Grooming

While you may see your ferret grooming itself, that doesn’t let you off the hook! There are a few things you need to do as a responsible ferret owner to keep your ferret looking, feeling and smelling good!

Bathing

The most important part of your ferret’s bathing routine is to not over do it, ferrets that bath too often end up with a stronger odor. Over bathing can wash away the oils from your ferret’s fur, which in turn will dry their skin out. When a ferret’s skin dries out it over-produces the oils and the poor ferret gets itchy, which all adds up to one stinky fuzzbutt.

Basically you should only be washing your babies  at most twice a year.  Bath your ferret in the Spring when he starts shedding his winter coat and in the Fall when he is shedding his summer coat. Your ferret can  splash a round in the tub or water dish every day so long as there is no soap involved.

To keep smells down make sure the ferret’s environment is nice and clean; scoop litter daily, dump litter weekly, change the  bedding every second or third day  and clean entire cage monthly (or as needed, my boys are slightly messier so I do more often). Washing down your cage floors with a vinegar solution helps deodorize and sanitize.

Shampoo options vary, there are even quite a few ferret specific shampoos. Although baby shampoo works most shampoos meant for adults aren’t pH balanced properly for ferrets. Conditioners are not required but they can help the ferret’s skin from drying out, a good option is to use conditioner  in winter.

Tips for ferret bath time; make sure water is just over room temperature (or slightly warmer), a ferret’s body temperature is ~ 102 degrees Celsius. At room temperature the ferret will find it cold.  Some ferrets enjoy a bath full of water, others like to be able to walk in the tub and some others like ‘showers.’

Ear Cleaning

Much of the odor on a ferret is actually their ear wax, you should clean a ferrets ears every two weeks. Ear wax is red, brown or gold in colour, if you see something else contact your vet (black ear wax can be a sign of ear mites).

To clean your ferret’s ear;

1. Warm the solution

There are many different options for ear cleaning ‘solutions’ including oils or liquid (I’m not sure on the oil option as they generally say to stay away from oils for ferrets). Purchase the alcohol free ear cleaning solution from your vet as your best choice.

2. Scruff

Scruffing a ferret is identical to scruffing a dog or cat – the extra skin on the animal’s neck behind their head where a mommy or daddy would use to carry their babies. Generally this will make your ferret yawn – which is pretty adorable.

3. Put a few drops of solution into the ferret’s ear

This will help loosen the ear wax

4. Gently massage the base of the ferret’s ear

This is to work the solution inside the ferrets ear

5. Moisten a cotton swab with more solution and clean the outer ear by beginning at the base of the ear

A ferret’s ear canal is shaped like an L.

6. Continue using a moistened cotton swab until the ear wax is gone, then switch to a dry swab to dry the ear out

7. Follow up with a treat

Left untreated ear mites can cause many health issues including deafness

Here are some more step-by-step guides; WikihowWeaselWords, FerretNews

Nail Trimming

It is very important to keep on top of trimming your monster’s nails – when they become too long they can catch on things. Sometimes in an attempt to pull the nail free, your ferret can pull it’s nail right off! Needless to say that is extremely painful and bloody!I have seen my ferrets get their nails caught then go straight into the alligator roll – this can actually cause a ferret to sprain something.

Tools to clipping nails;

1. Small kitten sized nail clippers

Human nail clippers will not work, ferrets have very small nails that can easily be cut too short, they are also thin enough that you can crush the nail if the blade is not sharp enough.

2. Corn starch or Styptic powder

Accidents happen so be prepared for such. The benefit of purchasing Styptic powder is you know it is sterile, but if you are worried about costs Corn starch works just as well to stop bleeding when nails are clipped too short. Styptic powder will sting, while the cornstarch doesn’t and is what the shelter uses with very good results.

3. Ferret Lax (hair ball remedy) or Salmon Oil/Olive Oil/Flax Oil/Canola Oil -which ever oil product you are using.

These are used to distract the ferret while you clip their nails. I generally place my ferret on their back on my lap, put the Ferret Lax or Oil on their tummy and clip their nails while they lick away.

Where to clip: if you look at a ferret’s nail it has a small red dot called the quick and from there out is clear or cloudy (rarely do they have dark nails, often they are dirty though). It’s best to cut as close as you can to the quick, for stronger nails this is easier, for softer you might have to keep a little more room between.

If you find your ferret absolutely hates having their nails being cut there are a few options; my youngest, Radish, I cut two toes at a time. Sometimes that means he goes first, he takes a break while I cut the other ferret’s toes and finish him off at the end. At times Radish cannot stand even that so his back legs I have to do the next day.

Another option for the difficult ferrets is wrapping them in a towel to keep them stationary without hurting or causing more stress. The towel method works by rolling it around the ferret’s body, keeping one paw and their head loose, while a helper distracts your ferret with their oil treat. *This only works on one ferret in a thousand!

Brushing Teeth

This takes getting used to, be gentle and remember this will probably not be your best bonding moment. You can always ease into this by scruffing and touching your ferret’s teeth for a few seconds. Here’s some general steps to follow, but the best is to figure out what works for each of your little monsters;

1. Wet the baby toothbrush or a baby washcloth  and apply a small amount of paste (pet toothpaste, not human)

2. Scruff your ferret

3. Gently brush their teeth, strokes going with the teeth (i.e. top brush down, bottom brush up). Pay special attention to their back teeth as food can get stuck there and they might not notice it.

4. Ending with a treat, this helps with bitter feelings.

5. Now that StrixNB for dogs can be used off label for ferrets. Simply half the dosage. Offer your ferret one dish with regular water and one with the Strix added.

Other links describing teeth maintenance; PetFinderPetsDotCom.

Ferrets that receive lots of soft treats (i.e. baby food, soft diets and duck soup) should have their teeth brushed weekly. For others generally twice a month is good.

You can also take ferrets to the vet – if you start to see greyish green spots this is a good indication that it is time to do this. Taking your ferret to the vet for a full cleaning (dental prophylaxis) should only be done every 2-3 years.

Ferrets and COVID-19

Ferret-World has published an excellent article relating to the dangers of our pet ferrets and their risk of getting COVID-19.

Spoiler alert!  I was very relieved to find out that our pet ferrets are at low risk of catching the coronavirus from an infected human in their family and likewise an infected pet ferret is at very low risk of passing the virus to their humans.

So please take the time to read this wonderful article.

https://ferret-world.us2.list-manage.com/track/click?u=f77ce765a71963a4d82f138ea&id=18aaba099f&e=f7eb15fbc6

Assigning Responsibility for your ferrets

This is never a pleasant topic of discussion.  What would happen to my beloved ferrets (really all your pets) if something happened to me?  Well my spouse or partner would take over! But what if both of you are involved in the same accident and pass away?  Well my adult children would take them!  Are you sure?  It’s nice to think that our immediate or extended family would jump in and take our pets but life isn’t always fair.  Our family may not like our ferrets, may have pets that would not get along with your pets or maybe they just don’t have the room to take in anymore.

My son and his wife went to Grand Forks for the weekend.  I went over each day to feed and play with my two grand cats.  Now I love these two cats.  We had cats when my sons were growing up. However, if something happened to the both of them; what happens to their cats.  As much as I love them; they would not fit well in my home.  My dog Miki would not be impressed and of course Raven and Salem would most definitely be scare of the dog. Then of course I have many fostered and personal ferrets in my home.  Again, Raven and Salem would not be impressed by being chased around the house by my furries.  Perhaps my daughter in laws parents would take them but, I don’t think they are cat people.  Now who would take their cats?  I know how much they love them and I would never place them in a shelter but what would I do? I guess I would be down to seeing if any of their friends would take them and hope that I am doing the right thing.

Two years ago Helen, our Winnipeg Beach Shelter Mom was killed on her way home from work.  When family called to come get her ferrets it was a nightmare.  Helen had not gotten around to hanging the pictures with documentation on the 5 different cages.  In my shock, I did not grab my back up shelter documentation book. Jeanne and I spent an hour trying to match ferrets with their names and documentation.  We even forgot one ferret whom Helen had left out to play while she was at work.  Fortunately we hadn’t gone too far before family called to say a ferret had appeared at their feet.  We were carrying pet carriers and food and stuff out of the house. We were not watching for loose ferrets. Thank goodness she didn’t escape outside or worse left behind with no food or water.

Helen also had a dog named Dudley.  He was a goofy mutt who loved the ferrets and that is why Helen tolerated his accidents in the house.  I knew I couldn’t take him as I had two dogs at home at that time.  I loved Dudley and was so worried what would happen to him.  Her family were not pet people and I knew they wouldn’t want him.  Thank goodness a neighbor stepped up and took him.  He would have ended up in a shelter and euthanized as he wasn’t completely housebroken.  That would have broken Helen’s heart!

The lesson I  learnt was thank goodness I was an “organized freek” because if the roles had been reversed, family and friends would have had no trouble knowing which ferrets belonged to me personally and which ferrets had to be re-homed within the shelter community. All my cages are labelled. I have their picture and on the backside are a the most important details.  I even have a copy of their latest vaccinations.

Several months ago, our former webmaster Teraysa passed away suddenly.  Family called us.  She had one ferret in the top cage and two in the bottom half.  A huge bucket of food and treats nearby.  Taking the ferrets wasn’t a problem. Trying to figure out their names and ages was something else.  I had to scan through all her pictures that she had posted on her Face Book page.  Thank goodness she loved to post pictures of her pets.  The one ferret I thought I knew wasn’t. That ferret had passed away about a year prior. Thank goodness she had posted a RIP for that ferret and then pictures of the new baby!  We had their names but no information on when their vaccines were done.  We never did get any documentation from her family as they sorted through her stuff.

Besides my ferrets, I have a miniature Eskimo dog, 10 years old now.  If something should happen to me, I have plans in place for her to be taken care of.  I have not left that burden to my family, none of whom could take her.

Years ago, we developed a short check list for our members so that they could plan and organize responsibility for their ferrets and other pets.  The hand out was given to all new ferret owners but as it is a sensitive topic I am sure it was quickly misplaced.  I went looking for my hand out and found it in my files.  I have revised it a bit and I am posting it below so anybody with pets will be reminded that they should make plans for their pets in case something happens!

Assigning Responsibility for your Pets

It is important to make arrangements for the care of your ferret in case you are incapacitated through illness or injury or in the event of your untimely death.

  1. Have written instruction as to whom you wish to have look after your ferret . Have the document witnessed by two independent people of good character. You may even want to include the assignment of your pets in your will. Consider allocating a sum of monies for their continued care.
  2. Prepare an information sheet for each ferret:

 

  • Description of each including special markings /annual photo
  • Location and description of each cage
  • Details of what brand of foods – where to purchase their food
  • Details of what litter you use , how often to change it and where to purchase
  • List of favorite treats, and how often they are given
  • Details of bathing, toe-nail clipping and ear cleaning
  • Details of favorite play times, toys, and behaviour
  • Details of socialization with other types of pets such as cats or dogs
  • Details of any current medical conditions and med regime
  • Name, Address of Vet
  • General information on personality of the ferret

 

  1. Leave a copy of your instructions with a reliable family member or friend who can speak on your behalf immediately. If the only copy is in the safety deposit box at the bank, by the time the document is located, your ferret may have already been disposed of unintentionally. Make sure your family is aware of your wishes and will not dispute your request.
  2. Make sure you review and update this information on an annual basis.

At the shelter, on the back of each picture of the ferret is the date of surrender. We also list Gender, Age, Color type, and then there are several lines for notes such as: climber, best friend is……..

Your family may remember that you have a banditt and a Loki but these names are not gender specific and they will not remember who is who!  The more info you can provide the better your ferrets and or other pets will be cared for.

Updated: June 2017

Ferret In Hand or………….. In Cage or……………………….

There has been a rule at my home for many years. Ferrets in hand or ferrets in cage before any outside door is ever opened.  Never assume your ferret is still asleep under the bed or behind the TV when you open your door to the outside world to bring in the newspaper, put the garbage out…… whatever!!!

We implemented this rule after one of our shelter ferrets did a walk about without our knowledge! In other words he escaped the house!  My hubby Guy had let our 225 pound English Mastiff outside to go potty and right back in. One Eyed Jack was supposedly asleep behind the TV. We had both giggled as he dragged a stuffy with him to sleep with behind the TV.

One Eyed Jack was a stray found by the river and brought to us.  He had tangled with something and his one eyed was beyond saving.  We patched him up and he became part of our shelter family.  Now he had escaped from his original owners so we should have known he had a bit of the wonderlust in him!

So, Ari went potty and came right back in. We all settled down to continue watching TV. Guy heard this scratching sound.  I didn’t hear anything. Ari was doing what mastiffs do best, snoring up a storm. Guy muted the TV and insisted he heard scratching. He got up and went to the front door.(We had not installed a second door – screen door at that time).  He opened it and in waltzes One Eyed Jack!

OMG and other assorted expletives.  It seems One Eyed Jack had snuck out with the dog. He had his little walk about in the back yard, then went under the gate, up the driveway, up the sidewalk, up 4 very high cement steps and was scratching on the door to be let in.  We hadn’t realized he was out. Had he not scratched to be let back in, it would have been at least an hour when our show ended before we would have realized he was missing. If our screen door had been added back then, would Guy have heard the scratching?

We dodged a bullet that day.  Today I dodged another bullet.  I had Zipper, Zora and Tank out playing in the bedroom.  They spent some time playing in the bedroom, then I was giving them a little free range time before I put them to bed. I looked out the living room window to see two crows sizing up my small  birds at the feeder.  Yes the law of nature is eat or be eaten but not on my watch and not today when I was already not having the best of days.  I quickly opened the front door and the screen door, stepped out on to the front steps  and shooed  the crows away.  I closed the screen door; remembered my rule and looked out the screen door window to make sure no ferrets were dancing on the steps. All clear. Good! I closed the screen door and the front door. It’s cold today!

About fifteen minutes later I decided to round up the 3 furries and put them back to bed. Tank was sleeping in the sleep sack back in the bedroom.  Zipper was sleeping in the ladybug back in the bedroom .  I can’t find Zorra in the bedroom sleep areas.  I start with the bedroom and start looking. No Zora. I close the bedroom door and move on to the shelter room.  I checked everywhere in the shelter, no Zora. I then checked their cage. Yes, sometimes, she puts herself back to bed and maybe I am panicking for nothing. Nope, not in the cage.

Oh God, I opened the front door to shoo the crows away. My mind screams no way  she  got out! She is not in the house, so yeah, she has to be outside. Great! 30 minutes head start at least! Where to even start!  I am ferret sitting these three; what will Colleen say when I tell her I’ve lost her little girl!  By now I am in tears and fighting a panic attack.  Find ferret and then have your damn melt down!

With squeak toy in hand I opened my front door.  Did I mention that I have a screen door and then my front door. I look down as I reach for the screen door handle and there she is! Zora was huddled in that small gap between the front door and screen door.

Relief flooded over me. Thank god she was tiny enough that I hadn’t squashed her between the doors.  I guess when I peered through the screen door to see if any ferrets had gotten out on to the steps Zora must have been right at my feet.  I didn’t see ferrets on the front step, so I closed the front door without looking down.

Zora washed my face with kisses and I snuggled her so hard her eyes could have popped.  No bad news to give Colleen.  My world righted itself once again.  Now that the crisis is over, let me share my rule with all you ferret owners who think it can’t happen to me because I’m always careful- yes it can happen to you! I have run the main shelter for 20 years and you’d think I would be smarter!……………………FERRET IN HAND OR FERRET IN CAGE BEFORE OPENING ANY DOORS TO THE OUTSIDE!

By the way, just so you all know, a stray ferret was surrendered to our shelter on Saturday evening. The ferret was found wandering a rural property and has yet to be claimed! Now this is Easter weekend with many family gatherings that started on Good Friday right through to Easter Monday. Lots of get togethers, people coming and going! Somebody out there is bawling their eyes out while searching for their ferret.  I just hope they call.

Deb, shamed ferret mom

 

Irwin’s Tail by Kerry P.

Irwin’s Tail

I apologize for the pun, I don’t claim responsibility for it.  I found this tale fully formed in my head.  I think a mischievous little fella must have stashed it there before he scampered off across the rainbow bridge.  He knew I’d be needing it.

Our ferrets Loki and Selene have little stubs of tails. Their momma thought they were too perfect so she cleaned a little off the ends so as not to overwhelm us.  Our foster ferret Sophie has a fuzzy little tail that spikes out like a pipe cleaner when she gets excited, which seems to be the majority of the time.  It is the perfect tail for her fuzzy little body.

Our other foster Irwin had a scrawny tail.  It was a perfect match for his scrawny little body which nicely offset the most handsome little face that ever sat atop a ferret’s neck.

Each of them is the best ferret ever.  Logic dictates that this isn’t possible but they exist within the domain of ferret math which doesn’t give a toss about logic!

Irwin and Sophie didn’t get along with other ferrets, Loki and Selene included.  They each knew the other was the perfect amount of ferret and they must have thought it selfish to require any additional company.  We tried to merge the two pairs into one happy business but they were not having it.  Others had tried before with equal results.  They had a good life at the shelter but luckily their shelter momma Deb in her wisdom decided we were worthy of their love despite our relative lack of experience.

The two pairs carved out a piece of my heart and each ferret nabbed their own half of that.  Through the magic of ferret math, each one ended up with the whole damn thing!

It is a lot of work juggling ferrets but we managed, gating off one pair and swapping them now and then to keep things interesting.   Add in our crazy cat Luna and it can be utter madness.  Every second has been worth the effort.

We lost Irwin today to liver cancer.  He would have suffered through the pain to keep sharing his love with us and his girl but we could not ask any more of him.  He lived his life to the end with a joy only a ferret or someone touched by the love of a ferret could know.  In the end we took on some pain so we could release him from his.  We will never replace him in his girl Sophie’s heart but I hope we can ease her pain by giving her some of the love he stashed in our hearts.

I’m not writing this to share my sadness.  Irwin left a ferret-shaped hole in my heart which will never disappear but he filled my heart to overflowing with love before he left.  In time,  the sadness will fade and I will have the memories to keep me going.  At the height of my pain I wished we had never taken him in so I would not have to feel this way but I know I would be the poorer for never having known him.

Irwin left an itch in my brain so I would scratch it out into this story.  Sometimes the perfect ferret is the one quietly waiting in the back of the shelter for someone to realize they need him more than anything in the world.  They might have a stub of a tail or they may need a little bit of extra care and attention but they will pay that back a hundred times over.