Considering how a sex drought feels like death to many of us, to actually die is something else.
4 weeks ago we spoke of Adactylidium and how they incest in the womb and die, well this week it’s ferrets. Particularly female ferrets. Jills.
They don’t do the whole incest-womb thing, but they might die if they don’t have sex.
As is often the case in the animal kingdom, the innocence of childhood is short lived.
At around 4 to 8 months old, Jill finds herself in her first season, feeling frisky and receptive to the idea of mating with a male. This is also known as her first oestrus (or heat) cycle, when oestrogen levels in her body rise. These are just fancy ways of saying she’s gagging for sex.
If Jill isn’t sexed, or spayed, or otherwise satisfied, these first feelings of sexiness might be her last. There isn’t much ‘might be’ in it but there’s always room for hope. She could age to be a spinster ferret with bags and cats, or more probably isn’t held back at all. She has a run in with death and has a tale to tell…
It all depends on the drought. If it’s a short drought then she’ll likely survive. If it’s a drought-drought, like a real sex dry-up — tumbleweeds and dust storms — then she’ll likely die.
Unusually for a pet, ferrets are induced ovulators.
When another pet, such as a dog or cat, is in season they release their egg regardless of whether or not they have sex.
Ferrets, on the other hand, need sex to release their eggs.
Being built this way causes the ferret a number of problems.
Their vulva becomes traumatised — I’m not quite clear on the facts but I hope there’s a counselling service.
They lose weight.
But worst of all, the oestrogen being produced by their ovaries is a bone marrow suppressor.
Bone marrow is responsible for producing blood cells. Red ones so we live, white ones to fight infection, and platelets to clog up holes.
Not having sex when in season keeps the oestrogen levels high in Jill’s body, making her bone marrow produce fewer blood cells, which brings about aplastic anaemia and certain death if not careful or resolved.
Oxygen won’t get to where it needs to go without red blood cells and her body will suffocate from the inside out (essentially).
Infections could wage wars and win if she has no white blood cells to fight for her in her veins.
She might trip and get a gash, and bleed out ’cause there are no platelets to clog up the hole.
If she has sex, the egg releases, the hormones in her body change, and she survives until next season.
Of course, depending on how long she’s in season determines the severity of her anaemia. Fortunately, this risk to her life can be avoided if she mates, is spayed, has an implant, or gets an injection.
But it goes to show how a sex drought can kill you if you’re a ferret.