A pregnant mom always needs special care, ferrets are not exceptional. You must have more concentration on your pregnant ferrets. Continue with us till the end of the article, we have cleared all the arising doubts regarding the pregnancy of ferrets.
Breeding the ferret
By 4-8 months of age, a female ferret will attain her sexual maturity and through exposing her to photoperiods of 14-16 hours, the estrus will be stimulated. Ferrets are induced ovulators, they stay in the estrus period until they are bred.
If a ferret stays in the estrus period for a longer period will cause several health problems like bone marrow, it can even kill your ferret. You must breed your ferret in the next 2 weeks of the first sign of estrus.
The gestation period of the ferret is 41-42 days with day 0 as the day of breeding. Implantation occurs at 12-13 days gestation. We recommend avoiding shipment of the animals during the time of implantation, and for the week following to avoid reabsorption.
The optimal time to receive pregnant ferrets is between 20 and 27 days gestation. Shipping animals after the recommended gestation window can also be problematic as it can cause stress and an increased risk for complications that may include pregnancy toxemia from inappetence.
Mating the Ferrets
Before placing the hob in with the female, make sure you have ample time to be around during the beginning of the process. The mating ritual between ferrets is by no means romantic. Do not be alarmed if the male bites the female’s neck or brutally drags her around the cage. This is completely normal and you may even hear the female scream.
The biting may look savage but it actually serves an important purpose. Female ferrets are known as induced ovulators which means she has to be stimulated to start egg production. The biting of the neck releases hormones into her body that triggers ovulation.
As an owner, you may be in for the long haul as the mating process can last for hours or days, and occur over a multitude of sessions. Although the mating ritual looks disturbing, do not separate your ferrets at any point.
The male ferret’s penis is curved, which causes a lock with the female until mating is over. Trying to separate them when engaged can cause harm.
Female Ferrets after breeding
Once you sense that mating has finished, move your ferrets back to their respective cages. If the pairing was successful, you will notice your jill gaining weight. Furthermore, she will start pulling out fur from her tail and body for nesting. You will be able to tell if your ferret is pregnant at around 2 weeks after mating.
You can have your vet perform an ultrasound but this can be expensive. You may also notice your female making clucking noises which is another sign of pregnancy. However, jills can have phantom pregnancies. High hormone levels can cause some females to bloat and even act like they are pregnant when they are not.
Through her pregnancy, your ferret will need to eat more so that she can handle the demand of the birth and nursing. Do not be worried if mating was unsuccessful, simply try again.
Your female will remain in heat unless she is bred, which can lead to health issues such as pyometra (infected uterus), bladder infections, and anemia. Your female ferret must either be bred or spayed. An unspayed female who is not bred can die.
Taking care of the Mom
Your ferret pregnancy will last around 42 days and both the pregnancy and birth can take a toll on her health. As a result, she will need an increased calorie and protein intake to match her energy expulsion. Feeding your ferret high-quality ferret food will ensure she is in optimal health for giving birth.
The diet for a ferret during pregnancy should be around 35% fat and supplemented by meats such as chicken and liver. A pregnant ferret that does not eat enough, specifically later in the pregnancy, can develop pregnancy toxemia.
This would be an emergency situation, requiring your vet to perform a C section to save the lives of your ferret and her babies. As with her food intake, your ferret will also drink a lot more. She should have access to fresh, clean water as it is likely she will consume 2 or 3 times her norm.
It’s best to swap the usual bottle for a dish during pregnancy as it is likely she will drink more this way. It is perfectly fine for your ferret to stay with the hob through most of her pregnancy. About 2 weeks before she is due to give birth, move her to a separate cage containing paper bedding or pine shavings.
Place the cage in a warm and quiet part of your home where she will make a nest and prepare herself for giving birth. It is important to increase her food and water intake further when she moves to her separate birthing cage.
Caring the Ferret after pregnancy
When your ferret has given birth, leave her alone for a week to be alone with her kits (babies). It is not unheard of for ferret to eat their offspring if they are threatened or scared so it is best to stay away as much as possible. Inevitably, you will need to feed her during this private time.
Whilst doing this, cast a quick eye over mum and her babies. Female Ferret can develop mastitis (mammary gland inflammation) and some kits may die after birth, so you will need to act accordingly after a non-intrusive check. If you are at all concerned, ring your vet for advice.
Even though your ferret has given birth, continue to feed her as you did in the latter stages of pregnancy. Now she is nursing, she will need an increased intake of energy. Bear in mind that if the ferret has 10 or more kits she will lose weight no matter how much you feed her.
With a big litter, the calories and energy demands will always outweigh how much she can eat. After your ferret has given birth, her cage will become extremely smelly and ventilation of the room you are keeping her in is a must.
Bedding changes should be kept to a minimum, and only done to check for neglected or abandoned kits. As with providing water and food, remain furtive.
Caring the Baby
When the kits are born they are 2 inches long and completely dependent on their mum. Their eyes and ears are sealed shut and they are covered in a fluff of wispy fur. You can handle the kits at one week old, but remember they are reliant on mum and she will soon let you know if she isn’t keen on your actions.
If the female ferret isn’t happy with you handling her babies early on, try again at a later date as you do not want her to eat her young. At first, kits simply sit in the palm of your hand.
As they get older, you should pick them up by gently grasping them between the neck and shoulders with one hand, and supporting their hind legs with the other hand. Start by holding the kits for a few seconds and scale this up to a few minutes as they get older. However, if the kits are feeding do not interrupt them to handle them.
Food for the Baby Ferrets
You can offer the kits solid ferret food at around 3 weeks old. They will still be nursing at this point and have their baby teeth, so it is best to soak the food before they tuck in.
Kits are also partial to baby food and, for those ferrets that are picky, adding some kitten milk to the softened kibble can make it a little tastier for their palettes. The ferret food should be high in protein and low in carbohydrates, and meat-based.