Basic ferret facts

NAC Magazine

You can find further information in my ferret articles for NAC Magazine:

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Zoology

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Ferrets belong to the Mustelidae family, like stoats, martens and badgers. This masked bandit was domesticated 2500 years to hunt rabbits and rodents. His wild ancestor is the European polecat (Mustela putorius putorius)
Even if ferrets were already popular as pets during the European Renaissance Era, they began spreading in homes exponentially in the 80’s and 90’s. For centuries, ferrets were bred as fur bearing animals, and they’re still bred as lab animals by large pets mills.

Nutrition

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Ferrets are obligate carnivores, like cats.

They rely on lipids for energy (whereas us humans use carbohydrates) and need large amounts of animal sourced proteins.
Ferrets prove unable to thrive on a kibble diet: cereal-based dry foods don’t contain enough animal proteins and fat, and contain too many carbohydrates. On the long run, a dry diet can cause renal failure and insulinoma (pancreas cancer).

The best possible ferret diet is a raw, prey-based diet. Another possibility is to feed your ferret raw reciped. The French vet Géraldine Blanchard uploaded some interesting recipes on her website: Le BARF qui marche pour le furet

Behaviours

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Ferrets are kleptomaniac, curious animals who can make a disaster out of the smallest things ! They need a large cage for nightime, such as a Ferret Nation.
However, ferrets don’t belong in cages and need to roam the house for at least 3 hours/day. Your house must absolutely be ferret proofed in order to prevent accidents and poisoning.

Ferrets can be litter trained, as well as harness trained for outdoor walks.
While being rather silent animals, they sometimes let out funny, surprising sounds: when excited, ferrets let out a cackling sound known as « dook« . They use it to express playfulness, curiousity, and joy !

Intelligence

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Ferrets are highly intelligent animals, who can solve complex problems such as opening their own cages and finding a way up your furnitures.
Their incredible curiousity and taste for novelty (neophilia) often draws them to dangerous objects, like rubber joints, sponges or detergent bottles.
This is why your house must absolutely be ferret proofed.

Health

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Like dogs, ferrets must be vaccinated against Distemper disease and rabies.
Distemper disease is a major heath hazard to all ferrets, even the indoor ones. You should always keep your ferrets vaccinated to avoid a slow, painful death.

Aleutian disease is another extremely dangerous illness. It remains in an asymptomatic phase for several years before the symptoms appear. During these years, the infected ferret is still contagious and is very dangerous for her counterparts. This incurable disease makes the immune system ineffective, leaving the ferret vulnerable to many opportunistic infections, pretty much like AIDS does.
As equally dangerous, ECE (epizootic catarrhal enteritis) is a disease whose main symptoms are green and slimy diarrhea, weight loss and weakening. This infection exists in two forms: a digestive version, and a systemic version which is extremely difficult to identify. In both cases, the vital prognosis of the ferret is threatened.
Please avoid ferret encounters as they can spread these serious diseases.

Breeding

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Think carefully before you get into a litter!
If a jill (female ferret) is left in heat for more than a month without mating, she can develop a severe anemia and die. As time passes, the high level of estrogen in the blood stream continues to grow, which ends up damaging the bone marrow: this is called hyperoestrogenism.
Even if hobs (male ferrets) don’t have the same issue, their breeding season isn’t the nicest moment: during season, their body odour becomes very strong; their fur becomes greasy, they urinate everywhere…
Ferrets with white markings ot the face (deafness due to Waardenburg syndrom) and angora females (no milk production) should not be bred.
Let’s not forget that a litter can have up to 12 kits (babies), which means significant costs in terms of time and money!
If your wish is to have a pet ferret, two options for sterilization are available: surgery and a contraceptive implant (Suprelorin).

Any question ?

Contact us and/or take a look at our articles in NAC Magazine !