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Ferret Terms

Terms you should know related to ferrets.

By the Editors of FERRETS Magazine

Albino: a coat color distinguished by all white fur and red eyes. This coat color is also known as red-eyed white.

Alopecia: loss of hair.

Anemia: a condition in which the blood is deficient in red blood cells, in hemoglobin or in total volume.

Butterscotch: a coat color in which the underfur is white or beige and the guard hairs are butterscotch rather than black. The mask or hood patterns also are butterscotch. White-footed butterscotch ferrets have this coat pattern with four white feet.

Canine distemper: a viral disease that is 100 percent fatal in ferrets; it can be spread through direct contact with infected animals, through the air and through contact with human clothing and skin that have been in contact with infected animals. To prevent canine distemper, make sure your pet receives the entire series of vaccinations and annual booster shots.

Carnivore: a flesh-eating animal. Ferrets are carnivores and require a diet high in animal protein and fat.

Cinnamon: a coat color in which the underfur is white or off-white and the guard hairs are rich reddish brown. Cinnamon ferrets may be known for their docile temperament.

Descenting: removal of the ferret's anal scent glands to prevent the animal from releasing an extremely strong-smelling substance.

Diabetes: a metabolic disease in which the pancreas fails to produce insulin, a hormone that allows blood sugar to be absorbed by cells for proper function.

Domestic animal: any of various animals domesticated by man so as to live in a tame condition. The ferret is a domestic animal.

Estrus: the time when a female animal is fertile and receptive to a male; also known as a heat period.

Gib: a neutered male ferret.

Hairball: a clump of ingested hair; in some instances, hairballs can cause intestinal blockage in ferrets.

Heartworms: parasites that mature in the chambers of the heart and block major arteries, causing heart failure and death.

Hob: an unneutered male ferret.

Hypoglycemia: low blood sugar that can cause brain dysfunction and weakness; in ferrets, this condition most frequently is caused by an insulinoma.

Insulinoma: a tumor of the insulin-producing cells of the pancreas.

Jill: an unspayed female ferret.

Kit: a baby ferret.

Lymphosarcoma: a cancer of the lymph nodes and other lymphatic tissue, such as the spleen and liver; the most commonly diagnosed cancer in ferrets.

Mask conformation: distinguishing markings and colors of the ferret's face.

Mustela putorius furo: the scientific Latin name for the domestic ferret.

Plaque: a buildup of bacteria and minerals on the teeth that forms a hard coating and can lead to gum disease.

Quick: the pink, blood-veined area of a ferret's nail.

Rabies: an acute viral disease of the nervous system of warm-blooded animals that is usually transmitted through the bite of a rabid animal. Though chances of your ferret contracting rabies are remote, make sure your pet receives annual booster shots.

Sable: a coat color in which the markings and mask resemble that of a raccoon. This is the most common coat color in ferrets.

Scruff: the skin at the back of the ferret's neck. Also, to grasp a ferret by the skin at the back of its neck.

Siamese: a lighter color phase of the sable coat color.
Silver-mitt: a coat color in which the underfur is white or off-white, while the guard hairs contain both black and white strands. A silver-mitt ferret will also have four white feet and a white bib.

Sprite: a spayed female ferret.

Sterling silver: a coat color similar to silver-mitt except the sterling silver has more white guard hairs than black guard hairs.

Styptic powder: a substance that helps stop bleeding, such as from a ferret's nails.

White-footed sable: a coat color in which the ferret is marked as a standard sable ferret would be except that it has four white feet, sometimes accompanied by a white throat patch.

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