Ferrets reach maturity quickly. They reach their full size and ability to reproduce by the age of 4 months. That fast aging process continues throughout their lives. By age 3, your ferret is in midlife.
Birth to Weaning
The ferret gives birth to kits after a 42-day pregnancy. Born deaf and blind, baby ferrets don't see or hear until the age of 3 weeks. At the age of 2 weeks, their baby teeth erupt. At that point, they can start eating solid food rather than just nursing from mom. By the age of 7 weeks, the permanent teeth are coming in. By the next week, most kits are weaned and separated from their mothers.
Weaning to Adulthood
Just two months after weaning, ferrets are adults. They grow rapidly in that time period. By 4 months, ferrets reach their full size. Male ferrets, or hobs, weigh about 2.5 pounds. Females, or jills, are considerably smaller, weighing about 1.5 pounds. From the tip of the nose to the end of the tail, adult male ferrets are about 16 inches long while the females are approximately 12 inches. Even though they have reached their mature size, sexual maturity doesn't occur until the first spring after birth.
It's important to have your ferret spayed or neutered. Jills reach sexual maturity between the ages of 5 and 8 months, depending on when they were born. Males are sexually mature between the ages of 6 to 8 months. Most breeders and pet stores sell ferrets that are already fixed, but if yours isn't, have the procedure done as possible. Intact male ferrets not only smell bad but can become aggressive and start marking territory with urine. Intact female ferrets who aren't bred can die. That's because once females go into heat, they don't come out of it unless they breed. Unbred jills develop aplastic anemia from all that estrogen and usually die if not bred or spayed.
If you're lucky, you'll have your ferret friend around for six to 10 years. Feed your ferret correctly to increase the odds of him living to old age. Ferrets are obligate carnivores, meaning they must eat meat. In the past, food designed especially for ferrets was hard to come by, so many ferret owners fed food intended for that common household obligate carnivore, the cat. Today, you can purchase canned and dry ferret food from pet stores or your vet.
Ferrets are prone to many illnesses, especially cancer and adrenal disease. It's important to find a vet specializing in ferret care. Because they are so curious, ferrets often swallow items that end up causing gastrointestinal obstruction. Always ferret-proof any rooms your pet accesses, and don't let him out unsupervised. Once your ferret reaches his third birthday, he'll need more than an annual vet checkup -- that's the point at which diseases start cropping up. Expect to take your pet to the vet at least two or three times a year.
Jane Meggitt has been a writer for more than 20 years. In addition to reporting for a major newspaper chain, she has been published in "Horse News," "Suburban Classic," "Hoof Beats," "Equine Journal" and other publications. She has a Bachelor of Arts in English from New York University and an Associate of Arts from the American Academy of Dramatics Arts, New York City.