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Ferret's Tail Stands On End

A ferret owner wonders why the fur and tail on one of her ferret's always stands on end before he gets out of his cage.

By Ailigh Vanderbush
Posted: April 1, 2008, 5 a.m. EST

Q: My one ferret (we have four) Nipper is very quiet most of the time, but when he first gets out of his cage for his daily house romp every hair on his body and tail stands straight up. Is this normal, and what is he trying to say?

A: This is my favorite part of living with ferrets, the bottlebrush tail. An excited, scared or exploring ferret will seem to burst with emotion, and it shows in its tail. The official name for this is piloerection, but ferret owners call it bottlebrush tail because the tail resembles the brush used to clean a bottle. I would describe it as fluffy and prickly as the hair on their tail stands on end.

Unless something is causing your ferret to be nervous or upset, then he is expressing his excitement at being able to explore outside his familiar cage.

Your question made me wonder why excitement or nervousness causes this reaction, after all there doesn’t seem to be a practical reason for it. A ferret with a bottlebrush tail looks larger and animals often attempt to look bigger than they are to scare off a predator. The same reaction that causes the tail hair to stand on end when scared, also causes the same reaction when excited.

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Ferret's Tail Stands On End

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Reader Comments
=) if i touch my kudas tail she wil do it almost everytime to stand straight up! its adorable
jill, wpg, MB
Posted: 2/1/2010 11:56:05 AM
My girl Snickers will bottlebrush almost every time out. I did some experimenting and found out it was related to using fabreeze on the carpet. Apparently, when I use it, she bottlebrushes for a while and then has to rub her scent all over the rug. When I don't use it, she'll play normally. A couple of the others will bottlebrush if I miss a day of letting them out as well, and then every few months at bath time they all bottlebrush.
Elizabeth, Pittsburgh, PA
Posted: 9/7/2008 12:10:35 PM
I love the bottle brush tail! It's funny to see how excited they are when something new is in front of them.
Kate, Oakland, RI
Posted: 5/16/2008 2:36:15 PM
Two of my 'kids' do the same thing when they first get let out of their house. It's so cute and looks so funny. They get 'normal' after a few minutes and continue their romping and scampering. They also do the 'bottle brush tail' thing after they've had a bath and they're rolling in towels and diving under the rug.
Barbara-mama to six, Sioux Falls, SD
Posted: 4/29/2008 7:08:46 PM
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