How to Breed Ferrets: The Ultimate Guide

By Nadine Oraby | 2020 Update

Ferrets are amazing animals to have as pets. They are playful, inquisitive, and intelligent and they would climb all over you if given the chance. Breeding ferrets is another story and it is not very easy. It takes much more than just keeping a male and a female ferret together. If you want to breed your ferret, then you need a lot of knowledge and help from a professional if possible. Also, you need to make sure that the parents as well the babies are healthy.

How to breed ferrets? You need to place the Jill and the Hob together in an enclosed space and then wait for them to mate. The mating process might last days to weeks and may need a multitude of sessions. Separate the two if you think there is any harm done.

Let’s learn how to breed ferrets and what we should do to make it a successful attempt! Read the rest of the article for more information.

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General Overview

The first step in breeding ferrets actually involves selecting the ferrets that you want to breed. Ferrets that have physical health issues or certain unpleasant behavioral traits might pass them on to their offspring. Breeding ferrets that are closely related may also result in the emergence of health issues among the offspring such as deafness and blindness or even problems related to pregnancy such as premature death of the kits or small litters.

If you already have a male and a female ferret, so the best to do is to get them genetically tested to make sure that they are not at all closely related. You could consult your vet regarding genetic testing options and procedures. You also need to take your ferrets to the vet before breeding to make sure that they are in excellent health.

The next step is to see whether the ferrets are ready to mate or not. Ferrets become sexually mature during the first spring after their birth. This will amount to six to eight months of age for male ferrets and about 4 months of age for female ferrets also known as Jills. Spring is actually the ferret breeding season. Ferrets are ready to mate when the temperature gets warmer and the days get longer.

A male ferret when in heat will have testicles that hang lower from its body and become large. The heat cycle of the Hob is known as being in a rut. The Hob will become close to disgusting when it is in a rut, it will begin to urinate everywhere and also mark its territory by secreting oils. Female ferrets, on the other hand, will have a swollen and enlarged vulva when they are in heat.

They are part of the external gentile of the female ferret. You might also notice a watery and pink discharge from the vaginal area of the Jill. When the female and male ferrets are ready to breed, they become smelly and develop greasy skin.

The next step is to place the female ferret with the ale ferret in a cage. Then you have to just sit back and watch the mating ritual take place. You need to understand the fact that the ferret mating process is very aggressive and anything but romantic. The male ferret will bite the female ferret from the back of its head and drag the poor female across the cage. The female ferret might even scream.

The biting might seem like too much to you, but it has a purpose. Biting the female ferret’s neck actually releases a hormone in her body that is important for the stimulation of ovulation; which is the egg production. Female ferrets are called induced ovulators; which means that in order to produce eggs they need to mate.

You need to be patient as the mating process might take anywhere from a couple of hours to several days and it will occur over a multitude of sessions. The violent mating ritual might be disturbing for you and you would want to separate them, but do not do that. The penis of the male ferret is actually curved and it locks the female ferret in place until the mating ritual comes to an end. So you will do more harm than good by separating the two animals.

After the mating process comes to an end, you need to move the female ferret back to its own cage. If the mating was successful, you will notice that the female ferret will begin nesting and gain weight.

She might also begin to pull fur from her tail and her body. Female ferrets are known to make lucking noises when they are pregnant.

The pregnancy of a female ferret becomes apparent after two weeks of successful mating. You can even take the little creature to your vet to get an ultrasound of its belly to be sure.

Some of the ferrets can even mimic pregnancies. They might act as if they are pregnant when in reality they are not. The high levels of hormones released by the body of the female ferret during heat may cause the female ferret to become bloated and look as if she is pregnant.

You need to provide your female ferret with more food as she gets close to delivery as she needs more energy and nutrition. If the mating did not work out, then you can try again.

Female ferrets stay in heat until they mate which can lead to serious health problems such as an infected uterus, anemia and bladder infections. You should breed or spay your female ferret when she is in heat.

Caring for your pregnant female ferret

You need to increase the amount of food that you provide your ferret. The pregnancy of a female ferret typically lasts about 42 days. Giving birth and the pregnancy itself can take a toll on the health of the female ferret’s health. So she needs to consume more proteins and calories to meet her increased energy demands.

You should feed your female ferret dry food since that is a good source of the extra protein that it requires during nursing. You should also feed her high-quality ferret food in order to ensure that it is in optimal health before giving birth.

The diet of a pregnant female ferret should consist of at least 22 percent fat and 35 percent protein. In order to give your pregnant pet more protein, add cooked liver and meat to its diet. A pregnant female ferret that does not get a sufficient amount of food during later stages of its pregnancy is at risk of developing a severe condition called pregnancy toxemia. This is actually an emergency situation in which the vet will need to perform a C section in order to save your female ferret’s life.

The pregnant ferret should also have excess to plenty of fresh clean water. The female ferret needs to drink fresh clean water in order to prepare its body to give birth and nurse. You need to increase your pet’s water intake to about 2 to 3 times its normal water intake.

Remember to put the water in a dish rather than a water bottle as ferrets prefer to drink from dishes. If your female ferret does have enough water, she will not be able to produce enough milk to feed her babies.

Your female ferret can live with your male ferret during the pregnancy; it is very safe. However, two weeks before the female ferret gives birth you need to transfer it to another cage.

Put fresh paper or other safe shavings in its cage. The female ferret will use the shavings as well as the bedding to make a nest. Place the cage in an area that a quiet and warm so that she can stay warm and prepare for the birth. Increase the water and food intake when you move it to the new cage.

Caring for the female ferret after birth

You need to give your female ferret some privacy after it gives birth for at least a week. The female ferrets are known to eat their babies if they get scared or threatened and you definitely do not want that to happen.

You need to be very gentle and provide it with food and water very carefully. Female ferrets may develop mastitis which is mammary gland inflammation and some of the babies might even die after birth. So you need to get a quick look at the mother as well as her babies when you go to place water and food. You need to immediately call the vet if the female ferret does not look well and remove the kits that have died.

Feed your female ferret the same way you fed it when it was pregnant as nor the ferret needs energy for nursing. Continue to feed the little creature two to three times her normal intake. If your ferret has a large litter then she will definitely lose weight no matter how much you feed it. Her caloric demand will obviously be much higher than what she can eat if she has a large litter.

The female ferret will obviously become rather smelly after giving birth; however, you should only change the bedding only to check for abandoned or dead kits. You need to be very stealthy while changing the bedding just like when you put water and food in the cage. If the cage is in an enclosed space, then the smell will become almost unbearable and you need to increase the air circulation in it.

Caring for the ferret babies

When the kits are born they are rather small in size and are completely dependent on their mother. Their ears and eyes are sealed shut and they have a negligible amount of ink fur on their bodies. After about a week after their birth, you can begin to handle them gently, but do keep in mind that they are completely dependent on their mother

The female ferret will be very protective of her kits during the first few weeks, so you need to be very careful. If the female ferret feels threatened in any way, it will end up eating the babies. The kits after their birth are so small that you can easily hold them in the palm of your hand.

As they grow older, you can pick them up from the skin between their head and their body; and grasp the hind legs by the other hand. Try holding the kits for only a minute when you are transferring them to another cage. As they grow older, you can increase the amount of time you hold them for and speak softly to them through the entire process. Remember to never pick up the kits when they are being fed.

After about three weeks since their birth, you can begin to introduce the kits to solid food, they will surely be nursing at this time. You need to soak the food in water before feeding them as they will still have their baby teeth. Try putting the soft food in the refrigerator in order to make it much softer. You can even feed the kits baby food.

Kits are very fussy eaters so you can add kitten replacer milk into their food to make it a little tastier. Always make sure to check the label on the ferret food, the ferret food should be rich in proteins and have little carbohydrates. The protein should be meat-based such as chicken. You should never feed your ferret dog food as it does not have the nutrients that the ferret needs to live. Cat food can be a good alternative for ferrets.

The ferret babies might be weaned when they are about six weeks old. You can start soaking the food in less and less water as by this time the ferrets might begin to grow their adult teeth. A ferret baby will have a full set of adult teeth by the time it is 9 months old.

You should keep in mind that the kits need their mother till they are 12 weeks old. By six weeks they will be able to eat adult food and might be comfortable with being handled by humans, but they still need their mother at that age.

You should take the kits to the vet in order to get checked. The vet will examine each of the kits to make sure that they are healthy and growing well.

The physical examination of the ferret babies will consist of checking for fleas, parasites, ear mites and birth defects. The vet will most probably make treatment recommendations based on the results of the examination of the kits.

The kits will also be given vaccinations, rabies vaccination at three to four months of age and canine distemper vaccine at two to three months of age.

If you are going to put the kits up for adoption, you need to train them in some areas such as training them not to bite and training them to use the litter box. The best way to train kits to use the litter box is to first keep an eye on the area they usually do their business. Then go ahead and place a litter pan in that area and encourage them to do their business in the litter box.

Positive reinforcement will do wonders; try giving them a treat when they use the litter box in the beginning days of the litter training. Use shredded newspaper as litter and try to avoid litters that clump easily and are scented.

Ferrets have very sensitive respiratory systems and litters such as cedar or pine shavings inflict havoc on their systems. Remember to attach the litter to the cage as the ferrets have a habit of playing with everything and may end up kicking the litter box everywhere. Also, make sure that you place a litter box in each corner of the room that ferrets are slowed to roam around in.

Ferrets tend to do their business in areas where they have defecated or urinated before. In order to prevent your ferret from doing their business anywhere else other than the litter box, just immediately clean the area they are going to and then spray it with apple cider vinegar or lime.

Related questions

Why is my ferret going bald? Hair loss in ferrets can be due to many different reasons. Ferrets normally shed their winter coat in the spring and then grow their new summer coat. Just like that, they shed their summer coat in the fall and they grow their winter coat in the winter. Hair loss is also a sign of adrenal gland disease which is one of the most common diseases in adult ferrets. Other signs of the adrenal disease include itchy skin, musky odor and a return of sexual behavior. You should take your ferret to the vet to get a better idea of what’s happening.

How do I get rid of fleas? Fleas are a very common problem among all kinds of pets. Flea removers such as Advantage, Revolution and Frontline can help you get rid of fleas from your ferret. You should also consult with your vet regarding the best treatment. In extreme cases, you might have to quarantine your ferret.

Can ferrets get heartworms like dogs do? Yes just like dogs ferrets can also get heartworms. Ferrets mostly get heartworms from mosquito bites just like other animals. The sad part here is that ferrets have such a small heart that even two heartworms can be deadly for them. Creams such as Advantage Multi, Revolution and oral medications such as interceptor, Heartgard and avermectin can help.

My ferret ate something odd, what should I do? Ferrets have a habit of chewing on carpets, rugs, and furniture and rubber toys. These items can cause blockages in their intestine and you need to immediately take your pet to the vet. Your vet may advise treatment according to what your ferret has ingested and how your little critter is doing. They may advise trying to pass the item with laxative or in extreme cases doing surgery in order to remove the foreign item from the ferret’s body. You need to keep an eye on your ferret after it is let out of the cage.

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