Ferts Gone Wild…Or how I learned to love rats with fangs
I’ve always been an animal lover and have had pets of one kind or another for most of my 44 years. Like most kids I had cats, dogs, hamsters, snakes and even a Kangaroo rat. So it was a no brainer when I grew up and got a home of my own that I’d fill it with animals. It’s not unusual to walk into my place and see that it’s filled to the rafters with pets. Not only do I have a dog, my 6 year old Shih Tzu, Tess, I have too many cats to count and ferrets. Lots of ferrets. As of today’s count, there are 8. I’ve had as many as 14 at any given time.
Amazingly there was a time when I didn’t know what a ferret was, and I certainly didn’t want one. All I knew about the little creatures was that they looked like long skinny mice and had sharp claws and fangs. Makes them sound really lovely, right? Well, no. Not really.
So how did I end up with a bunch of ferrets?
Well, at the time I was working in cat/kitten rescue. Our small desert town has no resources for animals, not even a dog catcher and people often drive to the country to dump their unwanted animals rather than take them to the kill-shelter in the next largest city. I guess they figure letting the animal starve, get run over on the highway or eaten by coyotes is preferable to having them put down. In my opinion it’s just as cruel, if not more so. So I began rescuing stray kittens and giving them a home. Unfortunately many of the animals come with various diseases, including feline leukemia and many of the kittens I rescued died. I like to think they got a home and a decent burial while they were with me.
As I slowly wound down the rescue efforts for feral kittens, I received a call to come and pick up a ferret for rehoming. I asked around and found a home for the little critter. That accomplished, I drove over to a city in the neighboring state of Texas to pick the animal up. Imagine my shock when I arrived to find a poor pitiful little animal covered with fleas and sores. It had been at least 6 months since someone had cleaned her cage and she was living in her own filth, and being fed an inadequate diet. In other words, she was pathetic. It took all my efforts not to slap the stupid, lazy owner into next year and then some. I quickly snatched the ferret, named Coda, and drove her to her new home. Once I dropped her off, I was sure she was going to be okay.
Then around midnight I received a call. It was Coda’s new owner. He informed me that although he had cleaned her cage, he could not stand the stink of the animal and wanted to get rid of her. Well, what to do? No one else wanted her, so I ended up picking her up and taking her home. As I drove home, I grumbled. What was I going to do with the extreme mouse in my house?
The first few days were touch and go. Not only did Coda need a lot of bathing and cleaning to get the stink off her, she needed to be fed an adequate diet. Knowing nothing about ferrets, I began scouring the web for tips on ferret care. Ferrets, I found, are carnivores, landing somewhere between the cat and dog family. They are also extremely friendly, inquisitive and absolutely adorable. Before I knew it I had stopped looking for a home for Coda. She’d not only moved into my place, she was staying for the long haul.
After about a year, it became apparent that my ferret was lonesome. Scouring the want ads, I found a woman selling a pair of older ferrets. Again, I drove over to pick them up, and Biggie and Baby joined my ferret family. Coda was ecstatic and the ferts took to each other right away. After a year of keeping three ferrets quite happily, I happened to wander into a pet store that had a brand new baby ferret for sale (a baby being about 2-3 months old). The next thing I knew, Rascal, was on her way home with me. And then Peetems showed up, along with Cocoa and Misti. That’s right. It was fert mania around my house and everyone got along famously, cats, ferrets and even the dog. The years passed and all was well.
Since I had lots of ferrets, I was in the pet store all the time buying supplies. It was during one of my trips that the owner of the store asked if I was still doing animal rescue. It turns out people were trying, for one reason or another, to give their ferrets away. But the pet store had no facilities for abandoned ferrets, especially those that were older and in bad health. Seeing as I already knew how to care for older ferrets (all these years later Biggie and Baby had passed on from old age) and had a facility for them, I decided then and there ferret rescue would be my mission.
After printing up some business cards and handing them out at all the pet outlets in town, I formally opened the doors on Jan 1, 2010. Within a month I had a call to pick up 6 ferrets. One call included a guy who had to give up his brand new baby ferret of three days (I quickly snatched this little darling as my own and decided Sasha was going to stay with me, LOL) Although their owners hated to give up their pets, changes in life and health circumstances were forcing them to part with their animals. It quickly occurred to me I would soon have more ferrets than I could possibly handle. So phase 2, ferret adoption, began. Since I ask the owner to give up the cage and all materials relating to the ferret’s care, most ferrets go out the door in the home they came to me in.
Although most animals are in good condition when they come in, some are not so fortunate. In most cases the ferret is elderly and in no shape to be adopted out. When the older or ill ferrets come in, they are provided with a nice home to live out their final days in peace and comfort. I have several older ferrets, including my first ferret, Coda. Now 6 (as near as I can figure), I’ve had her for five years. And even though she’s a little bald in places, she is still active and alert for her age.
Although my family thinks I am a little bit nuts for having a house full of rats, I have to admit I wouldn’t have it any other way. As long as I am able, I’m going to be working in ferret rescue.
here, this is being published in the US in August and in the UK in October and is one I'd definitely recommend.
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