Friday, February 12, 2010

Differences Between Male And Female Ferrets

Well, hello friends. It’s time, once again, to share some ferrety information with you. And guess what’s on the agenda for today?

“How to end world hunger?”

Um. No.

“How to bring about world peace?”

No. No. No.

“You don’t care about these things?”

[Sigh] Of course I do. But this post is about ferrets.

“Oh.” [pause] “Hey, I think I know what’s on for today. You’re going to write about the government-funded secret military labs that are breeding warrior-style ferrets that will be used to dominate the general population?”


“You really don’t know about this? Well, you just wait. You’ll read all about it in one of Dean Koontz’s books. He knows what’s going on. They publish his books as fiction, but I know better. Oh yes I do.”

Uhuh. O-kay… Moving along...

I’m going to write about the differences between male and female ferrets, if there are any, and how to distinguish between the two.

“And somehow you feel that this is more important than putting an end to world hunger?”

Shoo. Go away.

“Alright, so what are the differences between male and female ferrets, you ask?”


Not much.

Size is about the only real difference between the two. Although there are exceptions to this rule, males are slightly larger, growing between 17 to 24 inches in length and weighing anywhere from 3 to 5 pounds. Females, on the other hand, will be about 12 to 16 inches long and weigh between 1 to 3 pounds. In summary, a domesticated ferret will have an average length of 20 inches and weigh about 2 to 4 pounds. Both have long and slender bodies, so don’t look for those feminine curves to help determine whether you have a male or female pet.

Photo from SXC

There are a lot of opinions from ferret owners, but the general consensus is that male and female behaviour generalizations are basically impossible because every ferret has a unique personality, regardless of what sex it is. A female can play just as rough as a male, and a male can be just as affectionate and cuddly as a female. So don’t assume that your docile, affectionate pet is a female; males have no problem showering you with ferrety kisses.

The only time you will find a noticeable difference between male and females ferrets is when they’re not fixed. For example, an un-neutered male ferret is very territorial and will likely become very aggressive toward other ferrets as well as toward people and other pets he lives with. In addition, when frustrated, he may cause serious injury by biting. He will also have a very strong and unpleasant odor about him, and, to top it all off, he may decide to ‘mark’ his territory. ‘Nuff said.

For a female ferret, on the other hand, spaying is a medical necessity because when she goes into heat she stays in heat until she breeds. The continuing heat cycle leads to a life-threatening condition called aplastic anemia, a condition caused by high levels of the hormone estrogen, which is produced when the female ferret is in heat. Inevitably, severe anemia sets in and death follows. So fixing a female will ultimately save her life.

That’s about all the differences you’ll find between male and female ferrets. Now, the only thing that remains is how to actually tell whether a ferret is male or female. It’s something that I learned recently, which led to the discovery that Bailey is male and not female. And it’s very easy to do.

If you look on the belly of a ferret, halfway between the tail and the bottom of the rib cage, and you notice what looks like an ‘outie’ belly button, it’s a male (and that’s not a belly button). If there’s no sign of a belly button, it’s a female. It’s that simple.

So that’s it for today folks. I hope that this has proven to be another informative ferrety Friday.

The last word, once again, goes to Bailey.

Hey dude! What say you?

Um, no. That wouldn’t be a good idea...


  1. Martha girl .. we are still chuckling over here at your predicament with Bailey .. the first thing I asked John was (after I read your e-mail) "she didn't tell me how she found out !!"
    So now .. you have to find a vet and "fix" Bailey ? .. then eventually Nacho too .. so you will have "Two Fixed Friends" in your home : )

  2. Hi Joy! I'm happy to see that you're slowly getting back on your feet. Actually, Bailey is fixed. All ferrets delivered to pet stores are fixed beforehand. It's because it's very important to spay and neuter ferrets, especially the females, so I guess they don't leave it up pet owners to be responsible enough to do it.

    Nacho on the other hand will be going into heat soon. I expect it will hit her some time in March. As soon as that happens, we're off to the vet! The last thing on earth that we need is for her to run out and come back pregnant. There are enough cats that need homes; I wouldn't want to add to that total!

  3. Wow, that's really interesting to hear that spaying a female ferret actually saves her life. Thank goodness the pet stores do fix the ferrets before they sell them!

    I got quite a picture in my mind of "warrior" ferrets---very funny, but somehow scary at the same time...hee,hee.

    Thanks for another enlightening post, Martha!

  4. Ferrety Fridays always make me smile, thanks Martha! Baily is adorable, and I'm really glad he's not going to become a warrior ferret!

  5. Thanks Beth! I do try to add some humour to my posts to keep them interesting. I guess ferrets get fixed before they're sent to pet stores because pet owners can't be trusted to do right by them.

    Warrior ferrets? Ha ha ha...yeah, that does bring a funny (yet scary) image to mind!

    Hi Liza, thank you! I really enjoy working on these posts. I feel as though I'm helping people understand them a little more. They're such cute and sweet animals that I'm hoping I can help create a better image of them - at least a little.

  6. Thank you, dirty girl garedening. I think ferrets are adorable, especially ours!

  7. Okay, I have to admit they are kinda cute. But please DO NOT give my daughter any ideas, she's already begging for a rat! :)

  8. Hi Rachel, I won't say a word to your daughter! :)

    Although I should point out that rats, despite common belief, are one of the best pets. Most people think of the sewer rats when it comes to these animals. But the ones that are kept as pets are friendly, affectionate and highly intelligent. A friend of mine had a pet rat a few years back and she said it was one of the best pets she'd ever owned.

    But...I promise I won't say a word to your daughter about what a wonderful pet a rat would make! :)

  9. I would not have found this blog if last night I hadn't been horrified and completely disorientated when my husband realized that my dear sweet lovable lil baby Sukie's "belly button" was wet after "she" stuck her rear in the corner of her litter box!! He said he'd been wondering for some time why when "she" went to the bathroom it was never wet where he THOUGHT it should be LOL!!! So yes my Sukie is a boy and I'm having some adjustments and MUST change his pink hammock to a blue one before he too believes he's a girl!!:) you would THINK the pet store MAN would know a male when he saw one but I saw him check with his own two eyes and reassured us "yes its a female!" O well..i loved him as a girl so I'll keep loving him just the same as a boy!:) I was worried about personality differences but thanks for clearing that up that there should be none!

    1. Oh, so cute! I bet it was quite a surprise to find out that the fuzzy girl is actually a fuzzy boy! Hahaha...

      Well, you're certainly not alone. The same thing happened to us with our first ferret. There were a couple of young girls working the day we picked him up and they didn’t seem entirely sure about whether (he) was male or female. They took a guess and got it wrong. There were a lot of things about ferrets they didn’t seem too sure about. I think pet store staff should be more knowledgeable about pets they sell. If they're not, they shouldn't have these animals in their shops!

      Oh yes, you'll keep on loving Sukie no matter what. Fuzzies are simply adorable...male or female!