Rucus Replies : breeding & sterilisation

Breeding Age
NSW breeders
Bringing females out of season
Urges of a neutered male
Smelly Hob  

Breeding age

Dear Rucus,

My beautiful one year old ferret is in season and I want to breed her. Where can I find a full male?
From Jess.  

Dear Jess,

At only a year old, your ferret is too young to breed. Have her brought out of season by a vasectomised male so there is no danger of her becoming pregnant.
Ferret breeding should never be undertaken unless you are very sure of the suitability of both parent ferrets. We have a small and isolated gene pool in WA and, while we seem to have superior ferrets, it can only remain this way through judicial breeding.
Both the male and the female ferrets should be at least two years old, three is better. They should be robust and free from "chronic snuffles" and any physical impairment, bad eating habits or personality disorders. Even with a seemingly healthy female ferret, there is still a danger of her and her kits dying. Not a pleasant thing to cope with if you love your ferret.
(Is a gene pool a pile of Mum's Levis?).  

Dooks from Rucus.  

NSW breeders

Dear Rucus,

We read Jess's letter about breeding her one year old and would like to put in our two cents worth. Apparently your ferrets differ somewhat to others, as we have been breeding with ferrets less than 12 months old for 21 years without any trouble at all to both jills and kits. After all, what did they use over the last 10,000 years instead of a vasectomised hob? When the demand for ferrets dropped we used a vasectomised hob on three of our jills, and since it died in 1987 our jills have had nothing but false pregnancies ever since. We would not spend $20 for a vasectomised hob let alone $120 for the operation again, as the metabolism of the jill is only affected because of the false pregnancies.  

Regards to all, Brian & Margaret, NSW.  

Dear Brian & Margaret,

Yes, us WA ferrets are different from those in NSW, SA and VIC. We do not seem to have the same incidence of cancers and cataracts and we have greater longevity.  

The first reason for not breeding for 3 years is to ensure that there are no genetic faults or proneness to disease which may not be apparent at first. Secondly, the jill should be able to reach her full growth potential without the added burden of pegnancy and motherhood making demands on her calcium reserves. For example, one of the results of too early breeding which manifests itself in the offspring is that by 4 years of age they are suffering from tooth decay, and so too is the mother. For similar reasons, jills should never become pregnant more than once a year or even every year during their breeding life.

Unfortunately selectively breeding for a docile ferret which can be easily handled has led to the domestic ferret being less robust, so greater care needs to be taken than with their counterparts in the wild. Frequently, among wild animals, early litters are lost either before, or soon after birth as the mother gains experience and strength. In captivity, however, jills are "forced" to rear all of their litters.  

As some jills become older, ovulation is much easier to induce, and may happen by vigorous play with other jills, or simply the smell of a full male nearby, resulting in false pregnancies. Overseas in "ferret mills", jills are bred all year round for 2 years (this is possible by special timing of artificial lighting) and then they are destroyed because the incidence of false pregnancies makes them less of a financial asset.  

Thank you for writing to me, and I wish you all the best.
Dooks from Rucus.  

Bringing females out of season

Dear Rucus,

Oh, wise ferret, could you please explain to me why female ferrets need to be brought out of season and when is the best time to do it?
Love from Lindell.

Dear Lindell,

I'll try to answer as wisely as I can, but don't forget that I am also beautiful.

When a jill comes into season, a large amount of the female hormone, oestrogen, is released by the ovaries. The hormones make the jill receptive to mating and prepares her body for pregnancy. However, the high levels also suppress the production of red blood cells in the bone marrow which can lead to anaemia and even death if she is left in season too long.

How long is too long? Well, that depends on the individual ferret's age, state of health and diet. Some robust girls are fine after being left in season for a couple of months, while others become quite ill after 4 weeks. Generally speaking, female ferrets should not be allowed to stay in season for more than 5 weeks.

The timing of bringing her out of season is also important. She should be in full season for 2 weeks before being put with a hob (male ferret). She will then be a willing partner to the mating, instead of resisting the hob's advances and having an awful time of it.

The mating procedure stimulates the release of eggs from the ovaries and pregnancy will follow (or a "phantom" pregnancy if she has been with a vasectomised hob). Even if she needs to have a hormone injection, a course which should only be saved for emergencies, she should be in season for the full 2 weeks or the injection may not work.

Some people prefer to have their female ferrets speyed before their first season, while others wait until after they have had at least one season, so that they have reached their full growth potential before the surgery.

Ferrets should not be allowed to become pregnant in their first year, and given the tiny gene pool, the number of unwanted ferrets and the number of kits advertised in the paper during breeding season, breeding should be done very judiciously. Speying is a far better option.

Loving Dooks from Rucus.  

Urges of a neutered hob

Dear Rucus,

Oh wise and beautiful ferret, can you tell my Mum why I get the urge to mount Trudi loudly at 3 o'clock in the morning?

We are both 3 year olds who were obtained as baby ferrets and desexed as soon as we were old enough. However, every spring, I occasionally (maybe once a week) grab Trudi by the scruff of the neck and she yells the place down. I hang on and look baffled about what to do next, like someone who has misplaced something and isn't sure what is missing (testicles perhaps?). Trudi has pipes to hide in that I'm too fat to fit down but if I grab her while she's asleep she has no chance of escape.
Love Huckleberry

P.S. Two testicles were present and correct (and removed) at neutering!

Dear Huckleberry,

I really think that you have a good memory and are recalling how you felt before you were neutered and I admire you for that!

It's not uncommon for a male ferrret to feel the urge to mate during Spring. Sometimes this behaviour is strong enough in a neutered hob for him to even bring an unsterilised jill out of season (although it is not a method that should be relied on). If your mum or Trudi are really suffering a lot, it is possible for you to have a female hormone injection to take your mind off things; but probably patience on their part is the best way to go. As the years go by, those urges become weaker.
Another reason for a hob being "overly male" is adrenal disease, but I think that you are far too young to be suffering from this. Nevertheless, have your mum keep a sharp eye out for excessive hair loss, muscle wasting or difficulty in passing urine.

It could even be (again, however, I think that she is too young) that Trudi could be the one causing the problem by being "too female" due to adrenal disease. Mum needs to keep an eye on her too, for hair loss or swollen vulva.

Love & Dooks Rucus (I am your greatest admirer)  

Smelly Hob

Dear Rucus,

I love my one year old male ferret very much, but he smells so much that I can't bear to pick him up. Now the whole house smells too so he's not allowed inside any more. Could you find a new home for him please.
A Heartbroken Ferret owner.

Dear Heartbroken Ferret Owner,

There's no need to get rid of your little buddy if that's all thats wrong. He just needs a little operation. At this time of year, male ferrets come into season and those hormones just take over the whole body. Apart from the strong smell, you'll probably notice that his fur has become more orange and he is more agitated than before and could even be a little more aggressive. He is probably marking his territory with his very strong smelling urine too and that can really make your house smell.

I was just like that when I first came to live with my Mum. She would pick me up for a cuddle and tell me that she loved me but I sure did stink, and she could almost understand why nobody claimed me even though I had been advertised as a found ferret in the paper for two weeks. Also, would I please leave the other ferrets alone.

I was taken to the Vet's and had a little operation. After that I felt much better and was a much calmer and happier ferret. I could come into the house with my other ferret buddies and gets lots and lots of cuddles all the time. The operation can have different names ... castration, sterilisation or neutering, but it all means the same thing and is the kindest thing to have done if your ferret is not to be used for breeding.

Dooks, Rucus.