What Is the Ferret Lifespan?


What Is the Life Expectancy of a Ferret?

Pets become like family and are an absolutely integral part of your everyday life. Pets offer companionship and form deep bonds with their humans, making them an incredibly enriching asset to your home. Truly, few things are as special as the friendship that forms when you have a tiny (or not so tiny) friend around to keep you company.

When you take on a pet, you are making a commitment that in exchange for this companionship, you will care for them for the rest of their lives. For some pets like rats, this can be a few years of love and husbandry while for others, like cats, you can sometimes enjoy decades of friendship. This variance in average lifespan is important to consider when taking on a pet, as they will depend on you for the duration of this time.

Let’s take a look at the average lifespan of everyone’s favorite household weasel, the ferret, and see if they would be a good fit for your family.

So, What is the Average?

With ferrets, a few different factors can cause variances in the lifespan of a given critter but, in general, healthy ferrets live between six and ten years, often landing around eight or so. Of course, the number may fluctuate but you can expect your furry friend to be by your side for close to a decade, give or take.

The Importance of Husbandry

Your ferret’s health and longevity greatly depends on a few different factors. The absolute best thing you can do to ensure your pet lives a long and happy life is to do your research.

Ferrets require some rather specific care with lots of playtime, enrichment, and space. These are not the types of animals that you can impulse buy and let live in a cage (not that you should ever do such a thing in the first place).

Ferrets are high energy, incredibly smart animals that frequently have a destructive streak if they are bored and can exhibit a wide range of personality traits. They also have a dietary need for variance and sometimes experience food allergies.

Do your research before picking up your new pet and have a good understanding of what owning a ferret entails and you should be off to a good start.

Ethical Breeding

Another thing to consider is breeder selection. Since ferrets are becoming more popular pets due to their delightfully weasley features and adorably energetic nature, more and more people are trying their hand at breeding.

This is great since now the breeding increase has resulted in the demand being met more easily, allowing more people to own ferrets. Unfortunately, this also has a few different unsavory side effects, as well.

Though there is more interest in having ferrets as a pet and more breeding options to accommodate different price points, there are also now quite a few breeders who keep their animals soley for profitable purposes. This results in poor quality of care and general lack of handling which can cause some temperment issues and health problems.

It is important that you research your ferret breeder and try to find one that treats their animals with respect and can offer guidance as you own your pet. Opting for a cheap breeder or even a mass pet retailer could result in you getting an animal that is sick or will otherwise experience a shortened lifespan, cutting into the time you could have spent with your beloved pet and setting you up for quite a bit of potential heartbreak.

Choosing ethical breeders helps to support them and prevent the growth of mass mill style breeding operations that churn out pets for profit. Choosing a breeder with the species’s health and wellbeing in mind is absolutely key in having a healthy, happy pet in most cases.

Health Problems and Aging

Ferrets are generally a rather healthy species. As stated before, ferrets in captivity can reach ages of up to a decade, if not more. That being said, ferrets do have quite a few minor and some major health issues that can occur. If caught early and treated through a vet, your pet can still live and long and healthy life.

The biggest concern with owning ferrets is cancer. Like many small animals, they are prone to a few different types, including adrenal (the most common, arguably), panceatic, and lymphoma cancers. These cancers result in issues like hair loss and other visible symptoms, so if you notice your pet acting strangely or losing hair, a vet trip may be in order.

Additionally, common pet issues like ear mites, dental issues and plaque build up, hair balls, and foot rot caused by poor cage conditions are all potentially present but are preventable with proper care practices. Common pet viral and bacterial infections are also preventable concerns with care.

Another concern with some colorations of ferrets is Waardenburg syndrome. Ferrets with the blaze or panda coat patterns may have this genetic disorder, which will present itself physically through the presence of a slightly flattened skull and wide set eyes. Additionally, most ferrets with the disease are deaf, though this is not usually easily detected since ferrets in general have quite poor hearing.

Lastly, though it is a good idea to neuter your ferret, it is very important that you allow your male to reach sexual maturity before going through with the procedure. Many males will be very musky if left with their testicles, so waiting until they have fully descended will help prevent the smell.

Chemical castration is also an option and causes less of a risk of castration related aggression when compared to physical measures. Preventing unwanted ferret pregnancies will help keep the species healthy, especially if housing different creatures together.

Females should be spayed. Female ferrets can go into prolonged heat and actually die if they do not become pregnant so protect your females if you do not plan on breeding by getting them fixed once they are old enough.

Keep these potential risks in mind and take steps to prevent them from occurring to help keep your pet healthy and happy!

Related Questions

How old is the world’s oldest ferret?

It is believed that the world’s oldest captive ferret was around fifteen years old. Currently, the oldest ferret alive is around fourteen. Longer lifespans for ferrets are not uncommon, especially if they are properly cared for with vet visits and proper dietary measures provided. Fun fact: a ten year old ferret is roughly one hundred and ten years old in human years, meaning a fifteen year old ferret would be more than one hundred and fifty years old, give or take!

Do wild ferrets live longer than domestic ones?

In the wild, ferrets usually do not make it to more than five years old, with most being around three. This is due to deforestation and other issues impacting the wild ferret, also known as the black footed ferret or prairie dog hunter, and causing it to be unable to easily access food sources or comfortable breeding and living spaces. This issue has actually caused a decline in the species’s population, though steps are being taken to help restore their numbers and assure their survival in the wild.

Conclusion

In general, your ferret’s life span will vary depending on its own genetic predisposition to various disorders and health concerns, husbandry, breeding history, and quality of life. In general, ferrets in healthy conditions usually live around eight years, give or take, though this number may vary greatly. Some even live to be more than a decade old!

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