Pet Keen is reader-supported. When you buy via links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission at no cost to you. Learn more.

Home > Ferrets > How To Tell If a Ferret Is Pregnant: Vet Reviewed Signs & Facts

How To Tell If a Ferret Is Pregnant: Vet Reviewed Signs & Facts

Ferret female with big belly full of babies before birth

Vet approved

Dr. Luqman Javed Photo

Reviewed & Fact-Checked By

Dr. Luqman Javed

Veterinarian, DVM

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

Learn more »

Breeding ferrets is a long and often stressful process. It involves a lot of waiting—often with little information on what’s happening inside a ferret’s body.

Luckily, there are several signs breeders can look for throughout a ferret’s pregnancy, as well as several diagnostic tests that can help determine if a ferret is pregnant or not. These tests are highly recommended, as they are key in determining the mother’s and babies’ health.

Breeding ferrets is a task that no pet owner should attempt, and is best left to professionals only.
How To Tell If A Ferret Is Pregnant PK Infogrpahic
You are free to use this image but we do require you to link back to for credit



Veterinarians all over the world strongly discourage breeding ferrets. All pet ferrets should be neutered before 6 weeks of age. The content in this article is for informative purposes only. At PetKeen, we do not encourage breeding ferrets or other exotic pets. This task should only be performed by professional breeders.

Female ferrets that aren’t neutered will come into heat when they reach sexual maturity and remain in heat unless they are bred. During heat, female ferrets naturally develop anemia, a condition where their red blood cell count reduces. Left unbred, this can prove fatal.

Intact male ferrets have a very strong, musky odor during the mating season (twice a year). They also mark their territory by urinating. They will do this even in the absence of a female. Contact your exotic veterinarian if your ferret isn’t neutered.

The 3 Signs and Symptoms of Pregnancy in Ferrets

Breeders may be able to pick out many signs of pregnancy when a ferret is pregnant but not all ferrets will have all of these signs.

1. Changes in Behavior

ferret lying on wooden floor
Image Credit: Ermolaeva Olga 84, Shutterstock

A ferret may have several changes in behavior when they’re pregnant, and many of these can be challenging to predict. Each ferret reacts to each pregnancy differently.

For instance, pregnant ferrets may be more tired than usual, even very early in their pregnancy. It may be hard for them to play as much as they used to. They may also be more irritable, as their lethargy often drives their aggressive behavior. However, pregnant ferrets may not feel tired all the time. They may seem very hot and cold, changing at the drop of a hat.

Many ferrets become more protective of their nesting area, usually their cage. They may be more irritated when their cage is cleaned or even approached. Alternatively, they may be fine with their most trusted human near the cage, but they may be unusually aggressive with those they don’t know as well.

2. Changes in Appearance

When ferrets are pregnant, they will have an enlarged belly. However, this doesn’t occur until late in pregnancy and some ferrets hide it very well. Therefore, this isn’t the most accurate symptom to look for.

Also, late in pregnancy, ferrets may have enlarged or pink nipples. This sign indicates that their body is preparing for nursing, which often means they’re reaching their due date. However, this sign can be hard to notice unless someone is looking for it. Plus, because it also occurs later in pregnancy, it isn’t a reliable sign of early pregnancy.

Many ferrets will gain weight, starting around the midpoint of their pregnancy. Almost all of the early pregnancy occurs without any weight gain, though. Because most physical symptoms don’t show up until the end of pregnancy, they aren’t an accurate way to detect pregnancy. Breeders rely on other signs and diagnostic tests for that.

3. Changes in Appetite

Small female ferret eating briquette
Image Credit: Xseon, Shutterstock

Many ferrets have appetite changes during pregnancy. However, this isn’t always what breeders expect. While some ferrets will feel hungrier during pregnancy, others may go through a period of a lower appetite. At the end of their pregnancy, ferrets don’t tend to eat much, as there simply isn’t much room inside their stomach.

In the early stages of pregnancy, a loss of appetite is also normal. This sign is due to the hormones that start changing at the beginning of pregnancy, which is why ferrets often feel lethargic.

With that said, a ferret should still be eating something. If a ferret stops eating, she needs veterinary care. Not eating enough can be harmful to the mother and babies.

divider-ferretThe 3 Tests Confirming Pregnancy in Ferrets

While breeders can watch for the above signs to know whether a ferret is pregnant, they can’t be used to confirm pregnancy. All of the signs above can also be caused by things besides pregnancy. Therefore, getting a ferret’s pregnancy confirmed by a vet is important.

Luckily, many tests can be done to make this determination.

4. Palpation

Palpation involves a trained professional carefully feeling a ferret’s abdomen for the developing fetuses. Sometimes, the vet can feel the babies as soon as 2 weeks after conception.

This process is less expensive than other ways to confirm pregnancy, and it provides some other information beyond just a “yes” or “no.” For instance, the vet may be able to estimate how many babies the mother is carrying, which can help manage complications during the birthing process.

Inexperienced breeders may be tempted to try palpation since the process looks easy. However, doing it incorrectly can be dangerous for both the mothers and the babies. You don’t want to push down with the wrong amount of force or in the wrong spot. Therefore, it is best to get this done by a professional. If they feel developing babies, then it’s a very good sign a ferret is pregnant.

5. Ultrasound

ferret in a vet clinic
Image Credit: Irina Vasilevskaia, Shutterstock

Ultrasounds are another way for trained veterinarians to confirm a pregnancy. They provide a bit more information than palpations. However, they can also be more expensive and may have more side effects (as the ferret may need to be medicated during the process, as they must keep still).

Ultrasounds can be performed in as little as 10 days after mating. They can visualize the fetuses, allowing the vet to determine their exact number and age. They can also pick up on several complications. Therefore, they’re a helpful diagnostic tool.

Sadly, ultrasounds aren’t as common for ferrets as other pets, like dogs and cats. Therefore, finding a vet experienced in performing them on ferrets can be challenging. Luckily, the process isn’t complicated, so even a less-experienced veterinarian can glean a bit from a ferret ultrasound.

6. X-Ray

When ultrasounds aren’t available, some vets may use an X-ray to get a more in-depth view of the developing babies. This test only detects babies when they are practically fully formed, so it isn’t commonly used for pregnancy confirmation. However, it can be utilized if the ferret is accidentally pregnant and the pregnancy isn’t noticed until the late stages.

There are several reasons X-rays aren’t commonly used, though. The radiation used by X-rays can technically injure the babies, though this is unlikely at the late stages of pregnancy when they’re already formed. Furthermore, the mother must be sedated, as she must lay very still for some time. There are always side effects to medication, especially when the mother is pregnant.

For these reasons, other methods to confirm pregnancy are more common.



For breeders, knowing a ferret is pregnant is vital to caring for the mother and babies. Ferrets need special care during and after pregnancy. Performing this special care is impossible if they don’t know a ferret is pregnant. Therefore, many pregnancies may go unnoticed for some time.

Luckily, vets can perform several diagnostic tests to let breeders know if a ferret is pregnant much earlier. Getting a ferret proper care during pregnancy is vital, and the first step is getting a confirmation done by a vet.

See Also:

Featured Image Credit: Yasmins world, Shutterstock

Our vets

Want to talk to a vet online?

Whether you have concerns about your dog, cat, or other pet, trained vets have the answers!

Our vets