Are Ferrets Dangerous To Humans? Important Information

Ferrets are the third most popular pet after cats and dogs in the US, with a wild reputation. With many believing ferrets are dangerous, shying away from owning one is understandable.

You might be in that position. Maybe you want a ferret but have changed your mind. But do you really want to put off your dreams without the real facts?

A white ferret behind cage bars | Are Ferrets Dangerous To Humans?

Of course, we aren’t recommending going into the process blind. Ferret ownership is a big commitment, and they aren’t completely danger-free. Like any pet-owning journey, you need to know the dangers in advance.

That’s why this article provides all the detail you need to make up your own mind. If ferrets are dangerous, to what degree should you be concerned? What should you be looking out for?

By the end, you should be able to make up your own mind, clear of persuasion. And be confident in the decision you’re making.

Are Ferrets Dangerous To Humans?

Ferrets are not dangerous to humans. They are highly domesticated animals and can be easily tamed to eliminate vicious behaviors. Though they can spread diseases like rabies to humans, vaccinations are commonly used to eradicate this concern.

Concerns about ferret dangers are largely outdated and based on stereotypes. Even things that are potential dangers, like rabies, are well-controlled in the current domesticated species.

Potentially Harmful Behaviours From Ferrets To Humans

Ferrets causing harm to humans are incredibly rare. It’s even rarer in responsible owners who tame their ferrets early on.

In untamed ferrets or those with health conditions and illnesses, certain behaviors may occur. There are only a couple of things you should look out for, which we will outline below.


Ferrets will bite for many different reasons. It’s one of the key reasons for their vicious reputation.

Most of the time, however, ferret biting isn’t done with the intention of hurting someone else. It can be a sign of an untamed ferret, that is yet to learn the boundaries of its owner.

They may also nip during playtime, but you can teach your ferret that this isn’t acceptable.

If ferret bites do hurt, your ferret probably feels afraid or threatened. Less commonly, it could be a sign of health issues, especially if it occurs in a usually well-tamed pet.

Biting does not make ferrets dangerous. Despite stories of distant family members having fingers bitten off, these stories are actually incredibly rare.

In fact, when these cases do occur, they usually hit national news and it is often found a human has provoked the ferret.

If you are concerned about ferrets biting, ferrets over two years old will usually be tamed out of this behavior. Bonding with your ferret may also prevent its natural instincts to bite.


Digging and burrowing behaviors were natural survival instincts when ferrets were still wild animals. This is why domesticated ferrets have sharp claws, and continue the behaviors to date.

You should trim your ferret’s claws regularly to prevent injury from scratches. It isn’t the easiest task, however. If you are struggling, groomers or exotic vets will often offer these services.

These grooming processes do not harm or hurt the ferret. And it may make handling from humans safer.

Between grooming, you can limit scratches by wearing long sleeves when handling your ferret. You may also want to place the ferret in your lap with a towel underneath it.

Can Pet Ferrets Make You Sick?

Ferrets can also harm humans through the diseases they spread. In fact, it’s probably the biggest danger ferrets pose to humans. This is because ferrets are susceptible to many of the same diseases as humans.

But we can spread these diseases just as easily to our beloved pets as it is to us. As dangerous as it is, it is not their fault.

You can minimize the chances of your ferrets making you sick by taking precautions when they are unwell. You may also want someone else to look after them when you are sick if the option presents itself.


Ferrets can catch human flu viruses, such as influenza, incredibly easily. Although not common, they can spread it to humans; if they didn’t get it from us in the first place!

One research study from 2020 showed an antiviral drug, called Balozavir, can reduce the risk of animals (including ferrets) spreading the influenza virus.

This study focuses on animal-to-animal transmission, but it provides promising results for humans, too. In vulnerable owners, it could be used to limit transmission or remove risks altogether.

However, influenza is usually a mild condition for ferrets and humans. It remains to be seen whether such a drug will be used on a mainstream level in the future.


Rabies is by far one of the biggest concerns for future ferret owners. This disease enters the body through an infected animal bite and is fatal in almost 100 percent of cases.

Ferrets are common carriers of their disease in their ferret state. The risk of them getting it has been reduced in the US, however, as most states require a yearly rabies vaccination to get a ferret permit.

Even without the vaccine, most ferrets are only at risk if they return to their feral state. This only occurs if a ferret escapes their home for long periods, and comes into contact with an infected animal.

Bacterial Diseases

Ferrets can catch bacterial diseases from an unsanitary environment. If you don’t clean their cage regularly, or keep on top of removing feces, their risk increases dramatically.

Ferrets may also be at risk of bacterial diseases if they consume infected food or water, or if it has been left out for too long and grows bacteria.

Once these diseases occur, they commonly spread to humans through their feces, food, and water supply.

You can avoid catching these bacterial infections by washing your hands after handling your ferret, and keeping their environment clean.

Although some ferrets will be fine recovering from a bacterial infection, they can make young or old ferrets particularly unwell.

The most common bacterial infections spread between ferrets and humans include:

  • Campylobacteriosis
  • Salmonella
  • Giardiasis

Final Thoughts

Ferrets are the third most common pet in the US and are less dangerous to humans than originally envisioned. Centuries of misconceptions have left many worried about potential harm, but as this article highlights, the risks are small.

In instances where ferret behavior may be a concern, it can usually be explained by bad owners who have failed to tame their pets. If not, it may be a sign that your pet has a health condition or illness that needs treating.

The area where ferrets may still be dangerous to at-risk humans is in the diseases they spread. The most serious, rabies, can be treated with yearly vaccinations, but the same is not true for all. In instances of the flu, people who are more vulnerable to becoming seriously unwell may want to limit their exposure to ill ferrets.

On the whole, however, ferrets are incredibly great animals and provide lots of companionship to their owners.

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