Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Adopting a Ferret from a Shelter ...

Ferrets are misunderstood animal (many animals of different kinds and breeds are). Californians, need I say more? Part of the wildlife, INDEED! Ferrets in the US have been domesticated for far too long to be considered anything other than a pet!

So many when meeting a fert say “ooooooo a ferret, I want one!” or go to a pet store and say “wow, they look cool, I think I’ll get one!” I’ve even run into people saying, “I think I’ll get one for my grandchild as a gift”.

Poor, poor little ferrets. A lot of them end up in a shelter or in an environment not suited for them. For those of us animal lovers who wish to have a pet ferret but can’t, let us help and donate to a shelter. Attached is a link to a nice shelter. I’ve never dealt with this shelter before but anyone who would help a ferret that is not going to make it has to be a good shelter. Most shelters have good intentions and certainly to their best with what they have to work with. I looked (not extensively) for any negative comments and I found none. They even have a Face Book Page.

I adopted a ferret from a shelter in my area and I was not happy about her being sick and getting my ferrets sick BUT in all fairness I was still very new to the ferret world. I didn’t know what kind of questions to ask or understand that a ferret brought into your home (from a shelter or otherwise) must always be “quarantined” from other carpet sharks.

Here is what I suggest:

First, a schedule a trip ASAP with a Vet who is experienced with ferrets. You want to be sure you don’t have a sick ferret even if it is just the greenies. Also, if you have other carpet sharks at home have a quarantine cage ready for your new family member. If this is your first fuzzy then be sure to have a cage with all his/her necessities ready and waiting.

Here is a list of the things that you will need for your ferret:
1. A cage (size appropriate for the number of fuzzies). You don’t want them to be cramped. ALSO, depending on the cage style – fuzzies are EXTREMELY intelligent, you want something to secure the “door” so they don’t pop it open and escape. They could harm themselves by getting lost or into some serious trouble. Also, if using an all wire cage, please put something down for them to walk on. They have sensitive feet and I wouldn’t want to walk on wires, ouch!
2. A litter box with a HIGH BACK. Very important as they love to lift their bottoms up to potty which could cause “overflow”. I’d hate to clean THAT up. Ewwww
3. Litter for that box! DO NOT, PLEASE use cedar chips. UGH! Nor the very dusty cat litter. This is VERY bad for their respiratory system. I recommend Yesterday’s News or any pellet non-dusty/pine smelly litter. A ferret litter should be changed often. Depending on the number of ferts using the litter. Once a day at most every other day.
4. FOOD and a bowl for the food. What kind of food? Here is what I recommend: Sheppard and Greene for ferrets or mix Sheppard and Greene for ferrets with any kitten formula (easy on the budget). I would watch the ingredients in the kitten formulas for by-products, corn meal and fillers that just don’t serve any nutritional value to your fuzzies. Remember, they are MEAT-A-VORES. They like meat. If using cat food be sure it’s the kitten formulas, ferrets have a high metabolism and require higher protein and fatty acids intake hence the kitten formula.
5. Water bottle/bowl. These little monsters need water, constantly. A water bottle is perfect BUT make sure they can easily get their water. All water bottles were not created equally. Some are harder than others to use and we don’t want to dehydrate your baby.
6. Bedding. Fuzzies like to hide out. A dome type bedding or a hanging type dome. If you are using a hanging “bed” make sure to place it where you fuzzi can easily access it. I preferred these because it gave my fuzz balls more “floor” space. You also want something that can be washed. “Fuzzies” shed and it WILL get all over their bedding. They are also stinky =) but that’s why I love them! Mmmm, musky little ferrets! Yes, I know. I’m weird. My husband says it all the time.
7. TREATS!! Oh boy do ferrets LOVE treats. Ferretone is a very healthy treat. You can also give them a little bit of Peanut butter – this is a fun treat. I used to laugh out loud when we would give them peanut butter because they would go crazy trying to lick it all up! Raisins are also a very good treat but all of these treats should be given in moderation. Too much can cause them to have loose bowels and you don’t want that. Not ALL ferrets like all of these treats but I found that most of them do.
8. Toys. A fuzzi should have something to play with. We need to stimulate them or they WILL stimulate themselves and possible get themselves into TROUBLE. All fuzzies were not created equal and they love different things. They love digging and crunchy noises; a box with peanuts works great BUT they must be supervised. You don’t want them eating the stuff. I bought some marbles and some material. I then made the material into little “bags” stuffed with some marbles. My Bandit LOVED this. They love to steal socks; I would lay old socks around and let them collect them. There are all kinds of different toys they can use.
9. Get a safety gate. This will ensure your fuzzies are safe from “unsafe” areas. There are gates available specifically for your ferret.

BEFORE bringing you fert home – ferret proof it. Get down on your hands and knees and look for things they can get into. Some ferts will chew cords! Careful with those. Rubber telephone buttons and remote control buttons. If they swallow big enough chunks it could cause intestinal blockage. Also, if you have furniture that has moving parts (recliner, sofa bed) PLEASE be extra careful, we don’t want to be moving them while these fuzzies are around. THEY FIT EVERYWHERE. I had a fuzzi get stuck in the washer.

While at the Shelter, ask how long they have had the ferret, if they know anything about its previous owners/environment and what they are feeding the fuzzi. Chances are, in a shelter, they feed them whatever they have available. Still, you want to ask so you can integrate the “new” food with the one (s)he already eats (likes). My fuzz balls loved this YUCKY stuff called ALLEY CAT! I used it as a treat (along with raisins and golden raisins too) but never as a food substitute. I considered it their “junk food”.

After bringing them home give them a nice BATH. Yes you heard right, a BATH. I know they don’t much like them but it is for their own good. This will remove any dander they bring with them AND essentially removes their own specific scent temporarily. If you ferrets haven’t met before now, you can try to introduce them to each other at this moment or put the new ferret in a cage with the bedding of the other ferrets for a day. This will give your new ferret a chance to familiarize itself with the others scent AND their scent will rub off on him/her which will put your current ferrets a little better at ease.

PLEASE NOTE: This technique can work BUT does not guarantee it will work or that your babies will get along with each other. Sad but some aren’t as temperamental especially when they aren’t kits anymore. Another technique would be bathing ALL your little fuzz balls (this is a grand feat if you have many like I did).

Introduce your new fuzzi one at a time and keep a close eye on their behavior. Even if it seems they don’t get along now, it could just be a protective instinct rather than aggressive. You know your babies enough to know the difference otherwise aggressive behaviors usually including dooking, biting and bottle brush tails. If this happens, BE CAREFUL when separating one from the other. Two people should be present and try to scruff the ferts and stroking their jaw. This will make them YAWN essentially making them let go of the other.

Introducing them one at a time will give you the opportunity to find out if any of your ferrets will be a suitable companion for your new fuzzi. This is why I also recommend bathing them ALL. This will remove the scents and allow them to distinguish the individual scent. Bathing can over dry your fert (it removes the oils from their skin) so don’t bathe them too often. Once a month to six weeks, maybe even every other month.

Things to watch for during the quarantine period: SLIMY poop (the greenies). This is VERY contagious and hard to get rid of if you have more than a couple of ferrets. Make the sickie carpet shark a “duck soup” to help them get better. A “duck soup” you say? What’s that? In the book Ferrets for Dummies, by Kim Schilling there is a recipe for “duck soup” which is a mixture of foods and vitamins to fortify your sick fuzz ball.

Quarantine your fert for a good week unless sick with the greenies. If your baby does have the greenies, keep your fert separate until (s)he is no longer sick/contagious.

After all this work your new carpet shark should be ready to join the ferret frenzi in no time!

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