Private Breeders

Ferrets from a reputable breeder are often significantly healthier than ferrets who have come from a mill/pet store or a BYB (Back Yard Breeder). A responsible breeder carefully monitors their genetic for potential genetic disorders, and strives to breed for the healthiest ferrets possible. Ferrets are handled and socialized from a young age and are allowed to be properly and fully weaned before going to their new homes. This leads to stronger, healthier (mentally and physically) ferrets that have been trained how to be proper ferrets by their mother. Many breeders raise kits on both kibble and raw. This means that regardless of the diet you decide to go with, the ferret will already know how to eat it! Also, breeder ferrets are not spayed/neutered too young, resulting in a decreased rate of adrenal disease. However, breeder ferrets also tend to be MUCH higher energy and intensity than mill ferrets. They have better musculature and are highly intelligent, allowing them to find ways into more trouble. They also do not tolerate physical discipline well, and can develop behavior problems if not offered sufficient free roam time and stimulation. Most breeders will require an experienced owner.

Private Breeder (“Breeder Ferret”):

Behavior: “Breeder ferrets” (meaning from a private breeder, not for breeding) tend to be more active, robust, and intelligent than mill ferrets. They require extra handling, extra patience, and extra socialization. Some may have polecat hybrid backgrounds and be more prone to biting if not handled regularly. They are very intelligent and amusing ferrets who are constantly solving puzzles and finding trouble. They will keep you on your toes!
Males: Tend to be significantly larger than mill ferrets
Females: May be smaller than mill females, especially if late altered but this does vary by breeder. Very independent and often dominant.
Body structure: Can very greatly by breeder from stocky and a more European look (especially if the breeder began with European import ferrets), to petite “micro” ferrets. (Note that HFF does not advocate the breeding of “micro” ferrets due to health risks to the kit and mother).
Personality/attitude: Varies by breeder and parent personalities – talk to the breeders near you to ask about the personalities of their lines.
Coloration: Reputable breeders will only have naturally occurring colors/markings. These include sable (“poley”), champagne (“sandy”), and albino ferrets. Beware of “fancy” colors and markings as these are more associated with genetic disorders, Waardenburg Syndrome, and proposed to also be linked to increased propensity for lymphoma.
Health: Less prone to adrenal due to later altering. May be less prone to heart disease and some cancers. Overall healthier with strong immune systems and longer lifespans. Be aware that you may have to be more “on the ball” regarding seasons, as many breeder ferrets are intact when you adopt them. You will have the option to surgically alter them or use implants to suppress the natural hormonal cycles for a limited period of time.
Tattoo: Unmarked
Fit Info: Breeder ferrets are a fantastic option if you do not want to adopt, and want a kit – but do not want to support mill-breeders. They tend to be healthier and you can talk to the breeder about personality and health issues. Be prepared to spend more money than you would on a mill-ferret (Marshalls, RC, PV) but it will be worth it.
***Please note that there is a difference between professional, reputable breeders and backyard breeders. Check to make sure that your breeder is a reputable breeder or you may have a higher risk other health issues such as are commonly seen in farmed ferrets from thoughtless breeding or breeding for fancy colors/markings. Also be aware that even the best breeding cannot guarantee a completely disease-free ferret, but it can greatly minimize the risks of disease.

Photo Credit: Katt; Ferrets: Juuzou and Zero from Misty Mountain Ferrets

European Imports (Privately Bred)

Behavior: Varies by breeder but in general tend to be much more intelligent, active, and higher intensity than Mill ferrets.
Body structure: Tend to be stockier and larger (heavier, longer, wider) with shorter faces; they frequently have polecat hybrid in their near background.
Personality/attitude: Can depend on breeder: talk to the breeder to ask about the personalities of their lines.
Coloration: Higher occurrence of Polecat coloration (“sable”), may also see albino, or champagne (“Sandy”). Beware of ferrets with fancy colors/markings.
Health: See breeder ferrets above. Many EU imports also have a degree of Angora (see below) in their background, which does increase their risk of certain health problems.
Tattoo: Breeder Dependent
Fit Info: European ferrets are a fantastic option if you want a bulkier, healthier ferret that is more strongly related to the polecat (due to cross-breedings that often occur in Europe). However, take care to ensure you are purchasing from a reputable breeder.
Pics:

Polecat/Ferret Hybrid

Behavior: More “wild” and very intense. Can be more difficult to train, and prone to biting without consistent and frequent handling. Will bite harder and more frequently. Require significantly more socialization. Very independent. Super intelligent animals who need an abundance of mental and physical stimulation.
Males: Tend to be larger, and more laid back than females – unless in rut, during which they can become very intense
Females: Tend to be much more dominant, may be smaller but are much feistier

Body structure: Tend to be stockier and much larger than other ferrets.
Personality/attitude: Less domestic, far more independent; stronger wild instincts. Great hunters.
Coloration: Polecat coloration is most common (“sable”), with dark or heavily spotted noses.
Health: Less prone to adrenal and heart disease, and are often healthier in general though if the polecat lines are not well known, there is some risk of yet-uncovered heritable disease. Tend to have a longer lifespan.
Tattoo: Unmarked
Fit Info: A “wild” ferret that has many of the characteristics of both the domesticated ferret and polecats. May have stronger instincts, so be prepared to provide the necessary environment and enrichment. Much more time intensive to train and bond. Significantly more challenging to own but very rewarding for the right person

Poley Merida from Misty Mountain Ferrets Photo Credit: Heather Downie

Angora Ferrets:

Behavior: Varies by breeder.
Body structure: Have no undercoat and a very long, fine topcoat – extremely prone to blockages from “hairballs.” Commonly have problems with cleft palate and abnormally structured noses and sinuses. Noses often have fur.
Personality/attitude: Varies by breeder.
Coloration: Varies; may see black self coloration in some angora lines.
Health: Prone to eye problems, respiratory problems and various genetic issues associated with the angora mutation – cleft palate and nose are very common. Prone to blockages from “hairballs.”
Tattoo: Breeder dependent, usually unmarked
Fit Info: May be higher maintenance due to their increased needs for coat grooming and hairball prevention during shedding season, as well as their higher propensity for genetic and congenital deformities and health problems.

Angora Ferret 
Photo Credit: Pauline Fraedrich Ferret: Ziva
Angora Ferret Photo Credit: Pauline Fraedrich Ferret: Ziva

Semi-Angora Ferrets (Part Angora, Part Standard):

Behavior: Varies by breeder.
Body structure:  Varies by percentage of angora. Have varying degrees of undercoat and a long, fine topcoat – remain prone to blockages from “hairballs.” May still have problems with cleft palate and abnormally structured noses and sinuses. Noses may have fur.
Personality/attitude: Varies by breeder.
Coloration: Varies; may see black self coloration in some angora lines.
Health: Risk of similar health concerns as full angora; see above.
Tattoo: Breeder dependent, usually unmarked
Fit Info: May be higher maintenance due to their increased needs for coat grooming and hairball prevention during shedding season, as well as their higher propensity for genetic and congenital deformities and health problems.