Are all ferrets deaf or have trouble hearing?
How it is to take care of a deaf ferret?
Ferrets are far from deafness since we compare their hearing to dog’s, if not even better. So, they hear much better than you. But, ferret deafness is not that uncommon so it is a good idea to learn a thing or two about it. How to tell if your ferret is deaf or what Waardenburg Syndrome ferret actually means are only a few topics I will cover in this post so stay tuned and let’s talk about deaf ferrets!
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How To Tell If A Ferret Is Deaf?
You can’t tell if a ferret is deaf by looking at it, it is practically impossible. But, you can assume your ferret is deaf by looking at his fur color. Also, there are a few behavioral characteristics that can help you determine if your ferret is deaf or not. Don’t worry, if you have a deaf ferret, you can still provide him a loving and healthy life with a few adjustments. So, let’s inspect the physical and behavioral characteristics of a deaf ferret!
Ferrets With White Pattern Are More Prone To Deafness
The Waardenburg Syndrome ferrets are ferrets with a white stripe on the head or with a completely white head. Those two markings are called blaze and panda. You can read more about ferret markings in my post about ferret types. Remember, that is not a rule, meaning not all blaze and panda ferrets are deaf, but they are more prone to deafness thanks to the Waardenburg syndrome. That syndrome causes deafness affecting neural crest pathways in a ferret.
Ferrets with Waardenburg Syndrome can have a slightly flattened skull and eyes set apart more than normal. Their deafness can be complete or partial, meaning it can affect only one ear. The cause of Waanderburg Syndrome can be tied to irresponsible breeding programs often found on ferret farms. This syndrome is hereditary, so ferrets with Waanderburg Syndrome shouldn’t breed.
Behavioral Signs Of A Deaf Ferret
Besides the Waardenburg Syndrome ferrets, you can tell if your ferret is deaf by observing his behavior. The first and the most obvious sign is if your ferret is not affected by the sound. If you have more than one ferret and you start shaking the bag of treats, your ferret will hear it no matter where he is and come to get treats. If one of the ferrets completely ignores it, he might be a deaf ferret. The same thing is with every sound that might draw some type of reaction from a ferret (jump, run, hiss…) and your ferret doesn’t react to it.
Another sound is vocal. That means a deaf ferret can be two things, absolutely silent or very loud. Since the ferret can’t hear he doesn’t know if he produces a sound or not. So, your ferret might be completely silent all the time or he can be very loud when dooking or hissing during play, or any other situation.
Their vocalization leads us to the third signal and it is connected with their behavior with other ferrets. During play, a deaf ferret can be more aggressive, but not because he wants to hurt his playmates. It is because he can’t hear their vocalization which should tell him he is being too rough. He simply isn’t aware he is harming the other ferret.
Test Your Ferret’s Hearing
If you recognized your ferret in at least one sign I mentioned above, it is time to test your ferret’s hearing. Remember, a ferret can have complete or partial deafness so he doesn’t have to be completely deaf. That is why it is important to test the hearing, so you can determine the level of deafness.
Make A Noise
The first thing you can do is make noise around your ferret. Tha can be clapping, calling your ferret, or simply shaking the treat bag. Make sure you do the sound when your ferret isn’t looking so he can’t react to other stimuli like your movement.
A ferret with good hearing should react in any way. It can be turning the head to the sound, start walking toward the sound, or (if the ferret is startled) running away from the sound. If your ferret doesn’t do anything, he might be deaf.
Observe The Suspicious Ferret
If you have more than one ferret, observe the one you think is deaf. If he acts differently from other ferrets according to sounds around them, he might be deaf. If you have that one ferret that looks in one direction while every other you have looked at you after shaking the treat bag, that is a pretty serious sign of a deaf ferret.
Determine The Level Of Deafness
Now, this is a tricky step. You have to take your ferret in one hand and produce a sound with the other. You can, for example, shake your keys with the other hand. While you are shaking keys, observe your ferret. Start behind a ferret and wait for a reaction. If there isn’t any reaction, move your hand on the left side and wait for a reaction. Repeat the same thing on the right side.
Here, you can get more outcomes. Your ferret can completely ignore your shaking in all 3 situations, meaning he is completely deaf. If he has a reaction around one ear but none at the other, it means your ferret hears only on one ear. Be patient with this test and repeat it a couple of times so you can be sure about the results.
How To Treat A Deaf Ferret?
There are a couple of adjustments you have to do when handling a deaf ferret since he can’t hear you or anything around him. That can be pretty challenging considering most ferret training has some vocalization. So, in this situation, you have to forget all about those methods and focus on something else. The most important part of deaf ferret training is for you to clearly show your ferret what you want from him. Once he figures it out, you simply have to use the same method over and over.
Don’t Scare Your Ferret
It is very easy to startle a deaf ferret. You simply have to come to him when he has his back turned to you. So, avoid that because he won’t hear you coming. Make sure you have his attention before approaching. The best way to get his attention is to walk towards him when he sees you.
Once your ferret sees you, you can do everything with him. You can play, cuddle, share a treat or two, etc. If you startle your ferret, don’t be surprised if your ferret bites. That is their natural reaction so avoid it to keep your (and his) stress level low.
Make Your Ferret Notice You
How can you make your ferret notice you without sound? You can do that by tapping with your foot or your finger on the floor near your ferret. Your ferret will feel the vibration and turn to the source to check it out.
Make sure you aren’t too far away from your ferret when you do it, you want your ferret to notice you immediately. Also, make sure you tap it with just the right amount of force. Too light tapping won’t make your ferret turn and too hard tapping can scare your ferret. Don’t worry, after a few tries you will figure out the exact way to tap on the floor.
Use Your Face
If you want to make your ferret stop doing something, you have to show him that you are angry. Now, since you can’t use your voice, you have to use your face. Make an angry face when you are scolding your ferret and he will eventually figure out how to act.
Also, smile when you are happy so he can connect your facial expressions to the things you want from him. That way he will recognize when you want to encourage him or when you have to punish him.
If you have a deaf ferret (a Waardenburg syndrome ferret or not) you don’t have to worry wondering if you can give him a good life. Deaf ferrets can easily adapt to a “different” way of life and the best thing you can do is to help them with that. Make his life easier with the tips I mentioned above and make sure to give him lots of hugs and kisses because every ferret deserves that! Share your thoughts on this topic and your personal experience about how to tell if your ferret is deaf in the comments below!