(c) Ferret Info UK

Ferret facts

Ferret profile

  • Latin Name: Mustela putorius furo
  • Sexing: Useful photo guide (showing how to tell the difference between Males/Females and whether netured or not)
  • Female: Is called a jill

    •   A spayed female is called a jill or sprite
      • Male: A full/unneutered male is called a hob or Jack

        •   A vasectomized male ferret is called a hoblet
            A castrated or neutered male ferret is called a Hobble or Gib
          • Young: Are called kits when they are less than 9 months old.
          • Life Span: 5 – 11 years (domesticated)
          • Litter size: 5 – 13 Kits (2 litters per year are possible)
          • Birth weight: 8 – 10 gms
          • Eyes open: From four weeks
          • Weaning age: 6 – 8 weeks
          • Breeding: Ferret come into season with the increasing hours of daylight.

            •   The main breeding season falls between March and September.
                Ferrets kept in artificial light may come into season earlier.
                Hobs develop enlarged testicles while the jills vulva will swell noticeably.
              • Gestation Period: 38 – 44 days
              • Nesting:  Starts 10-12 days before birth, first ventures out of nest usually occur at 3 to 4 weeks.
              • Sexual Maturity: Male 5 – 9 months,

                •   Female - spring after birth
                  • Neutering: European law requires pets to be fully grown before they can be sterilised.
                    •   There is clinical evidence from extensive trials that early surgical neutering (removal of the testis in hobs and ovaries in jills)
                        can raise the possibility and the onset of Adrenal Gland Disease in mature ferrets. If surgical neutering is an option you
                        consider then the use of the GnRH implant should be used until the ferret has fully matured (3years or older) or implanted at
                        the time of surgical neutering to minimise the potential for Adrenal Gland Disease.
                        Please discuss these options with your vet.

                        Hobs can be neutered/castrated when the reach maturity i.e. at 6-8 months (post-puberty)
                        Jills Most vets advise that jills are spayed when they are not in season however this will be a preference of the practising vet.
                        If they are not spayed or implanted before their first oestrus (i.e. before they come into season for the first time) then they will
                        need a jill jab. More information >

                      • Nutering/Castration vs Vasectomy:

                        •   Neutering, from the Latin neuter (of neither sex), is the removal of an animal's reproductive organ, either all of it or a
                            considerably large part. It is the most drastic but common surgical procedure for hobs with sterilizing purposes, also known
                            as Castration. Neuturing a ferret also changes the hormones in the ferret so sexual urges and agression will lessen along
                            with the production of the orange musky oil and strong smell that entire hobs produce.
                            Vasectomy, involves the severing of the ducts that transports the fertile sperm from the testicles to the penis. The ferret will
                            still, technically, be fertile in that he is producing viable sperm. The only difference is that the sperm does not reach the penis
                            and so mating a jill should not result in pregnancy. In all other respects, the hob will look, smell and behave as if he is an
                            entire, sexually active male. This means he will be totally preoccupied with looking for jills in the spring and summer months;
                            he may be aggressive to other males, and he will probably have a fairly pungent pong. He will completely willing and able to
                            mate with jills, despite the fact that he cannot impregnate them.
                            More information >
                          • Chipping: Ferrets can be microchipped at 16 weeks onwards.
                          • Average Weight: Male 700 – 2000 gms (males tend to be larger and longer than females)

                            •   Female 600 – 900 gms
                                Weight can vary by up to 40% dependent on the time of the year (heavier during winter)
                              • Teeth: 30 baby teeth (all baby teeth should be in by three months, and lost by nine months of age)

Colours, patterns and markings

Common colours in the UK are:

  • Albino (White coat with pink/red eyes)
  • Fitch/Sable/Poley (Dark brown body, black feet, masked face)
  • Dark Eyed White/DEW or Black Eyed White/BEW (All white, with dark black or dark ruby red eyes)
  • Sandy/Champagne (Light taupe/sandy/golden in colour)
  • Silver (Silver/Grey coloured fur often with white markings on chest or feet )
    • The different combinations of colours, patterns and markings produce an infinite number of variations. Some examples of patterns may be Roan, which is a mixture of coloured and white hair, or dalmatian where spots and blotches are present on a white coat.

      Markings can be a mask of colour found across the face, mitts and feet; or a blaze (white on forehead and chest

      View photos >

Difference between ferrets and polecats

The domestic ferret is smaller, and has a more fragile bone structure. A domestic ferret is usually lighter in color, and the mask does not reach the tinted neck band like it does with the European polecat. The European polecat has a rounder face. The back of the ears of a European polecat is dark, whereas it is light in the domestic ferret. European polecat jaws are much stronger than those of the domestic ferret. The European polecat is more muscular. The European polecat is a solitary animal and only meets in the mating season, while the ferret loves company.

Morphologically there are some major differences. Skull shape is different, base of skull is different, teeth are more crowded and numerically variable in the ferret, and the orbital angle is different. The internal structure of the eye is different, and there is some suggestion that there are differences in the structure of the brain. Coat colors, texture, and durability are different. Sound location is different. Balance and leaping abilities are different. In all cases, controversy exists to whether the differences are due to speciation or to domestication. The two may look alike, but they are vastly different.

Behaviorally there are some major differences. While there exists a commonality of behavioral expression, the degree of that expression is different. Ferrets are gregarious, polecats are solitary. Ferrets will share space with other ferrets, polecats are very territorial (in a natural state). Ferrets tend to be more juvenile in behavior compared to polecats. Most differences are not in type of behavior, but of degree of expression. The same can be said for different species of polecats, so behavior does not prove speciality.