Neutering your ferret not only prevents unwanted or accidental pregnancies – it is a fact that every year many litters of unwanted kits are born. It is also important when considering other factors such as breeding, accommodation and health.
How can I prevent my jill from coming into oestrus?
Female ferrets are seasonally polyoestrus, which means they can come into heat more than once during the breeding season (usually March through to August).
Female ferrets, also known as ‘jills’, are also induced ovulators, which means that once they come into season (oestrus), they will not come out of it again until they have been mated. While they remain in oestrus, the vulva swells dramatically and can becomes sore and inflamed.
If she is mated, the swelling of the vulva usually regresses to normal within 2-3 weeks. Sustained oestrus can be dangerous, even life-threatening because persistent production of oestrogen usually results in bone marrow suppression, which in turn can lead to anaemia and decreases in the number of circulating white blood cells.
At one time, the only answer to this was to breed from the jill every year. This leads to a considerable population explosion unless the kits are to be euthanased at birth. Currently, a popular method for owners of a number of jills is to run a vasectomised (sterilised) male ferret, also known as a ‘hoblet’, with them – he mates with the jills and stops the oestrus without a pregnancy resulting.
Another option is to take your jill to the vets to have a hormone injection which prevents them from coming into oestrus, or suppresses it if they are already in oestrus – if given in the spring it usually lasts the whole of the breeding season, however sometimes a repeat injection in the summer may be needed, which can prove costly depending on the number of jills you have.
Can my jill be spayed?
Yes, she can. Female ferrets not intended for breeding should be spayed at about 6-8 months of age. This is the best solution if you own a jill. It is a routine operation, although there are always some risks associated with any surgery. There aren’t currently any anaesthetics licensed for use in ferrets in the UK, so combinations of anaesthetics used in dogs and cats are widely and reliably used for ferrets. Ferrets tend to take surgery well and recover quickly. A spayed jill is often referred to as a ‘sprite’.
What about hobs?
Male ferrets, also known as ‘hobs’, are generally castrated for social rather than medical reasons.
One of the characteristics of the ferret is their distinctive smell which is much stronger on an entire hob than in a castrated hob. This smell is the result of the influence of sex hormones on normal skin secretions. Consequently, castrating your ferret is usually sufficient to control this problem. It is usually done at around 8 months of age. A very pungent and equally objectionable secretion is occasionally produced by the ferret’s scent (anal) glands – some owners also have their pet ferrets descented, however this doesn’t get rid of their musky smell.
Another reason for castrating a hob is that they are inclined to be more aggressive and snappy than jills. There is probably an element of sexual frustration in this, and it is reasonable to suggest that, in the abscence of plenty of jills, they are happier without their testosterone!
Castrating a hob is quite a simple operation, although there are always some risks associated with any surgery. There aren’t currently any anaesthetics licensed for use in ferrets in the UK, so combinations of anaesthetics used in dogs and cats are widely and reliably used for ferrets. Ferrets tend to take surgery well and recover quickly. A castrated hob is often referred to as a ‘gib’.
When can my ferret be neutered?
Both sexes can be neutered from 4 months of age. The breeding season starts in the spring, so the best time to get kits neutered in during their first winter.