Can You Hear Me? Living With a Deaf Ferret
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Most ferret owners either have a deaf ferret or know someone who has one. Deafness in the domestic ferret is fairly common especially in individuals having some degree of whiteness in their coat.
It is estimated that approximately 75 % of all the ferrets with blaze and panda colourations are affected with the Waardenburg syndrome. The Waardenburg syndrome is responsible for hereditary deafness in some humans and has also been identified in the ferret.
This is a genetic defect that is responsible for the underdevelopment of the hearing mechanism in the inner ear. There is a scientific hearing test for deafness. The hearing test is known as the brain-stem auditory evoked response (BAER). However, this test is not readily available at your veterinary office and can be costly.
There are simple tests you can do to help determine if your ferret is deaf. First, place your ferret in a room without a lot of distractions. Grab a can of pennies or a loud squeaky toy and make a noise behind your ferret without him noticing you. Make sure you do not cause any vibrations with your hands or feet. If he does not look or jump he is most likely deaf.
Most ferret owners do not realize their ferret is deaf. Your ferret will live a nice life and will not miss being able to hear. You, as the ferret’s caretaker, have to make a few adjustments though. One of the most important things to realize about a deaf ferret is that he will not listen to you. You will have to find ways to wake him up, get him to come to you and let him know he is doing something inappropriate.
My ferret Dexter is deaf. I had a feeling when I first got him and after performing the above test it was proven. I often forget he is deaf and talk to him like he can hear me. Through the years I have learned that he responds great to the light switch.
When I enter his room I turn the lights on and off real fast a few times. He will look up and come up to me. If I decide to wake him up without the light switch I approach him slow and just rub his coat a couple of times to wake him up slowly. I also “talk” to him by whispering softly on his skin.
Dexter has been the easiest ferret to introduce to my new arrivals. He does not freak out when the new ferret is screaming at him to getaway. He just hangs out and tries to play with them. He also is not afraid of the vacuum cleaner when I clean his room. I have been lucky that I never have to discipline Dexter.
If I needed to I have heard that some people try blowing in the face of a deaf ferret or just simply scruff them and drag them on the floor.
The benefits of being loved by a deaf ferret far outweigh any difficulties you might encounter in caring for them.