A Swedish breeder noticed that some of his ferrets had much longer fur along their back than some of his other breeding stock. He sold his long-haired ferrets to a Norwegian breeder/fur farm who, after careful breeding and several generations, ended up with the beginning of the Angora ferrets that we know today.
Angora ferret vs standard
The main difference between Angora ferrets and the standard varieties are their fur. Angoras have a single coat that grows up to 5 inches long. They do not have an undercoat like other ferret varieties. Ferrets can be part or half Angora, with slightly shorter hair and a less obvious cleft nose.
Angoras also have a fold or cleft on either one or both nostrils and they may also have small hair tufts on or just inside the nose. They tend to grow around the same size as standard ferrets, but appear larger due to their longer, thicker coat. Hobs (male ferrets) can grow up to 24 inches, while Jills (female ferrets) are smaller, usually growing to around 18 inches.
Coat color and pattern varieties are pretty much the same as with standard ferrets. Possible colors include:
- White (dark-eyed)
- Marked white
- Light silver or roan
- Dark silver or black roan
Several patterns can show in litters, depending on the patterns of the parents and the genes they carry from their parents.
- Hooded or milk mouth
Do ferrets have health problems?
When it comes to health, there are no distinguishable differences between Angora and standard ferrets. Angoras are susceptible to the same ailments as standard ferrets and they do not suffer from any diseases that standard ferrets do not also suffer.
Breeders do have to be mindful that female Angoras produce less milk than part/half Angoras or standard ferrets, so they usually need help to nurse their kits (babies). There have been a small number of breeders in the last couple of years who have bred female Angoras capable of producing enough milk, but the majority cannot.
Their kits are fostered to part Angora or standard females who can produce extra milk. Alternatively, the breeder can help to syringe feed some of the kits while the mother nurses the rest of her litter.
Thankfully, there are not many diseases that ferrets are susceptible to. A ferret from a reputable breeder is highly unlikely to develop a serious medical condition, however, there is never any guarantee when it comes to nature.
As far as medical conditions go, this is fairly common for ferrets. It is most likely to occur after the age of 3 years and is caused by improper function of the heart muscle. In less common circumstances, a ferret may develop heart disease as a result of the heartworm parasite.
Symptoms of heart disease include weakness in the hind legs, lack of co-ordination, loss of appetite, weight loss, dyspnoea (breathing difficulties), coughing and abdominal distension (fluid build-up).
Cancer or tumors
For ferrets, the development of tumors or cancer happens at a young age. That is why it is so important to take your ferret for an annual health check. The most common cancers in ferrets are pancreatic (insulinoma), lymphosarcoma (lymph nodes) and adrenal gland tumors.
If you notice any new lumps you must get your ferret checked by a veterinarian. The earlier the cancer is detected, the better the chance of survival.
Like most animals, ferrets can suffer from parasitic infestations – both internal and external. Fleas, ticks and ear mites are more common if your ferret has access to an outdoor run. As with cats and dogs, these parasites can be treated with a topical medication.
Internal parasites such as tapeworms or heartworm are diagnosed via a fecal examination. You should have a yearly microscopic fecal examination carried out to check for internal parasites.
Ferrets behave just like a human toddler, investigating everything with their mouths. Foreign object ingestion is common in ferrets, particularly those under 1 year. Their love of chewing can be a serious health hazard, which is why ferret-proofing their space is vital. This means keeping their play area and cage free of plastic, rubber or foam and not allowing them to play with things like shoelaces, children’s toys, rubber bands or balloons.
If you see or suspect your ferret has eaten one of these or something similar, you should seek veterinary advice immediately. These small objects can cause blockages in the intestines, which can be life-threatening if not treated quickly. Normally the only option is surgical removal which is a dangerous surgery in itself.
Key symptoms to look for: vomiting, lack of appetite and abdominal discomfort.
The most common symptom of any disease a ferret can suffer is diarrhea. If you spot loose or liquid stool then you can assume that your ferret is not in good health. Sometimes a ferret may show no other symptoms of ill health until the illness becomes more severe.
What do ferrets eat?
When it comes to food, ferrets are strictly carnivores. They cannot be kept on a vegetarian diet and do not digest starchy foods or carbohydrates. This means avoiding breads and cereals, even as treats.
You can purchase ferret kibble from most pet stores. This kibble will be predominantly meat products and animal proteins. If you are purchasing your ferret from a private breeder, they will mostly likely have been weaned on a raw diet, with kibble as a supplement.
What’s the best food to feed a ferret?
There are many benefits to sticking with a raw food diet. Ferrets who have raw meat in their diet tend to have shinier, healthier coats and overall leaner muscle tone. Variety is key here so feed different parts of the prey animal:
- Chicken wings, neck and legs
- Beef mince or beef pieces
- Whole prey: mice, rats, day-old chicks, small rabbits, small fish (herring or sprats)
Their meat diet should be around 80% meat, 10% organ meat (heart, kidney, etc.) and 10% raw bone. You should never give cooked bones as they splinter easily can cause blockages or internal injuries. Feeding a whole prey animal will achieve this ratio, however, you can also work it by feeding wings, neck or legs with organ meat and meat pieces (chicken breast, beef cheeks, etc.).
You will need to adjust this ratio if you are also providing dry ferret kibble. The kibble should be available throughout the day in their cage or you can feed it as part of their enrichment time by hiding it or putting it in food toys.
Can ferrets eat dog food or cat food?
Ferrets should not be fed dog or cat food. Dog food contains a high quantity of plant-based ingredients which ferrets cannot digest. Although cat food is usually meat-based, it does not contain enough protein so your ferret will suffer from deficiencies.
As a supplement or additional treat you can give your ferret a small taste of ‘ferret oil’. This is also known as ‘ferretone’ and is a blend of rapeseed, salmon, sunflower and cod liver oils alongside a few vitamins and minerals. Other suitable treats are small pieces of raw meat such as chicken or beef. A raw egg is also a nutritious treat. Do not feed the shell, simply crack the egg into a shallow bowl.
Can ferrets eat fruits and vegetables?
The most important thing to remember is to never feed ferrets fruits and vegetables as they do not produce the necessary enzymes to digest these feeds.
What human food can ferrets eat?
No human food at all should really be given.
Stick to raw meat and ferret kibble wherever possible to maintain good health.
How do you bathe a ferret?
Unlike other members of the weasel family, ferrets do not seek out water and do not require regular baths. They produce natural oils from their sebaceous glands and ferrets will groom themselves daily, which spread the oils evenly across their body. These oils keep the skin and coat healthy, preventing dry skin and hair loss.
Giving your ferret a bath will strip away those oils. Oftentimes, the sebaceous glands will then produce more oils to correct the loss, which will lead to your ferret smelling muskier than before.
Do angora ferrets smell?
Yes. If your ferret has a strong odor, you can help keep them clean by grooming them. For Angora ferrets, a fine-toothed comb is best to get through their long hair. A short grooming session with remove any dirt from the coat and it is also a good opportunity for you to check for fleas or skin problems.
Regularly washing your ferret’s bedding will help reduce a strong odor. The more ferrets you have sleeping on the same bedding, the more often you should change it out and wash it. Likewise, changing their litter tray daily will reduce the smell in their cage from getting into their long coats.
Finally, get your ferret fixed. Spaying (females) and neutering (males) reduces some of the natural oils secreted during breeding seasons, particularly in males. An entire male will smell muskier than a neutered male.
What is the behavior of a ferret?
Ferrets are not good pets if you are looking for a laid back animal. They are very active animals and need lots of socialization and enrichment to prevent boredom. Ferrets love toys. Cat tunnels, cardboard boxes and ballpool balls are all great options.
You can purchase treat balls and puzzle toys so your ferret gets a mental workout and a treat at the same time. Your ferret should have 2-4 hours of daily playtime outside of his cage where he can run around, climb and investigate.
If you have outdoor space, try purchasing a secure outdoor run. This will give your ferret time outdoors, but be mindful that they are escape artists so the mesh needs to be narrow with small gaps.
They sleep up to 18 hours per day and love hammocks and cat igloos. If you have multiple ferrets they will all snuggle together in a big ferret pile for a group nap.
Do ferrets and dogs or cats get along?
Ideally, your ferret will be the only pet in the house, aside from other ferrets they share their space with. This is because ferrets are very active, curious and boisterous creatures, which can cause friction with other animals.
If you have a young ferret or you have adopted an older ferret that has lived with cats or dogs before, then introducing them to a puppy or kitten would be much easier. This process should still be done slowly and in small steps. You should keep them separated at first so they can hear and see one another but cannot touch.
Take a cotton pad and rub your ferret’s fur with it. Do the same with your dog or cat and allow the two to investigate each other’s scents.
The next step is to remove the barricade but have control of both. Dogs and ferrets can be placed on leads. Cats are a whole other story and must be able to leave the room whenever they wish as they can be skittish.
Ferrets should never be kept with small pets such as rabbits, guinea pigs, rats or mice as they are a natural prey animal of the ferret and will most likely end up becoming dinner.
Can ferrets get fleas and worms?
Any animal can get parasitic infections. Ferrets are just as likely to get fleas if they have regular access to the outdoors or if you have a dog or cat also in the house. By having your ferret on a regular grooming schedule or by daily handling, you can check your ferret’s fur for signs of fleas.
Just like dogs and cats, ferret fleas can be treated with a topical solution or injected treatment if a veterinarian deems it necessary. It is also important that your ferret has an annual fecal sample tested for internal parasites like tapeworms.
Worms are treatable with medication, but it is best if caught early. A severe infestation can cause digestive issues, organ damage and even heart failure.
Where can I get an angora ferret?
So, you have done all your research and you have decided that your home and lifestyle is suitable for a ferret. How do you get one?
The first thing you need to consider is where you live. In the United States, there are strict laws on importing and selling animals. In California, Hawaii and a handful of other states, it is illegal to own ferrets. For other states, you may have to apply for a license and have a home check.
In the UK, there is no law against owning a ferret and there are lots of reputable ferret breeders across the country.
Wherever you live, it is always best to check out several breeders and ask to see their facility and ferrets. A good breeder will encourage this and will ask you lots of questions. They should also insist that you collect your ferret in person.
Any breeder who suggests delivering your ferret to your home or does not let you see their ferrets is to be avoided. There is no good reason for them to refuse this request. Most likely, they are a mill breeder and are not keeping their ferrets in suitable conditions.
Ferrets should ideally be kept with their mother until they are between 10 and 12 weeks old. They will become more independent from around 6 weeks but they still learn a lot of their socialization skills up until 10 weeks. An unsocialized ferret can be nippy and aggressive.
Whether you are a first-time ferret owner or an experienced person looking for your next ferret, this guide has all the information you need to ensure you are set to provide the best environment for your new furry friend.
Remember, enrichment is key and handling your ferret daily will result in a confident and contented pet.
There is an abundance of help on the internet and from your veterinarian. Join a ferret forum or social media group so you can share stories and advice with fellow ferret enthusiasts.