Ferret breeding requires know-how as there are a number of inherent dangers. Males behave violently toward breeding females, so the act must be monitored; however, mating the pair in the male’s cage oftentimes reduces the violence. Leaving the pair together for a few days increases chances of pregnancy, as ferrets copulate repeatedly. A pregnant ferret, or jill, must be fed an extremely high-quality diet, and consistent attention must be given her during and after pregnancy because several common problems could compromise her health.
Male ferrets, or hobs, instinctively bite the jills, on the neck to release an essential hormone that permits her to release eggs. These bites can puncture skin and result in infection. Using the hob’s cage as the mating ground can reduce the male’s proclivity toward mating violence and keep the jill a little safer during the act.
During ferret breeding, if the hob’s violence becomes excessive, the female should be taken from the cage. However, hobs, like male cats, have hooked penises that embed in the female during copulation. Trying to separate ferrets once penetration has been accomplished can result in injury to one or both animals.
As a breeding pair will copulate repeatedly, successful ferret breeding is more likely if the pair remain together for a few days days to increase the chance of pregnancy and the size of the litter. However, this also increases the chances of the jill suffering bites. In addition, pregnancy itself is stressful, and a jill carrying a large litter is more likely to experience health risks.
In addition to checking a recently bred jill for punctures, a breeder must be alert for possible vaginal infections. This is especially true if the jill has copulated several times. At the first sign of infection, she must be taken to a veterinarian for treatment as an untreated infection could result in death.
Once ferret breeding is complete, the female must be fed a high-quality, high-protein diet. Jills are likely to deliver stillborn kits if they don’t receive proper nutrition during gestation. At minimum, 35% of the diet should be top-quality meat protein and about 11% fat.
The delivery itself can be dangerous for the jill as well as for the kits. Unless the breeder has experience, experts suggest the birth be supervised by a veterinarian. It’s especially important not to touch or disturb the jill during the birthing process; if she feels threatened, she could turn on her kits or refuse to nurture them altogether.
Postdelivery, the jill will continue to require a high-protein diet while she is nursing. In order to produce enough milk without compromising her own health, she’ll need increased iron. This can be given in the form of supplements or by feeding her liver.