Posted: February 1, 2011, 5 a.m. EST
Nipping: Most older ferrets outgrow the nipping stage in their youth. Nipping/biting habits in the older ferret can develop over the years due to negligence, abuse and lack of socialization. Many of these ferrets are successfully rehabilitated. Nipping or biting can be an attention-getting habit, especially if the ferret is sharing its human with several other ferrets. Another possibility is that the ferret can view nipping as a way of giving affection.
Chewing: Ferret kits that chew on blankets, hammocks, fingers, etc. normally outgrow these chewing urges; but the tendency for eating or chewing plastic, rubber and human medications are still a threat with the aging ferret. Their curiosity just has to be satisfied. Household cleaners and plants are also items that ferrets can’t resist investigating. Their tenacity in eating what they shouldn’t could be fatal. If a ferret eats something it shouldn’t, a veterinary visit is essential.
Coat Changes: Normally ferrets go through two seasonal coat changes, alternating from the short, smooth summer coat to the full winter coat. Some senior ferrets no longer have these seasonal coat changes. They frequently have hair thinning and retain the same coat all year. Of course if the thinning worsens and bald spots appear, suspect adrenal gland disease and consult your veterinarian.
Veterinary Care: Knowing your ferret’s appearance and habits is essential for providing the best health care. Only you know your ferret. Your veterinarian will know your ferret as a species, but not the personal traits of your ferret. Providing information as to changes in appetite, activity level, bowel movements, breathing, coughing, gagging, gurgling or other signs will provide your veterinarian excellent information in diagnosing the illness. If your ferret had a healthy life during its first three or four years and veterinary visits were only for vaccinations, talk to your veterinarian about having baseline bloodwork done. This establishes a baseline of your ferret when it’s healthy for your veterinarian to have to compare with as your pet ages.
The Compromised Ferret: Several illnesses are common in ferrets. Many ferret owners deal with adrenal gland disease, insulinoma, heart disease, ulcers, IBD and lymphoma in their pets. Medical issues of any of these diseases are noticeably different in the aging process of a healthy, older ferret. Ferret owners need to be knowledgeable in recognizing the symptoms and getting treatments for those ferrets affected. Any medical issues will affect how your ferret ages.
All of this being said, don’t be reluctant to adopt a middle-aged or senior ferret. These ferrets have already gone through the terrible 2s stage of being a kit, they’re already potty-trained (maybe) and more laid-back. Some people prefer these ferrets more than ferret kits. A middle-aged to senior ferret is much like a kit in slow motion.
Mike and Arita Morrett wrote this article in remembrance of the senior ferrets they loved and lost: Tika, Cosmo, Bonnie, Clyde, Winston, Toes, Patches, Poko and Opus. These loved pets ranged in age from 5 to 10 years of age and confirmed the Morretts' love of the senior ferret. Their current seniors range from 5 to 8½ years of age, and continue to reinforce their “love affair” with the senior ferret.