Important Information for Ferret Owners
Ferrets are becoming an increasingly popular pet in the UK. They live for 8-10 years and come in a variety of colours, such as albino, polecat, champagne, cream, and many more combinations. If ferrets are handled from a young age they become quite used to humans and can become very good companions.
Ferrets need constant access to fresh drinking water as they drink quite a lot. They are strictly carnivores – they cannot be vegetarians. Ferrets have a high metabolism so feeding them ad-lib is preferable to feeding one or two meals a day. They require a food that has a high level of good quality meat protein and fat but that is relatively low in fibre. They can be fed a meat based diet of dry pellets, but sometimes mixing with a little water can make them easier to eat for younger ferrets.
Ferrets are usually quite social animals and many ferrets enjoy company of another ferret though some will prefer to live on their own. Remember if you have more than one ferret, you need to ensure that there is adequate space in their living environment for them both to have their own space, but also mix if they would like. If you are mixing the same sex of ferret, please bear in mind that un-neutered ferrets can display aggressive behaviour towards each other and mixing males and females can result in un-wanted litters. Please see the neutering options below to decide which is best suited to your ferret.
Ferrets can be neutered from 6 months.
Jills – females
Female ferrets are induced ovulators and must be mated in order to ovulate. This means if a Jill is not mated she will remain in season for several months. They can suffer from weight loss and also bone marrow suppression due to the oestrogen levels. This can lead to a life threatening anaemia. There are a few options available to prevent these dangerous problems:
- Suprelorin hormonal implant-This is injected in the scruff of the neck and is usually done every 18 months to 2 years. It is not a permanent solution. It reduces the production of certain hormones resulting in a chemical neutering. This is recommended as being the best option.
- The “Jill Jab”- This is a hormonal injection and will delay oestrus for several months. It is usually given at the start of the mating season.
- Neutering-This is the removal of the ovaries and uterus under a general anaesthetic. There has been increasing concern relating to adrenal disease as a result of neutering in ferrets and it is going out of favour.
- Allow the Jill to mate and have a litter. (Remember – baby ferrets need homes!)
- Allow the Jill to mate with a vasectomised male which will end oestrus without producing a litter.
Hobbs – Males
- Suprelorin Implant- This is the same principle as in females and is the preferred option. It reduces the male sex hormones.
- Castration-This is the removal of both of the testicles under a general anaesthetic. As with females this is going out of favour due to links with adrenal disease.
Ferrets are susceptible to Canine distemper which is a highly contagious virus that is fatal in unvaccinated ferrets. Vaccination will consist of regular boosters to ensure protection. This is the only disease that ferrets need to be vaccinated against in the UK. If travelling abroad ferrets are required to be microchipped, vaccinated against rabies and issued with a pet passport.