The low-down on weight
So, how can we tell if our furry stinker is a good weight? Unfortunately, there is no perfect number for all ferrets. Just like people, ferrets come in all shapes and body sizes. Some ferrets are naturally slim, while others are big and bulky. But even within these ranges, a ferret can still be too fat or too thin. There are a few methods you can use to help determine if your fertie friend is at a good weight.
First, I like to hold the ferret and run my hands over them. I personally feel this is the more accurate method. With this method, we are assessing the amount of fat coverage the ferret has. Can you easily feel the ribs, spine, or hip bones? Does there seem to be only skin covering these areas? If so, then your ferret is too skinny.
If you can't feel the ribs at all, or have to press to feel/count the ribs, then your ferret may be carry some extra weight.
If you can feel a slight fat covering, but can still feel/count the ribs, then your ferret is at a fine weight!
Another method is to gently hold the ferret and let their body dangle. This method allows us to assess their body fat as well, and is the preferred method for online assessment
Ideally, the ferret should be a straight shape, with a slight bulge at the hips. If the body is very straight, like a poker, or the hips are sunken in, that is too skinny!
If your ferret is shaped like a bowling pin, well, he's a bit chubby!
This method can be a bit misleading, as even an underweight ferret may look okay at the right angle. It can be helpful to also have a photo of the ferret on the ground, to better see how the weight is distributed. If the hips look sunken in, that also points to a too thin ferret.
Here is Jasper, a ferret I rescued just last night. He was being fed hamster food, kitten chow, and poptarts.
As you can see, he has no bulge to his hips, and they even appear sunken in (easily seen on the right side, see how it makes a curve inward?)
He feels even skinnier than he looks, has virtually no muscle or body fat. You can see his spine and hipbones clearly. I unfortunately couldn't get a good floor shot to show his sunken hips from above.
Looking at his picture, we can see that he has weight around his hips, and is generally in good condition.His particular body type doesn't carry a lot of weight around the ribs, but if you used your hands to feel him, there is a slight fat coating over the ribs.
We can see here that he is carrying plenty of weight around his ribs and hips, and the overall picture is of a very solid ferret. He's tensing his legs, which makes them look slightly fatter than they are.
(don't they say the camera adds ten pounds?)
Wesley typically carries a moderate amount of weight and muscle. I can feel his ribs, but they have a good fat covering. In the winter, he can be a bit chubby, but as stated before, that is normal.
If you're not sure of your ferret's weight history, there are a few other factors to consider. First is diet. Ferrets get little nutrition from filler-based foods and as a result, weight loss may occur.
Jasper, above, was fed kitten chow and hamster food, with poptarts as treats. We can see how thin he is.
Some ferrets may get fat eating a low quality food (I had a foster on WalMart food who was quite chubby, I think it was his equivalent of pizza and doughnuts) but most of the time, they lose weight on a poor diet.
If you need help with diet suggestions, I suggest researching a balanced raw diet on the Holistic Ferret Forum. If you prefer to stick with kibble at this time, our new Food Chart can help you select a healthy ferret kibble.
Another factor is playtime. Ferrets are very active. Lack of activity can cause weight gain in ferrets. Those chubby ferrets you see the pet store? That flab is likely caused by inactivity. Remember, ferrets need at least 4 hours of out of cage time a day!
If you've ruled out diet and playtime as a factor for your ferret's weight loss or gain, then the next step would be to contact a ferret-experienced vet. Certain health conditions can cause changes in body conditions.
This guide is not meant to diagnose or treat any pet health issues.
That said, I do hope that this guide provides you a little more insight into ferret body conditions!