Talbot, S., Freire, R., Wassens, S. 2021. Identifying behavioural traits and underlying personality dimensions in domestic ferrets (Mustela putorius furo). Animals 11(8), 2173.
The aim of this study was to examine the personality structure of domestic ferrets (Mustela putorius furo) by using owner-based reporting of personality traits. A total of 743 ferret owners participated in an online questionnaire, with a total of 1029 ferrets being assessed. Respondents rated 67 adjectives based on their ferret(s) behavioural traits and personality. Principal component analysis (PCA) of these trait ratings identified four underlying personality dimensions, which accounted for 47.1% of the total variance. These were labelled according to the traits that they encompass: Extraversion, Sociability, Attentiveness, and Neuroticism. Details about ferret sex, de-sexing status, age, and coat colour were also sought, and General Linear Mixed Models were used to test the main effects of these characteristics on the personality dimensions. It was found that sex (p < 0.01) and age (p < 0.001) significantly influenced certain personality components, whereas de-sexing did not. Sociability, Attentiveness, and Neuroticism were found to differ based on sex, whereby males were rated as more sociable than females, but females were rated higher on the Attentiveness and Neuroticism subscales. Finally, Extraversion was found to generally decrease with age. We can use the findings of this study to make cross-species comparisons and further inform the discussion regarding the adaptive relevance of animal personality. Identifying differences in personality types can improve welfare by using this information to satisfy the different needs of individuals.