Home Exotic Pets Do Ferrets Have Spines?

Do Ferrets Have Spines?

by Lucy

As far as amazing pets go, look no further than the ferret. You might find it unbelievable, but ferrets are quickly climbing the list of one of the most popular pets to be adopted by exotic pet fans. Now, if you have a pet ferret or are thinking about adopting one in the near future, you will be curious about how ferrets make such amazing climbers, diggers, and leapers.

Some ferret fans believe that ferrets can squeeze into tight corners and use their butts as pillows because they lack a spine. While it’s true that ferrets are so flexible they almost seem like a liquid at times, this is simply untrue.

Do ferrets have spines? Yes, ferrets have a very flexible spine that allows them to twist, bend, and squeeze into things they can fit their heads into with ease. They also have a collapsible ribcage for the same purpose.

Ferrets most certainly have a spine, albeit a very flexible one. But, you couldn’t be more wrong. The backbone of the ferret spans the entire body length. So, without further ado, let’s delve into the matter of ferrets, their superb skills, and their unique anatomy.

Ferret Flexibility

The ferret is undeniably a unique creature. And, yes, if you have a pet ferret, you will have to realize that ferrets do not allow for a single dull moment in their pet guardian’s life. They will keep you laughing for hours at hand with their antics.

But, if you look closely at the body structure of your ferret, you will be nothing short of amazed. Ferrets have a skeletal system that consists roughly of 200 bones. Now, the spine of the ferret is unlike that of humans and most other animals. You see, the skeletal structure of the ferret is divided into three main parts. 

  • Axial: This skull, ribs, vertebrae, and sternum. 
  • Appendicular: The bones of the front arms, rear legs, shoulders, and pelvis
  • Heterotopic: The kneecaps, the fabella in the tendon of the rear legs, and in males, the os penis

Yes, the male ferret has a bone in its penis, also known as the baculum. It is usually 2 inches in length and is often used to determine the age of the male ferret. 

When you look at the vertebral column, you’ll see that the neck is quite long. The seven vertebrae of the neck are longer and more extensive than the chest vertebrae. The thorax, or chest, has 15 vertebrae. The lumbar vertebrae have six vertebrae, and the tail has 18 vertebrae. But the tail is roughly one-third of the entire body. 

And, all of the bones are very flexible, which allows the ferret to go after prey into a tunnel and do a U-turn with its game in its mouth to get out. 

How Are Ferrets So Flexible?

It is common for many people to make assumptions about the anatomy of ferrets. Some people believe that ferrets are so bendy because they don’t have a spine. Yet, the truth is that ferrets are so flexible precisely because of their spines.

The primary purpose of a spine in humans is to protect the spinal cord. And, yes, the backbone of the ferret serves the same purpose, but because ferrets need to traverse through the long, small tunnels of the prey they hunt, the ferret has evolved in such a way that gives it maximum support to hunt for its prey. 

And, the most striking aspect of their anatomy is that their rib cage is collapsible. That is the reason why ferrets can get into the smallest of holes so long as they can get their heads into the hole first. 

Furthermore, if you take a look at the ferret’s head, you’ll realize that Nature has helped it a lot along the way. The skull of the ferret is almost twice as long as it is wide and very flat. Also, the jaws are short and not easily dislocated. 

But, their spine isn’t just flexible. Ferrets have great power on their backs. The muscles along their backs can release a lot of energy. Hence, you see that ferrets are super fast, can jump over high places, and even drag weight thrice their size with their mouth. 

Can Ferrets Break Their Bones?

There is also the myth that because ferrets have such flexible bones that they cannot damage or break them – this is another myth. Any animal with bones, big or small, can break them. And, if you ever go through the many documentaries about ferrets, you’ll learn that ferrets break their bones quite frequently in the wild. 

These adorable creatures are extremely sturdy beings. So, even with their broken bones, ferrets can hunt, and in most cases heal and survive. However, an extensive injury to the spine does take time to heal. And, ferrets then become prey to larger animals if they do not get the chance or time to heal.

If you get the impression that your ferret has hurt itself, it is always best to consult with a vet immediately. And, if you’re wondering how you will know if your pet is injured, then you have to allow your pet to show you. 

Ferrets love to have fun. They are inquisitive creatures. And, they love to go into tight spots and check things out. And, if your furbaby seems to avoid jumping, squeezing into tight holes, and walking a lot in general, then you know you need to head to a vet. 

Do Ferrets Have Any Skeletal Problems?

Ferrets have remarkable skeletal systems, but it is a fallacy to believe that they cannot develop any skeletal ailments. Here are some of the illnesses that can be found in ferrets.

1. Chordoma 

Chordomas are a reasonably common problem in ferrets. A chordoma is a malignant cancer that appears at the tip of a ferret’s tail. However, it can occur in any region of the spinal column. 

When a chordoma appears at the tip of a ferret’s tail, it can be easily treated by amputating the tip of the tail. Yet, when a chordoma is in other areas of the spinal column, then the treatment becomes complicated. Unfortunately, it can sometimes prove fatal or even require euthanasia. 

2. Osteosarcomas 

An osteosarcoma is a malignant cancer of long or flat bones, particularly the humerus of the arm and tibia of the leg. Fortunately, it is a condition that is rare in ferrets. But, osteosarcomas aren’t so easy to treat as it spreads throughout the body too. 

3. Knee Injuries

Knee injuries occur when a ferret manages to tear its carnival cruciate ligament. It is a rare occurrence. But, when a ferret’s foot is stuck, and the lower leg is stuck but the upper leg moves, the tear is inevitable, especially when the ferret tries frantically to free itself. 

In humans, such an injury does require surgery, and ferrets can heal through developing enough scar tissue around the wound to heal. However, if you feel that your ferret has sustained such an injury, it’s best to get it checked by a vet. And, you will also have to make sure that your ferret gets plenty of rest. The idea is to limit your ferret’s movement by confining it to a small area in its cage and not allowing it to jump or squirm into odd shapes to prevent further damage.

4. Elbow Dislocation

Elbow dislocation can be a harrowing experience for your ferret. It is a problem that occurs quite frequently with young ferrets. You see, a young ferret is at a learning stage where it may not be accurate at gauging its strength or the perplexities of the environment. Your ferret may dislocate their elbow when they jump off a high place and land with too much force on their front arms.

Elbow realignment requires surgery if the injury is too deep. In other cases, the elbow can be realigned by a vet putting your ferret under general anesthesia and simply ‘popping’ the elbow back in its place. Either way, your ferret will not enjoy the experience and will need plenty of time to heal.


Indeed, you won’t find as many ferret parents around as you will see feline or canine guardians. But ferrets aren’t regular pets. These extraordinary creatures require a lot more care and attention than your average goldfish or hamster. 

The spectacular thing about trying to create a bond with ferrets is that they are highly intelligent, very friendly, and extremely sociable. Additionally, if you’ve raised your ferret to cuddle, interact, and play with you, then you will have a friend by your side that will provide you with plenty of laughs and warm hugs too. 

However, you will have to shoulder the responsibility of caring for a living being. Ferrets are not high-maintenance pets. But, that never implies that they will not have demands on your time and attention. The upkeep, diet, and well-being of your ferret are all things that you will have to keep a close eye on.

Up Next: How Big Do Ferrets Get?

You may also like

Leave a Comment