey is open to all ferret owners. It is available here.  

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