American Ferret Association, Inc.
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The American Ferret Association offers the following official statements;

AFA Position Statement on Declawing Ferrets
prepared 01/1997
download pdf (77kb)

The American Ferret Association strongly opposes the practice of declawing. As part of the routine health maintenance of the ferret, the claws should be periodically trimmed. To do so avoids the problem of the ferret getting entangled in bedding or on other materials. Trimming also limits the growth of the "quick," the pink part of the nail.

Declawing of a specific digit should only be undertaken by a licensed veterinarian for health reasons where the failure to do so will impact negatively on the ferret's survival or on the functioning of the digit or paw.

AFA Position Statement on the Breeding of Ferrets
prepared 05/1997
download pdf (68kb)

Guiding Principles

  • The breeder should have personal knowledge of each ferret within his/her care.

  • The breeder should respect each individual ferret and respect the ferret as a domestic species.

  • The breeder should strive to provide each ferret with the best possible existence, through good husbandry, and the appropriate sale and adoption programs, and education of others.

  • The AFA further believes that because we, as humans, are entirely responsible for the control of the gene pool of ferrets (Mustela furo), that once we take a hand in the creation of life (i.e.; breeding ferrets), we are responsible for that life for its lifetime.

  • The AFA recommends that the practice of breeding ferrets not be undertaken without careful consideration of the responsibilities involved.

Breeders Responsibilities

The following criteria should be met before undertaking the breeding of pet ferrets.

  1. The breeder should have a thorough knowledge of ferret husbandry.

  2. The breeder should have a breeding plan. The plan should be geared toward improving the ferret as a pet species, as follows:
    1. Preservation and enhancement of the species genetic diversity without greatly modifying the original design of the species.
    2. Documenting and maintaining documented lineage of breeding ferrets.
    3. Avoidance of using ferrets that are genetically deficient.
    4. Promotion and enhancement of pet qualities, such as a gentle temperament.

  3. The breeder should be prepared to assume the financial and moral responsibilities for housing, maintenance, nutrition, medical and social needs according to established species parameters.

  4. The breeder should have an appropriate location and facilities for the breeding operation.

  5. The breeder should be prepared for and committed to spending a substantial amount of time overseeing the breeding, raising and socialization of young ferrets.

  6. No breeder should conduct his breeding program in a vacuum. He/she should have established relationships with other reputable ferret breeders for advice and support.

  7. The breeder should have the ability to implement a regular veterinary health maintenance program for all ferrets including a vaccination program, according to established guidelines (See the AFA's Vaccination Recommendations).

The AFA would further recommend that its members (hobbyist breeders) not knowingly be involved in the sale of pet ferrets through pet stores, or any other type of wholesale outlet, including mail order, agents or federally licensed dealers of commercial pet ferrets, individuals or institutions involved in research.

AFA Position Statement on Descenting Ferrets
prepared 06/2008
download pdf (108kb)

Ferrets are known to have their own natural musky scent. This scent is present in all ferrets, whether they’re early spay/neuter ferrets, later alter ferrets, or intact ferrets (not spayed or neutered). Contrary to common belief, however, the natural scent in ferrets has nothing to do with their anal glands. The scent is in fact produced by oils in the skin and is mostly apparent in intact ferrets who are cycling into their reproductive season. Once a ferret is spayed or neutered, most of its odor is eliminated, though a light musky scent will remain. Owners who may find this remaining scent stronger than usual can easily alleviate the problem by replacing the ferret’s bedding (hammock, sleep sacks, etc.) with clean bedding. Frequent bathing is not recommended. This will in fact have the opposite effect to the one desired, since the ferret's skin will produce more oils to replenish what was lost in the bath.

In addition to their natural musky scent, ferrets, like skunks, are born with the capacity to emit strong odors through their anal (scent) glands. As applied to domestic ferrets, the term “descenting” refers to the surgical removal of these glands. The term is misleading, however, since it seems to imply the removal of natural body scents that, in mild form, are a permanent feature of ferret physiology. These scents can never be totally eliminated, since, in ferrets, they are not produced by the anal glands but by sebaceous secretions of the skin.

Nevertheless, surgical removal of the anal glands is routinely performed on early spay/neuter ferrets (most commonly pet store ferrets) before they are shipped to the pet stores. It is this operation that is misleadingly labeled “descenting” a ferret, giving the false impression to many that it results in a ferret that “will not smell” or “will not have an odor or scent.” This labeling is in fact a selling tool used by pet stores to lure the uneducated consumer. The truth is that removing a ferret’s scent glands will have absolutely no effect on its natural musky body scent. And, in fact, some veterinarians, breeders, and shelter operators consider the surgical procedure called “descenting” a form of ferret mutilation.

The only real difference between a ferret that has had its anal glands removed and one that has not is that the ferret retaining its anal glands can use them to emit a burst of scent. Such emissions admittedly have a rather strong smell. But they occur very infrequently when the ferret is somehow frightened, and the smell dissipates within just a few minutes.

The American Ferret Association strongly opposes the practice of descenting of ferrets. Surgical removal of the anal scent gland should only be performed by a licensed veterinarian in cases where the failure to do so threatens the ferret’s health or survival of the ferret.

AFA Position on Ferrets and Toxoplasmosis During Pregnancy
download pdf (99kb)

FAQ - I am pregnant, and I have ferrets. Can ferrets transmit toxoplasmosis? Should I give my ferrets away?

If you are pregnant, you probably have heard of toxoplasmosis. Toxoplasmosis is an infection caused by the protozoan Toxoplasma gondii (T. gondii), which exists naturally in the soil.

People can become infected with toxoplasmosis in one of three ways

  • Eating raw or undercooked meat, which contains T. gondii within tissue cysts;

  • Direct ingestion of infective T. gondii oocysts, such as handling contaminated soil or cat litter and then touching one’s mouth;

  • From infected mother to baby during pregnancy, as the infection crosses the placenta.
If a woman becomes infected during her pregnancy, the infection may pass through the placenta to the developing fetus. If infected, the baby can be born with congenital abnormalities or neurological damage, including blindness, deafness or mental retardation.

Cats are the only animal species to shed the infectious stage of T. gondii, called "oocytes" in their feces. The T. gondii oocytes form when a cat eats an infected bird, rodent or raw or undercooked meat. They then travel to the cat's feces, which in turn decomposes in cat litter or soil. Changing cat litter or gardening in infected soil puts humans at risk of becoming the oocytes' next host. Since oocytes are not infective until 1 to 2 days after passage, daily litter box cleaning is essential. Unfortunately, oocytes can live for up to 18 months without a host, so danger of infection remains after an infected animal has been removed from a particular area.

Other animals can disseminate toxoplasmosis only if their infected meat is eaten without proper cooking. A European survey of 1000 pregnant women found that the main source of infection with toxoplasmosis was eating undercooked meat - beef, lamb or pork. The risk of contracting toxoplasmosis from meat was 5 times as great as contracting it from contaminated soil (which can be contaminated with the cat feces) containing the infective oocytes. (Cook – 2000)

Because the majority of ferrets are housed indoors and eat cooked or processed foods, toxoplasmosis in ferrets is extremely rare. Only two reports are known to exist in the literature. Thus, about the only way for a human to become infected with toxoplasmosis from a ferret-- is to eat the ferret--- raw!!

How can I reduce my risk of becoming infected with toxoplasmosis?

If you are pregnant, the American Ferret Association recommends the following guidelines to minimize your potential exposure to toxoplasmosis

Avoid eating uncooked meat, and thoroughly wash all uncooked food, such as vegetables and fruits. Wear protective gloves when working in soil, and wash your hands thoroughly following soil contact. Animal feces can be infected with more than toxoplasmosis, and harsh cleaning solutions may also be toxic to you and your baby Ask a spouse, friend, or neighbor to help out with litter box duties while you are pregnant. If you must clean up after animals, always wear rubber gloves when changing the litter, and thoroughly wash your hands afterwards. Change litterboxes daily. Keep cat litterboxes out of reach of children, ferrets, and all other pets.

Just because you are pregnant does NOT mean that you have to give up your ferret --or your other pets. Pet ownership has so many benefits that are immeasurable in terms of companionship and love.

Cook AJ, Gilbert RE, Buffolano W, et al Sources of toxoplasma infection in pregnant womenEuropean multicentre case-control study. European Research Network on Congenital Toxoplasmosis. British Medical Journal 312142-147, 2000.
The Humane Society "Pregnancy and toxoplasmosis"; (

AFA Policy Pertaining to Breeders Banned from AFA Sanctioned Shows
download pdf (61kb)

  • As of 2004, no ferret is permitted to show in the Breeder, Adolescent or Alter Title Classes unless the ferret’s sire and dam is listed, to include the proper prefix [breeder of the ferret].

  • Any ferret bred by a breeder that is banned from showing by the AFA can not be shown in an AFA sanctioned show.

  • Any ferret whose sire or dam was bred by a breeder that is banned from showing by the AFA, yet who was not bred by a banned breeder, can only be shown once they have been spayed or neutered.

  • Any misrepresentation or omission of data pertaining to the breeder of a ferret or the breeder of a ferret’s sire or dam is grounds for the individual(s) responsible for the offense to be banned.