Is My Ferret Deaf – How to Tell and Train Hard Hearing Ferrets

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Typical “Blaze” Ferret – Prominent Head Stripe Indicates Wardenburg’s syndrome Deafness

Q: How can I tell if my ferret is deaf? I think I always knew there was something different about Meeko. I suspected as soon as I brought him home that he couldn’t hear anything.

A:  Panda, blaze, and badger ferrets are prone to deafness from Wardeburg’s syndrome; some studies have shown that up to 70% of all blaze, panda, or badger colored ferrets are born deaf.

Here are some steps you can take to tell if your ferret is deaf:

  1. Put the ferret on the table so he is not feeling vibrations from the floor,
  2. Then drop a metal food dish to see if they react.
  3. If you get no reaction pull out your cell phone and make it play something, placing it on top of a towel on the floor and another towel on top of it. A ferret that can hear being the nosy critters that they are will find the sound.
  4. Try something else. Shake a can of coins, either over head, or while your ferret is asleep. This is always good test.
  5. Squeak a toy behind your ferret. No reaction? If you rang a bell behind her head and she didnt turn, you can also try whistling from a few feet away, or a squeaky toy (just make sure that arent close enough for her to feel a vibration) if she still doesnt respond, she is most likely deaf. The most basic of household items can be used to help find out if your ferret has good hearing.
  6. Wait til he’s asleep, put the vaccuum cleaner right next to him, and switch it on. If he sticks to the ceiling, he can hear. If he snoozes on, he’s deaf. That’s how I discovered Boudreaux Pierre (my newest ferret baby) was deaf.

Tips:

  • Be sure you don’t create vibrations when making noises.
  • Make sure your ferret isn’t looking directly at you.
  • It is also important to do several tests because ferrets in general aren’t always interested.
  • Avoid using a vacuum. Contrary to popular belief, a vacuum is not a good way to determine if your ferret is deaf. Vacuums put off vibrations and most deafies have a good time dancing around and investigating it.  After a few tests, and time interacting with your fuzzy you should be able to tell.

Why Is My Ferret Deaf?

Deafness in ferrets is called Wardenburg’s syndrome, which is usually shown by the ferret having a little white spot on the back of the head. Blazes and pandas are also candidates for being deaf, just like some white blue-eyed cats are deaf.

When a ferrets blaze extends between the ears, many of those ferrets are deaf. It is genetic and is caused by the color of the ferret. Also silvers and whites seem to have more deafness issues than the standard sables.

How to Train a Deaf Ferret

I have 3 ferrets that are deaf as a rock, 2 dew’s and 1 blaze. They are happy normal ferrets and they dont even know they are deaf. The only difference with them is the way i train them, i use hand signals and thump on the floor when i want to get their attention.

You can also use vibrations. You can teach your ferret to come to you by banging on the floor to get his attention, he will feel the vibrations (we taught our deaf dalmatian the same way :-D). Just make sure you don’t startle him too much and make him skittish. Stomping on the floor will usually get their attention.

I do a lot of holding finola up to my face so she can see the (angry) expression when she’s done something she shouldn’t. shaking my finger at her too.

I don’t do too much scruffing – the deaf ones seem to be much more sensitive to being scruffed. It really seems to bother them, so i just hold her. Sometimes she HAS to be though – on the rare occasions she wants to nip.I  got lucky there with her…she’s only nipped/bite purposely – not in play – maybe 5 times and she’s almost 2 1/2 now.

When training deaf ferrets, convert all your verbal commands to some kind of hand signal…works with both the hearing and deaf.

You can praise and talk to your deaf ferret!  He won’t hear you of course, but he will pick up on your emotions and know he’s being praised.  It sounds strange at first to talk to an animal you know is deaf, but believe me after a while you don’t even think about it.

Types of Deaf Ferrets

Deaf ferrets seem to fit into two categories. You have your mute ferrets that make little to no sound, no matter how excited they get. Then you have your loud firecrackers, which dook, cry, hiss and scream at any given moment. On the flip side, a deaf ferret may be a little to rough during playtime because he cannot hear his playmates yelp.

Pez or “Head Throwing” Deaf Ferrets

Some ferret owners have fretted that their ferrets do not want to cuddle, socialize, or even look at their faces because of this. This behavior occurs when you hold your deaf ferret and they insistently hang backwards in your hands. I have also found many deaf ferrets crane their head backwards when being held.

I even know of one person that nicknamed their furbaby “Pez” because of this. I also know that there are enthusiasts and breeders out there who would love to know if there are any anatomical differences in the skeletal area in the neck compared to that of a hearing ferret. In fact, it?s so common it has been nick named the “PEZ head”. Some ferrets flip back their heads when you hold them with such ease to the extent of looking like an old fashioned Pez candy dispenser (Pez Head Syndrome might be more fitting a description here).

How Are Deaf Ferrets Different From Normal Ferrets?

Most ferrets don’t mind being deaf… they can dook and hiss and do basically everything a hearing ferret can. My Freddy is deaf, but he’s my beloved boy no matter what. One thing that’s special about deaf ferrets is that they look right into your eyes instead of hearing ferrets who don’t really care. Since they can’t hear, they use their other senses (hearing, smelling, etc.) a lot more.

Other than the issues listed above I also noticed that he was easier to take outdoors or expose to strange places because he couldn’t hear the strange noises. We live in a neighborhood with lots of sounds…lawnmowers, barking dogs, cars, etc. It takes a while for Yuki and Nikko to settle when we take them out.

Living With Deaf Ferrets

They just require a bit more caution on your part. All in all, deaf ferrets aren’t all that different from ferrets with normal hearing. This is especially important in deaf ones as they cannot hear you to get out of the way. I learned to do the “weasel shuffle” after I got my first ferret, dragging my feet when I walked through their room to avoid stepping on one as it ran right under my feet.

Their skulls, however, are a tiny bit flatter than other ferrets (the difference is very slight). I don’t think that deaf ferrets act much different than ferrets with hearing, except for the fact that they do not react to sound.

He’s still a great fuzzy, though there are challenges I am finding as I get to know him more. For example if he crawls under something that I cant reach under he doesn’t come when I call, like my Mia will. He doesn’t hear Mia cry out when he is getting too rough. I feel sometimes like a mom, giving him a time out to simmer down. He is more focused when he is doing something, little distraction. I can vacuum or make noises and he sleeps through them all.

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