| The topic of deaf ferret behavior has always fascinated me as well as frustrated me. I get frustrated due to the lack of studies and publications on this aspect of ferrets. It fascinates me because for every common behavioral feature found, is an equal amount of individual traits in my opinion. Let me open this up by saying this specific page on my site is strictly about my experience and the experience of other deaf ferret owners I have spoken with over time. It is all anecdotal.
Owners of deaf ferrets have long been sharing stories of common experiences with their deaf ferrets. To the new comer of the deaf ferret world, these behaviors may be considered uniqueness in personality until they come to find it's a common trait in many deaf ferrets. It's nice to find out there are others experiencing the same things. It is comforting.
I do not wish to dispel any ones belief that their ferret's behavior is individualistic in any way. I just want to share some very fun and unusual traits deaf ferrets have in common.
|This behavior occurs when you hold your deaf ferret and they insistently hang backwards in your hands. Some ferret owners have fretted that their ferrets do not want to cuddle, socialize, or even look at their faces because of this. 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). 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. If the ferret has Waardenburg Syndrome (see my main deaf page for explanation), then it is possible. There are slight anatomical differences in these babies compared to non Waardenburg Syndrome babies such as wide eyes, skull formation, nasal bone formation, and possibly even where the jaw connects. That entire area is a bit different than other ferrets. The neck at the base of the skull is not that far from all this. But this all needs to be validated in replicated studies to know for sure.|
|Ok you got me, I made up this term due to a lack of a better description. This behavior occurs when the ferret is in a deep sleep. They waken for no apparent reason and in a flash literally jump and fly out of their hammies. They may even run down several ramps or floors of their cage before stopping, then looking stunned and confused. They then resort to satisfying some imagined moving itch. Many ferrets experience this sudden waking to a degree. But it seems our deaf friends experience this to the nth degree. It's an odd phenomenon. When it first occurs, believe me you might be startled out of your mind.|
|EXCESSIVE DEAD FERRET SLEEP|
|Yes, normal ferrets do this at times. But I find that deaf ferrets do this much more often. For those not familiar, this is an odd phenomenon where a ferret falls into such a deep sleep that they appear dead. Their breathing is so shallow it's near undetectable. They feel like a wet rag, they are so limp. At times they may feel cool to the touch. Most of all even when you pick them up and stimulate them, they don't waken ... or at least easily. It is all quite benign and even normal, I assure you.|
|PREFERRING TO BE ALONE:|
|Deaf ferrets are loving, playful and social in every way. I have noticed however that many deaf ferrets have a habit of going off alone from other ferrets and even people. They seem very comfortable in doing so and seem to enjoy the private time. When they do engage in play with other ferrets, they often do a lot of sideline play or even parallel play. Sideline play is when they try to engage in play that is already in progress with other ferrets. Dancing "around" instead of with ferrets, dancing and bouncing on the sideline of whatever ferret activity is going on. I'm not saying they don't play with other ferrets. It just seems they do this sort of play an awful lot. Parallel play is less social than sideline play. Sideline play can seem a bit odd, unusual, or socially inappropriate at times but the ferret makes great efforts to share the excitement. Parallel play is when others play and the ferret just shoots passing glances, playing their own kind of way right next to the ferrets in a shared space. They want the company, but seem to not know how to always engage in play with others.|
|EXTRA POWER SNIFFING|
|Ferrets curiously smell things in their environment all the time. They also do what has been referred to by some as "power sniffing". That is when a ferret does deep, loud sniffing as if they are trying to inhale the world through their nose. I have noticed that deaf ferrets investigate their surroundings with smell a bit more than hearing ferrets. Further many have a habit of power sniffing more than usual.|
|All ferrets get caught in a daydream or a stare once in a while. It seems deaf ferrets may do that even more often. On a similar topic, have you ever noticed your ferret stare right at you or through you? I have noticed that some deaf ferrets seem to do this a lot. They seem to be able to burn a hole right through you, staring at you from the floor, or cage, etc.. They certainly are more "aware" of their surroundings more visually than normal ferrets it seems.|
|BALANCE: When my deaf ferrets were kits, they would bounce around and get so excited they would accidentally smack their heads so hard against walls and furniture I thought they would have scrambled eggs for brains. In all seriousness it worried me (unnecessarily I might add). Most ferrets (hearing and non hearing) do this on occasion, especially when they are kits. But my deaf ones most definately have done it more frequently and have done it much harder than my others. Every time the poor things would stand there after the fact stunned ... as if they didn't do it and looking for the unseen stranger that did. As they grow into adults, you may see many reactions to this. I have one that will not war dance so to speak, or shake his head no matter what now that he has grown. He used to be our most avid dancer. He will spring straight up and down, and dash about as an adult now but never fully let himself go. I had another that would go to the center of a room all alone and dance by herself. She would never do it around anything or anyone else. She only did it with ample room. I have yet a third, that seems to be the most graceful ferret I've ever encountered. Each step, each movement is done in an exact way, even when he wardances. He never plays super ferret and takes chances.
I have had many people write me about their ferrets being extreme in the two main categories. They either describe their ferrets as being extra careful and sure-footed, or the extreme opposite with clumsiness (and/or still thudding their head on things accidentally much more often) compared to their hearing ferrets.
If this is true, and not just coincidental in my experiences, then I would wonder why. I would be inclined to think that in WS babies whatever birth defect caused the deafness, may have given them a different equilibrium. Who knows what malformation, however slight, lies within the inner ear. My question now lies with ferrets that have acquired deafness. I wonder if they are apt to any balance differences.
|INAPPROPRIATE FERRET SOUND OR MUTENESS:|
| A deaf ferret will not do all of the above, but may display an abnormal amount of one of the following:
Muteness- I have one deaf ferret that is mute. I've had many write me of the same. But more commonly I have people write me and tell me their ferrets are very vocal. At times "too" vocal.
Screeching- Many deaf ferrets are apt to screeching, or screaming when they play. They may sound like the end is about to come, only for the ferret owner to run in and find out "they" are the aggressor with another ferret, or are not being truly hurt by another ferret, and all is well.
Hissing: Many people have noticed extra hissing. I had one female that would run across the floor and literally hiss every other breath for no reason. I've had people write to me about their deaf ferrets hissing at them when they play with them or take one of their toys away. I don't think a deaf ferret uses the hissing as a "warning" per say, or sign of discomfort consistently as in normal hearing ferrets. I think it's just randomly expressed much of the time.
Mumbo Jumbo: If one is ferret knowledgeable and is very perceptive, you may notice something even in the most normal acting deaf ferret. You may notice that their ferret sounds are used "off cue" with other ferrets, and out of the social context of situations.
|A ferret behavior found in many normal hearing ferrets. Put a large pan or bowl of water out for them and watch them dunk their heads under and perform a casual head-snorkeling action. It may be coincidence, but many people write me that their deaf ferrets pursue this fun endeavor much more than their hearing ferrets.|
|Please write me if you want to report or talk about your deaf ferret's behavior. I may be missing some here. I may be incorrect with some of my observations. But its' a starting place. We can all have fun and learn together.|
| Thank you to all the countless people that have supported my writing and my research in Deaf Ferrets. Thank you to all my friends that were just that ... friends.
Thank you to Kat Parsons for the gorgious webdesign and background graphics.
Thank you to all those that took the time to write me about their deaf furbabies.
And last, but not least, thank you to the deaf egroup that helped me with this information about deaf ferret behavior.
|Clip Art used in the background body is used courtesy of "Clip Art by Elayne Barclay"