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NFWS Mission Statement
  1. To promote the well-being of ferrets through articles written and published by the NFWS, veterinarians and ferret specialists world wide
  2. Offer/provide advice on a variety of ferret subjects from common illnesses, nutrition, sanitation, interaction, ferret safety and the advisability of breeding.
  3. Promote the on-going liaison with veterinarians and all medical organisations and agents associated within the 'ferret world' with the aim of raising the general awareness of ferret health and ferret needs.
  4. Advise and educate ferret owners, clubs etc., on their basic responsibilities towards ferrets on such diverse subjects as when considering breeding ferrets and when working ferrets in vermin control. The list is large!
  5. To promote confidence in ferret owners to approach the NFWS and/or veterinarians to seek advice when their ferret's health and behaviour causes concern.

Ferret Facts

  • ADULT WEIGHT: 1-5.5lbs (500g-2.5kg). Varies considerably according to time of year (up to 40%).
  • ADULT DIMENSIONS: 17=24" (44-60cm) including tail. Male can be twice as large as female.
  • AVERAGE LIFESPAN: 5-6 years in laboratory. Up to 10 years pets (older have been known).
  • CHROMOSOME COUNT: 40
  • RESPIRATORY RATE: 30-40 per minute.
  • HEART RATE: 220-250 beats per minute.
  • RECTAL TEMP: Average 38.8C (101.8F). Range 37.8-40C (100-104F).
  • TEETH: Incisors 3/3, canines 1/1, premolars 3/3, molars 1/2. Supernumary incisors common.
  • TOES: 5 on each foot.
  • NIPPLES: 8 (male and female).
  • VERTEBRAE: C7, T14, L6, S3, COL14-18. 14 pairs of ribs.
  • OTHER ANATOMY: No caecum, appendix and male prostate gland. Sweat glands not well developed.
  • ENVIRONMENT: Optimum 15-20C (60-70F max.). Heat prostration likely at 32C 90F).
  • SEXING: Ano-genital distance of male at least twice that of female.
  • PUBERTY: 240-250 days.
  • SEXUAL MATURITY 9-12 months, or the spring following birth.
  • AGE TO BREED: Male 365 days, female 275 days.
  • BREEDING SEASON: Photoperiodically triggered - possibly 16 hours daylight. Main breeding season March - August in Britain (male testes begin to descend December/January and regress by July, female in oestrus any time from March to October.
  • SEASON SIGNS: Female has swollen vulva, male has swollen testes.
  • DURATION OF OESTRUS: Continuous until mated or until end of season and very prolonged if unmated. Ovulation induced by male stimulus (behaviour and coitus).
  • DURATION OF MATING: 10 minutes to several hours - probably 1 hour on average.
  • OVULATION: 30 hours after mating.
  • REDUCTION OF VULVA: 7-10 days, complete within 2-3 weeks of mating.
  • PALPATION: 10 days after vulva reduced.
  • GESTATION: Average 42 days. (Range 38-44 days; at 45 days kits die.)
  • LITTERS PER YEAR: Two possible (up to 5 under controlled photoperiod).
  • NESTING: Starts building 10-12 days before birth.
  • OTHER BIRTH SIGNS: Mammary glands.
  • POST-NATAL OESTRUS: 1-2 weeks after weaning.
  • LITTER SIZE: 2-17 (average 8, norm. 6-9) - more in first litter of season than in second.
  • BIRTHWEIGHT: .5oz (5-15g).
  • DECIDUOUS TEETH: Begin to erupt at 10-14 days.
  • CANINES: 47-52 days.
  • EYES/EARS OPEN: 21-37 days.
  • FUR: Almost naked at birth, some by 9 days, good woolly coat by 4-5 weeks.
  • OUT OF NEST: First ventures usually 3-4 weeks.
  • WEANING AGE: 6-8 weeks.
  • WEANING WEIGHT: 10.5-17.5 oz (300-500g).
  • ATTAIN ADULT WEIGHT: 4 months.
  • 1st POSSIBLE MATING: 6 months.
  • 1st NORMAL MATING: 12 months.
    • (Excerpt from "The Complete Book of Ferrets" by Val Porter & Nicholas Brown.)