How long does a ferret live? What life expectancy?


Ferrets are NACs (new pets) that are on the rise. If you have chosen to host one in your home, you may be wondering how long you are going to be around.

What is the life expectancy of the ferret?

The ferret is known to live between 7 and 9 years old on average. But this average eliminates the difference that we observe between ferrets according to their origin.

In fact, there are sectors with little respect for animal welfare which sell animals from intensive farming. You usually find them sold as “American ferrets”. It is a trade name that has no scientific basis and which ultimately refers more to the nationality of a company known for these practices: Marshall Farms.

In the eyes of a novice, they have something to seduce because they are sold “turnkey”: vaccinated, sterilized, and even deglanded. However, in Europe, since 2004, the removal of glands for a reason other than curative, that is to say other than to treat a disease, is an intervention prohibited by the European Convention for the protection of animals. In addition, sterilization performed too early is almost always the cause of cancer. However, in the United States, ferrets are sterilized before they have reached 2 months of life.

These are more fragile ferrets, for which no selection work specific to the profession of breeder has been done. Consanguinity is very widespread there. In addition, ferrets are reared in an intense light atmosphere, able to stimulate the sexual characteristics of animals and therefore their reproduction, but certainly not the rest which is so important for their biological balance. So these poor animals develop more than the animals. others diseases tumors and endocrine which shorten their life expectancy: they often die at the age of 5 years.

Ferret sterilization and life expectancy

Sterilization is an operation that seems to have a strong impact on the ferret’s life expectancy. An unsterilized ferret can quite hope live 10 years. So is this intervention compulsory? The problem arises differently between the male and the female.

On the female side, sexual maturity is reached between 7 and 10 months. The behavior of the animal changes during the heat which spreads from spring (end of February / March) to the end of summer (August). The vulva grows and the hair becomes fatter and smells stronger. The ferret becomes much more cuddly. This period of reproduction is special because it only ends if the female ovulates. However, there is ovulation only if there is protrusion. If you do not want to breed your female ferret, there is no other option but to sterilize her, otherwise the estrogen level in the blood will continue to rise until it leads to hair loss and anemia which lead to a certain death if nothing is done. If the ferret is already in bad shape, it is necessary to start by treating it. Then it is the removal of the ovaries and the uterus.

On the male side, sexual maturity is reached between 8 and 12 months. From this point on, the ferret is in heat from the beginning of winter (end of November / December) to the end of July. As in the female, the appearance of the male changes. The coat turns yellow, greasy and smells stronger, and the testicles swell considerably. The behavior is also changing: the urine markings multiply, the ferret becomes more aggressive with its possible congeners, and it tries to reproduce with everything that passes within range, even if it is a cat or a stuffed toy.
In males, sterilization does not arise as an alternative to death. But the owner of a male ferret must consider whether or not he is able to endure invasive behavior for more than half the year. Obviously in a family context and not professional, it is not bearable.
However, surgical sterilization, which is carried out on an animal aged at least 6 months, is deemed to promote the occurrence of adrenal gland tumor within the following 3 years. A alternative exists: the hormonal implant placed under the skin under light sedation. However, it is not definitive, unlike surgery, a new implant having to be placed 1.5 to 2 years after the previous one.

Some veterinarians believe that they do not yet have enough hindsight to estimate the real duration of effectiveness of an implant in females and prefer to resort to the operation, given the risks involved.

When the ferret ages

A ferret becomes old, reaches the equivalent of our 3rd age, around the age of 7 years. Just like with us, it is experiencing a sharp decline in its activity. The animal becomes much less dynamic and observes longer sleep times.

Like any old animal, including humans, the joints become less flexible and it becomes necessary to adapt the environment, to facilitate access to the litter or to the tray in which it is cleaned. His diet should be changed according to his state of health. And the visit to the veterinarian will consist of screening for a possible insulinoma, a tumor in the pancreas, through the analysis of the blood sugar level.

Secure the home to ensure a long life for your ferret

Beyond the care that must be provided to the ferret, it is important to ensure its safety.

The ferret loving to take refuge in unlikely places, it is necessary to start checking the washing machine, the dishwasher, the refrigerator, the freezer or the dryer before closing them and starting them. You need to get into the habit of inspecting the place where you sit as your sleeping ferret may be there.

Sponges, gums, shoe soles, plasticine, etc., all spongy or elastic materials that ferrets love to chew on, at the risk of swallowing them and causing intestinal blockages, should be placed out of their reach. The soap they like to lick also meets this rule. In small amounts the problems will be limited to simple diarrhea, but in larger amounts the problem will be more serious.

Toys must grow with their size. Ferrets do not necessarily realize that a hole they passed through when they were little can turn into a dangerous trap. Plastic bags are also potential pitfalls.

In short, to ensure a long life for your ferret, you will have to be as inventive as him and anticipate all the “silly things” he might think of before him!

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