Ferrets are nocturnal animals, so they’re accustomed to moving around in dark environments. These wily animals are highly capable tunnelers and climbers, but you may be surprised to learn that most ferrets have below-average eyesight.
Ferrets are not born blind, but they also don’t have exceptional eyesight. This poor eyesight makes sense when you consider a ferret’s natural habitat, which primarily consists of underground tunnels.
The average ferret is nearsighted and unable to perceive objects directly in front of them. They have comparatively poor eyesight and tend to experience rapidly worsening eyesight as they age.
Wild ferrets live underground in burrows and navigate pitch-black tunnels. They’re also nocturnal animals, so they’re biologically suited to low-light conditions. As such, ferrets tend to have poor eyesight.
Many ferrets prefer dark or low-light environments instead of bright environments. They’re most active and comfortable during night or when exposed to low levels of light.
Ferrets do not have good vision. This is likely due to the fact that a ferret’s natural environment consists of dark, underground habitats.
While most ferrets aren’t born blind, they’re only able to clearly see objects that are very near to them. This lackluster eyesight tends to worsen as ferrets age. A ferret may also become blind due to cataract growth, physical trauma to the eye (typically due to fighting with other ferrets), or recurring eye infections.
Blindness is common in ferrets, particularly older ferrets or ferrets with a history of eye infections. Ferrets that are prone to fighting may also suffer from blindness, as physical trauma to a ferret’s eye often leads to premature blindness.
Remember, ferrets don’t start their lives with exceptional eyesight. They’re born nearsighted and rely on their other senses to navigate. As such, blindness isn’t necessarily a negative condition for most ferrets.
Not all ferrets are blind, but nearly all ferrets have below-average eyesight. Additionally, older ferrets or ferrets raised in overcrowded cages or environments may be more prone to blindness than younger ferrets raised in non-territorial surroundings.
Pet parents can attempt to curtail ferret blindness by reducing territorial tensions among their pet ferrets. They can also reduce their ferret’s exposure to bright environments, as well as seek immediate veterinary care if they notice the signs of an eye infection.
Some of the most common signs of an eye infection in a ferret include pus-like discharge, swelling, and redness. Repeated infections can lead to premature blindness as well as adversely impact a ferret’s overall health.
White ferrets do not have a higher chance of being blind. That said, like other types of ferrets, they are likely to suffer from poor eyesight throughout their lifetimes.
A ferret with white fur may or may not have albinism, a condition marked by a lack of pigmentation throughout the skin, eyes, and fur. That said, white-furred ferrets and albino ferrets tend to have a similar level of eyesight as the average ferret.
Consequently, it’s not uncommon for white ferrets to have poor eyesight or go blind as they age.
Red-eyed ferrets (ferrets with albinism) may be slightly more sensitive to bright lights. They can suffer from blindness, like non-albino ferrets. However, they’re not necessarily born blind.
Albino ferrets are relatively rare in the wild, though many breeders specialize in breeding albino ferrets due to their increasing popularity. These ferrets have bright white fur and red eyes, and they tend to suffer from nearsightedness, just like pigmented ferrets.
Additionally, red-eyed albino ferrets can go blind due to age, physical trauma, or eye infections. They may also be more prone to degenerating eyesight than pigmented ferrets.
Many ferrets go blind as they get older. However, physical trauma or repetition infections can increase a ferret’s likelihood of going blind.
A ferret’s initial eyesight isn’t great to start with, which is why ferrets are equipped with other means of finding their way around. As such, there’s little reason to feel concerned if your ferret does develop complete blindness or cataracts.
However, ferrets that show significant signs of blindness may need a little extra help when navigating your home. As such, it’s an excellent idea for ferret owners to limit furniture changes or additions when caring for a blind ferret.
The presence of cataracts (a milky white layer covering the eyes) is the most significant sign of a blind ferret. However, only a veterinarian can confirm whether a ferret is blind or not.
Still, a ferret that consistently runs into walls or objects may be suffering from blindness. If you’ve recently made changes in your home, such as adding or moving furniture, and your ferret bumps into these items, this could also be a sign of blindness.
Though ferrets may have poor eyesight, they’re incredibly capable of navigating their environment and interacting with the world around them. They do this by using their sense of smell and touch.
A ferret’s primary means of finding its way around is using its nose. In fact, a ferret’s sense of smell is better than a dog’s sense of smell.
Because of this, most ferrets will avoid strong-smelling substances and fragrances. You can potentially get a ferret to avoid certain areas of your home by spraying vinegar in those areas.
Many ferrets will also avoid peppermint oil, making it an excellent alternative to homemade vinegar sprays.
That said, ferrets not only use their noses to help them navigate their surroundings. They also use their highly attuned sense of touch.
Ferrets use their bodies, paws, and whiskers to feel their way around their environments. These anatomical tools are crucial to a ferret’s ability to safely play, travel, and find companions.
A ferret’s paws are equipped with soft pads which are extremely sensitive to touch and vibration. These pads help ferrets detect potential predators, burrow collapse, and prey. They’re also useful in helping ferrets find their way around their cage or home.
However, these footpads alone aren’t the only sensory tools ferrets have that help them navigate. A ferret’s whiskers are also a crucial part of its ability to touch and find its way.
Much like a cat’s whiskers, a ferret’s whiskers are longer than its head. If a ferret brushes up against an object or barrier, they’ll know about it before their head or body touches it. That’s because their whiskers will likely touch this surface before the rest of their body does.
When a ferret’s whiskers are flattened or touch something, the ferret automatically knows that there’s an obstacle present. They couple this sensory mechanism with their sense of smell to remember specific locations or pathways, thus helping them safely move around.
Ferrets aren’t born blind, but they tend to have poor eyesight, especially when compared to the vision of the average human. Ferrets can go blind as they age or suffer a bacterial eye infection or physical eye trauma.