The castration of a male ferret (also known as a hob) involves the removal of the testicles. The castrate is then known as a hobble. This is a minor operation which is irreversible, thus rendering the ferret unable to breed ever again. The surgery is usually performed after four months of age and a lighter coat is sometimes noticed a few weeks after the operation. The most common reasons for castrating a male ferret are to reduce its unpleasant smell, to prevent a litter of unwanted kits, to reduce any aggressive behaviour and to allow it to be in the company of other ferrets without there being any problems.
At what age should a male ferret be castrated?
A male ferret can usually be castrated at any age after four months old. Elderly hobs have an increased risk during surgery under a general anaesthetic and so it is advised to perform the operation soon rather than later. However, it is recommended to talk about these risks with the veterinary surgeon since the risks are not generally high enough to prevent the castration from being undertaken.
The hob should be starved approximately four hours before the surgery to prevent dangerous complications from occurring. A general anaesthetic will be given to the ferret so that it stays unconscious during the surgery along with pain relief medication. This is followed by a nurse who will clip the surgical area and scrub it with disinfectant soap prior the operation.
The skin in front of the scrotum is cut by a veterinary surgeon with a single incision along with the fibrous tunic. The blood vessels are ligated and so is the spermatic cord. Both testicles are removed. The operation is a minor one so the ferret can usually be returned home the same day.
Are there other ways to castrate a male ferret?
In the past it was known to vasectomise male ferrets rather than castrate them. This is not as effective as castration and is much more difficult to perform. In some areas it is considered unethical because the vasectomised ferrets (hoblets) are extremely aggressive as they attempt to mate with jills (female ferrets). Overall, it is argued that castration is by far the preferred method.
The ferret should be returned home to a clean, disinfected and warm area where there is new bedding and clean, fresh water available. The surgical wound should be checked for any redness, soreness, heat or discharge. If any of these are noticed then the vet should be called immediately. It is also advisable to keep the ferret in a quiet area to reduce any stress during this time.
It’s better to keep my ferret on his own rather than make him have an operation
Ferrets are sociable animals and so isolating the male ferret is not in its best interests. The operation is a minor one and there is usually little risk involved. A castrated ferret can have social interactions with other ferrets and therefore lead a happier and more fulfilling life.
The operation is too dangerous
The use of anaesthetic sometimes worries owners and so they don’t go through with the castration. However, it must be remembered that the risk is minimal and sometimes leaving two un-castrated male ferrets together can be much more dangerous and sometimes fatal. Veterinarians are becoming more and more able to perform surgeries on ferrets and so this should not discourage owners from a very worthwhile procedure.
My male ferret still smells so the operation did not work
It takes time for the hormones to settle down after castration so the smell will stop between the period of a week to six weeks. This is normal and does not mean the operation was not a success. If the pungent small persists for an unusually long time and the ferret shows other signs that they still have their testicles then the vet may be called for advice.
Reduces behaviour problems
Hobs often show aggressive behaviour towards other ferrets and even their owners. This is usually hormone induced behaviour and so removing the testicles, which produce the hormone testosterone, can remove this unwanted behaviour. It is noticed that, following the operation, male ferrets become more affectionate and have a sweeter nature.
He can be kept with other ferrets
Due to the fact that the male ferret is calmer and less aggressive this means that they can be kept more safely with other ferrets. Unlike vasectomised ferrets, castrated ferrets do not pose a danger to jills as they do not show violent attempts at mating. This is a great advantage since ferrets are sociable animals which require the company of other ferrets.
Male hobs give off a very strong smell which the majority of owners find extremely unpleasant. Castrating the ferret reduces this problem and the pungent smell will leave sometimes as soon as a week following the operation. Of course, cleaning and disinfecting the cage regularly will also reduce any lingering smell once the castration has been performed.