When adopting a pet from a pet store or pretty much any source other than a breeder, it can be a bit hard to figure out the exact age of your pet conclusively, especially if the source of your new friend is not quite sure themselves. Let’s learn how to figure out an estimate of your pet’s age.
Baby ferrets, known as kits, are born very small at just two inches long on average. They are deaf and blind and have very little hair on their pink, jellybean like bodies. From here, they are cared for by their mother until they are around three to six weeks, when their mother weans them. At three months of age they are typically wholly independent.
Ferrets sexually mature at six weeks of age. At this point they can be fixed or are prepared to breed. Around four to six years of age, your ferret is considered elderly. After that, they are very old and require special care.
One of the methods most commonly utilized by veterinarians and breeders is the dental testing method. This works by studying your pet’s teeth to get an estimate of how old they are. Since ferrets generally have comparable diets to one another, this can be a very accurate method.
To check your pet’s teeth, hold them firmly by the scruff of their neck or have someone assist you as needed, depending on your comfort level with the animal and how at ease they are with being held. Usually, they will open their mouth when you do this, showing off their teeth.
Look at the two, long incisors at the front of your pet’s mouth. Ferrets who are one year of age or less will usually have white, unstained, smooth teeth. At one and a half or two and a half years of age, the very tips of their teeth will begin to yellow and may appear slightly translucent.
As your pet approaches three to four years of age, this translucency and yellowing will become more prevalent, extending past the tip of the tooth and showing more easily. It will be much more noticeable and will likely continue to spread through this time frame.
By six years, it is probable that the entire tooth will be yellowed all the way to the gum. It will likely be fairly obvious and quite noticeable but does not cause your pet any discomfort or pain. The tooth is not rotten, simply discolored. Additionally, by this point in your pet’s life you may notice some of the smaller teeth on the bottom of their mouth have fallen out. This is fairly common, as well, and is no cause for alarm unless your pet’s veterinarian seems concerned.
Much like humans, ferrets undergo some physical and habitual changes as they grow older. These changes will obviously vary from ferret to ferret since they are each unique individuals but are seen broadly across the species.
The most noticeable change has to be a shift in energy levels. Your pet will probably sleep more as it gets older, taking up most of the day dosing away. This is totally normal; they just aren’t as young and spry as they used to be. Try giving them lots of hammocks and hides to snuggle up in. They’ll love it!
Additionally, elderly ferrets may have less muscle tone and feel lighter when you lift them. As they grow older, they tend to run, jump, and climb less and prefer more relaxed activities. This is not to say they do not still need at least four hours of playtime per day; they still need a lot of time out of their cage, they just may choose to sleep through more of it.
Ferrets also frequently go bald or experience thinning as they grow older. The hair may become especially brittle on the tail and lower half of their body. When the hair falls out, the skin may become dry and sensitive, resulting in them being rather uncomfortable and in need of medication.
Additionally, other health issues may present themselves once your pet reaches four to six years of age. A lot of older ferrets experience arthritis in their joints and may move slower or more carefully and might require medication to help make their days a little more comfortable.
Other more serious conditions including adrenal disease and heart disease usually present themselves around this same window of time. These disorders are, heartbreakingly, common among ferrets and can be fatal if not treated. If treated and properly medicated, though, your pet can make a strong recovery. Watch for any behavioral changes and go to the vet if you notice anything off.
As your ferret enters his senior citizen, golden days, he will need a little extra accommodation to help him be comfortable within his cage. If your ferret is arthritic, for example, consider removing larger ledges and give gentle inclines where possible to help prevent injury and discomfort.
If your pet loses teeth, it might be time to consider wet food. You can create this by mixing their dry food with water or another pet safe dillutant. Do not make it soupy, as this may become unappealing to your pet, but a nice soft texture akin to pate will do the trick. Alternatively you could try your pet on commercial soft foods, if you prefer going that route.
Older pets will also be more sensitive to heat and cold, so be sure to accomodate for temperature changes. Add extra blankets or use air conditioning or a fan to keep yourself and your pet comfortable. They can overheat or get sick from cold weather quite easily.
How long is a ferret pregnancy? Mammal pregnancies vary greatly in length across species. From nine months for humans to twenty two months for African elephants, the numbers can be quite a long period. Ferret pregnancies are much shorter, fortunately, and only clock in at around forty two days. Each litter will have between one and eighteen kits, on average.
You can get an idea of how many little ones to expect via a sonogram at your vet. If your pet looks particularly large, this might be an especially good idea to help prepare you for the tiny weasels and their first moments. Ferret labor usually does not take an exceptionally long time so once the babies start coming, they will all be in this new world quite quickly!
You can guess your pet’s age by their physical attributes but your best option is to either have a vet check them out or get a good look at their teeth. Yellowing is a good giveaway of their age, especially if it is rather significant. Regardless, ferrets make fantastic pets at any age, be they kits or grandpa weasels.