Ferrets usually come in brown colors so having a white ferret, also known as an albino ferret, is sure to catch some attention.
An albino ferret is no different from other living beings (animals and people) who have albinism, a genetic disorder that turns the skin pale and the hair/coat white. Aside from that, albinism also gives them reddish eyes, which, unfortunately, makes their vision not so good compared to regular ferrets.
Nonetheless, these qualities make them unique among the other ferrets out there, which is why they are also sought-after. If you’re interested in an albino ferret or have one for a pet, here’s a guide about them that will help you out.
- Albino Ferret: The Basics
- Are Albino Ferrets Found in the Wild?
- Domestic Albino Ferret Features
- What causes albinism in ferrets?
- Finding an albino ferret breeder
- Albino ferret temperament
- Does albinism affect ferret temperament?
- What to look for in an albino ferret breeder
- Health Concerns of an Albino Ferret
- How to Groom an Albino Ferret
Albino Ferret: The Basics
So, what exactly is an albino ferret and where does it come from? Well, for starters, ferrets descended from the rodent family. This means that they are somehow related to various other rodent-type animals, such as badgers, skunks, weasels, otters, and the like.
Ferrets that have a white coat and reddish eyes are considered albino ferrets. They have a genetic problem known as albinism, which causes such an appearance.
With that said, there are two types of albino ferrets based on where they live: the domestic albino ferret and the wild albino ferret. That’s because they have different origins so they have distinctions. Let’s have a look at both of them:
Domestic Albino Ferret
The domestic albino ferret came down from the European polecat. With the scientific name of Mustela putorius furo, the domestic ferret is what we commonly see in our neighborhood. They live around 5 to 10 years and tend to sleep up to 18 hours a day. A domestic ferret can grow up to 4.4 pounds in weight and up to 14 inches in size.
Wild Albino Ferret
Also known as the Mustela nigripes, the black-footed ferret is the wild albino ferret that we see in the forest. They are an endangered species so experts are trying their best to conserve them. They typically weigh 2 pounds and span up to 15 inches in length.
Are Albino Ferrets Found in the Wild?
Yes, but on rare occasions. Albino ferrets are more likely to occur on a domestic ferret than they do in the wild. That’s because domestication involves constant breeding, which will give a bigger chance for albinism to occur. In the wild, that kind of breeding isn’t as much so there won’t be a lot of albino ferrets out there.
In addition to that, while there are albino ferrets in the wild, they won’t survive that long since the conditions in the wilderness are far too harsh compared to the situation when they are domesticated. Likewise, since fewer albino ferrets make it out alive, they won’t be able to pass their genes, resulting in less likelihood of albinism occurring in today’s generations of wild ferrets.
Hence, albino ferrets live longer in captivity because they can be given proper care by their owners and the vet.
Domestic Albino Ferret Features
How exactly do you tell apart an albino ferret from the rest of the ferrets? While it is true that there are ferrets with a white coat, there are specific combinations that make a ferret albino.
For instance, the outer coat and undercoat should both be white or somewhere in a cream shade. Albino ferrets also have red eyes and a pink nose. A Dark-Eyed White Domestic Ferret, on the other hand, has a darker eye color that makes them distinctive.
Coat of an Albino Ferret
A solid white color is the key distinction of an albino ferret when you compare it side by side with a dark-eyed white ferret. That’s because they have a different coat color pattern, especially that regular ferrets can have up to 7 different coat color patterns depending on their genetics.
Why does my albino ferret change color?
At times, it would appear that your albino ferret changes color from white to cream. This is normal and could happen at any time of the year. They may also experience this when they start shedding their coat.
The coat color change is due to natural skin oils and is quite normal. These oils are essential for your albino ferret’s skin and coat health to keep them strong and fluffy.
Changing the color to cream from white is not necessarily caused by pigments since albinism is a genetic problem that has a lack of pigment.
What causes albinism in ferrets?
An albino ferret gets its albinism genes from somewhere in its family tree. Albinism is something that’s easily seen by the naked eye since it is based on appearance. Knowing whether a pet has albinism or not depends on what their hair/coat and eyes look like.
Tyrosinase or TYR is the gene mutation that’s responsible for albinism. This mutation causes a lack of pigment in the domestic ferret. This, in turn, causes their hair, eyes, and skin to have a pale color. In this case, the eyes turn reddish and the skin and hair turn white or cream.
Although two ferrets that aren’t albino don’t seem suspect to creating an albino ferret, this isn’t always the case. Even if you think that the ferrets have no history of albinism, there will be one out there somewhere in the family tree.
Albinism is a recessive trait, which means that two albinos can pass on their genes together without knowing that they are carrying the gene.
Finding an albino ferret breeder
As with many other pets, getting a responsible breeder is the most important step if you ever want to own an albino ferret. They will either breed an albino parent or two normal ferrets that they know are carrying the albinism gene.
However, if you do want to get an albino ferret as a pet, keep in mind that they are prone to certain health issues. An albino kit should be raised with care so that they grow up healthy and will become less likely sick.
Albino ferret temperament
Albino ferrets are no different from regular ferrets when it comes to temperament. Each ferret is different and their behavior can be affected by their age, sex, diet, training/playtime, living condition (alone vs. with other ferrets), if they are spayed/neutered, the season of the year, and when they’re in mating season.
These different factors are just the basic factors – there are also temperament and behavior changes that are caused by health problems. You can ask your vet if your albino ferret starts acting strange or have problematic behavior.
Any ferret has the following key qualities:
- Has an eye for adventure, so they need a wide space to roam around
- Full of intelligence, so they need a lot of mind-stimulating toys
- Naturally curious, so they need new places and activities
- Loves to play a lot, so giving them toys will keep them busy
- Very lively companions, such that they love to play with you for hours
With that in mind, there are also variances between their siblings that you’ll be able to tell if you’re raising kits. Some ferrets tend to be more dominant while others just tend to follow the leaders. Others are more into the cuddly side while some like to play around much more. The bottom line here is that ferrets can serve more than just one master in the house.
Does albinism affect ferret temperament?
No study has proved that albinism in ferrets causes many temperament differences when compared to regular ferrets. The lack of pigment in their eyes, skin, and coat certainly does not make them more temperamental or troublesome to train or play with.
However, because ferrets with albinism tend to have poor vision and hearing, they cannot understand certain training methods. That’s why albino ferrets need extra care since they won’t have the same kind of eye and ear health compared to regular ferrets.
With that said, ferrets with albinism aren’t necessarily weak – it depends on their training. Albino ferrets are just as smart, curious, and playful as a regular ferret would be, provided that they are given a lot of TLC by their owner. You can do this by giving them better training methods and stimulation that would not require a lot of eyes and ear coordination.
What to look for in an albino ferret breeder
So, you decide to look for an albino ferret from a breeder. What should you expect from them? Here are the important factors to look for if you want to find a responsible and reputable breeder:
1. Health history
When it comes to a ferret breeder, make sure your breeder knows the health history of the pet in question. They should know any genetic history and if the parents carry the albinism gene, and alongside that, any health problems that you may encounter when you take care of your pet.
2. Open for questions
A good and responsible ferret breeder knows how to handle questions for the person who will own and take care of the ferret. This includes food and diet, as well as temperament.
3. Living quarters
You must know the living conditions of the albino ferret that you want to know how they lived, especially if you are getting albino kits. This is to ensure that they are in a healthy environment with easy access to food, drinks, shelter, and medicine.
Health Concerns of an Albino Ferret
As we mentioned above, albino ferrets are susceptible to health problems due to their albinism. Let’s have a look at the most common problems you will (most likely) encounter:
1. Poor vision
Due to the lack of pigment and the reddish eyes, albino ferrets certainly aren’t the best when it comes to vision. With that said, ferrets don’t exactly have the best set of eyes, especially those that were in captivity by default.
The years of breeding these ferrets may have caused certain problems that hindered their visual health. However, with albinism in the way, albino ferrets are bound to have more problems with their vision.
Moreover, ferrets that have albinism are more likely to develop cross-eyed problems, which limits their field of vision. Some of them even have difficulty processing images from the world around them, making them a little more of a problem to train. Due to this, such albino ferrets might use their other senses to cope with their surroundings.
Additionally, they also have light sensitivity due to the lack of pigment. The reddish eyes are caused by the redness of the blood vessels, which is also seen in nearly any living being with albinism (such as humans). Because they are sensitive to light, albino ferrets best work with a dim room.
2. Hearing problems
Aside from eye problems, albino ferrets are also susceptible to having hearing problems from birth. That’s because a certain pigment might not be found in the ear canals due to their albinism. Without this pigment, the blood flow inside the ears isn’t going to work well, resulting in a lack of hearing accuracy.
There is a chance of deafness for your albino ferret. However, if they’re lucky, they could only be deaf in one ear or they might only experience hearing problems and not be deaf. Again, the TYR gene, which is present in albino ferrets, is the cause of this problem.
3. Skin problems
Due to the lack of pigment, ferrets with albinism have more sensitive skin. That’s why they need to be taken off the sun much more than their colored counterparts. To avoid the risk of sunburn and skin cancer, make sure that your albino ferret stays in the shade for a longer time.
How to Groom an Albino Ferret
Albino ferrets have sensitive skin so they need to be groomed carefully. They should be kept away from the sun and you also need to check that their skin and coat are kept moisturized.
If your ferret starts scratching too much, you can consult your vet on what’s the best way to bathe your pet to avoid irritating their skin.