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Old 01-06-2011, 03:30 PM   #1
Reputable Ferret Breeders?

I am always telling people not to get Marshall's ferrets which are sold as most pet stores. After working in a pet store myself and experiencing their shipment and handling from this ferret mill, I decided to work on getting a list of good breeders I can recommend to people. Because they are hard to find.

A few years ago, I met a woman who had a non-Marshals. He was bigger than the Marsh ferrets. It also did not have a high odor.

Marshals is pretty much a ferret mill. Just like a puppy mill. And I know many a Marshal ferret who had a LOT of health problems. Not to mention the Mashal's food they sell is total and complete garbage.
Old 01-06-2011, 08:09 PM   #2
Many privately-bred ferrets are on a raw diet, which is by far the largest contributor to a ferret's overall scent (or lack of one, as it goes). Marshall kibble is indeed pretty trashy, but even "good" kibble is still kibble, and... kibble's bad for any carnivore.

Here's a list of breeders collected on the Holistic Ferret forum, which is an all-around amazing resource:

Marshall is notorious for shipping out kits that are barely weaned, and breeding for colors/patterns that are linked to health issues (Waardenburg syndrome, notably). There is no good reason for purchasing a ferret from a pet store, and I'm so weary of hearing all the excuses. It's great you're trying to share other options with potential ferrents!
Old 02-12-2011, 07:10 AM   #3
Pink Lady Exotics
I have gone through that entire list and another list of breeders on another site. 99% of those breeders do not exist anymore, have defunct websites and/or dead contact information, have outdated websites still listing kits from 2002 or 2003, or no longer breed. GFX Ferrets is the only one I've found, but they only have sables. If you want anything other than a sable, it's either Marshall, or nothing. The other issue is that most private ferret breeders are registered with the AFA, and per AFA regulations, shipping is not permitted. So unless you have the money and time to drive/fly from Wisconsin to Pennsylvania, Virginia, Texas, etc -- you can't get one.

I would LOVE to buy a pair of champagne kits from a private breeder and not have to drive more than 1000 miles roundtrip to do so. But that is pretty much not going to happen, they just don't exist. That's why Marshall thrives and will never be out of business.

In regard to Marshall's food, it is indeed crap. They are the largest breeder of ferrets in the U.S. and thus should know about their dietary needs, yet they produce and mass-market a food with by-products and CORN in it? For an obligate carnivore? Ugh. Raw is best, but it is disgusting and I have no interest in kissing/holding my 2 ferrets after they just got done ripping apart raw bloody meat. Yuck. I feed Innova EVO ferret formula, and they are doing great on it. Organic duck jerky treats for snacks and a couple Yogies drops after bathtime and nail clippings for being good boys.
Old 02-12-2011, 12:19 PM   #4
Originally Posted by JenHarrison View Post
Raw is best, but it is disgusting and I have no interest in kissing/holding my 2 ferrets after they just got done ripping apart raw bloody meat. Yuck.
It's unfortunate you feel that way. I've fed raw for a few years now, and I've found it to be no messier than kibble, and not that much more time consuming, either. Ferrets are built to handle that diet, and with basic sanitation protocol -- the same that anyone should be following in their own kitchen -- the health risks are no different from having kibble around. Why you're okay with kibble-breath kisses, I dunno Obviously you're comfortable feeding whole prey to snakes, which I don't view as any "ickier." And the benefits from the raw diet are so numerous, I seriously feel guilty serving any animal kibble anymore.

My ferrets are not Marshall, but came from a breeder that still neutered them and sent them out early (I don't have the details; they were adopted). They're both roaning out to DEWs, and one is showing signs of what I suspect will become adrenal disease down the road. Genetics seems to play a bigger role in longevity than diet, but since so many of our ferrets come from tiny, over-fished gene pools, I figure the raw diet gives them the very best chance they have to beat the odds.

At least we can agree that Marshall's food (and their "health guarantee") is garbage.
Old 02-20-2011, 06:04 AM   #5
Pink Lady Exotics
Snakes consume their prey whole without any blood, guts, etc. being released. Strike, constrict, swallow, done. Ferrets, just like any carnivorous mammal, shred their prey and bite off chunks and gnaw on entrails. I've watched countless videos on YouTube of ferret kits and adults in the UK demolishing whole mice and whole rabbits on a plate or a bowl, and it's just really not something I'm interested in dealing with. I don't prepare anything with raw meat for myself, let alone a pet. It's not so much the cleaning up aspect (i.e. the counter, bowls, knives, etc), but rather the ferrets getting covered in nastyness. Really repulses me and I get grossed out at the idea of holding them/kissing them after they've eaten something like this. I see how messy they get just going in their litter box (they have no clue how to avoid stepping in something they just produced, which means I have to wipe off someone's tail or feet) and how soaking wet they get playing in their water bowl...I can only imagine how yucky they would get when eating raw, bloody, meaty prey. I know for a fact that Sophie would drag it off the plate and all over the carpet or the floor if I tried to make them eat in the kitchen. That's what he does with everything. They already get a bath once per week, would prefer not to have to give them one every time they eat.

Innova EVO is 2nd to a raw diet, with the highest protein level of any dry food and only whole meat ingredients, including fats, organs, etc. 88% of it is meat. The remaining 11% is made up of a small amount of tolerable vegetable matter such as sweet potatoes and cranberries, other proteins like eggs and cottage cheese, etc. They only add in things like taurine and other vitamins/amino acids. No chemicals, no by-products, no corn, no grains whatsoever. I also feed Innova EVO to my cats and they have never been healthier. Tessie, my run of the mill alley cat spent 18 years with me without a single health issue, and passed away in her sleep of old age. Poochins, my 2nd oldest, is going on 9 years old and still plays like a kitten every single day.

I think it's a combination of a lot of things that prevent the onset of these common diseases, and diet is only one part of it. I think lots of exercise/play, stimulation and intelligent interaction, proper sleep, proper hydration, and proper environment (space, cleanliness, comfy beds, toys, light, etc) all play a big part in their health and longevity. My mom's ferret Roxie was just diagnosed with the beginning of Adrenal Disease (rapid weight loss, hair loss, lethargy, etc.), and she is just turning 1 year old. She's a Marshall girl, like most are. Her ferret vet said that recent studies suggest that natural light vs. household light plays a big role in this, due to natural sunlight's affect on production and absorption of Vitamin D and other important vitamin structures. It's similar to how cats like to lay in natural sunlight, which produces Vitamin D within their fur, then they wash themselves in order to absorb it by licking it off the hair strands. They did a study using ferrets from the Ferret Nook rescue in Cambridge, since so many come in with AD, Insulinoma, etc. and they found similar deficiencies in those without access to natural lighting. My mom's 4 ferrets don't see much natural light, as her shades and curtains are always drawn in the house and the cage is in the corner of the livingroom away from any windows. My ferrets on the other hand reside in my livingroom that is flooded with daylight all day long from my double sliding glass patio doors. They also go in my bedroom which has 2 huge windows that I keep open as well, plus they get to go outside to play in the snow in the winter and on the lawn in the summer. Sophie is about 1-2 months apart in age from Roxie and he is healthy as a horse, and Mickie bounced back from his poor state of health within 1 week of being brought home. I also make sure they have only organic meat treats (other than the Yogies), have all sorts of interactive toys and fun things to tunnel through, wrestle with, chase, stash, tug of war with, etc. -- including an awesome "ferret sandbox" which is filled with uncooked white rice so they can dig and roll in it without making a mess. I keep them both mentally stimulated every day whenever they are awake and wanting to play. Unless they are napping or it's bedtime, they have full run of the house for multiple hours every day, probably around 4-6 hours total, sometimes more, and even then they often prefer stopping to snooze in the cats' beds in my room vs. go back to their pen to lay down, which is always left open when they are out. They also get bottled water that is filtered via reverse osmosis and de-ionized. I refuse to give them or my cats the chlorinated, fluoride-treated city water that comes out of the tap, that stuff is just not healthy for even people. I refill their bowl with fresh water twice daily to encourage them to drink, as I read a lot of articles that says ferrets are often dehydrated and drink more when given a bowl vs. a bottle and it is kept fresh. I put a lot of work into keeping them as nutritionally balanced as possible without feeding raw, very hydrated, mentally stimulated, clean, safe, and happy, and I think that is the best disease prevention there is.

I just wish I could find more private breeders than the 1-2 left out there, find someone closer to Wisconsin than 1500 miles away, and find someone with more than just sables and whites.
Old 02-20-2011, 10:12 AM   #6
There are lots of ways to minimize the "mess" of raw, like feeding dens, but I'm not going to convince you of anything in this thread. Really, I think watching my BP deepthroat a mouse millimeter by millimeter is equally disturbing as watching my ferret bite off a piece of mouse and swallow it. (Which is to say not very disturbing, but there you have it.)

Also, there are several "commercial raw" diets on the market today that are better than kibble, even EVO. Nature's Variety makes a frozen patty that's a nice single serving for a ferret. Ziwipeak is a dehydrated jerky-like diet. Stella & Chewy's is freeze-dried and can be served as-is or rehydrated. And they're all about the same price as feeding EVO, in my experience -- I used to use EVO, then switched to commercial stuff on my way to raw. I still like to have some dry stuff around for various circumstances.

Additionally I go through a lot of frozen ground raw from Hare Today. They offer a ton of different protein sources like chicken, duck, turkey, beef, rabbit, goat... in a mix of the entire ground animal, so the proportions are there. That doesn't keep teeth clean, though. It's the muscle meat and bone that does that.

As for adrenal disease, that's a whole other novel with no conclusion. I'm beginning to subscribe to the "every altered ferret has adrenal" theory. Whether our ferrets are exposed to natural light or not, their glands are still producing hormones that aren't usable by their bodies, and that's what eventually may cause tumors to metastasize. Light cycles have some effect on hormone levels, so we might as well try to control that too -- but I've mostly read about offering your ferrets plenty of total darkness, to replicate an underground environment. And there've been a lot more Deslorelin implants imported into the States lately, and talk of it possibly "preventing" adrenal disease as well as treating it, so hopefully in the next couple years we'll have a better option for handling the symptoms if not the cause.
Old 02-21-2011, 12:11 AM   #7
Pink Lady Exotics
That's what the vet gave Roxie, the implant. Said she will need it re-done in 6 months.
Old 02-26-2011, 12:01 AM   #8
Lots of excellent info! Thank you!

I do agree, its a bit disturbing to watch mammals eat whole prey. I have seen people feed rabbits (prekilled/frozen) to their dogs. Saw someone give their dog the head of a cow too, to chew and eat on. There is only so much I can personally stomach, but I don't judge those who can stomach more than me. I think animals do need to be given more than just dry kibble. I remember seeing video of a couple who owned a small wild cat (bobcat or fishing cat) and they gave it live fish, like a catfish, put the fish in the tub and let the cat have at it. Also gave the cat a whole chicken, prekilled.

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