Tuesday, 24 January 2012

A new cage for Alfie and Shiro

My boys finally got to explore their new cage today. We had to cover the barred ledges with linoleum to protect their feet and also to make it more comfortable to walk on for them. The linoleum is also easy to clean. I fastened it to the floors with cable ties (snipping the ends off so they cannot be chewed). The cage also came with wire ladders that I have turned into sturdy ramps using carpet. I simply glued the carpet to the ladders.
After lining the main floors with our paper based substrate and decorating with a hammock and tent we let them into the cage for the first time. Here are the pictures.

Monday, 16 January 2012

Why rescue ferrets?

Ferret rescues are not only a temporary home for abandoned, sick, or  lonely ferrets. They can also become permanent homes to ferrets with severe psychological problems, problems that are often created by our own hands.
Ferrets can end up in shelters for many different reasons, the most common being;

  • Abandoned by their owners as they could no longer care for them or were bought as an impulse buy or as a present
  • They had escaped from their home and were taken to a rescue centre, such as intact males straying to search for females
  • They have been rescued from appalling conditions/cruelty cases
  • They can get lost during ferreting
  • They can be 'released' by their owners due to too many kits or not enough funds for neutering
One thing that I would stress is that kits (young ferrets) are not ideal for first time ferret owners. They are very nippy and need to be properly nip trained. Many kits end up in rescue centres as their owners find them unmanageable. My two were 6 months old when we rescued them, and were still in the biting stage, since they are my first ferrets it was hard at first to see a light at the end of the tunnel. They are now the gentlest little guys.
I rescued my ferrets and my dog who sadly had to be put to sleep in September. I can remember cradling my boy Alfie in my arms, saw he was blind in one eye and fell in love immediately! I just couldn't put him back in the cage and drive off with a different ferret, I didn't want him to be overlooked because of his cataract. My husband fell in love with another albino male and that is how we went looking for two non albino females and came away with two albino hobs! It was meant to be for us.
I don't know anything about my ferrets' backgrounds except that they are brothers, and you know what? I don't want to know. It's enough to know that they now have a loving forever home with all the cuddles and treats they could ask for. 
Not all ferrets are as lucky as Alfie and Shiro though, many are still looking for new loving homes, some being constantly overlooked due to imperfections or behaviour problems. Baby ferrets are cute, but they don't stay kits forever! Please remember when you are tempted by those cute baby eyes the conditions in which some large scale breeders operate in. By buying ferrets from a pet store or breeder you are keeping them going, and ensuring the ongoing suffering of many breeding stock ferrets. 
Not all breeders are irresponsible, but I would always rescue ferrets, as for every pet store ferret sold there is another in a rescue waiting for its second chance at happiness. 
The two videos that I am about to share with you were brought to my attention via a ferret page on Facebook. The first shows the work of ferret rescuers in a case where the farmer actually admitted that he could no longer care for the ferrets at his facility. It has images of the appalling conditions that they ferrets were found in as well as some heart-warming photos of some of the ferrets they rescued.
The second video is mainly to show the care and love that  ferrets receive once they are rescued from various situations and levels of neglect. Just be warned-you may need some tissues!
 For the second video please follow this link http://www.manitobaferrets.ca/reality/whysheltersexist.html

If you are interested in providing a rescue ferret with its forever home then please either contact your local ferret club, veterinarian or ferret forum for details of ferret rescue organisations close to you. Alternatively you could do what I did and search for ferret rescues in your area online via a search engine such as google. 

Friday, 13 January 2012

What you will need before you buy your ferrets.

It can be tempting to just rush straight out and buy the fuzzies first. However it is very important that you have their new home all set up ready for their arrival. Below I have compiled a list of things that you should have before you go and pick your ferts up.

  • Cage/hutch This is the most important thing to have set up as your ferrets will need to go straight in here when they get home and spend around a day in without coming out to enable them to settle in. It should be of an appropriate size for the number of ferrets you are getting, the bigger the better really as in this case size really does matter! If it is a tall cage then I would suggest the careful placement of several hammocks to break the fall of any free-falling fuzzy. Wire ladders and ledges are a terrible design, not only are they uncomfortable for your pet to walk on they can cause foot problems such as bumble foot.  If you do get a cage with wired parts then you can either buy or make covers from various materials. Also try to find a cage that you will find easy to maintain. The best thing to do would probably be to ask around on ferret sites or forums, the well seasoned ferret owners will tell you what cages are fab and what to stay away from!
  • Bowls/water bottles Your ferrets will need decent size bowls for food and/or water if you choose. My ferrets used to drink from water bottles, but since I put water down in a bowl for their out of cage play they refuse to drink from the bottles any more! Bottles are recommended as ferrets love to tip bowls over and mine like to splash and 'dig' the water! Aside from getting water everywhere this could be quite dangerous if you leave your ferrets on a warm day and they have tipped all of the water from their bowl. I have bottles on the side of the cage as insurance. the food/water bowls need to be heavy and non tip. I favour the large ceramic bowls as mine cannot tip them, but there are non-tip bowls on the market.
  • Travel cage You will need a travel cage, or several depending on the size, to transport your ferrets home on the first day. They will also be necessary for trips to the vet and for transportation for shows. Please pick the largest you can find as if they need to relieve themselves it will be unpleasant for them to have to stand/sit virtually on top of it. Try to find cages that allow a bottle to be attached to the side for long journeys.
  • Ferret grooming To keep your pets looking their best you will need a brush (I favour the bristle type rather than the wire slicker type, the last thing you want is a ferret clamping down on sharp wire), toothpaste and a toothbrush (do not use human toothpaste, use a meaty/malt toothpaste formulated for pets along with small finger caps/brushes to gently remove tartar), nail clippers (you can buy special small animal claw clippers or just use small cosmetic clippers), ferret shampoo, and ear cleaner or gentle baby wipes to clean excess wax from their ears, do not poke around inside the ear as you can cause damage such as perforated ear drums. I use baby wipes as although I have heard of using cotton buds I think that this could be a bit risky as if the ferret suddenly jerks his head around it could cause the bud to enter the ear canal. I just worry too much!
  • Bedding, floor covering and litter You will need somewhere cosy for your ferrets to cuddle up. This can be provided by hammocks, hanging tents, sleep sacks, purpose made beds or if the cage has an enclosed section as a sleeping area you could line it with fleecy blankets or old fleece sweaters. You will need a suitable substrate for the cage floor. Different people use different things. I use a paper based material which is basically tea bag paper-a by product from the food industry, it is super absorbent and soft to walk on/nestle in. Other people use straw but this could be quite dusty and cause respiratory problems. I know some people do use sawdust and wood shavings but personally I stay well clear of these as they are known to cause respiratory problems. Other things that I have heard of people using are offcuts of carpet or linoleum to line the floor that can be replaced as necessary. Shredded paper is a fantastic substrate, it soaks up any mess, is cheap and relatively easy to obtain, just don't use newspaper and make sure any staples have been removed prior to shredding. You will need something to line litter trays with, it is often a good idea to have a separate material to the rest of the cage as the ferrets can then identify this as their toilet area. There are litters that have been created especially for ferrets but most paper based cat litter is suitable, just stay away from clay based litter, it can be very dusty and also the clay can be spread very quickly across your floor!
  • Litter tray accessories You will need either a poop scoop to regularly clean up mess from the litter tray or poop bags. You could use doggy bags or nappy bags, these are what I use and the price varies greatly from place to place. You can pick them up quite cheaply at markets, something like £1 for 200 but I now get mine from my local supermarket which is saving me a fortune! I pay around 13p for 100 value nappy sacks, you can't argue with the price and they get the job done.
  • Food and treats You will need to have food and treats ready. Treats can be high in sugar so I use them sparingly, usually as a way to get the ferrets to do what I want. Ferretone is an oil based vitamin supplement that ferrets adore! It can be used to socialise ferrets and introduce new ferrets into an existing group, to teach your ferret tricks or trickled on their belly to enable you to perform health checks and clip nails. There are many different diets you can offer your ferret, I will go into more detail in a future post but here I will outline the main diets and what you should look out for. Kibble diets are a complete dried diet. They can be expensive but it is well worth paying a little extra to know your fuzzy is getting the best it can get. Cat food is no longer recommended so please do try to find a good ferret food. I quite like the James Wellbeloved ferret food and the Supreme science selective ferret food. Their prices differ slightly but as far as I can tell the nutritional analysis and ingredient lists are more or less the same. You need a food that is high protein between 35 and 40%. It should have quite a high fat content , around 20% or more and a very small amount of fibre, ideally less than 2%. Good quality meat should be listed rather than meat by products. Also check that the protein is not coming from things like vegetables as ferrets are obligate carnivores and need meat based protein. Also ensure that the food is low in sugar. If you want to compare food then use the nutritional analysis along with the list of ingredients. The ingredients list will have the highest amounts first and the least last, for example my food has poultry meal at the top at 43% and linseed is near the bottom with only 2%. You can also feed your ferrets with an all meat diet that can be given raw or cooked. Raw meat such as chicken can be given on the bone, this provides your ferret with calcium and helps to keep their teeth tartar free. Do not give cooked meat on the bone as once the bones have been cooked they are extremely brittle and can cause a serious injury to your pet. I have been told to stay away from pork products and I supplement my ferrets kibble diet with pieces of rabbit, turkey, chicken and beef, I am going to try them on heart and liver soon too. My ferrets seem to prefer cooked meat, they will eat this straight away whereas they will stash raw meat and it often has to be removed before it goes bad. If feeding cooked meats ensure that you have not used seasoning and it isn't something from your plate that's been smothered in veg, sauces and the like. It would be an idea to find a 'duck soup' recipe that works for you. Duck soup often contains no duck at all and is mainly used to help poorly ferrets get nutrition, although some feed it as a treat. Ferrets often do not see soup as a food at first but it's a good idea to persevere as your ferret may need to eat the nutritious soup if they become ill. Also some ferret owners make a gravy or use natural meat juices to pour over kibble. 
  • Harness and lead set This is essential for taking your ferret out and about on walks or to shows. There are many different types out there, you simply need to find the right design for you and your pets.
  • Cage cleaner I use a cage cleaner that is formulated for use in small animal cages and hutches. Most are antibacterial disinfectants that kill germs whilst cleaning the cage. I would try not to get an overly fragranced cleaner as this could affect your ferret. The ferrets will need to be away from the cage when you clean, the cage should be thoroughly dried before they go back in and it should never be used on your ferrets.
  • Toys Ferrets love toys! Mine seem to prefer the packaging that the toy came in than the toy itself, and this is why I think it is often better to provide home-made toys. You can buy chasers and cat teasers, wind up wheelie toys, squeaky and chewy toys, cat scratcher homes, play tunnels and balls but I've found that my ferrets favourite toys are cardboard boxes, bubble wrap and plastic bags! Obviously you will need to supervise them with things that they could tear and swallow or become trapped in and suffocate. All toys should be checked regularly for wear and tear. I would also recommend that you do not put plastic bags and bubble wrap etc in their cage for safety reasons, mine only play with them when they are outside the cage and I can supervise them.

I hope my little list will help you be prepared for the new arrivals, but there are also a couple of other points to consider before getting the ferrets. If they will be running free around the house at any point in time then all the rooms that they have access to will need to be ferret proofed, holes and gaps need to be blocked, dangerous objects removed and all climbable objects need to be considered. It is also a good idea to have a list of potential vets to speak to. You will need to ask them things like 'how many ferrets do you treat a week?' and 'do you have any vets that specialise in exotics?' It is not always the expensive vets that are the best but I certainly wouldn't always go for the cheapest. I use a vet that specialises in exotics, it is a 45 minute drive each way for me but I have peace of mind that they are in safe hands.
For some excellent ferret toys try http://ferretcouture.com/shop/toys.asp. For cages you could try http://www.justcages.co.uk/ferret-cages or http://www.amazon.co.uk/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=ferret+cage&x=10&y=18. For ferret 'soup' recipes type 'duck soup for ferrets' in google or a similar search engine. There are so many recipes out there, they are all really just slight variations of each other. Don't forget to contact a ferret club or forum as they will have lots of hints and tips as well as recipe ideas!

Thursday, 12 January 2012

Ferret illnesses.

Ferrets are vulnerable to both ferret specific illnesses and general illnesses. As with many other animals the full list is quite extensive, so I will focus on the more commonplace illnesses. For a comprehensive list you could read one of my favourite ferret books, 'Ferrets' by V. McKimmey or look online at http://www.ferretuniverse.com/health/index.asp for an overview of ferret illnesses and what to do if your pet becomes ill or  http://www.pethealthinfo.org.uk/ferrets/qanda.html for some common Q&A's regarding ferret health.
Please be aware that I am not a vet and the facts regarding ferret illnesses that are listed below are gleaned from my own research. Please do not attempt to self-diagnose as you may end up doing your ferret more harm than good and do consult a vet if you notice that your pet has any symptoms or behaviour changes. Remember your ferret doesn't necessarily have to show all of the symptoms that are common to a particular illness for your pet to have it.

Ferret specific illnesses

Adrenal Gland Tumours Are common in ferrets. You may notice hair loss that originates from the around the tail and itchy, dry skin. Females may have enlarged vulva's. Surgery is the most common form of treatment although there are medicines that can be used to make the ferret more comfortable if surgery is not an option.

Epizootic Catarrhal Enteritis Causes inflammation and infection in the intestinal lining. The ferret is likely to have diarrhoea which will in turn cause dehydration. It is also known as the 'green slime' disease due to the dramatic colour change of the bowel movements, which become green or yellow. The pet may refuse to eat or drink but getting them fluids and food is vital and a trip to the vet as soon as possible would be the best course of action.

Insulinoma Is a very common tumour in ferrets.  Your ferret may have seizures, back end weakness and stare into space. Commonly you would see your ferret pawing at it's mouth and salivating excessively. Your vet can prescribe medicines to try and treat it or try to operate to remove some of the bulk of the tumour temporarily.

Lymphosarcoma Affects the lymphoid system and is a malignant cancer. Signs can vary according to the part of the body affected but can range from lethargy and weight loss to enlarged lymph nodes and skin tumours. The vet may decide to try and treat by performing surgery or chemotherapy.

Tail blackheads As the name suggets normally affect the tail. These are fairly easy to eliminate and your vet will be able to prescribe some special shampoo.

Other illnesses and parasites to be aware of

Ticks Are parasites that burrow into your pets skin. The bulbous fleshy part that is visible is actually the tick's body part, the head is under the skin. Sometimes you can see their little black leg parts moving. You can try to remove the tick at home using tweezers to grasp the body as close to the head as possible and rotating whilst you gently pull. I would not recommend doing this yourself however as quite often the head part can be left in the skin which then leads to an infection or an abscess. Your vet will be experienced in removing ticks and this is the route I will always take. I have had to remove ticks while working as a dog groomer and it was one of my least favourite jobs!

Ringworm Is a fungal infection that affects the skin. It is an interspecies infection, which means that we can both pass it on to our ferrets or catch it from them. It presents itself with ring shaped red patches which can look similar to eczema. The vet will prescribe an anti fungal treatment.

Fleas Are probably the best known parasite. They suck your ferrets blood and can cause anaemia. You can buy various flea treatments and preventatives from your vet, the most common probably being the pipette type drop treatment. Please ensure that the product you buy is suitable for use on ferrets as using the wrong product or too much of a product can have harmful consequences.

Ear mites Can be difficult to detect as ferrets have dark earwax, but the most common signs of ear mites are persistent scratching of the ears, head shaking and having a head tilt.

Canine Distemper Is a viral disease that is normally fatal as there is no cure. Early symptoms can include an eye squint and an abdominal rash, followed by a rash/thickened skin on the chin. other symptoms that have been associated include skin thickening of the paw pads, conjunctivitis and fever. There is currently no licensed vaccine for ferrets and like all vaccines there can be side effects. You would need to discuss your options with your vet, at the end of the day it is your decision as to whether you vaccinate or not. It is simply a case of weighing up the pros and cons. I had my boys vaccinated yesterday and thankfully they suffered no ill effects, they weren't even lethargic. Each ferret can react differently though and there are so many scare stories on the web that I would just advise you to speak to a trusted exotic or ferret specialist vet.

To round things off I would just like to remind you to please see a vet if you are at all worried about your ferret. Yes it will likely incur a consultation fee but surely this is better than leaving it until the last minute when you will probably will then have more costly bills and a fair amount of heartache.

Wednesday, 11 January 2012

A trip to the vets.

So my boys had their Canine Distemper vaccines today and it all went without a hitch. On the journey to and from the clinic we were treated to some photo opportunities, I thought that I would share some of the photos with you.

Tuesday, 10 January 2012

Alfie tries to steal a bowl of water!

This is a prime example of ferret 'scooting' behaviour. 'Scooting' refers to when a ferret tries to move an object by holding it with their front paws and shuffling backwards with it. Very funny to watch! Unfortunately this bowl was full when he started, you can probably guess how much was in the bowl when he had finished...

The boys talk harnesses.

Ok, so after an infuriating time trying to find the 'right' harnesses for us and our fuzzies I feel that I can have some say on the matter. We bought a H type harness with clips and a figure 8 type when we first got our little guys. Well, we gave the H type to Shiro, and after many attempts we managed to fit it, to find it was too big. So off the harness came to be adjusted a little bit before we put it back on again. And repeat. Finally we had the harness set to the correct size so all that we have to do now is put it on and clip it together. Shiro found the whole experience rather confusing, 'what is this?' And he wasn't always too keen on being hooked up to 'the contraption', we actually found it easier to scruff him for the 'putting on' process.
The figure 8 shape harness that we bought for Alfie is designed to slip over the head and fasten around the belly. Well, this should be much easier than the H type right? Well, some may find it easier, we did not. It basically has to be adjusted every time it is put on. Once the top part is slipped over the head (not an easy feat) you then have to pull it tighter until it fits properly around the neck. Very easy when you have a wiggling ferret to contend with. Once that challenge is complete You can then fasten the belly strap....'Oh wait, it's too big, we just need to adjust the slide buckle to tighten it....Ok, he's wiggling far too much, lets take it off to do it....' Then you have to start over as you have loosened the neck loop to get the thing off! Once you have made the belly strap shorter however, the buckle stops you from feeding both sides through to loosen the neck part, so you have a ferret desperate to be free, wiggling like crazy and you have to try and remember the side that you can pull etc. etc. Well we made the belly strap as short as possible and tried again, to find that the belly strap hung there limp and lifeless, not so much as touching his ribcage. I was surprised it didn't fit as it was designed for ferrets! After fighting to remove said harness I threw it to the ground and declared I would get a H type like Shiro's.
Instead of travelling to the large pet store we bought the original from we had a look in our local pet store, to see what they had. We found a H shape with buckles (like belt buckles) and an extra long lead. This was easier to fasten than if it had designated holes as the prong could be pushed through anywhere. It was only after we returned home and tried our purchase that it dawned on me. You still need to adjust it every time! I couldn't believe I had been so foolish. Some people may find buckles or 8 shape harnesses easy to use but they just were not right for us or our ferrets. We need harnesses that we can put on quickly and easily, and to be honest we found the H type with clips the easiest to use. The only downside we have found is that as the clips are small it can be a bit fiddly to press the buttons in to undo them.
The boys are still a bit wary of their harnesses, they slide around backwards on the floor trying to wriggle free, but I know it can take a while for ferrets to get used to the idea.
I would suggest that you buy whichever harness that you feel comfortable with, try the clips/buckles/slide fasteners in the store to get a feel of it. Just remember that what seems fairly easy in the shop will be significantly harder once there is a ferret involved! Unless you have a very well behaved ferret of course. If you find the harness difficult to use in the shop I really wouldn't buy it, or else you will probably end up wasting your money as I did.
The harness is properly fitted when it is snug and they cannot wriggle free. I would be sure that they cannot escape before I take them outside, to be on the safe side. Do not make the harness too tight as it will cause stress and discomfort and could cause injury. You should be able to slide your little finger between the strap and your ferts body.
When putting your ferret in a harness for the first few times you need to understand that it can be stressful for them, and personally I find it hard watching them while they are in the harnesses, but they do need to get used to it as it is vital they do not go outside without one on as they can easily slip into a gap/hole never to return. I would recommend putting them on for a short period of time at first and then gradually increase the time they spend in the harness. Do not leave your ferret unattended while in a harness as they can easily get caught on things which can then cause injuries. Also when you have your ferret attached to the lead never pick the ferret up by pulling on the lead, dangle your ferret by the lead or pull him around if he doesn't want to go in the same direction as you, simply scoop him up and carry him to your destination.
For more information on safe harness use and fitting I recommend http://essentialferretguide.com/tips/harnesses.php.
If you are looking to purchase a harness then you could have a look at

http://www.companionschoice.co.uk/category_Ferret_Harness_And_Leads_1.htm or http://ferretcouture.com/shop/harness-sets.asp
The prong buckle H shape
The figure 8 shape harness

Shiro in his clip buckle H shape
Alfie finally in his perfect harness

Monday, 9 January 2012

Want a ferret? Read this.

There are a few basics to learn before taking on ferrets. I'm not writing this to put anyone off, ferrets make wonderful pets. It's just that so many people impulse buy without doing any prior research into the animal and then surrender their pets to a shelter, or worse, let them loose into the wild to almost certain death.
Ferrets are not a short term commitment like a hamster for instance. They can live for anything between 6 and 9 years, sometimes even longer than that.
Ferrets need daily human companionship with at least two hours out of their cage for play every day. The beauty about having ferrets is that if you are at work they will be safely tucked away in their cage, probably sleeping, and can then come out to play when you get home.
It isn't really a good idea to buy a single ferret unless you are at home most of the time and can devote a huge amount of time to keep the little one company. Ferrets really do need to live in pairs or groups, they can entertain each other when you cannot and keep each other company. Having two ferrets instead of one doesn't make much of a difference to the amount of time you give them or cash that you need to spend. It is likely that you will already have a large cage and toys, there will just be one more mouth to feed. The only downside to having a pair of ferrets is that they can become so closely bonded that if one passes away, the other can often follow close after due to grief.
Ferrets need to be fed rather as a working dog would, with a constant supply of food, particularly if feeding dry kibble. They have incredibly fast metabolisms and need to eat every four hours or so, and all that food has to come out the other end too!
As I mentioned when I spoke about lifespan ferrets are not the same as a small rodent in terms of care, which is a common misconception. They will require trips to the vet for yearly check ups and vaccinations and they need to be neutered . So before you go crazy and get say 4 or 5 ferrets you need to consider whether you will be able to afford to care for them all! There has to be nothing sadder than an elderly, sick ferret being given up for re homing as the owner has decided they can no longer see to it's needs.
One thing to consider is where you are going to place the cage (if indoors) or hutch (if outdoors). With an indoor placement you need to keep the cage out of direct sunlight, away from draughts, not directly near a heater or radiator and far enough away from the TV/radio so that they will not be frightened of any loud noises and can sleep peacefully. If they will live outdoors then you will need to study the garden at various times during the day to discover the shadiest spots (it's no use if the area is shaded in the morning but then in full sun at midday when the sun is highest!) Ferrets cannot handle heat well and can die very quickly from heat exhaustion. The hutch/enclosure used will need to offer protection from the elements, preferably with an enclosed sleeping area for warmth during the winter. Placement near a fence or wall would be ideal to protect from harsh winds blowing through their home. Ferrets do not deal very well with damp conditions either.
If you feel that you can meet these requirements then definitely consider getting ferrets, they offer years of love, fun and companionship with a hint of cheekiness! Also if you ensure that you meet all their needs then you can have a happier, healthier pet and avoid heartache in the long run. For information on your local ferret rescues then please contact your local area's ferret club. For more information on what to expect before you commit then you could try http://www.all-about-ferrets.com/ferret-as-a-pet.html.

Saturday, 7 January 2012

This is a video of Alfie and Shiro having a wrestle in my old dogs bed. Wait for the awesome leap of Alfies!

Fun and games.

Ferrets love to play. Hard. When you play with your ferret don't expect to be able to keep up with him! Ferrets have a huge amount of energy and can play for hours!
My ferrets enjoy being chased and chasing in return, with a healthy amount of tussles in between. When ferrets play together it can look quite rough, but remember that if a ferret was in distress he would show it.
Ferrets need human companionship every day, not only for your continued bonding but also for their mental health. There are many games that you can play with your fuzzy, but each individual will have their own preferences of what games they enjoy, just as we have different hobbies.
You can chase them around the house and encourage them to chase you. My ferrets love doing this when I don't initiate it, I guess it's more fun when you know you're being cheeky!
Some ferrets also enjoy playing with cat teasers. You can dangle it in the air in front of them and watch as they leap and twist trying to catch it. It can also be dragged along the ground ahead of them for them to chase.  Be careful with toys such as this as they often contain small parts, such as rattle beads inside and feathers glued to the exterior, which can pose a choking hazard, or cause intestinal blockage if swallowed. Towels can also be used in the same manner.
My boys love a shallow tray of water to drink from and paddle in. Shiro actually enjoys digging in the water, so a towel, or several is always a good thing to have on hand. It's adorable when they are both drinking as sometimes they will half lick, half play bite at each others wet noses.
Plastic or paper bags provide fun hidey holes, they love making the plastic bags rustle and mine in particular get a kick out of pouncing on whoever is in the bag . Never leave your ferret unattended with bags, they could  rip them, try to chew on them or even become trapped and suffocate.
Cardboard boxes of all shapes and sizes are great fun for your ferret. They can climb on them, in them and use them as ferrety forts. Mine use boxes to play hide and seek, it is really fun to watch. You can combine several boxes together and make several entrance/exit holes for even more fun.
Long tunnels or tubes encourage their tunnelling behaviour. Tumble dryer hose is flexible so numerous courses can be invented.
Dig boxes give your pet something to dig other than your pot plants or their litter tray! You can use a plastic storage box or container for substances such as play sand and potting soil or you could use large cardboard boxes for things such as plastic or paper balls.
Whatever games you decide to try with your little friends, have fun!
For more games that you can try visit http://www.faqs.org/faqs/pets/ferret-faq/part3/section-7.html or http://www.all-about-ferrets.com/ferret-games.html The latter is very amusing, I will let you read it for yourselves though!

Friday, 6 January 2012

C M ferret and animal photos.

Miss Martin captures the moment with her animal photographs. whether you are looking for a traditional portrait or something a little more quirky, Miss Martin can help you. Her photographs capture the essence of the animal being portrayed, for example, her ferret pictures show their cheeky, self assured natures perfectly.
But don't just take my word for it! Below are a selection of some of my personal favourites. Beware, cuteness levels are about to rise!

For more of Miss Martins photos or to discuss your special photo shoot please visit her Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/CMFerretPhotos Or alternatively Flickr users can visit http://www.flickr.com/photos/claire_fairy/

Distemper vaccine-is it safe?

Ferrets can contract Canine Distemper and sadly it is nearly always fatal. They can pick up the disease by going out on walks or to shows and meeting infected animals, or it can also be brought into the home on clothes and shoes.
Typical symptoms of distemper include fever, thickened skin around the chin, lips and feet, conjunctivitis, diarrhoea, vomiting and seizures. 
There are vaccines for distemper that can normally be given once a year. Unfortunately the vaccines currently available are not licensed for use on ferrets, which can lead to problems. Most ferrets can have the vaccine and suffer no adverse reactions, however there are a few cases in which ferrets have become very ill from having a bad reaction, even to the extent that it becomes fatal. 
My two are due for their first vaccination soon and I am concerned that this vaccination is going to do more harm than good. However, the number of ferrets that have the vaccine without being affected far outweigh those that do suffer from a reaction. 
Because of the concern that surrounds these unlicensed vaccines I have signed a petition called 'The formation of a regulated vaccine for ferrets against Canine Distemper within the UK'. Does pretty much what it says on the tin! If you would like to find out more or even sign the petition please visit  http://www.gopetition.com/petitions/the-formation-of-a-regulated-vaccine-for-ferrets-agains.html

For more information on Canine Distemper in ferrets you could try http://starescue.org.uk/#/ferret-health-part-3/4541763939 Or http://www.britishferrets.info/index.php?p=1_7_Health-Issues Although most ferret sites will have information on Canine Distemper.

Ferret portraits by Serena Skelley.

If you are looking for someone to immortalise your ferrets then look no further than Serena Skelley.
Serena creates beautiful ferret portraits using different media. She can tailor the drawings to your specifications, so all you need to do is ask! When buying a portrait from Serena you can have peace of mind that all the proceeds gained go either towards her personally rescuing an unwanted ferret or to a ferret rescue shelter, where many unwanted ferrets are waiting for their forever homes. So not only will you receive a portrait to cherish, you will also be helping an excellent cause.
Below are a few of my favourites from her page on Facebook. For more of her artwork and for information on how to contact her please follow the link. http://www.facebook.com/pages/Ferret-Portraits-by-Serena-Skelley/181394478595449

Thursday, 5 January 2012

This is a short video of my two boys playing with a towel. This is just one example of how even everyday objects can provide ferrets with hours of fun. The most expensive toys aren't always the best!

Some things you may or may not know about ferrets.

What is a ferret?
Firstly, lets clear up one little thing. Ferrets are NOT rodents! They are carnivores and belong to the Mustelidae family. Rodents have incisors that continually grow which they use for gnawing, whereas ferrets have canines that they use to puncture food and manipulate objects (such as toys). They would find most rodents very tasty though! 
Ferrets have very good hearing and can hear high-frequency sounds. Their large nose provides them with an excellent sense of smell. Add to these traits their slender, flexible bodies and it's no wonder why they are used for a special type of hunting called ferreting.
Female ferrets are considerably smaller than the males and can weigh from 1-2-1/2 lbs. The males tend to weigh between 2-5 lbs.
Ferrets can live for anything from 6 to 9 years, with some records of ferrets living for over 10 years!

'Stop! Thief!' and other ferret behaviours.
Ferrets are well known for their love of stashing desirable objects, in fact the word 'ferret' comes from the Latin meaning 'Thief'. They can find even the most ordinary of household objects highly desirable and will stash them in a 'secret' hiding place. For example my ferrets love my husbands work gloves. They kept taking them from his bag and trying to hide them, so one day he gave them an old pair, which started the mother of all play fights! They play tug of war over them and steal each others gloves from their individual hiding spots. My suggestion would be that if there is anything that you do not want to be 'stashed', remove it from reach!

They love to dig and to try and squeeze into small spaces, which is why if you have indoor ferrets then any rooms that they will be loose in will need to be proofed. Make sure that they cannot climb to great heights, get stuck in a tight space, encounter dangerous objects or get themselves into other dangerous situations.

Dooking is the term used for when ferrets emit a chirping or 'dook dook' sound when they are happy or excited. This is commonly heard when they display the 'dance of joy'.

The ferret dance of joy consists of ferrets bouncing off the walls (somtimes literally!) They will jump around from side to side, roll on the floor, spin around and they may dook and have they mouths slightly open. This dance means exactly what is says, it is performed when a ferret is very happy and excited. This can be confused with the war dance which has a very different meaning.

The ferret war dance is displayed when a ferret is saying 'back off'. They arch their backs, puff their fur and tails, dance from side to side and back away. They may also hiss or scent in defence.

Ferrets love to play fight with each other, you will see them pounce on one another, play hide and seek, roll each other by the scruff and chase each other. It really is fun to watch. Just make sure you listen out for any screams which would indicate that they really are fighting.

The boys try a ferret bed set from ferretbeds.co.uk

The boys tried out the turquoise and yellow bed set from ferretbeds and they were very impressed! The hammock has plenty of room for even two large ferrets to stretch out. The tent provides a cosy hideaway. Unlike the hammock it doesn't have any cushioning, I'm sure they wouldn't mind without but I added some fleece inside to make it extra cosy. They liked lying on top of and inside the cushioned sleeping bag, which again, is big enough for two. They enjoyed playing peekaboo with the play tube, which can be used with or without suspending it from the cage. The cardboard tube can be removed to enable washing. The material is of a good quality, although as with all bedding and toy products they will need checking regularly for wear and tear. They don't come with chain or clips for hanging, but inevitably the length of chain you need will depend on the design of your cage. You can pick lengths of chain and clips up from most good DIY or hardware stores. I use a different combination of clips for the three hanging products due to their different sizes. Ensure the hammock will not touch the ground once they are in or else it defeats the object of a hammock! On the other hand be aware of how high you are placing the products as they will need to be able to safely get in and out. This set cost me £15 (not including postage) and I am very pleased with my purchase (and so are the boys!) There are a variety of colours to choose from but she can make the products specifically for you if request it, if you want a different colour or size.


Wednesday, 4 January 2012

Some good UK ferret clubs that I have discovered.

Probably the best known ferret club has to be The British ferret club. http://www.britishferretclub.org.uk/ The site has information on keeping ferrets as pets and as working animals, the history of the ferret, ferret rescues and boarding facilities, as well as details on ferret shows.

The Norfolk and Suffolk ferret club is a local club for me and has a comprehensive list of ferret facts, information on shows, a new on-site shop and a gallery of photos. http://www.norfolkandsuffolkferretclub.co.uk/ Their aim is to 'To promote, educate & encourage good ferret husbandry and change the old myths surrounding ferrets' which is a cause close to my heart. 

My first blog, so please be patient!

Ok, so this is my first blog, so it may take me awhile to get everything sorted. I aim to bring you ferret news, products and events, so watch this space!