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Wow - a weasel! Wouldn't that make the coolest pet ever? If you love animals as we do here at Animal Hearted, you probably want to get to know every one of them up close and personal.
Big, small, wild, tame, young, and old are rare animals that escape your curiosity and attention.
Recently, a ridiculously adorable pet least weasel (Mustela nivalis) named Ozzy has become a viral internet sensation (to the tune of more than 31 million views on YouTube). Ozzy was rescued as a tiny baby, orphaned, and half-dead. Happily, today, he is thriving!
But as Ozzy's owner clarifies, the weasel is a wild species. Wild, as in, illegal to keep as a pet. Or, as Ozzy's owner says (and we quote), "Don't get one. Seriously. Ozzy is a special case rescue baby. Cute, but deadly."
The good news is that wild weasels have an equally cute domestic cousin, the ferret. A ferret IS legal to keep as a weasel pet, and unlike a weasel, a ferret takes to domesticated life quite well.
Ferrets are bigger than weasels but share a similar appearance - a long, sleek body, white bellies, short legs, and a long tail. They also have the same high energy level and playful nature and make great small pets!
Here are 15 things you need to know about weasels:
There are approximately 17 species of wild weasels, of which the long-tailed weasel and the least weasel (aka Ozzy) are the most commonly known and recognized.
Weasels live in North and South America, Asia, and Europe but are notably absent in Africa and Oceania.
The least weasel is the smallest member of the weasel family, often weighing in at 4.5 ounces or less and rarely growing past six inches in length.
This means that not only is the weasel the smallest carnivorous family of mammals on Earth, but the least weasel specifically is the smallest carnivorous mammal on Earth.
Oh, yes. Weasels may look tiny and cute, but they are quite simply ferocious. Size is no object to a hungry weasel and is no reason to hold back when the prey looks delicious.
Rabbits, ducks, rodents, and other small mammals are common weasel targets, even though, on average, each is ten times the size of the predator.
Weasels are so ferocious that even when they've just eaten and are weighed down with food, their killing skills do not diminish. They simply hunt nonstop!
A weasel's small size means he can't hold much prey at one time. This means a weasel has to eat frequently and up to 60 percent of his body weight daily to stay strong and healthy.
This also means weasels are hungry a LOT. The good news is that when a weasel corners its prey, it gets very happy. It even does a war dance (we're not kidding about this one - see for yourself!).
If you thought being a pint-sized, ferocious killing machine was cool, check this out: weasels are cousins of the skunk. This means that weasels are pint-sized, ferocious, and very stinky killing machines.
Like their black and white cousins, weasels can and will deploy targeted stink bombs when they feel cornered (regardless of whether they are!).
Among the best-known endangered members of their species include the black-footed ferret and the long-tailed Florida weasel.
The good news is that wildlife groups are working hard to re-establish and replenish endangered wild ferrets and weasels, and so far, they are having some good luck.
They may not have styrofoam or plastic take-out containers, but weasels do NOT like to be hungry. So, if the killing is good, it will continue even once the weasel is stuffed. This can result in suspicious behaviors like hoarding, at least when they're out in the wild.
While the typical food cache may contain up to 50 dispatched prey carcasses for "later," one Greenland weasel cached 150 lemmings. That is a lot of lemmings!
This is regarded as an urban myth in some circles, but it is quite factual! According to the Minnesota State Department of Natural Resources, the pelage (pelt) of the least weasel will begin to glow a lavender shade when the weasel is exposed to ultraviolet light.
Sadly, a search to discover why this occurs yielded no further fascinating facts, save that for making it easier for scientists to tell least weasels apart from their relatives.
The song "Pop Goes the Weasel" was penned in London during the Victorian era, likely as part of the soundtrack for a music hall performance.
The working theory to date is that the weasel in the song is not the mammal but rather the spoked wheel used by textile workers to measure out thread. The wheel would emit a "pop" sound when the correct length was reached.
The "pop" sound had a helpful side effect of keeping bored, exhausted workers from nodding off on the job, thus incurring the ire of their supervisors.
As Ozzy's videos highlight, a domesticated weasel makes for an entertaining and very cute sidekick. Perhaps this is behind the explosion of the domestic pet weasel - an estimated 8 million ferrets live in 4 million households today.
Not bad for a pet that pretty much didn't exist just a few short decades ago!
It must be nice, right? Members of the weasel family are crepuscular, meaning they get active at dusk and dawn when conditions are very good for hunting prey.
Otherwise, their main hobby is sleeping unless you want to play with them. If so, you can expect your weasel pet to be eager to join you.
Even the domesticated ferret is still a carnivorous predator, so their presence may put other family pets at risk. Birds, rodents, kittens, rabbits, puppies, and other household pets up to 10 times a weasel's size may be considered prey, even if the weasel is not hungry.
And since pet weasels are small and very low to the ground, they can be easily stepped on or rolled over by babies and young children. This may cause a weasel to bite in self-defense.
Some types of pets, such as reptiles, carry bacteria or diseases, making them a poor pet choice for pregnant women or families with small children whose immune systems are less robust.
But ferrets are neither more nor less safe than the family dog or cat in terms of being disease carriers. It is just important to proceed with caution to make sure the new weasel will fit in well with the rest of the existing family.
Weasels in the wild are mostly solitary mammals. But ferrets in captivity are highly social, and they thrive in groups.
This doesn't mean you need to get two weasels, especially if you plan to be home often during the hours your weasel will be awake and wanting to play. But it can be very helpful to have two weasels when you cannot be a companion so your weasel won't be alone.
Pet weasels are incredibly observant, active, and intelligent. When they're not sleeping, the average pet weasel wants to do whatever they see you doing.
This can be great fun even when doing boring things like sweeping the floor. Just add a weasel, and sweeping won't be boring anymore!
In summary, having a weasel for a pet (a ferret) is not the right choice for everyone. But for many working adults today, a weasel is about the most perfect pet you could ever find.
You weasel will sleep all day while you're at work. When you get home, exhausted from the day, and ready to have fun, your pet weasel will just wake up and be eager to eat, socialize, play, and explore.
You won't ever have to worry about your weasel getting anxious because you are gone since those hours will be productively used for napping.
Suppose you are currently renting a home or apartment. In that case, most landlords are perfectly happy to have a tenant with a weasel that stays in a cage during the day (this is also safer for your pet, just in case they get into any area of the house they can't easily get out of!).
Finally, when you have a pet weasel, you can make your pet a Facebook page and post cute videos on YouTube to entertain other weasel lovers.
This can help your social life and give you and your precious pet weasel your fun 15 minutes of fame.
After a few days with your new weasel, you may soon forget what life was like before your cute furry sidekick came home to stay! Check out our amazing rescue shirts to show your love for these cute animals.
Yes, as long as you are giving him or her enough stimulation.
Since they are strictly carnivorous, food should be limited to a high-protein diet. There are certain feeds available that are designed specifically for these pets.
Certain endangered species of weasels are illegal to be kept as pets.