(Note: Very long; sad parts)
How it all started:
“Have you seen a ferret wandering around anywhere?” the man asked, as I relaxed on my porch one evening. “No”, I said, “But I’d definitely keep my eye out for ‘im”. I asked where he lived, in case I found him; he lived several doors down from me. I started talking with him, as I had had a ferret before (decades ago). He sensed that I was an “animal person”, and asked if I would like to take care of his two remaining ferrets (and collect his mail, and watch his cable TV, and eat his food so it wouldn’t spoil, etc.) for a reasonable fee, while he was out of town on work for a month or so. It sounded like a plan to me, so I agreed.
As it turned out, these were “free range” ferrets”. Although they had a cage, they were never kept in it. They were allowed to roam freely and sleep / poop / etc. wherever they liked. And, there were some SUBSTANTIAL poop places that I found, too! I never knew ferrets could pile poop (in a closet) up that high. That was quite a “structure” they had going there!
Well, I would come down to his place, water and feed the ferrets, and sit on the floor and watch TV (an “Outer Limits” marathon was on cable at that time!), as the ferrets would run around me and bite little holes in my elbows! It was Bart, actually, as “Zoe” (later changed to “Victoria”) would NEVER bite a human intentionally. For a little while, I was actually afraid of him / them, because of the biting (said the man who once actually stuck a thermometer up a Bengal Tiger’s arse!).
But, I decided to actually try to play with them, if I could only figure out how. I devised a few games and simple toys to play with, which they seemed to like. But, for the most part, they were on “auto-pilot”, as they went about whatever it was that interested them. I was just a “novelty” to them; something to bite holes in and then run away from. I did, however, notice Bart’s joy and glee as he danced away from me, having made yet another hole in my arm; he was actually having FUN! All I had to do was find a way to have fun, but without the holes in my arm.
I cleaned up their cage and started keeping them in that, instead of having to locate them every day. To my surprise, they took to it with no fuss. They seemed to be used to it. That is about the time I started discussing them on the internet and learning about (proper) ferret care and habits.
After about a month, the owner came back to town. I would stop by and see them every day or so, because, by that time, I had become somewhat attached to them. One evening I stopped by to find the owner passed out on the floor drunk, front door wide open, and no ferrets in sight! Fortunately, they hadn’t discovered the open door and were still inside somewhere. That’s probably how the other ferret got out; he never did find that one.
Soon, he had to leave town for work again. Having seen how attached I had become to them, and how much I had already learned from the net, he decided that he ought to just give them to me. He knew they would be better off with someone else, and that he just didn’t have the ambition to take proper care of them. So, the next day, I found myself carrying Bart and the cage to my house. I couldn’t get Vicki yet, as he had let them out of the cage, and she was sleeping behind the dryer and wouldn’t come out. I could reach back and just touch her, but I couldn’t reach far enough to grab her. I called and called, but nothing was going to budge her till she was done sleeping. The next day, she was out and I got her. He also gave me harnesses, leashes and all the other accessories they had.
I quickly established a safe room for them to play in. I didn’t want any huge piles of poop (in just about every corner) to deal with, as they had made at their last home, either. When their previous owner moved out, the landlord (my landlord, too) was pissed about the ferret mess he left, and even hired me to clean it up. This raised his concern about me having the ferrets, but I assured him that it was totally different at my place. When I moved out of that place to another, and they had ZERO cleaning to do, they knew that they could trust me with both cats and ferrets.
Well, life soon settled into a daily routine. I learned the basics: clipping claws, removing a piece of kibble from between teeth, Ferretone and Vaseline treats, DFS, etc., etc., and LOTS of play. Days stretched into weeks, then months, then years. I moved again, to a better area, and have been here for three or four years now.
I had been taking Bart and Victoria out for walks on their little leashes. I learned that you can NOT take two ferrets out on leashes at the same time, no matter how you harness them together or however you configure things. One goes one way and the other goes the opposite way -or- if harnessed close together, one drags the other around! Singularly, Bart wanted to dig to China, and Victoria wanted to go into every dark and forbidden place she could find. After about the fifth time of holding her back and saying “No Vicki”, she would get mad and stomp up the steps and go straight to the door.
One evening, someone came to the door, saying “I saw you walking your ferrets, and wondered if you might want another one”. He went on to explain that “one just walked in where he works, so he got it” (only a few blocks from where I live). Though I wasn’t actively seeking a third ferret, I did know that it was better to have three, so that, if one passed away, the other wasn’t totally alone. He had had it for about two weeks, but admitted that he didn’t have the time or knowledge to devote to taking care of him. So, I went over to check him out.
The first thing I noticed when I met him was he had no less than eight white spots on him, which indicated to me that he was probably deaf. He has four white socks, two white knee patches, a white patch on his chest and a white “arrow head” on top of his head. He was also real small; still growing even. At first, a harness set to the smallest setting, was still too big. He has grown some since, but he’s still destined to be a small ferret. Maybe that’s why he has such a big personality. He’s about a third smaller than Vicki. (Vicki + Skipper would = Bart, size wise).
As I expected, from reading about deaf ferrets on the net, he was a biter, not to mention that he has red reflecting “demon” eyes (the others don’t). Though I can’t prove a thing, I have a hunch that that’s how he became homeless; he bit someone (in play) and they threw him out! In light of the overwhelming and gross ignorance I continue to find among ferret owners, I could really see something like that happening. Regardless of whether someone threw him out, or whether they just allowed him to escape, their loss is our gain.
Anyway, I found myself with a new bouncing little boy ferret. The first thing I did was to give him an ADV test. They just love that, don’t they? (NOT!) After he passed the test, I felt safe to let him explore his new world (room) for the first time. I learned that deaf ferrets can indeed be a little jumpy and will nip if startled, but most of the time, I’m not close enough to get bit. But, for the most part, I have found that the biting is mainly play related. Skipper is a LITTLE MANIAC, and plays real rough!
He also thinks he can fly, and, for the most part, he CAN! He looks like a tree frog as he makes amazing leaps, white toes spread wide. If I don’t keep the furniture in the room spaced and positioned just right, he’ll “fly” from place to place till he’s on my desk getting into things I don’t want him messing with (and turning my comp on and messing it up, too!). He’s also learned that he can get on top of things to get up to other things. If he ever learns to move things, I’m SCREWED!
I was keeping Bart and Victoria away from Skipper for the time being, but they were well aware of each other by the scents. After about three days of seeing each other, Bart going nuts scratching at and biting the cage, I decided, “What the hey…”, so I let them together. That was a mistake, as I soon found out.
They had a ball playing, and, with the exception of a few minor “skirmishes”, seemed to be getting along just fine. That lasted for about two days, then Victoria came down with the “green slime” poop. At that time, I didn’t know what that was, but thought sure that Skipper had brought in some sort of disease and she got it. I took a sample, gathered up Vicki and rushed off to the vet. As fate would have it, it happened to be Labor Day, so I had to not only pay for emergency help on a weekend, but on a holiday weekend to boot.
The vet wasn’t interested in the poop sample at all; he knew exactly what it was. He explained that a naturally occurring bacteria, due to the stress of encountering other ferrets so suddenly, got out of control and multiplied exponentially. So, even though Skipper did (sort of) cause the problem, he did not actually infect Vicki with anything at all. He also showed me the proper way to check a ferret’s hydration, as Vicki was dehydrated enough to need an IV.
Two days later, Bart went down with it, too. I caught it sooner, and Bart was stronger, so he didn’t have it so bad, but he still needed to stay there, too. How long? Seven days each, getting two shots a day. The vet made available, to save money, the option of keeping them at home and doing the injections myself, but I declined. I just could not trust myself to not screw it up. Besides, it would be SO hard to poke holes in my babies! So, since it was only $9 a day extra, and I would have the peace of mind to know that they had the best care, in the best place, I decided to leave them there the full seven days.
I went to visit them twice, and they had plenty of things that smelled like home, plus, for five days, they had each other, so it wasn’t so bad. They came through it just fine. That little learning experience cost me $338. Ironically, Skipper never showed the slightest sign of sickness at all. I have since written a (proven, but we’ll get into that later) schedule for introducing ferrets without them getting sick. In retrospect, at one time or another, I remember that Skipper got both Bart and Victoria downright mad at him. He can be a mean little asshole sometimes. I think that THAT was when things started getting out of balance; that was the negative stress that made them sick.
After that, all was well. They got to be friends; Bart (and Vicki) kicked Skipper’s ass a few times and put him in his place, and Skipper mellowed out some. Watching them play was all the more fun. Did you know, holding two ferrets is okay, but it’s just about impossible to hold three?
Things went along fine for about six months. Bart was scheduled for his first tumor operation (“rat tail” = tumors, guaranteed); the vet explained that, due to being fixed, ferrets, when they get older, are “little tumor factories”. But, things took another turn. I got sick for about a month, and it was I who ended up in the hospital. Abscessed wisdom tooth, the worst they had ever seen. It was gross, but I will spare you the details. When they saw me, they wanted to put me in the hospital immediately, but I insisted on taking the evening to find someone to take care of the ferrets and cats. I contracted a responsible neighbor kid to take care of them, as he was about the only one I knew that I could trust to do a good job.
As soon as I was checked into the (VA) hospital, they took me to surgery. They took out some teeth, some bone, cleaned it up and put in some drain holes. A few days later, they told me I needed a second operation, and advised me to have all my teeth removed at that time. Since the VA was paying for it, and I certainly didn’t EVER want to go through that again, I decided to have it done (only to find out, after the fact, that the VA doesn’t provide dentures!).
The Great Sadness…
I was in the hospital for 11 days. On the fourth day, I got a call from the guy that was taking care of the ferrets, informing me that Bart appeared to be dead. That hit me like a ton of bricks. Devastated me. Really made me want to die. To get such news, at such time and place, was THE worst experience of my entire life. Not that it would have done any good, but I wanted desperately to go to him; to be with him. My doctors tried getting them to let me out for a day, but it would have voided VA coverage of it all. So, I just walked. Around and around the large square formed by the hallways that went around the nurse’s station. I walked till I could hardly walk anymore; after many laps, it was all I could do to make it back to my room. I wanted to walk off the end of the earth. (This is hard to write).
Just to be sure that it wasn’t DFS, I asked the guy to put Bart in Skipper’s old cage. The next morning, it was clear that Bart was indeed gone, so I had him wrap his body and put it into the freezer, to preserve it till I got home. To make it worse, when I got home, I had forgotten that Bart was in the freezer, and I thought I had found a cut of meat that I had overlooked. Ooops. That’s when I remembered that I had a hole to dig.
For years, I had known how to care for ferrets; how to love them and tend to their needs. I thought I pretty much knew everything I needed to know. But, I didn’t know how to bury one. Physically, the digging of the hole was no problem. But… putting him into it and saying “Good bye, little buddy”, was an aspect of ferret ownership that I had no experience with. Some on the net had tried to explain it and warn me that they would eventually RIP MY HEART OUT, but we were too busy having fun to pay much attention to something like that. I knew it was inevitable, and it was always chained up in the back of my mind, but it broke loose, and FAR too soon. Even today, it’s sometimes hard to believe that Bart’s gone. It just doesn’t seem real. I feel like I have “graduated” to a new level of ferret understanding; like I have joined a club that no one wants to be in.
So, there I was, back to two ferrets. I was so grateful to have Skipper then; he kept Victoria alive, active and interested in life. It was almost like providence that he came along when he did. As if God knew that Bart would be leaving, so he provided Skipper to be a companion for Vicki. He was a fine companion for her, and they became as attached to one another as Bart was to Vicki.
Is He Really Deaf?
One evening, Skipper was on the coffee table (he flew over there), where he shouldn’t be, but I allow it sometimes. The cat was lying on the floor by the coffee table. Skipper looked up at me, and I said, “Jump on the kitty cat”, as I made a motion with my hand. He looked down at the cat, then back up at me. I then said, “Go ahead, jump on the kitty cat”, and made a motion again. Much to my amazement and astonishment, he jumped right down on the cat! The cat was not amused, but she just ignored him (she’s pretty ferret-tolerant). That just blew me away, and I was speechless for several minutes! So, I then had to wonder if he really was deaf. But, I doubt that he even knows those words, let alone knows what they mean. Someone suggested that he might have been “lip reading”, but, again, even if he was, he still wouldn’t know those words. I do, however, think that he somehow picked up on my body language and somehow understood it.
On the other hand, there have been numerous times, when I called him from somewhere that he couldn’t possibly see me, and he came. But, there have also been many more times when he didn’t respond at all; isn’t that the same as a hearing ferret does? Well, I’m still convinced that he is deaf: A while back, I had him out on his leash, and we went across the street to visit a neighbor who was working on his house. As Skipper stood there staring at the next house, my neighbor was cutting wood with a Skil saw, not six feet away, and Skipper never flinched. He didn’t look back at that saw making that loud screeching noise at all. He just kept staring. He must be deaf. The vet said that there’s no progression or half-way to it; he’s either deaf or he isn’t.
Time marches on. Victoria also develops “rat-tail”, so I know it’s time for an operation. The vet gave me a time frame, but I wanted to stay well within it. Although he said she had several months before she would really need it, I wanted to get it done as soon as possible, while she’s still strong. He agreed. The vet, knowing I was on a budget, explained that there was a test they could do to make sure it was indeed tumors, but, based on his extensive experience with ferrets, he could absolutely guarantee that she did have tumors (and it would be a needless waste of money to test).
The surgery went well, and the vet removed three tumors. It sure was a relief to hear that she made it through the operation okay! Some on the net have said that they don’t believe in giving Ferretone-Vaseline “prophylacticly”, but, part of the operation was to check the stomach and clean out whatever doesn’t belong there. He found nothing at all, and confirmed that regularly giving Ferretone-Vaseline does indeed help. I kept her in a smaller cage for about a week. No play for her till she’s healed up some. Naturally, Skipper didn’t understand this, but, that’s the way it had to be. Slowly but surely, she healed up and things got back to normal.
A Decent Vet…
The vet had given me a ball-park estimate of what it would cost, and I was prepared for that; I had been working two jobs. But, when I got the bill, it was $650 instead of the $500 he had quoted. After I paid it, I mentioned it to him. Though I could have dealt with the higher price, he looked at the bill and said it was wrong. He took a copy and went through it and cut some charges off that didn’t belong there. That brought it down to about what I was expecting. They then asked if I wanted the difference in a check, or credit!
Some had predicted that they wouldn’t rebate me the difference, but my NOT GREEDY vet, Dr. Michael Driscol, in Cheyenne, Wyoming, proved them all WRONG! He was happy with the $500 that he earned and didn’t need that extra $150. I didn’t have to fight with them about it; there was no friction at all. They just made it right. Yes, he’s a decent vet (and reputed as “the best ferret vet in Cheyenne”).
The vet had assured me that Vicki and her tumors were “very treatable”; he estimated that she should be good for another year. But……… (do you see it coming?)…..
Another Great Sadness…
But, somewhere between 6 to 9 months later, the hair had not grown back on Victoria’s tail. Not only that, but the hair was receding up her butt. She was still very active and vigorous, and gave no signs of being sick. Her and Skipper would romp and play every day. So, while she was still strong, I took her in for what I thought would be her second routine operation. (Damn, this is hard to write!)
The morning of the operation, Skipper was sound asleep when I took her out. In fact, I had to slide Vicki out from under him, but he didn’t wake. I’m glad of that. When I dropped her off for her first operation, I kind of lost it and got all weepy-eyed in the front office; I decided to try to not get so emotional this time, which I accomplished fairly well, believing that this operation would be routine, too. As we were waiting our turn to get checked in, I took her out of the cage and held her, talked to her and walked around a bit. I’m glad I did.
I had checked her in on just a phone call, both the vet and I knowing exactly what kind of operation she needed. I knew it was his surgery day, and I didn’t want to have to wait till his next surgery day (once a week he operates). Also, she did not need some of the preliminary tests she had before the first operation. Then, I went to work and waited till it was time to call and find how it went and when I should pick her up.
When I called, and the vet himself wanted to talk to me, I knew that it couldn’t be good. I was right. He explained, as tactfully as he could, exactly what he encountered, and that she didn’t make it. I collapsed on the spot, and couldn’t hardly finish talking to him. I had to go home. I went in the next day to pay for it, pick her up and talk with the vet.
He explained that the tumor she had was not a normal one; it had invaded the main vein coming up from below. When he clamped it off so he could remove it, she went into cardiac arrest. He was surprised at how fast it had formed, so soon after the first operation. He said he’s seen four other cases like that in the past year; “none of them turned out well”, he said, which I’m sure is vet-speak for “they all died”. He said it could have been the anesthesia, or the sudden change in blood pressure that caused the cardiac arrest.
I asked him if something like hormone replacement therapy (HRT), like women get when their reproductive organs are removed, would have helped. He said no, because it’s not a lack of hormones that cause the tumors when they have been fixed; it’s too much hormone in the case of ferrets. He explained that they need hormone reduction therapy. He said that they make a human hormone that has been used on ferrets with fair success (it slows tumors but doesn’t stop them), -but- it’s $700 a vial (!), and perishable too boot. There is never enough demand for it for them to keep it in stock, and if they did stock it, it would go bad way before it’s used up. Understood. Makes sense to me. Too bad they don’t make tiny singular doses.
Choking back tears, I told the vet that she went from playing one day, to dead the next, and I did that to her. I felt so bad about the way things went (still do), and try my best not to hate myself for it (still do). He explained that she would have been suffering within a week or two at best, and only had no more than two months to live max (with the suffering). So, as it turned out, I ended up doing the one thing that would have been SO hard to do if she had started suffering: I had her “put down”. Now, I am very glad that she didn’t suffer, but I can’t help but wonder, how many days more we could have had together before she really needed help? One day? Two? A week even? She was so strong and happy one day, only to be dead the next… Only God knows how I beat myself up over this (and getting sick before I could get Bart help). Yet, I know that it HAD to be done…
So, the original generation that really started my love of ferrets, Bart and Victoria, is no more. I try to find some sort consolation in all this, but I can’t find much in it at all. So, it only cost me $164 to kill my baby, instead of the $500 I was prepared for. Big deal. I save a lot of food. So? I don’t have to clean the litter box as much. Woopie. No, there’s no consolation in things like that. The only three things that give me any contentment about it are:
1. They are with their creator
2. They are together
3. They will never suffer or die again.
And, for the record, it does NOT get any easier to bury subsequent ferrets. I don’t think it ever will.
Now, I can only thank God for the time I did have with them, short as it was; three and a half and four years respectively. Over a thousand playtimes. Countless kisses coming and going. Damn, I miss them!
But, I must concern myself with the living, and now I had one very lonely and depressed little boy ferret to tend to. Skipper had been such a good companion for Victoria, and now he was in need of companionship himself. I put it to God and asked for either a companion for Skipper or a new home for him with someone else who had and knew ferrets. Nothing happened either way. A friend was advising that I get rid of Skipper, but the concept of having no ferrets in the house was impossible to grasp. I now know full well what I’m setting myself up for – more heartache, but I can’t resist. I must ask myself, “Was it worth it”? Was all the fun and love we shared for all that time worth this terrible heartache? I think it was.
After a week or so of doing everything I could think of to keep Skipper occupied and not depressed, I decided that I need to make something happen. I would find a companion for him if I had to buy one (I had not paid a cent for Bart, Victoria or Skipper – they were all given to me). I checked out the paper and found several candidates. I found two little girl ferrets, only 9 months old, for $75, and a boy ferret (age unknown) for $50. I couldn’t reach the person with the girl ferrets, so I left a message. But, I did reach the people with the boy ferret. As I was inquiring about him, I asked how active he was during playtime. They informed me that he hadn’t been out of the cage for about three weeks! Well, when I heard that, it pretty much cinched it – I was getting him. The girl ferrets had each other – he had no one.
We had to go pretty far out in the country to get him. I checked him out, and other than being overweight, he looked and acted like a healthy ferret. No exercise and high fat food had made a blob of him; his belly even dragged the floor. As I spoke with the seller, I realized that it was yet another case of someone who got a ferret as a novelty, but couldn’t know or care less about caring for it. Actually, he was left there by a relative who went to college. They didn’t even know his name. “We have just been calling him ‘Twitter’ ” they said. I seriously doubt that he knew any name at all, let alone “Twitter”. The situation was so frustrating that I just gave them the money and got the hell out of there (before I told them a thing or two that they wouldn’t like).
Upon arriving back home, I knew that the first order of business was PLAYTIME for this deprived little one! (Actually, he’s the biggest ferret I ever had; he is as big as Bart and Victoria combined). But first, being determined that there was NOT going to be any “green slime” this time, I covered Skipper’s cage. They wouldn’t even see each other for two days. But first, I had to give him an ADV test, which he passed.
Note: I won’t re-write my article about introducing ferrets without them getting sick, but I will include it.
So, I let the new guy out for his first playtime in who knows how long. Within about a minute, he was running around the couch and room, sliding on the floor where it turns from carpet to tile, and just having a ball! I wasn’t even doing anything, just letting him explore his new home. He was running simply because HE COULD! I’m sure he instantly knew that this was a ferret home, what with the potty places and ferret-scented toys and such.
The next order of business, while he was exploring and going nuts with joy, was to clean out his neglected cage. They had been using cedar chips as litter, but I remember reading, and seeing it on the news even, about how cedar is not really good for any critter because of chemicals it releases. He didn’t even smell like a real ferret, and it took over a week for him to start to smell normal. His nostrils were probably permeated with the stuff, too, so he probably couldn’t smell anything but cedar.
His hammock was in tatters from digging at it; his feet kept going through as he tried to get in. Luckily, I just happened to have an exact replacement for it, so he was in luck! I don’t know what they were feeding him, but I’m sure it wasn’t what a ferret needed. He got a heaping bowl of Iams Kitten, which he took to right away. (The vet says that, as far as he’s concerned, Iams Kitten is better than all the other ferret foods). I also gave him one of Victoria’s custom coat sleeves, which he crawled into immediately and took a nap.
“Now, what will I call my new little buddy, Lord?” I asked. Right then, it came to me: “Buddy”! He looked like a “Buddy”, so now, he’s my “pudgy Buddy”. Works for me. Besides, God forbid he ever did get loose, but I really don’t want to walk around the neighborhood hollering “Twitter” if he did!
I think I can call Buddy’s adoption a “rescue”. Though he didn’t appear to be abused, he was most certainly neglected; forgotten. I don’t know what he did to deserve “solitary confinement”, but I do know that ferrets were born to play. Imagine locking yourself in your smallest bedroom for three weeks straight. Well, now, HE’S FREE!!! He gets two to three playtimes a day. Got to make up for all that time with no play, right?
After a full 7 days of slow introduction, Skipper and Buddy are finally ready for full (supervised) playtimes together. They’re still not ready to live together, but they’re almost there. It is commonly said that, “If there’s no blood or poop, let ’em work it out themselves” (when they get into little fights). I don’t buy that. There was no blood or poop when Bart and Victoria got sick from meeting Skipper too soon, yet, they still got sick. It was those incidents when they really got angry that triggered the slime. That’s why, when it does get serious, I always intervene.
I was then wondering when would be a good time for them to live together, but, after about three days of full play together, Buddy made the decision himself to move into the cage with Skipper. That settled that. Now, after a few months of exercise and good food, Buddy is losing some weight and showing signs of better fitness; he’s stronger and not as “lazy” (he’s still a bit of a blob though).
Adopting Buddy turned out to be a win-win-win solution to a triple problem. Skipper is not depressed any more, Buddy is certainly feeling much better about life, and I feel much better myself. Buddy paid for himself within three days, as I’m certain I got at least $50 worth of joy and satisfaction from getting him. It looks like I have another little ferret pair again, right? (The “Odd” couple).
Not So Fast….
“Ferret Math” lurks right around the corner: Having put the word out that I needed a new companion for Skipper, a neighbor down the street, who I knew to have three ferrets himself (also neglected and not cared for properly), came down and asked if I still needed a ferret. As it turned out, one of his was supposedly “poisoned” by an ex-wife (poisoning was confirmed by a vet), then a second one fell and supposedly broke his back and died a few hours later. That left another very lonely and depressed ferret.
Note: When I cleaned out the cage that came with him, I found, buried in the cedar chips, a two-capsule blister pack, which had obviously been chewed on, and one of the two capsules was missing! As I recall, it was some kind of allergy med. The owner said that that was old, he knew about it (and failed to remove it?!) and it wasn’t what poisoned the other ferret. This is a perfect example of the kind of TOTALLY NEGLIGENT ferret ownership that pervades this country. If there were a test involved in owning a ferret, most would utterly fail.
Well, after seeing him, and hearing that he, too, hadn’t been out of the cage for about three weeks, I couldn’t resist rescuing him as well. The owner only wanted $25 for him and his cage. Here we go again with the introduction process, only this time, it’s a two-way, sort of; double separate playtimes, etc. He already had a name (“Nipper”), and knew the word “No”, so I left his name alone. I was wondering if “Skipper” and “Nipper”, sounding so much alike, would cause some confusion, but, Skipper being deaf, pretty much doesn’t care what you call him. Besides, they often look so much alike that I find myself calling the wrong one the wrong name anyway.
And, again, he was in cedar chips and smelled like cedar. Again, it took a week for him to start smelling like a normal ferret. The owner offered me a full bag of cedar chips, but I declined. I use cross-cut shredded paper instead. I even bought my own shredder just for making ferret litter. It’s a good thing, too, as three ferrets sure can go through some litter! I have to change the litter box every other day now.
When I first let Nipper out, within a minute, all by himself, he was leaping straight up in the air! Again, simply because he could. He’s a very handsome boy, with crisp and distinctive markings. He’s also the fastest ferret I have ever seen. Because of him, I have concluded that if a ferret gets loose, and does not want to be caught, you will NOT chase him down and catch him; he must be lured (or trapped).
Nipper is smaller than Buddy, but not by much. He’s about the size Bart was. He’s a bit more timid (“cautious”) than the others. Just kind of not sure of himself yet. I think that’s because he likes to chase and be chased. In spite of his name, he doesn’t nip or bite at all (except when in “play mode”, as all ferrets can do). He likes to chase the cat (“Troni”), and has caught her numerous times, but never bitten her. He even got on her back, with his head on hers, but he didn’t try to bite an ear or anything.
That Brings Us Up To The Present…
Now I have three happy ferrets. They have all been successfully integrated with no “green slime”. They eat a lot of food, especially with Buddy’s healthy appetite. Along with the pitter-patter of 12 little feet comes the responsibility of clipping 60 little claws! It’s hilarious to watch them play. As with people, they each have their own personalities and attitudes. Nipper loves moving around the room inside a pillow case and biting at the others outside. I keep a little tub of water out for them to drink, which started because Skipper loves to play in the water. Last week, Nipper navigated his pillow case right into the water, nose first, and was trying to kill himself! (?).
They like to “disembowel” my little backpack when I come home from work. Vicki used to like to take only my gloves and hide them; Skipper only wanted everything else. A few weeks ago, Skipper was trying to remove things from it, but it was only slightly un-zipped. He got hold of my wool hat and got a claw snagged in it. The hat wouldn’t come out, and he was stuck there for a little while before I noticed. The poor little guy peed and pooped right there. As soon as I found him, I rescued him by snipping off a portion of the wool. I then decided that I should clip his claws, but found that they were already pretty short. I keep their claws clipped to keep them from getting snagged on terry cloth, fleece and such, but, no matter how short they are, they can still penetrate (and thus, get snagged) loose woven things like wool sweaters and hats.
Vicki and Skipper used to love playing “vacuum” with my shop vac set to blow (and the extra-long hose I have on it). Now, Skipper and Buddy love it. But Nipper, like Bart before him, is terrified of it and wants nothing to do with machinery at all.
Now, Skipper, my little “wild child” as I call him, isn’t that much of a biter at all, except when he’s in “play mode”. If he’s in play mode, and I offer him the hairy back of my wrist, sure, he’ll jump on and bite (just like they do with each other). But, if I offer him the palm of my hand, he’ll grasp my wrist and want me to pick him up, without trying to bite. Otherwise, he’s becoming a real sweet little ferret. I kiss him all over his head and he licks my cheek, nose and sometimes even a nostril or two (talk about a strange sensation!), but he has never tried to bite. I think he’s also becoming nicer, in part, because he can get it all out of his system with the others.
A few days ago, Buddy got Skipper mad and he hissed for the first time. I hadn’t heard a hiss since Victoria was here (She used to antagonize Bart into dragging her around by the neck or ear, then hiss about it). Buddy has a distance weight advantage over Skipper, being about four times his size, but that doesn’t slow Skipper down any. Skipper can dance rings around Buddy, but Buddy can lie on Skipper and pin him down (which he does). Skipper thinks he can whoop a lion, and isn’t intimidated by Buddy’s size one bit. (If I give Skipper my finger and let him pull, he thinks he can drag me behind the couch and into a carpet tube!) [I wish I knew a cartoonist who could draw that!]
It’s weird having two ferrets that can hear again. It’s nice to be able to call them by name and have them (OCCASIONALLY) come. To be able to holler “No!”, and have them quit whatever it is that they were doing that they’re not supposed to be doing (and go flat), is a definite advantage. And Skipper… well, although I’m pretty convinced that he is indeed stone deaf, he continues to occasionally give the distinct impression that he can hear. Regardless, I talk to him as if he can. Maybe he’s “clairvoyant” or something.
Once, he was curled up in a ball on the floor preening or something. I got down on knees and elbows right close to him and just watched. When he looked up and suddenly saw me looking at him that close, he almost jumped out of his skin! Poor little guy – didn’t mean to scare him that bad, but it was hilarious none the less.
I’m looking forward to snow this year. I just got word that it might snow this weekend. It’ll be interesting to see what Buddy and Nipper think of it. Skipper already knows snow from last winter. He loves it. I lay out a plastic sheet, then bring in a large tub of snow and set it there and chuck him into it. He would dive in head first, then come out wearing a pointed little “snow hat”, then shake it off and go in for more. Vicki never cared for the snow much. She’s stick her head in, but she didn’t like to be in it herself. Bart used to love having little snowballs thrown at him. I’ll try that this year with these new guys.
Neither Buddy nor Nipper seem to care for any “treats”. It even took Buddy a minute to decide if he liked Ferretone or not (took about ten seconds for Nipper). But, when it comes to other things (in great moderation) that most ferrets seem to love, they simply don’t care for them. Bart, Vicki and Skipper would all literally crawl into your mouth to get chocolate, if you let ’em (I learned not to get them too close to my mouth after eating chocolate!). But, Buddy and Nipper couldn’t care less about it. Skipper would gladly take part of a cracker or potato chip, but Nipper and Buddy simply don’t care for anything at all, other than Iams Kitten. Weird.
I sometimes wonder if their personalities might be “stunted” from isolation and lack of contact with people or other ferrets. It’s taken about a month for Buddy and Nipper to even acknowledge me as a person. Slowly, they are coming out of their shells. But, I also sometimes get the impression that they might think that this new life is but a dream, as they slowly realize that it’s not a dream, and they are really awake. That there IS more to life than a small jail cell.
Did you know that, if you say “Tickle Nipper” a whole bunch of times real fast, rude (“politically incorrect”) things come out?
A Sad Note…
One of the people I notified of needing a companion for Skipper was a lady I know who works at the local animal shelter. Right after I got Nipper, making three ferrets, I got word that they had a girl ferret at the shelter, slated for execution if she wasn’t adopted soon. Damn! Although I wanted to save that little girl, I had to draw the line somewhere. Three was enough of a responsibility, both financially and physically. I just couldn’t do it. I wish I could, but where do you draw the line? If I adopted every ferret that came along, before long, I’d be one of those hoarders who end up with too many to take care of any of them properly. By getting more, I’d ultimately be jeopardizing them ALL. So, hard as it was, I had to thank the lady for letting me know, but turn her down and hope someone else adopted her before it’s too late. I really don’t know what happened, and frankly, I don’t think I want to know. The best I can do is to continue to advocate recycling used ferrets over buying new ones. It’s wrong to see ferrets being sold (for $200 a pop!) at one end, while perfectly good “used” ferrets are being executed at the other. It just seems so wrong.
In the time between Victoria leaving, and adopting Buddy, I would take Skipper around the house and let him explore places. While in the bathroom, he stood up to check out the toilet. It was quiet in there, so I was able to hear him, ever so lightly, tapping his teeth on the porcelain. I thought this odd, but just dismissed it. Then, a few days later, he was doing it to a coffee table, then to something else (don’t remember what). It’s only him; the others don’t seem to do it.
It appears that he does that to see what something is made of. I’ve seen some exotic talking birds do that, in order to see what something is made of, then they could say what it was (wood, metal, plastic). I wonder if this is somehow deafness-related? I know that there are times when I need to know if something is plastic or glass, so I tap it with a finger nail. I wonder if anyone else has witnessed such behavior? I’ve never seen anything written about it.
I started a separate bank account for the cats / ferrets. I figure that, if I just keep squirreling away a little now and then, by the time someone needs an operation, I’ll be ready. I hope it’s at least five years before I need any of it. The vet said that the oldest ferret he has ever seen was 9 1/2 years old. I know that Skipper is still just a kid; I don’t know about Buddy or Nipper, but they all have healthy coats of hair on their tails. Towards the end, Vicki was needing someone to knit her a little tail & butt cozy or something.
I’ve noticed that both Buddy and Nipper have small dots tattooed in their right ears. This means that they are “Marshal Farms” ferrets (one of the largest ferret breeders around). Skipper doesn’t appear to have any tattoos in his ears or between his toes. This probably explains his size. MF tends to breed large ferrets; Skipper probably wouldn’t “measure up” to their size standards. But, the world just wouldn’t be complete without a “Skipper” ferret in it, would it?
It’s hilarious to watch them when they are really wound up playing. It almost looks like three ferrets are going six ways at once. They are almost a blur. I put a large cardboard box on the floor and put a dozen or so plastic bags in it (a ferret’s favorite toy). It has three of the four flaps closed and the bottom flap open, forming a sort of a doorway to a larger room for them. They get to romping around in there and it sounds like a dryer with a bunch of tennis shoes in it. Every now and then, one will come tumbling out the door, get up, shake himself and rush back in for more. It resembles a western bar fight scene.
Skipper has pulled Dead Ferret Syndrome (DFS) several times since I got him. I’m glad I know about that now instead of freaking out like he’s dead, it’s rather amusing. I took him out of his hammock, looked at him and put him back, without him even knowing it.
Buddy gets hiccups a lot. I wonder if that has to do with his weight? He does have one disturbing habit: He’s good about going in the “potty place”, but then he turns and drinks his pee. I am now wondering if he has some sort of deficiency that makes him crave certain minerals in pee. I’m trying to discourage that, without discouraging him from using the potty place. I must ask the vet about that.
A Poor Cage…
The cage Nipper came with is larger than the one I have now, so I thought that it would be nice to give them some more room. I decided to try that one out for a while. But, in spite of the fact that it uses the exact same materials and techniques that my current cage uses, it was SO poorly designed and thought out, that I just can’t use it at all.
This is what to avoid in a cage:
The cage doesn’t have a bottom pan that slides out for cleaning, it sits inside a pan that is about an inch larger than the cage itself. The cage only has a partial bottom that covers only about 1/3 of the bottom, and that was only put there to have a place to anchor the bottom ramp. In order to clean the cage, you would have to take it off the bottom tray completely.
It is as deep as it is wide – and – both doors are two inches smaller than on my old cage. These two factors make it just about impossible to hang slings or hammocks. It takes some special tricks to reach the back area, because it’s just too deep.
There are four levels and three ramps. The upper level (just a platform in the corner) is in the way of hanging anything, and serves no purpose (except to use the wire square that they cut out just below that).
The litter box that came with it was “captive”; the only way to remove it was to lift the cage off the tray. It would not fit through the bottom door no matter how you turned it.
The spring clips I normally use to hold a litter box in place, due to the wire being oriented the opposite way (vertical rectangles) as my old cage (horizontal rectangles), would no longer work. This also greatly limited the vertical placement of anything that was to hang on the wire (like a water bottle).
Well, even with modifications it was just impossible to use this faulty, impractical cage. It’s a sad shame, too, as it is a total waste of material and labor, not to mention that people actually paid for this worthless piece of junk. The workmanship, as I said, was fine; the same exact parts and techniques as my old cage. It was the design that is totally faulty.
To make matters worse, when I finally did abandon the idea that I might use that cage, and tried to take it to another bedroom to stash it there, it wouldn’t fit through the door! Nor would it fit through the other bedroom door! It was “captive” to the kitchen and living room, and only able to fit through the front door.
That cage now sits out in the yard. Maybe I’ll save it and give it to someone I don’t like (as it would make a great insult). Otherwise, it’s useless and worthless. At least I learned something from it, and what to look for in a cage and what to avoid. I’m glad I didn’t pay anything for it!
Finding Home – Sight vs. Scent…
Bart, Victoria and Skipper all seemed to learn immediately just where our front porch is and how to get there. When they were tired of being outside, they would lead the way right back to the door. A while back, I had Skipper outside and across the street. I noticed that he kept standing on my feet and looking up at me (as if he didn’t have a clue as to where he was). As we were coming back, we stopped in a center grassy area between streets. I was holding him and letting him look at the houses and asking him, “Which one is home?” He looked at the one on the left, the one in the center (ours) and the one on the right. He didn’t seem to know for sure. As I started walking towards ours, he started wiggling as if he then recognized it. I let him down and he headed right for it. This was somewhere where there couldn’t possibly be any ferret scent there at all – he therefore recognized home by sight alone. Interesting.
Well, that pretty much sums it up. Now that Buddy and Nipper are integrated, it’s about time to take them to the vet for vaccinations and a checkup. I might as well take Skipper in, too, as I want to ask about his weight. Although he’s active and healthy, he seems a little “bony”. He’s only been there once, along with Victoria when they got their last Rabies vaccination. As long as I feed them good and keep them safe, they should be with me for at least five years.
Before Bart died, I used to always warn new ferret owners about DFS; now, as was I warned, I first warn others that their beloved ferrets will inevitably die, and all too soon, taking a chunk of their heart with them. I don’t know how much of that pain a person can take. I don’t know how many pieces of my heart I can lose before it kills me, too. But, I guess I’m destined to find out, as I now have an incurable case of F. O. T. B. (Ferrets On The Brain). I’ve also learned that it doesn’t get any easier to bury them. I doubt it ever will.
I wish I had spent more time with Vicki, especially while I was waiting at the vet’s to check her in for her operation; I wish I had not thought that that last operation would be “routine”. I’ll never take that attitude again, even if it does mean getting emotional in the waiting room. I’ll (have to) treat it as the last time I’ll ever see them again. I know now that it just might be. I now have a greater understanding of how a person must feel when they lose a precious little child. Devastated.
So, life goes on at this ferret house. What was once three sad and miserable ferrets (and one human), are now a happy family. I think it’s worth it.
Skipper, Buddy, Nipper and Gary
(missing Bart and Victoria)
Well, as “ferret math” would have it, as hard as I tried to resist it, along comes another ferret! He is a beautiful dark-eyed-white. He, too, was neglected (abandoned by teens and left to mom, who “hated” him). I just COULDN’T leave him there like that. And, the price was right: I got the ferret, a large cage, accessories and… $20 for taking him!
So, once again I followed my proven plan for introducing him into the clan without Cholitus (aka Colitus or ECE). He is now a valuable part of a family. The choice of names should be obvious to anyone who knew us – it had to be VICTOR. He is the spitting image of Victoria, only bigger (and with a full coat of hair on his tail!).
Naturally personalities vary and he’s not always like Victoria was. He’s the most loving ferret I have ever seen. While most ferrets lick you in response to some kind of outside stimulus like scratching the back, he comes up and licks you just because he loves you (I guess).
You should see him around Troni cat. He seems to absolutely LOVE her. He follows her around and, wherever she stops, he lays down facing her. All he ever seems to want to do is sniff her butt and lick her ears, which she sometimes lets him do! It’s amazing. I wish I had video of it. She even head-butts him now and then, which he can’t relate to.
Lectris cat still HATES white ferrets. I’m convinced of that. Just as she would smack the tar out of Victoria, so does she with Victor. So, the rule is: “Lectris, leave the room – the ferrets are coming out to play”. She’s not that bad with the others, but she seems to have it in for white ferrets.
Skipper thought Victor was Victoria when he first met him, only bigger. I could tell that he was looking for Victoria, as he stuck by his side for a while. He seems to have since figured out what’s what, and that it isn’t Victoria.
(Remember, these other ferrets were for the benefit of Skipper in the first place, seeing as he was such a good companion to Victoria in her last days).
Skipper Has A Problem…
Some months ago, Skipper developed a problem. He was clawing at his mouth as if he had something stuck there. Naturally, my first response was to grab the tweezers and some bright light to see what was in there. I found nothing. He seems to get over it, but I was concerned. The next day, I had him at the vet’s office. The vet didn’t find anything there, but said his gums were inflamed and he needed his teeth cleaned, which I had done immediately.
But, the problem persisted. The vet, who is the best ferret specialist in Cheyenne, isn’t sure just what the problem is. He suggested giving him Ferretone and honey, as it might be a blood sugar issue. Now, I’ve been doing that for quite a while; sometimes, it seems to help, other times, it doesn’t. Sometimes, he has a great playtime without it, and sometimes, he has a rotten one with it. There seems to be no rhyme or reason to it.
When he does feel good, he’s still the same little demon he always was. A while back, he had three days in a row when he felt great. He felt so good that I had to put him back in the cage once because he beat up ALL THREE of his (much) bigger brothers! (His brothers are fully three times his size!). When he feels good, he can fly again… from the couch to the coffee table to my chair to my desk, etc. This is why things must be exactly spaced in the room.
Sadly, those days when he feels good are few and far between now. It has gotten so that, when he does feel good enough to jump on the back of my wrist and bite it (as he used to), I gladly allow it. *sigh*
I just got back from the vet with them, having started files on them and gotten them all (but Skipper) vaccinated. The vet is checking with some colleagues at the local college as well as some other “exotic” specialists. Maybe there’s something here for all to learn. He says Skipper is only about three years old, so the likelihood of tumors is remote. He suggests continuing with the Ferretone and Karo Treatment. I have also been giving Skipper more Ferret Vite, just in case there’s something in it that he needs. The vet agrees with this also.
He said that there are some tests that they can do, but the needed to draw blood right when an “episode” is happening. Unfortunately, Skipper didn’t seem to want to have an episode while he was at the vet’s office (naturally). Instead, when I got them home and took them out of the carrier, he was having one then.
So, since it’s only $15 a day to leave him there (not counting any blood tests), I decided that I would leave him there for a few days next week. Since he’s now having at least one episode a day (min.), someone would be able to catch it. Maybe then, we’ll have some insight to what’s bothering Skipper.
The vet shed some insight on why Buddy drinks pee and stashes mouthfuls of food around the room: since he was indeed neglected, it was probably a survival technique (which he is slowly getting over). It appears that he has had to go without food or water before. (Damn, this makes my blood boil!).
Buddy has lost weight and gotten much more healthy now; his belly no longer drags the floor and he can easily negotiate the ladder back into their cage. On the other hand, Victor has gained weight (on only Iams Kitten). Victor now outweighs Buddy by 1 oz. The vet says that in every group, there’s a “pig’ – Victor seems to be it.
Nipper seems to have loose stools a lot. The color is right and he’s quite active when he plays. He eats and drinks a lot, but it’s always been on the runny side (off and on). There’s something I could give him, but, if it’s not hurting him, there’s no need for it yet. I’ll wait. It could be a mild form of Cholitus. Not the kind of green-slime that can kill a ferret, but another more benign form. I didn’t know there were more than one form. All in all, with the exception of Skipper, they are a healthy batch of ferrets.
Boy, you should see them play! It’s hilarious to see ’em all get to romping around! Take three large ferrets, put them in a large box and gently tip it from side to side. As they slide back and forth into each other, they get more and more excited. Finally, when they can’t stand it anymore, tip the box up and watch them explode out of it. It’s a riot!
Last week, Nipper got into my coat through a hole in the lining. He was inside the coat. To make it worse, he got a claw snagged on the inner batting. I was wondering why he didn’t come out all the way. So, daddy to the rescue with scissors (again). As stated in my ferret claw clipping article, even if they are clipped regularly, they can still get a claw snagged in some materials. The first thing I looked at was to see if the claw was too long. Nope, it wasn’t. It’s just the way the claws shed, and what material they come into contact with. It’s too bad they can’t tell me when they get snagged. I’m always right here in the room with them.
Speaking of ferrets making noise, as some of you know, my ferrets always seem to go “mute”. Well, when I first got Victor, he was quite vocal. It was interesting and refreshing to hear the “dooking” that other ferret owners heard theirs make. He would also squeal a lot when playing with the others, but often when the other(s) weren’t even touching him. He sometimes squeaks when I tickle him, too. But, alas, now, he, too, is silent… *sigh* I have not discouraged him from doing it at all (other than to say, “He’s not even touching you!”). For a while, he “cried wolf” a lot, knowing that I would come to his rescue when another would wrestle with him, but he soon figured out that that wouldn’t last. So, now, like the others, he doesn’t have much to say.
As a constant student of ferret behavior, I continue to ponder their traits and the why of them. As far as I can speculate, the dooking and other noises are more defensive than anything; maybe a throwback to less stable times, when the right noise, at the right time, may make all the difference between thriving and extinction. Maybe, just maybe, they are so content and non-threatened here, that they eventually shed this in-born defense (or mating?) trait. (?) Other than that, I don’t have a clue as to why “my” ferrets always go “mute”.
Suing a ferret owner…
Some months back, a ferret-owning acquaintance (not a true ferret lover) and his roommate came to me with a sick ferret (“Sammy”). A dark-eyed-white girl (just like Victoria). This ferret was very sick and needed immediate medical attention. It happened to be a holiday weekend night on top of that. They couldn’t afford it, but assured me that they would reimburse me if I covered it. So, we called the emergency vet number and headed right over. Several times on the way to the vet’s, I thought sure we lost her. The only way to tell that she was still alive was to give a little puff of air in her face and her whiskers would twitch a little. She was wrapped in a thick towel and I kept stroking her and telling her to “hang on, baby…”
As soon as the emergency person and her assistant arrived, they went right to work. As things settled down, the main vet came out to take care of the paper work. I assured them that I would cover the cost at that time, and, since they know me for a long time, there was no problem with this (even though payment is supposed to be given at the time of the emergency care).
After about thirty minutes, they told us that she was starting to perk up and was looking better. Sadly, after we left, she took a turn for the worse and died. There was nothing they could do – it was too late… about four hours too late. You see, a full day before, she had soiled herself with black poop. They made the mistake of giving her a bath and not taking her to the vet THAT day. The bath had robbed her of her core temperature, which never made it back up. The vet tried several things to get her temp up, but it “never got high enough to even register on the (people-type digital) thermometer. So, the bath, plus waiting two whole days to get help, is what killed her.
As most of you probably know, black poop is an indication of blood in the stomach or digestive system. The vet concluded that she most likely had some sort of ulcer in her stomach. Having known the owner for a while, and having seen how callously they “cared” for their two ferrets, there’s no telling what king of junk they were feeding it.
Well, since this was a ferret exactly like Victoria, it was sort of personal to me; since I lost her, it sure would have made me feel better to save one just like her. *sigh* Anyway, time passed on, he didn’t pay the bill, so it came to me. I had no choice but to pay it, so I did. Meantime, I’ve asked them numerous times to please pay me back as they said. No result. So, when I had the ferrets at the vet the other day, I got copies of the bill, etc. It’s proof positive. Now, we go to court. (That little emergency visit cost $198.00). If I win anything, if they pay me, I’ll put that money into the ferret’s account.
Update on above…
Months later, they moved out of where they were living. Then, through a mutual acquaintance, I find that the pair of them perpetrated a “home invasion” in which they “duct taped a girl” who allegedly owed THEM money! Now, they are in prison. Ironic, ain’t it?
On another note, soon, I hope to be marketing my “BuzzBalls” ferret toys. I also hope to market my “Floppy Copter” cat toys. The vet found them interesting (they sell pet products). I have never seen anything like Buzz-Balls, or any ferret toys for that matter, in any pet shops.
I am also considering the possibility of making Victor a “therapy ferret” at the VA hospital where I go. When I had a self-administered IV for eight weeks, I would go up there one day a week for tests, etc. They had a therapy dog there named Maggie. She had her own photo ID and everything. Also, when I had to spend four days there not too long ago, I know that it would have sure made my day if someone stopped by with a ferret. The vet thinks that Victor would make a great therapy ferret. I think Buddy would also make a great therapy ferret. We’ll see.
Is It Worth It?
I’ve asked myself this from time to time. Is it worth having to change the litter box every day? To have to help Skipper with his special needs? To have to feed and water every day? To have to clip 80 claws at a time? To have to have at least one playtime a day? Is it worth all that? Well, apparently it is, as I went from two to four. I could have palmed Skipper off to someone else and let them deal with his health problems (and his inevitable death), and had no ferrets to deal with at all. I could have.
And above all, is it worth the excruciating heartache to lose one? What kind of idiot am I to set myself up for four times that agony? Really, is it worth it?
Yes, it is.
Later,Gary, Skipper, Buddy, Nipper and Victor
(missing Bart and Victoria)
Well, it’s looking like I need to make a separate article about Skipper, so open Skipper’s Condition and read the rest of the story.
Since ferret life continues, I might as well continue on right here, too.
In spite of Nipper’s non-lethal Cholitus, he continued to thrive and act normal, so, based on what the vet said, I was not in a great hurry to treat it. I guess now I should have been. A couple of weeks ago, he stopped eating (as much) and playing. It was the weekend, so I didn’t want to take him to the vet if it wasn’t a real emergency, so I just watched and observed how he acted. Based on that, I decided that he would make it through the weekend just fine, which he did. But, on Monday, he got worse, so I took him in. They kept him all day, then sent him home with antibiotics (“Tylan”) the next day. But, he wasn’t eating anything at all and since Tylan is a powder to be put on food, it wasn’t doing him any good at all if he wasn’t getting it inside him.
I had a separate cage set up for him, so I could monitor what went into and came out of him, but it wasn’t working. So, since Tylan doesn’t hurt a healthy ferret, I decided to put him back in with the others, along with the medicated food. I figured that being near his brothers would comfort him some. If it did, it still didn’t stimulate his appetite.
Meanwhile, the next morning, after watching him make a normal looking poop, I was cleaning out the carrier I used to take him to the vet. I was utterly shocked by what I found: Blood, and lots of it! The sling I had in there had become stuck to the bottom with dried blood. It was astounding to say the least. I thought his feet looked a little red when I picked him up, but I thought they might be just a little flushed or something.
Apparently, the stress of being taken to the vet, alone, caused him to gush what looked like at least two table spoons full of blood. It looked like a little slaughter house in there! Obviously, that must have happened after the vet examined him (before I picked him up); had it happened before, the vet surely would have noticed it. I’m surprised that a ferret could lose so much blood without dying.
So, since he still wasn’t eating, back to the vet he went. This time, he was there for a week. But, they made him better. I visited him once, to let him know that we hadn’t forgot about him, and I made sure he had his favorite bed in the cage with him. I only wish I could visit him every day. Maybe even take one of his brothers in to see him, too. But, alas, I can’t always visit when I want to.
I was surprised when the vet sent him home with no meds and no restrictions at all. But, he’s pooping normal now, and he’s eating pretty good. Sadly, he’s lost a lot of weight, so I’m trying to get some higher-fat food into him. He still sleeps a lot, and hasn’t played much, but he’s starting to move around the room and play some.
There’s one new “problem” now, though: When I pull him out of whatever box or sleeve he curled up in at playtime, he trembles badly. He even trembles when I reach in and pet him in his hammock. Not normal. Since the vet wanted me to call in a progress report anyway, acting on a hunch, I asked if he had gotten whatever meds he got by injection. Sure enough, he had. That explains it – he’s clearly afraid that he has to get another shot! Poor baby… Well, there’s nothing I can do about that, and, I’m sure, in due time, it’ll pass of its own accord. But, I bet he won’t be liking his next visit to the vet.
The first thing that happened when I got him home and reunited him with his brothers was, he got in a fight with Victor. It seems like Victor was so happy to see him again (and investigate that strange smell they always come home with), that he crowded Nipper too much and pissed him off. At first I thought it was play, but I soon realized it wasn’t – it was serious. Victor was squealing and Nipper was all over him. If it were play, Nipper would have been bouncing like he always did; he wasn’t. So, I broke it up.
Nipper just wanted to go to his cage and be in his bed. He had been through a week of hell; all he wanted to do was sleep. But, Buddy, who had been very concerned and had been looking for Nipper daily since he left, knew just what to do: he curled around nipper and just licked him. It was so sweet. Buddy truly is a sensitive ferret.
In the meantime, I was concerned about the bill and being able to pay it without over-extending myself (I still have a separate account for the ferrets, though). The vet said, “Pay whatever you can, when you can”. I guess it’s good having a decent reputation with them. That’s good, because the first visit was $56 and the second (week) was $186. Well, he’s doing better every day, so, as far as I’m concerned, it’s worth every cent.
There is a very sweet cat that’s been abandoned here. His name is Smokey. Though I already have two cats, so I can’t justify adopting another, he’s determined to adopt me. Several in the neighborhood help take care of him, but he spends most of his time here (trying to kiss my tonsils, etc.).
Well, last week, Smokey was lying on the couch. He’s a very long hair black and white. Victor got onto the couch and, since he seems to love cats, went down to Smokey and just buried his head in the (white) fur on his side. This looked hilarious! It looked like Smokey had a ferret-shaped appendage growing out his side. Oh, how I wish I had a picture of that. Smokey was confused but not impressed.
So, ferret life, much like this article, goes on (and on and on and…..).
I often think…
…of a ferret column in the newspaper or something like it. I could easily write about ferrets all day, every day. I’m not sure what to call it though. It would be either “For The Love Of Ferrets” -or- “Ferrets On The Brain”. It would naturally be for ferret lovers but might also help by informing them (see below) as well. I called the local newspaper and asked if they would be interested but they were not. So, other than the net, which only goes where they make it go, there is no public forum to talk about ferrets.
(Note: If you think you know everything about ferrets, and no one can tell you anything, do not read this next section.)
You know, it occurs to me, that there are two kinds of ferret people: Ferret owners -and- Ferret lovers. I’ve been observing that for quite some time, but pondering it only lately. This explains why no matter how innocent and well intentioned my comments are, some are inevitably offended. They seem to resent it when someone knows more about ferrets than they do, or has a better relationship with their own ferrets than they do. Here’s some of what I’ve noted so far:
1. Ferret lovers use their names, and refer to them as “He” or “She”. Ferret owners refer to theirs as “it”.
2. When a ferret lover loses a ferret, they say he or she died (with tears). Ferret owners just say “it” died, without remorse.
3. Ferret lovers learn a ferret’s needs and likes, and provide a suitable home for them. A ferret owner couldn’t care less and is prone to putting them in an aquarium or cardboard box even.
4. The first thing on a ferret lover’s mind is the well being of their “babies”. With ferret owners, caring for them is an afterthought.
5. To a ferret lover, they are family. To a ferret owner, they are merely a novelty, to be taken out and tormented at parties and such.
6. Ferret lovers wouldn’t think of letting them out anywhere but in a ferret-safe room. Ferret owners just let them run free, to face any number of lethal perils.
7. Ferret lovers thrive on learning better ways to care for their ferrets. Ferret owners are highly resistant to input or constructive criticism.
8. There are far more ferret owners out there than there are ferret lovers.
9. When a ferret lover loses a ferret, they dig a hole and bury their baby with respect and many tears. When a ferret owner loses one, they just shrug and discard it into the garbage.
10. Ferret owners will be offended by this; Ferret lovers will not.
I’m sure there are many more, but I haven’t thought of them yet. It’s a sad shame that such beautiful, playful, intelligent “people” like ferrets bear the brunt of human ignorance, apathy and cruelty. It’s a shame that fine ferrets like Buddy have to resort to drinking pee to survive.
But there is hope. I recently met another ferret lover. She works at a glass company which she also owns. She has six ferrets, four of which come to work with her and have a nice “home away from home”. I called her the other day and we spoke for 45 minutes. We compared notes and shared things, and now really look forward to getting together and seeing each other’s “families”. One thing I shared with her, which she totally accepted, was how I clip claws. She had been doing it the hard way, but was eager to learn an easier and better way. With 120 claws to clip, she needs all the help she can get, too! It should be easy now.
I frequently see ferret listings in the paper saying, “Free to a [good] home…” It always tugs at my heart, knowing that there’s about a 98% chance that they are not being taken care of properly. I’d love to adopt them all, but I know better. Three (or four) is enough right now. To have more would only put them all at much greater risk. If finances were better, I wouldn’t hesitate to have six or so (but that’s a major chore in and of itself).
On the other hand, there’s the heavy emotional toll. Sometimes, I wonder how much more I can take; I’ve buried three, and still have three more to go (so far). Each time a ferret dies, so does a piece of my heart. For the record, it does NOT get any easier. I suspect it never will. If I were a mere ferret owner, it’d be a piece of cake; just throw “it” in the trash and get a new one, right?
Also, I dread the concept of being down to one lonely ferret. I just can’t seem to let that happen (for long). Besides that, “ferret math” is always lurking out there, ready to pounce when I least expect it. I can’t seem to get shed of the little critters. In that regard, I guess it would almost qualify as an “addiction”. Hmmm…
Nipper continues to eat and get stronger. He’s pooping good, too. But, he’s not playing much. He still latches onto the Buzz-Balls tenaciously, but sometimes I wonder if that’s because they annoy him maybe. He’s not trembling near as much when I pick him up or pet him. He’s starting to realize that he’s not getting another injection. He’s still slow getting out of bed, but a few days ago, he was the first one out for morning playtime. Buddy still goes in and curls around him and licks him. Life goes on.
Now, I’m starting to wonder about Victor. Though he acts perfectly normal, and there’s no “rat tail” at all, his abdomen is rather “hard”. I’ve been dosing him with V&F, just to make sure he’s not clogged, but he poops regularly, and is very active. I sometimes wonder if that’s not muscle, since he’s such a good climber. After all, it takes quite an effort to haul himself up on my chair with only his front paws. Maybe he’s got a little ferret “six pack” going on there. Regardless, as soon as I’m financially caught up from Nipper’s episode, Victor’s going to the vet to get checked out. No point in waiting till something turns into a life or death problem.
Back To Nipper…
Well, it’s been a couple of weeks since the last update. Since then, Nipper has not been eating much. He seemed to be eating only enough to stay alive and half-way interested in life. He comes out for playtime, but doesn’t play; he just roots around a bit, drinks a little water, barely socializes with his brothers and then goes back in the cage. I’m getting pretty concerned about him. He’s skin and bones now and not gaining any weight at all. He is pooping normally, so something must be getting into him, but he must be eating when I’m not watching.
The Saga Continues…
Three days ago, he started eating again. I know because I watched him eat for at least ten minutes (maybe fifteen even). Since then, I’ve watched him eat a number of times, and not just a little as before, but a “whole meal” so to speak. This made me feel great! It was so good to see him eat well. Maybe he’ll put on some weight now. He’s still not playing though.
But, this evening, something completely different and unexpected happened: he’s being needlessly mean and brutal to his brothers. This has me baffled. Although I’ve had six ferrets over the past eight years, and have a good overall knowledge of general ferret behavior, this is something I’ve never encountered before, and, frankly, don’t know what to make of it.
First, it was playtime. I brought Nipper out with the others, as usual. He piddled around some and went back home (as usual). He then came back out (sometimes happens), then piddled around some more. In the meantime, Victor, having already been reprimanded once for getting on my desk and turning my computer on, did it again, so he was reprimanded again and put in the cage.
In the meantime, under their “tent”, in a cardboard box, I hear a little intermittent thumping sound, which I first thought might be an excited tail twitter that ferrets sometimes do (along with some occasional mild hisses). I thought Buddy and Nipper might be playing or something. But, upon closer investigation, I found that Buddy was inside the box digging at it, and Nipper was outside the box. I kept hearing the thumping, so I reached both hands, one inside the box and one outside, to “monitor” both tails. Neither was “twittering”. Nor was it scratching; I know what that sounds like, and it wasn’t the same.
As it turns out, Buddy’s scratching inside the box was causing Nipper to shiver so violently that his leg was shaking against the outside of the box. Apparently, he was hissing then also. Buddy wasn’t bothering him at all, and that has not been his nature at any time. The next thing I know, he’s chasing Buddy around. At first, I thought, “Great! He’s playing again!”, but it quickly became evident that he was not playing at all – he was angry and after Buddy. First, he was hissing, which is the first time I’ve seen this in the “aggressor” (usually it’s the “victim” that’s hissing as a defense). Secondly, it wasn’t the typical rough and tumble play; Buddy was clearly trying to get away from him, and Nipper was “hot on his ass” so to speak. Buddy, who is now three times larger than Nipper, sought refuge in their large plastic ball, where he doesn’t go much.
So I intervened and picked Nipper up and gently held him a little while, kissed his head and softly reassured him that all was well and no one was going to hurt him. I then put him in the cage (where Victor was already asleep in one of their beds). He immediately “attacked” Victor and made him squeal! This was totally unprovoked and completely out of character for Nipper. I had to scruff and reprimand him, then put him in a different bed. I hope this isn’t happening when I’m at work!
Now, as I mentioned before, the first thing Nipper did when he got back from the hospital was to attack Victor. At first I thought it was because Victor might have crowded him too much, too soon, but now, I am forced to re-evaluate the whole thing. I have been thinking all along that, even though his body is here, his personality is not (and we all miss the old Nipper). Something is not right, and, for a change, it’s not the body – it’s the brain that’s having a problem.
I’m trying to figure it out, from a ferret’s perspective, as best as possible. I’m no “ferret psychologist”, but it seems to me that he’s somehow fearful, and therefore threatened by things that didn’t used to bother him. I’m now wondering if I need to, if for no other reason but the safety of the others, separate him into another cage. Likewise, maybe some isolation might do him good. I just don’t know.
I also want to talk to the vet and see exactly what med(s) they gave him, and research any known side effects. I don’t want to accuse the vet needlessly; after all, he’s bent over backwards to try and save Skipper (and the slack on the bill), but I DO need some answers. This just ain’t right. I miss Nipper.
The vet says, based on some hair loss (not “rat-tail” though), and based on the aggression, that he’s pretty certain that Nipper has adrenal tumors. *sigh* Here we go again… He says the aggression comes from too much testosterone, which is from adrenal tumors. I was again tempted to ask about hormone replacement therapy (HRT), but I remember what he said after Victoria’s first surgery: there is something available, for humans, but it’s expensive, comes in a much larger than needed quantity, and would go bad before most of it was used.
In the meantime, I’ve had to separate Nipper into his own cage. He keeps attacking Victor. I still let them have playtime together though. Last night, he seemed to be after Buddy, but when I stood up to watch, he stopped and *thought* about it and went a different way. So, he still has a “thought process”, and he’s processing thoughts properly. Good. He’s not totally wacky.
This morning, he finally, for the first time since all this began (seems like a month now), started to play. Him and Buddy had a real good romp. That sure makes me feel better. I’ve learned something: If the back is humped, it’s play, but if the back is flat, it’s aggression.
More time passes…
Nipper’s aggression got to the point where I had to keep him separated in his own cage for a while. But, ironically, *someone* bit him between his shoulder blades! A few weeks back, I noticed a pair of scabs on his back, in a place where he himself could not possibly put them. That means someone else did it. Now, I attend every playtime, every day. I also sleep in the same room, yet, I heard nothing to indicate that he was fighting.
Well, knowing how tough ferrets can be, he could have taken it without “saying” anything. Regardless, he, with his excess testosterone, was acting sort of “weird” towards his brothers anyway. He seemed to be “courting” Victor, and always sniffing Buddy’s er.., um…. Maybe one of them got fed up with it and bit him! Regardless, it seems to have worked. With the exception of his lack of weight, he’s gotten pretty much back to normal. The scabs have healed and he’s sleeping with them like he used to.
Knowing that he has an operation soon, I’m making sure to have as much quality time with him as possible; to make as many good memories with him as I can. I know all too well that, when I take him in for that operation, it just may (God forbid) be the last time I see him alive. *sigh*
Ferret Math is Striking Again (I think)…
I got a call today from the glass lady I mentioned before, who already has six ferrets. She has a client (contractor) who has a little white girl ferret that he doesn’t have room to keep. Having six already, she declined, but referred him to me. In about an hour, I’m going to call him and see about it.
“Should I get another ferret?”, I asked myself. After all, that’s a whole lot more food to buy, not to mention medical expenses, not to mention more poop to clean up, not to mention another inevitable death and heartache….. Should I? Well, what the Hell! God has kept me, three (and four) ferrets, and two and a half cats alive for such a long time; I’m sure he can take care of one more ferret. Not to mention, there’s a whole lot more love and fun to come with another one.
Actually, it’s an easy question. One that’s immediately answered with but one word: “Solitary”, as in “solitary ferret”. To me, a solitary ferret is an abomination; an unnatural thing which should not exist. They MUST be in two’s (if not three’s). Ferrets are born to PLAY!!! And, who better to play with a ferret than another ferret?
So, in a short while, I’ll know if I’m really getting (stupid enough to get) another ferret. BTW, she’s 1 1/2 years old. We’ll see…
A short while later…
Well, I just got off the phone with the guy. Her name is “NoNo” (and she knows it, so I can’t change it). Now, HOW will NoNo know when I’m telling her “No!”?!? This ought to be interesting. She had a brother, but he was… eviscerated by a dog as she watched. The owner noted aggression and biting when she didn’t want to be handled.
Hmmm… never had a ferret that became aggressive when handled. Looks like we both have some things to learn. Now, there was Skipper, but that was always in the context of play, not pure aggression. He used to bite little holes in my wrist, which was nothing (but hilarious to me), but he never actually sank his fangs in (as I know ferrets can do). I’ll just have to play it by ear, so to speak. Maybe I’ll extend her introductory period by a couple of days. That would make it nine days. Hmmm… In light of what she’s been through, suddenly, even after nine days indoctrination, being faced with three new brothers might still be a bit of a shock to her. Maybe eleven days.
“Eleven days?!?” “That’s how long we gotta wait to see her?” my three boys might be thinking! In fact, the more I think about it, it’s going to take longer than that even; there are three brothers to be introduced, one at a time, and all slow enough so as to NOT induce Cholitus (“Green Slime”). If she’s “nippy”, she’ll have to go to (one of) them, rather than being pursued.
Speaking of being pursued, she’s a girl and all three of them are guys… Am I going to have to break up some jealous rivalries and such? As I recall, one gets bit when reaching into a tangle of angry ferrets! Got to take it slow… very slow. (I’m determined NOT to have to pay for Cholitus again if I can help it).
Anyway, the guy simply doesn’t have the room to take care of her as he used to before he moved to a house. At the old place, they had their own room, and a nice, large cage and playtime every couple of days. Now, he’s had to get rid of his birds, fish and such, and now there’s no room for the ferret, either. They just mainly want to make sure she goes to a good home (which is why the glass lady called me).
I don’t like her diet of “Meow Mix”. It’ll take a week to switch her to Iams Kitten. Also, she doesn’t know what Ferretone is. This means her claws probably need to be clipped. As with Skipper, I’ll have to get her to like it so I can clip her claws. No problem.
“I must be crazy!”, I tell myself. But, I just can’t resist. That’s all there is to it. Now, I know enough to not (Dare!) get any more than four, but I’ve had four at one time before, so there IS a reasonable restraint. Just as long as they don’t get sick and all need operations at the same time, I should be able to handle the financial end of it.
On the other hand, this will be another opportunity to study yet another (7th) ferret personality. It’ll be interesting to see the different traits; what she likes and doesn’t like; how she acts and reacts, etc.
She didn’t come through as planned. He called to let me know that he couldn’t make it when planned. Must be busy or something, so we made plans for this Saturday. *time marches on*
Now, it’s Saturday. He called at 3:30p and was here by 3:45p. She’s an Albino female as promised. The first thing she did when let out is poop (in the wrong place, naturally). The second thing she did was bite me! Now she knows what scruffing and hissing is. After running around a little, I picked her up again, and again, she bit me. Time for proven “plan B” – holding the lower jaw. As I mentioned before, it doesn’t take much to dissuade a ferret from biting. It’s simple cause and effect. Holding the lower (or upper) jaw always works.
She’s exploring right now as I write. She KNOWS there’s other ferrets here just by the scent, but they’re covered up right now. She’s already showing signs of learning not to bite. I was sitting on the floor, leaning on my left hand. She came by and chomped onto my left wrist (shades of Skipper!). A little scruffing and hissing and I let her down again. Again, she came by and chomped onto my wrist. Again, a little scruffing and hissing and I let her down again. The third time she came by my wrist, she declined to bite. She’s starting to get the message.
When presented with Ferretone, she acted like she didn’t know what it was, but it took about one second for her to decide that she likes it. That’s another plus. When I put her in her new temporary cage, she totally TRASHED the place! She makes a fuss when caged, biting and pulling at the bars, but when covered, she quickly settles down.
The guy who brought her by didn’t have time to visit any, so I didn’t get much info out of him about her. I did manage to find out that there are no current shots. I might as well schedule a vet visit and get that taken care of, especially since she is a biter. He has three kids who are not happy that he’s giving her away. I suspect that that has something to do with the delay on bringing her by; had to “sneak” her out of the house when they weren’t home or aware. I can understand that. But, with the youngest child at six years old, I can also understand his willingness to give a biter up to someone else.
As mentioned, he has a huge homemade cage. When he was here, he motioned as to how large it is; it’s big enough for ME to live in! Well, I’m glad she doesn’t come with a cage, no matter how big or little. I have too many cages already as it is. I don’t like huge cages, either:
1. They are so big that playtime really doesn’t mean much to them – they can have playtime right there in the cage as it’s so large.
2. Unless designed properly, there is a fall hazard with tall cages.
So, I’m glad that he’s giving the cage to the six-ferret lady instead. That’ll work out fine. It sounds like he’ll have a lot more much needed space when he’s rid of it.
It’s now Sunday morning. I’m starting the introduction process today and not counting yesterday. It’s 4:am and she was awake, so we had a little playtime. She started to try to bite, but when I said, “Aaaa!”, she stopped. She’s starting to realize that having her back scratched is a good thing, and if she bites, she cancels that good thing. Though she hasn’t really played yet, or gotten silly, she did play a little with the Buzz-Balls; she seems to like them and she can bite them (the string) all she likes. She likes biting through cloth. She was inside a sweat shirt and biting me, but it doesn’t hurt, so I allow that. Several ferrets I’ve had have sought out cloth to bite through as opposed to biting directly. So far, she hasn’t gone after my feet. I’m glad. I always have to fight the urge to play with them with my feet; I know better.
So far, so good. I’ll start mixing Iams kitten with Meow mix and slowly weaning her off the Meow mix today. She needs her claws clipped, but I’ll wait a few days and get her to really liking Ferretone first. I don’t want to stress her too much, too soon. We’ll take everything slow and easy.
I’ll have to refer to my own article (on integrating ferrets without Cholitus), and the time table that I established and have proven three times, to keep the introduction process on track. But, this time, it’s a three-way introduction. That’ll complicate and extend the process some.
The boys are now out playing. I wonder if they have noticed a new scent yet. So far, they don’t seem to notice. Naturally, I’m tempted to hold them up and show them to NoNo, but I know better. It’ll be hard enough to keep them apart once they do see each other (on Tuesday), without making it prematurely early. I have a little ladder going up to the boy’s cage; once she finds it (and them), I’m sure I’ll have to remove it every playtime till they’re integrated.
It’s the next day now, and, yep, she still bites! I’ve got two new holes in my wrist now. That’s okay, it won’t be the first time a ferret has made holes in me. No big deal; I’ll just have to be patient with her. She’ll just have to learn cause and effect. If she is nice, nice things will happen – if she’s mean, bad things happen. She got scruffed, hissed and put back in the cage. I’ll keep working with her and she’ll figure things out.
One thing I know is that, since she does bite, I must keep her away from people till she’s had her Rabies shot. The other guys are covered though.
Now, it’s Monday morning. NoNo bit Lectris last night. Didn’t hurt her though. She was distracted and looking the other way or NoNo wouldn’t have gotten that close without getting swatted. NoNo did NOT hesitate; as soon as she realized that it was a cat lying there, she attacked. Next time, I think I’ll allow Lectris to swat first. Normally, if the ferrets are not bothering her, I don’t let her just swat them for no reason. But, it might do some good and instill some respect in NoNo.
I called the guy I got NoNo from to get a little more history on her. He mentioned that he should have warned me that she attacks cats. They have to put theirs out of the room when she is out. He said that she particularly hates dogs and thinks it’s because a dog killed her “brother” as she watched. That makes sense. (He died about 6 months ago).
She hasn’t gotten silly yet, but she used to with her brother. She does piddle around like a normal ferret though. Once she’s integrated, I’m sure she’ll “kick up her heels” a bit.
I’m going to work today, so I hope she comes to grips with having the front of the cage uncovered. Usually, when it’s not covered, she makes a fuss by biting and pulling on the cage bars. But, I don’t really want her cage covered all day, so she’ll just have to realize that it’s doing no good and give up. At night, when it’s dark and she’s asleep, I often uncover it, but the second she gets up for anything, and sees that it’s open, she makes a fuss again. As soon as I cover it, she quiets down.
Poor Troni cat. She thought NoNo was Victor and gave her a head-butt (as she always does Victor, who LOVES her). Big mistake! NoNo latched onto her ear and she squealed. I told her! I’ve been telling her since the beginning that it wasn’t Victor and that she WOULD bite! Troni didn’t listen (she knows most all those words and what they mean). She did bite. Troni’s smarter now, but very confused. Wait till they are all together. She’ll really be baffled.
Regardless, I had to scruff and hiss her for biting the kitty cat. We all get along here and NoNo will have to learn that. That’s why all the others get along so well – discipline. NoNo has apparently got neither love nor discipline. She doesn’t seem to know what either is. But she’s making great progress in the not biting area. She’s figuring things out.
They are now up the face-to-face nose sniffing stage. Remarkably, after it was over, they weren’t terribly impressed with each other. Sure, the boys were interested, as was she, but not nearly to the extent of previous introductions. They boys quickly went back to sleep and NoNo didn’t bother trying to go up the ladder to their cage. Hmmm… interesting.
4:am the next morning – NoNo DEMANDS to come out. Scruffing and hissing twice did not work (and they were rather angry scruffings and hissings, too). Covering the cage had zero effect, either. I’m tired, and not due to wake for one more hour (sleep I did not get). So, I hauled her and her cage to the (dark) bathroom (“solitary confinement”). No morning playtime; I didn’t see her till 6:pm.
Now, I’m totally baffled. This evening, based on how mellow the face-to-face meetings were, I decided to have the “intense butt-sniffing sessions” that are part of the introduction process. I’m amazed to say the least. First, it was Buddy and her alone. They paid some attention to each other, but ignored each other just as much. Negative stress level at best.
So, after a few very uneventful minutes, I put Buddy back and brought out Victor. He was a bit more interested in NoNo, but still ignored her some. Interestingly, NoNo was lying on her back being submissive to Victor. Again, zero stress; no hostility at all. Hmmm… ?
Lastly, I put Victor back and brought out Nipper. With his elevated testosterone levels, due to his adrenal tumor(s), I expected more of a response from him. Yep, he was definitely impressed that it was a girl. Likewise, she seemed to notice more than with the others, that it was indeed a guy. But, again, there was no aggression. Instead, more submissiveness on her part, only a little more “agitated” (?) on both parts.
Now, I have been studying ferret behavior for at least seven years. I’m sure I don’t begin to “know it all”, but I thought I knew something! Now, It’s seeming like I don’t know squat! This has got to be the most low-key introduction that I have ever seen. This is causing me to alter and advance the introduction process, when I thought I would have to retard it some because of her (previous?) aggressiveness.
Yes, I’m baffled. I can’t help but wonder if it has something to do with her spending the day in “solitary”? She is starting to play some now. She got silly with some plastic bags I dangled over her last night. She also got silly when I tickled her in the two spots that drive ferrets crazy. She gets bored and comes up to me and climbs my legs. She still bites in play mode, but it’s not very bad at all. I’m trying to teach her that it’s okay to bite through cloth like others have done (Bart would not bite unless it was in cloth; he knew it didn’t hurt that way).
Well, that went so well that I gave them each a three to five minute time together (still one-on-one). Again, there was zero negative stress. There was no fighting or aggression at all. The only thing was Nipper coming on a little too strong, so I didn’t let him be with her for as long as the others.
She’s back in her cage now, raising hell, but covered with two blankets this time. In about two minutes, she’ll be asleep. The boys are now out playing. They’re looking for her, but not too hard. I reckon it’s time for a little one-on-one playtime in the morning. I think that NoNo might be SO bored that she’s being good just to have time with another of her own species. Makes sense to me (which is why I am thinking that I MUST BE WRONG!). It can’t be that easy, especially with a ferret known for aggression, can it? We’ll see…
Again, I’ll start with Buddy in the morning, then Victor, and finally Nipper (for a shorter time). Slowly, as long as there’re no fights and no one gets sick, we’ll integrate NoNo into our little ferret “business”. Sheesh! As I recall, four ferrets sure poop a LOT! As I said before, I must be crazy! *grin*
The first individual playtimes were so remarkably low key, that we had a full playtime this morning – all four of them. No fights, no hissing, no biting… no hostility at all. On top of that, NoNo seems to have stopped biting the cats. She’s had many opportunities to do so, but has declined. Frankly, I’m astounded.
Actually, the only one getting bit is ME! She’s doing better, but tried to bite my ankle this morning. I caught her before she could get a good hold, scruffed and hissed her, and she squeaked a little. That’s it. Everyone is still eating and pooping normally. The boys quickly settled down after playtime and didn’t make a fuss to see her more. I let her be out alone for a while after the boys went home.
They seem to be more fascinated with her now than at first, but not all that much; they can still be seen doing other things as well. Nipper tends to be all over her the most (as expected), but still no aggression. They all seem to “love” her though. Yet, no one was competing for her attention that I could see.
It’s a hoot seeing four ferrets running around again. I hope it stays that way for a while. As they get to know each other more, they’ll start to kick up their heels and really play. Troni cat is starting to figure out that there are now two white ferrets.
I continue to be amazed. They have had three full playtimes together and I have yet to break up one single squabble. There has been ZERO strife between NoNo and the others. None at all. What I thought was going to be a long, problematic introduction, turned out to be the smoothest. All that’s left is for her to move in with them. I’ll leave that up to her. I’ve shown her their cage, and I even used her to wake them up this morning (worked great). When she’s ready, she’ll climb the ladder and sack out with them. That’ll be that.
Well, she didn’t climb the ladder, but it was clear that she wanted to live with the boys, so, after a few visits to their cage, I just put her there when playtime was over. That seems to have stopped the 4:am demands to get out of the cage. Now, she makes it to 5:15 am, which is fine, because I get up at 5:am anyway. Now, I can use her as a snooze alarm if I over sleep.
In the meantime, someone else I know (the one with the ferret that got chewed by a dog and lived), wants me to adopt his two ferrets. ABSOLUTELY NOT!!! I’d love to, but four is enough for me. I must draw the line somewhere. Ironically, he lives in the house right across the street from the one I’m currently remodeling (which he rents from my boss).
He loves them, but admits that he doesn’t spend enough time with them and feels bad about it. But, the strange fact of it is, to be honest, if I were to take his two, he’d have to pay ME to do so. That’s right, I’d require about $150 to take them (the price he was asking before he gave up on selling them). I’d put $100 in the ferret account and use $50 for food, etc. You know that that is but a drop in the financial bucket, right?
This situation makes me think of some sort of ferret foster care type thing. For years I have wished that I could somehow make a living off ferrets. But, I couldn’t bring myself to sell them – that would be like selling my sister! It would also be hard to give them back, if it were temporary, particularly if they weren’t being cared for properly.
BTW, NoNo makes it the fifth time I’ve successfully proven my ferret integration program. Not that I’m going to, but it makes me wonder how I would do it if I were to get two more. I still think introductions should be one-on-one, so that would mean eight individual meetings. Sounds like a chore to me. I already have to clean the litter tray every single day as it is.
Time passes by…
With the exception of weight loss, Nipper has gotten “back to normal”; his aggression has subsided. He’s staying in his own cage part of the time so I can make sure he gets high-fat food, but it’s not working well, so I let him stay with the others again.
I took Victor in along with NoNo (to get her shots) to get him checked out. His upper abdomen has grown large and he’s slowed down quite a bit. He often just lies around during playtime, which ain’t right. The vet said it’s an enlarged spleen, which is common in ferrets and has numerous causes.
So, since he’s strong and otherwise healthy, I scheduled surgery to remove it. Vet says they, as with people, live perfectly normal lives without a spleen. They wanted to do an ultrasound, but didn’t have enough patients to “borrow” the ultrasound equipment. When they did have two more patients (3 minimum), they asked me if I wanted that for Victor. Since it was not essential to the operation (a simple and common operation), and it cost $210, I had to decline – I can’t justify that much for a snap shot.
The operation went fine. He was too drowsy for them to let him go home that day, so he spent the night there. He was doing so good the next morning that, after a nurse cleaned his cage, he trashed it! Now, he’s doing the same thing with his cage here. He’s driving me nuts! I had to move his cage to another room just so I could get some sleep. He pulls so hard on the bars that he bent one of them. I’m sometimes afraid that he’s gonna bust a stitch! Ten days, the vet says I gotta put up with this?!? One good thing is they have a new antibiotic shot that lasts for two weeks, which means there are no meds that I have to give.
Another Chapter Ends…
Yesterday morning, Nipper wasn’t doing so good. His stool was black tar followed by some blood. So, I immediately took him in. Since he needed hydration, and a combination of four meds, they kept him for the night. He died during the night. So much for his adrenal surgery. Just two days ago, he leaped out of my hands to the floor so he could run around. They go downhill SO fast.
“Well, Lord, thanks for loaning Nipper to me. I sure hate to give him back”. It always hits like a ton of bricks. I keep asking myself why I keep doing this to myself. Ironically, there are lots of ferrets out there who need a good home, free of charge even. I am always hearing of them. Just today, the neighbor told me of a guy enlisting in the military who needs a good home for his single ferret. No; I’m at the ideal number right now. I wish I could.
Again, I console myself with the knowledge that Nipper had a much better life than he was having or was going to have.
Time passes slowly. It’s been a while since I added anything to this. The economy has gone to hell and poverty is pushing me into a corner. Work has slowed down and I’m starting to sell belongings to keep up. I still owe the vet for Nipper and Victor. I’ve got $190 paid but still owe $415. Thank God they are cutting me some slack! To make it worse, I’m feeding several outside cats that have been abandoned here.
Back to Buddy…
Well, I’ve got good news about Buddy: for a while we thought he was getting rat-tail. I was getting increasingly frustrated thinking he needed an operation, yet I haven’t paid for the last one. How can I expect (or ask) them to extend me more credit? Well, upon closer inspection, Buddy has a very healthy coat of hair on his tail. Due to the color, texture and the fact that it always lays very flat, at a glance, it looked like rat-tail. But, the hair is so thick that, even when I pull it backwards, I can’t see the actual tail flesh! He just does not puff it up any. Even when I scratch him extra good, it doesn’t puff like the others do.
NoNo has gotten much better about not biting, but she still likes my feet. When she does bite, I grab her to scruff and hiss her, but she bites my hand till I get hold of her scruff. She’s a fat little girl with almost no “neck”, so she’s hard to scruff. Though she’s not biting much, she still has an “oral fixation” so to speak: she chews things. I’ve broken her of chewing on power cords, but she’ll chew through cloth in a heartbeat. She took a considerable size divot out of one of my (terry cloth) sweat bands! She didn’t just shred it, but CONSUMED it! There were no pieces left where she did it; that means she swallowed it all. So, she got a double dose of V&F.
I have to keep an eye on her. She chewed through a braided Buzz-Balls string in less than five minutes (three heavy-duty nylon strings braided together). Now, try that yourself. Could you chew through three nylon strings at once, that fast? More V&F. She also consumes plastic shopping bags, and I’ve had to remove them all. That’s sad, because ferrets LOVE plastic bags, but most don’t EAT them. More V&F.
Well, I decided that the “F” (Ferretone) was like giving her a treat for eating junk, so I now only give her the V (Vaseline). Unfortunately, I think she likes the V just as much as the V&F. Hmmm… I don’t want to reinforce bad behavior, but I must keep the junk lubricated so it’ll pass. So far, she’s been fine. Always on the go…
Okay, that brings us up to the present, 11-14-09. Although ferret life doesn’t end, this “article” has got to stop somewhere. I truly hope this has informed, amused and inspired.
Gary, Buddy, Victor & NoNo
(missing Bart, Victoria, Skipper and Nipper)
The author, Gary Schooley, is always happy to hear from other ferret owners and get their feedback. His email address is schooleyATmail2world.com (of course replace the AT with @)