questions about ferrets and health issues from around
the world, in answer to a much often asked question
about BREEDING FERRETS, the following is an article
I wrote for a new Canadian magazine, PET TALK.
or Not to Breed - That is the question...
are so tiny", most people exclaim when they first
see a newborn ferret! Wiggly, pink, naked and blind
and no larger than your 'pinky'! As they wiggle and
squirm it is hard to tell just how many babies, called
kits, have been born. Poor mother is trying her hardest
to keep all of them tucked into the neat little circle
she has formed around them, to keep them warm. She
will leave them only when she needs to eat.
may be thinking of breeding ferrets just to see what
it is like, to experience the wonders of birth, or
perhaps as a hobby, or business. There are some things
you might want to consider before taking on such a
1) -How many ferrets do you think might
be born and do you have homes for them? Whilst an average
litter may be 7 kits, there may also be 12 kits born
and therein lies a problem. If they should all survive,
will you have that many friends who will want a ferret
2) -At birth there may be complications,
will you be there to make sure mother and babies are
okay? We had a ferret named Snowflake who produced
12 babies in her first litter, they were all tangled
together in their umbilical cords, what a mess! My
husband had to tie thread around the cords of each
one, while I held on to the squirming mass of tangled
bodies. Then he precariously severed them apart with
scissors, a nerve racking job for both of us, a false
move would have been deadly! ALL 12 kits survived!
3) -Will you have the time to help the
mother with her babies if necessary, she only has 7
workable teats for feeding and therefore her kits may
need supplemental feeding? Also she may develop mastitis,
if so, she will develop hard lumps under her breasts
which will need immediate attention from a knowledgeable
Snowflake was a wonderful mother, rotating
her babies at feeding time and all 12 grew up to be
fine healthy kits. However her second litter produced
11 kits, only 8 survived after another entangled mess.
This time Snowflake developed mastitis when the kits
were 10 days old and it now meant intervention by us
if we were to keep the kits alive.
It was exhausting
work, we started by putting the kits into a warm box,
then having another box of the same temperature to
transfer each one as we fed it, so we would know who
had been fed.
Until about 3 weeks of age the kits need
stimulus to defecate, normally the mother licks each
kit to produce the desired results, however that did
not appeal to me. Instead as each kit was fed, I would
take a warm, wet cotton ball and gently wipe the genitals
until nature took it's course! "Fun" you
might say, but not every 2 hours around the clock!
4)-At about 3-4 weeks kits need handling
a great deal, we call it 'humanizing', will you have
the time? Since ferrets are predators their normal
play or behavior is a learning period for them, to
practice on each other how to attack, to get ready
to kill their prey. It is important therefore to intercept
that behavior, to prevent them from biting as they
mature. They must learn the difference between their
siblings extremely hard and impenetrable skin and our
thin, tender skin!
This is a time of great reward as
you see the kits develop their own personalities, you
may become so attached to these curious, loving and
extremely playful little beings that you will not want
to give them away, now you are faced with a real dilemma!
There is more to consider before breeding,
especially the responsibilities we bear for producing
living creatures with needs similar to those of our
own and being prepared to find them 'forever homes'
with people who will care and protect them.
give every thought and concern whether, to breed or
rather 'not to breed'