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The effects of surgical and chemical castration on intermale aggression, sexual behaviour and play behaviour in the male ferret (Mustela putorius furo)

By C. M. Vinke, R. van Deijk, B. B. Houx, N. J. Schoemaker

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The ferret (Mustela putorius furo) has become an increasingly popular pet animal, yet little is known about their behaviour and welfare. Inter- and intra-specific aggression and the intense musky scent are the two main reasons why male ferrets are normally surgically castrated. However, it is this neutering that is thought to play an important role in the development of hyperadrenocorticism, a hyperfunctioning of the adrenal cortex due to neoplastic changes, a common disease in domestic ferrets. An alternative to surgical castration might be the slow releasing GnRH agonist deslorelin implant (chemical castration). The present study aimed to examine the effects of the deslorelin implant and surgical castration on the occurrence of intermale aggression, sexual behaviour and play behaviour in male ferrets. Therefore, 21 male domestic ferrets received either an implant containing deslorelin (n=7), a placebo implant (n=7), or were surgically castrated (n=7). Our data showed that: (1) chemical castration with the GnRH agonist deslorelin results in a decrease in the occurrence of aggressive behaviour between male ferrets both in the presence and absence of a receptive female. In addition, our data showed that a deslorelin castration had more effect on the reduction of aggression than surgical castration; (2) sexually motivated behavioural patterns were reduced in the deslorelin and surgical castrated group in the male-female confrontation; (3) the deslorelin group, and to a lesser extent the surgically castrated group, had a higher incidence of play behaviour in comparison to intact males in the intermale confrontation tests. Therefore, deslorelin chemical castration is a suitable alternative for surgical castration, and may even be preferred due to the serious medical problems associated with surgical castration in ferrets. Especially the increase of play behaviour might be indicative for an improved welfare of the ferrets.

Date 2008
Publication Title Applied Animal Behaviour Science
Volume 115
Issue 1/2
Pages 104-121
ISBN/ISSN 0168-1591
DOI 10.1016/j.applanim.2008.05.003
Author Address Department of Animals, Science & Society, Division of Ethology & Welfare, Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, University of Utrecht, P.O. Box 80166, 3508 TD Utrecht,
Additional Language English
Cite this work

Researchers should cite this work as follows:

  1. Adrenal glands
  2. Aggression
  3. Agonistic behavior
  4. Animal behavior
  5. Animal diseases
  6. Animal physiology
  7. Animal reproduction
  8. Behavior and behavior mechanisms
  9. Cancer
  10. Carnivores
  11. Castration
  12. Cats
  13. Effect
  14. Ferrets
  15. Fur-bearing animals
  16. GnRH
  17. Hormones
  18. Incidence
  19. Mammals
  20. mink
  21. peer-reviewed
  22. Pets and companion animals
  23. placebos
  24. Sexual behavior
  25. sexuality
  26. Sexual practices
  27. surgery
  28. weasels
  1. peer-reviewed