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We can't deny – babies are adorable! Little ferret? so cute!
Ferret babies are usually born in a litter of 4-8. The first few weeks of life are unstable as it can be difficult to hand feed the baby if something goes wrong. They start eating meat at 3½ to 4 weeks of age and are adoptable at 8 weeks of age.
Whether you're thinking of adopting your own pup or just curious about these interesting animals, find out more below. We'll discuss everything about ferret kits, from birth to placing the baby ferret in your home.
What do you call a little ferret?
Young ferrets are called kits until they are a year old. Intact males are called hobs and females are called jills. Neutered males are gibs, while neutered females are sprites.
How many babies do ferrets have at one time?
Ferrets have an average of 4-8 pups. Some Jills give birth to only one pup, while others may have as many as fourteen in the same litter! An average litter size is ideal since female ferrets only have five to nine teats. There can only be so many pups to feed at one time, so Jill, who gives birth to a large number of pups, will move some pups behind her to force them to take turns nursing.
If you're caring for little Jill and her pups, be sure to weigh the pups regularly to make sure they're gaining weight. Jill with a litter that is too small may stop producing milk and you will have to hand feed all her pups. Depending on the age and size of the kit, this may be difficult or impossible to do. We recommend that you consult your veterinarian if you notice insufficient milk production from the mother or insufficient kit weight gain.
What do baby ferrets eat?
Young ferrets are suckled by their mothers. Unfortunately, if Jill stops producing milk or doesn't get enough of the baby supplies, it could mean the death of the baby. They are difficult to hand feed at such a young age.
Weaning begins between three and a half and four weeks. The pups were fed mushy foods such as ground meat, broth-soaked kibble, and soft kitten food. Kits start out as messy eaters, much like human babies. However, they are quick learners and it only takes them a few days to master this new skill! Kits are fully weaned at 6 weeks and lose their deciduous teeth at 10 weeks.
Ferrets cannot digest non-meat foods such as fruits, vegetables and grains. Their food should be free of these fillers and contain good amounts of protein, fat and fatty acids.
Unfortunately, pet stores are allowed to sell items such as food and treats for animals that are not suitable for them. This makes it vital that you do your research to keep your pup healthy. Checking the ingredient list is the first order of business. Look for meat that is listed as the first ingredient and lacks the fillers listed above.
At what age can a ferret baby leave its mother?
Newborn ferrets are dependent on their mother for everything from nursing to potty use! She seems to take the job seriously and knows when a kit is missing. Of course, not all ferrets make great mothers – but many are even willing to care for another ferret's pups without issue.
Ferrets begin the weaning process at three and a half weeks of age and are fully weaned at six weeks of age. They are ready to leave their mother and siblings at eight weeks of age. They must spend this time with their mother and siblings, unless this is absolutely impossible, such as in the case of orphans.
Never buy a ferret from a breeder who allows you to adopt within eight weeks – it shows that they are not a reputable breeder who cares more about profit than the health of the ferret.
How much does a baby ferret cost?
The cost of a ferret depends on where you adopt it. You'll find many people relocating their ferrets for free, while rescues and shelters often charge $50 to $150 for adoption. This helps them continue to adopt and care for animals. Reputable breeders charge as much as $100-500.
These costs double if you don't already own ferrets – they are social animals and must be kept in pairs or herds. Under no circumstances should you adopt a ferret from a pet store. Most large chains buy their ferrets from Marshall, a ferret factory that mass-produces them. They are not transparent about their breeding behavior, almost because the ferrets in their care are not well cared for. Animal factories only care about profit, not the welfare of animals.
Ferret farms are the reason so many ferrets in the US are unhealthy and live shorter lives than ferrets bred overseas. Even with a small chain pet store, you can't get a proper vetting of the breeders. Don't trust the pet store to do the right thing — instead, find a reputable breeder yourself, or adopt from a rescue or shelter. You'll know a breeder is reputable if they have a waiting list, charge a lot (the cheaper the better for a breeder!), and know the animal inside and out.
Ferret breeding can be dangerous for the ferrets involved, especially if the breeder is inexperienced. A number of complications can arise, including the death of Jill who did not breed in season. A reputable breeder should allow you to see where the ferret pups and parents are housed, provide enough free-roaming space for their ferrets, and produce copies of veterinary paperwork, including vaccination records.
Of course, the money spent on your ferret is only the beginning. Even $500 seems like a steal once all the other costs add up!
Startup costs for ferrets include:
- large multi-tiered cage
- Carrier for bringing your ferret home and for future veterinary appointments and travel
- toys and other enrichment items
- Water and food bowls (not water bottles)
- High Quality Ferret Food
- A shallow litter box large enough for your ferret to stand fully
- Ferret-safe litter (not clay or caked litter!)
- bedding for ferret cage
- Veterinary examination of each ferret
- Vaccinations (your breeder should have provided a distemper vaccine, but your ferret will need to be vaccinated against rabies at 12 weeks of age)
- Spaying or neutering your ferrets (if they haven't already been)
Lifetime fees include:
- High Quality Ferret Food
- ferret safe litter
- Abundant items to keep your ferret happy
- Cleaning supplies, including detergent for bedding
- Replace toys, bedding, and other items worn or damaged by destructive chewing
- routine veterinary care
- Emergency veterinary care (savings or pet insurance)
Remember that ferrets must see an exotic pet veterinarian, not a dog and cat veterinarian. Because they are specialists, exotic pet veterinarians are usually more expensive.
Before bringing your ferret home, find a veterinarian who specializes in exotic animals. That way, you know there is one in your area, and you can give your ferret the best life possible.
Emergency care is also recommended ahead of time. Call an emergency veterinarian near you to see if they have treated ferrets, as some don't, and save their phone number and address in your phone. You'll thank yourself in future emergencies!
How do you bond with baby ferrets?
One of the first things you should do before adopting a ferret is learn their body language. This will help you develop a good relationship with them.
Reading Ferret Body Language
Some things to keep in mind include:
- Happy, playful ferrets will be on the lookout. They may run, jump, pounce, and act stupidly. "Dooking" is the wonderful sound made by a happy ferret. Your ferret may run after you, or playfully back away inviting you to run after them!
- Begging ferrets may stare at you until you give them what they want, like playtime or a treat. If they're hungry too, they might play bowls!
- A frightened ferret may cower, hide, hiss, or yell.
- Sick or injured ferret lying flat with eyes squinting. They may sleep more often, become lethargic, or simply act differently from their everyday selves.
Bonding with Your New Ferret
Next, you need to give your ferret at least six hours of free-roaming time each day. This is necessary for ferrets throughout their life and will help you bond with them as well. During free roam, you can let your ferrets follow you around, get them involved in what you're doing (such as talking to them or having them around), and play with them!
Play is very important to ferrets and you should spend about two hours a day playing with them. Try toys on sticks, like cat stick toys; things you can throw, like balls; and tunnels to satisfy their burrowing instincts. When you first get to know your pup, give them treats so they can interact with you well. It could be smelling your hands or playtime without biting. This helps your ferret connect you with good things.
Training your ferret will also help the two of you bond. You'll be proud of your ferrets when they get it right, and they'll love the attention from start to finish, and the compliments and treats at the end! Start with litter training, as this is very important for ferrets. You can then enter the cage on command, allowing you to touch their feet to trim their nails, or even use less practical tricks like turning over on command.
One-on-one training is best when your ferret is at a moderate energy level. He should have played outside of the cage for a while first, but not enough to get him ready for a nap.
Remember to keep your training sessions active and short. Never punish your ferret by yelling, hitting or kicking – it will sour your relationship and not have any positive side. Your ferret will not learn anything through harsh punishment or abuse!
Growth: Stages of Ferret Development
|over 10 months
Ferret babies are born defenseless and have no vision, hearing or teeth. They will make noises and often "talk" to mom if they are too far away from mom or if they are hungry. They are already quite active at this age, wriggling a lot and eating every few hours. But, they also sleep a lot!
Four weeks old is a huge milestone for kits. They now have baby teeth and can eat solid food. They can also use the bathroom independently and should start littering training. At four to five weeks old, ferrets also open their eyes and gain hearing. They also start playing, although they will be clumsy and slow at first!
Kits are ready to adopt at eight weeks of age. They are fully grown between 6 and 10 months, but are considered pups until they are a year old.
Ferret Health Concerns
Pet store kits tend to have more health problems because they were not bred responsibly. Things to look for include:
- ear mites
- eye condition
- prolapsed rectum
- respiratory infection
- epidemic catarrhal enteritis
It is very important to monitor your ferret well and have it checked frequently for health. Look for behavioral changes, rapid weight loss or gain, coat and skin health, discharge from the eyes, nose, or ears, sleeping patterns, and littering habits. The droppings of our ferrets can also tell us a lot about them. Note the normal shape and size so you know if it looks unusual.
Finally, blindness and deafness are common in poorly bred ferrets. Blind ferrets may have difficulty adapting to changes in their environment. The fur of deaf ferrets is usually white with black eyes or a panda or striped pattern. Fortunately, ferrets are not too dependent on their vision. However, their hearing is more developed.
Ferrets can be both blind and deaf, and it's not a major health concern for them – it just needs some getting used to!
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about the author
I'm an animal writer for four years with a focus on educational pet content. I wish our furry, feathered and scaly friends the best care! In my free time, I'm usually outside gardening or spending time with my nine rescue pets.
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