Life of the Single Female Ferret


First in a series

My general veterinary practice was busy. That might sound like a good problem but despite meticulous preparation I was seldom caught up. There seemed to be more going on with every pet I saw than what it came in for. My patiently waiting clients knew I’d spend all the time necessary to help their dog or cat. Or ferret.

Ferrets, lumped into the pocket pet category, are more popular than you may realize. They can be a bit odiferous but they have playful, engaging personalities. They spend little time in pockets but they generally do well as indoor pets. And, fortunately for all involved, they don’t seem mind bathing.

Midway through this particular over-scheduled Monday there was a new client, Sue and Davie Davenport with their ferret Miss Ellie. As I hustled in to the exam room I looked up – way up – at 6’ 8”, roughly 260 pound Davie. Cradled in the crook of his arm, at about my eye level, was Miss Ellie. Average-sized Sue stood nearby. All 3 were polite and friendly young adults, however Davey called me ‘sir,’ repeatedly. I didn’t know yet if that was a good sign.

If you are a female pet ferret you want to be spayed. An au naturale life in the absence of gentleman callers is dangerous for celibate “jills” because they can die of estrogen toxicosis. Unlike many other mammals, lady ferrets don’t ovulate on a schedule but only when bred. In the wild, between March and August, they are induced ovulators, meaning that just about every mating puts them in a family way. They are happy for male company during those long summer days. The rest of the year they will not accept this rose or invitations for coffee.

If left unspayed, the indoor Miss Ellie would stay perpetually in heat. Her estrogen levels would remain elevated, gradually shutting down her bone marrow and causing blood cell production to plummet. She would be vulnerable to anemia, infection, or uncontrolled bleeding. She needed an ovariohysterectomy.
Next week: Of course, there had to be drama.
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Dr. Jeff Nichol is a residency-trained veterinary behaviorist. He provides consultations in-person and in groups by Zoom (505-792-5131). Each week he shares a blog and a video to help bring out the best in pets and their people. Sign up at no charge at Post pet behavioral or physical questions on or by US Post to 4000 Montgomery Blvd. NE, Albuq, NM 87109.