A Ferret of a Different Color – Coat Changes

by Keri K. on September 9, 2010

Through the efforts of breeders, ferrets now feature a range of coat colors. The “original” ferret color is sable, a dark brown to black with the characteristic mask on the face. From this, we now have such variations as “champagne,” “cinnamon,” and “silver.” There are a number of different patterns seen in those colors as well.

Pocus, age 1

Pocus, age 1

Hocus, age 1

Hocus, age 1

Hocus and Pocus, age 3

Hocus and Pocus, age 3

Some of these relatively new colors and patterns can be incredibly cute (I personally love little white toes, or “mitts”). However, liking the look of a ferret is the very last reason you should pick yours out! The only ferret color/pattern on which you can rely to stay the same year after year is no color at all — ­ that is, an albino.

While sables may subtly shift color after shedding, it’s extremely common in the lighter-colored variations to see dramatic changes from season to season. For example:

  • When I adopted Trial he was a silver roan, meaning he was about half dark hairs and half white. By the time he passed a few years later, he had “roaned out” and become a DEW: a Dark-Eyed White, with no black or gray hairs at all.
  • When I adopted Hocus at the age of one, he had creamy brown tones with a perfect dark brown diamond mark on his forehead. His littermate Pocus was a handsome dark gray, almost black. Today, the best way to tell them apart is by holding them up side-by-side and guessing by weight. Luckily, Pocus has always been a little bigger!

Demand for ferrets of unique colors has led to more breeding for patterns like “blaze” and “panda,” which feature a white stripe on the head, or solid white head. Unfortunately, these markings are also highly prone to the genetic disorder called Waardenburg syndrome, characterized by deafness, neurological abnormalities, and somewhat misshapen skulls. Trial was indeed deaf, and his face was a little wider and heavier than my other ferrets’. In his case, it did not much affect his quality of life, but it was definitely a result of being bred for a certain look over perfect health. And whatever fancy markings he had as a kit were soon gone.

So, when picking out a ferret, always choose personality over looks. That adorable white bib and stripe down the tail might not be around for long, but a sweet temperament will last a lifetime!
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Keri is a lead catalog designer for Drs. Foster and Smith and holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from UW-Stout. She shares a small home with her husband, two Chinese Crested dogs, two cats, two ferrets, several reptiles and amphibians, and 30-some gallons of freshwater planted aquariums. See more articles by Keri K.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Melony Mortimer March 15, 2012 at 2:24 pm

That’s interesting! We had 7 ferrets at one time here awhile back. We had Wolf, Fizgig & Sox (all silvermint), Powder (albino) & Ralphy and BB (both sables). We never noticed any color in their coats, except for Powder. He started out a solid white, and after about 4 months got an almost goldish tint to his fur! We had to give away 3 of them and have since lost 2 for unknown reasons. We miss our little family of critters. Fizgig does seem lonely but he’s full of energy and cute as a button!! 🙂

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