Deciding between a male or female ferret can seem like a hard decision, however, there are some slight difference that may make your choice easier.
It’s important to note that regardless of whether you choose a male or female ferret both require de-sexing for health reasons when kept as pets and this generally reduces a number of the temperament and behavioural traits between the two sexes. There are, however, some subtle difference that may help you choose.
Females are smaller than males, with a size difference of up to 1kg. This can mean the difference between a 2.5kg pet and a 3.5kg pet. Ferrets do vary in size and can be as small as 1kg so its best to check out the parents where possible before you buy or rescue a ferret to know what you are in for.
Both sexes need to be desexed. Females because they come on heat and stay on heat until mated and this process can lead to fatal aplastic anaemia. Males, on the other hand, will become territorially aggressive and urine mark during mating season. Multiple male ferrets may also fight if not de-sexed.
The surgery is slightly more costly and complicated for females than for males, but is performed routinely at most Veterinary Practices. Ferrets are great little surgical patients and usually recover brilliantly from surgery.
In the US most kits are sold already desexed at 14 weeks of age. However there is a lot of evidence to suggest that such early desexing plays a huge role in US ferrets developing Adrenal Gland Disease later in life. For those who can purchase an intact ferret desexing is generally delayed until 6 months of age. However it is a growing trend to wait until about a year old before desexing.
In this time if a female goes into heat you can have them desexed as long as you catch it early. When jills go in heat their vulva swells to the size of a coffee bean, so as long as you desex within the first week of this the surgery is still quite safe! Otherwise a jill jab or vasectomised hob can bring them out of heat for desexing.
De-sexing helps the smell problem significantly for both species. Females are, however, slightly less smelly than their male counterparts, who can get SOOO smelly while in rut your neighbours can smell him!
When you are looking at ferrets as pets you may encounter some interesting terminology, so it’s important you know what all that lingo really means:
- A male ferret is called a ‘hob’, a de-sexed male ferret is called a ‘gib’ and a vasectomised male is known as a ‘hoblet’;
- A female ferret is called a ‘jill’ and a de-sexed female is called a ‘sprite’
It’s a good idea not to mix up your hobs from your jills if you have a specific sex in mind for your ferret.
Ferret are social animals and you should ideally be looking at getting at least two ferrets so they can play together. This also means they are not so dependent on you alone for fun, particularly if you work during the day. Perhaps getting one of each will allow you to compare the individual characteristics of males and females.
Whatever you decide, ferrets all have their own unique characteristics and personalities whether they be male or female.