I have two white ferrets at home so I went on a mission to learn everything I could about them! Here are all your questions answered about white and albino ferrets. Enjoy!
Why are There White Ferrets?
Domesticated ferrets are most commonly found with variations of a sable coat (brown body and white muzzle). However, due to selective breeding of certain mutations in captivity, you can now adopt a ferret in a variety of coat colors, including white ferrets.
Albino ferrets are the result of a recessive gene from either one or both of their parents. If a ferret has red eyes, it is an albino ferret -this means it lacks the pigment called “melanin”.
FUN FACT: White ferrets were used by hunters because their white fur color caused them to stand out easily against the landscape while they hunted rabbits.
What are the Different Variations of White Ferrets?
- Dark eyed white
- Marked white
White ferrets are either albino ferrets (white ferrets with red eyes) or white with black eyes (also called DEW ferret or dark eyed white). There are also variations to what some would consider a white ferret including ‘marked white’ (all white with a black strip down the ferret’s tail).
What do Baby White Ferrets Look Like? (You’re Welcome)
All ferrets are born with white fur, believe it or not! Sable ferrets will start to develop their darker color around three weeks of age. White ferrets will remain white from birth.
Are There White Ferrets in the Wild?
The domesticated ferret’s closest cousin is the European polecat. European polecats are not usually white. However, in 1551 a Swiss Naturalist named Gesner observed white ferrets in the wild and described their fur color as “like wool stained with urine”.
Eye Color Differences in White Ferrets
White ferrets can have different eye colors. Albino ferrets have red eyes. Dark eyed white ferrets have black eyes.
Are White Ferrets Rare as Pets?
Due to selective breeding of certain mutations, white ferrets are not rare as pets.
Why Do White Ferrets Turn Yellow?
- Natural oils
- Mating season
- Shedding season
- Adrenal disease
White ferrets turn yellow because of the naturally occurring oils on their body. These oils help ferrets regulate their body temperature and also communicate with other ferrets. Sable ferrets have this oil as well but it is not as visible due to their darker coat. The white ferret’s sebaceous glands (microscopic glands that secrete oil to lubricate or waterproof the hair of a mammal) cause a release of oil that is yellow in color.
***Bathing white ferrets will NOT make them less yellow in coloration. In fact, it will encourage them to produce MORE oils and potentially get even more yellow in color.
White Ferret Personality
White ferrets make wonderful pets and have the same intelligence and temperament as sable ferrets. Due to their poor eyesight and potential deafness, they can startle easily.
Eyesight Problems in White Ferrets
Albino ferrets have sensitive eyes. This is because albino ferrets have transparent irises (the colored ring around the pupil is see-through instead of colored). A normal iris is able to absorb light and help a ferret tolerate bright light. With an albino ferret, their iris lacks pigmentation (color) and they get no protection from bright light, causing extreme sensitivity to bright light (photosensitivity).
Mast Cell Tumors in White Ferrets
Mast cell tumors are the most common skin tumor in ferrets. These tumors can be benign or malignant (non-cancerous or cancerous). Luckily, almost all mast cell tumors in ferrets are benign (not cancer). The most common age for ferrets to develop mast cell tumors is at age 4.
Mast cell tumors in ferrets will show up for several weeks to months and then they will disappear from your ferret. They will reappear throughout your ferret’s life. Mast cell tumors in ferrets are usually less that 1cm in size.
Mast cell tumors in ferrets are very itchy. This causes your ferret to bite and scratch the mast cell tumor and potentially make it bleed and scab over.
Are White Ferrets Deaf?
People often ask if white ferrets are deaf. Albino ferrets (white ferrets with red eyes) are not usually deaf. Because of the albino mutation, they have unusually small hearing mechanisms in the middle and inner ear. This causes them to be hard of hearing but they are not usually completely deaf.
A white ferret with black eyes (DEW or dark eyed white) can be deaf. This is because they may have something called Waardenburg Syndrome.
How to Test if Your White Ferret is Deaf
- Observe their behavior
- BAER test
How can you tell if your white ferret is deaf? Deaf ferrets are easily startled. Do you often find your ferret surprised by your presence and darting away from you for no reason? This is a behavior we frequently observe in our ferret, Albert, who is a DEW (dark eyed white ferret).
Deaf ferrets are often more vocal than ferrets that are not deaf. Do you have a white ferret that screams louder than your other ferrets when playing? This is also a sign of deafness in white ferrets.
There is a scientific test known as the BAER test (brain-stem auditory evoked response test). This is something many ferret breeders will use to test their ferrets to determine deafness. It uses electrodes placed on your white ferret’s head to detect electrical impulses in the inner ear.
Waardenburg Syndrome in White Ferrets
Waardenburg Syndrome is a genetic disorder in both humans and ferrets. Ferrets with Waardenburg Syndrome are often deaf and have a flatter skull and wide-set eyes (compared to traditional domestic ferrets).
Panda ferrets and blaze ferrets are most commonly affected by Waardenburg Syndrome, although dark eyed white ferrets can suffer from Waardenburg Syndrome as well.
What is the Difference Between a Ferret a Mink and a Stoat?
White ferrets are common as pets. Often times, people who are not familiar with the domestic ferret mistake minks and stoats for domestic ferrets.
White ferrets make wonderful pets! Though they may have unique health problems (like Waardenburg Syndrome and deafness), that’s no reason not to adopt these adorable little guys!