Why 3 Ferrets For Our Business?

In a recent discussion on /r/ferrets the topic of business size came up.  Apparently there was a poll where the ideal size of a business was determined to be 3-5 ferrets.  One of the regular posters inquired why.  Firexcracker, our resident guru of all things ferrety explained, “Ferrets grieve the loss of loved ones and sometimes they grieve hard.”  What follows was my reply in support of that statement.

That’s happening right now to me. Xander only knew Xena for about a year and a half. He was the new adopted brudder and he’s more daddy’s boy than anything else. So he’s taking it well because he’s still got his dad.

Xara, however, was with Xena since they were kits. I dunno if they were litter mates (Marshall’s ferrets, after all) but they were adopted from the same pet store together, surrendered to the shelter together, kept together at the shelter, and finally adopted out to my wife and me. They were together for close to 5 years.

That first night it killed me when I saw Xara looking through all of Xena’s common sleeping spots in the cage looking for her sister. After not finding Xena she just curled up in their favorite hammy. I had to stop what I was doing and hold her. Let her know her dad still cares for her.

Normally when I pick her up she will tolerate about 30 seconds of scritchins before wiggling to be let down. That night she just laid in my arms, letting me scritch and pet her for more than 10 minutes. A minute or two in she just started shaking. She kept shaking, on and off, for the whole time I held her. She finally squirmed a bit so I put her back in the hammy and let her sleep.

Every morning and night since I make a point to pick her up and hold her. Every time she just sits in my arms. She doesn’t shake like the first night, but she’s certainly not in any hurry to be let down.

But I’m not there all the time. I have human things to do like work and chores and resting and such. That’s where Xander comes in. The past few times I checked in on them Xander has been snuggling with Xara. Normally it was the girls in the bottom of the two-level hammy and Xander up top. Now he’s often the bottom of the two fert pile. I think, and hope, that Xander being there is helping Xara during the times I or my wife aren’t around to give her extra helpings of love.


D.I.P. Xena – 2009-2014-03-08

Xena and Xara snugging in their favorite hammy

Xena (top) and Xara (bottom) snugging in their favorite hammy

We adopted Xena, along with her sister Xara, a little over two and a half years ago.  They came as a pair from the local ferret shelter.  Before that they had been adopted from the same pet store by a military man who could not keep them.  He had been deployed to the Middle East and had no one here in Las Vegas to care for them.  The pet store adoption papers put them at about 2 years old.  They were bonded and inseparable.  Not that we would ever think to do anything of the sort.

I called Xena my little warrior princess because of her name.  She really didn’t live up to it.  Aside from chomping my thumb twice while adjusting to her new home she rarely fought with her sister nor with her new baby brother when we adopted him a year later.  She left putting the new boy in place to Xara.  No, Xena was more princess than Xara was.  After eating she would always find the nearest blankie and rub her face over it a few times.  My wife and I figured she was just getting the crumbs off face like any proper lady should.

Xena was the caretaker of the toy stash.  Any time we moved the toys she was the one that ran around to make sure each was put back in its place.  She even chased around a water bottle or two at 3am, much to the annoyance of my sleeping wife.

Lately though she started to slow down.  We chalked it up to her getting up in years.  Then a trip to the vet a little under a year ago let us know she had insulinoma.  Common in ferrets, especially for her age.  As time passed she slowed down a bit more, slept a bit longer, snugged her sister more often, and put up with the boy invading their cuddle puddle as much as she ever did.

But last week Xena got really, really slow.  She had runny poops.  Another trip to the vet confirmed what we suspected.  Her insulinoma had advanced and we needed to up her dose.  She was down from 1.6lbs to 1.1lbs.  The vet said the prednisone would help with her GI problems which should increase her appetite.

It didn’t.

I didn’t notice.

Two days ago as I was rounding up the kidlets to put them to bed before I myself went to sleep I found 3 very dark, very runny poops behind the igloo, Xena’s favorite out-of-the-cage sleeping spot.  She was pooping blood, lots of it.  I bundled her up, left for the vet’s and forgot my keys in the house.  In the end my wife drove us down.

Xena was down to 0.8lbs, 1/2 her normal weight.  Our normal vet, DrK, didn’t think she had a good chance.  I thought now that we knew she hadn’t been eating if we syringe fed her, made sure she got some food and liquids, she might bounce back.  If we could get her blood glucose levels up we can tackle the other problems.  So I decided to take her home.  We had instructions to feed her every few hours as long as she accepted the food.  But if she didn’t perk up by morning to bring her back in as she probably would not make it much longer.

That night my wife fed her every few hours as I slept.  By the time we got home I had been up almost 26 hours.  After several hours of sleep we traded off.  I held Xena and fed her with a syringe every few hours.  But I could see the decline.  She was moving less.  She was starting to fight the feeding more.  By morning it was clear, she wasn’t going to pull through.

So the morning of March 8th I let my wife know I think it was time to let her go.  I say it that way because I’m the one who had to try one more night, who couldn’t give up the day before.  I made sure Xara got to snug her sister, and Xander got to see Xena, before we left.  We arrived at the vet’s office, held her tight for a little while longer, then held her as she passed.

Dook in peace, my warrior princess.  Be free of pain.  I’ll take care of your sister as best I can.  I’ll do better.

Ferrets and Heat – Have More Than Just Ideas!

I live in Vegas. As you might know the SW of the US has been having one hell of a heat wave. Here in Vegas we’re pushing well over 110F. In fact just two days ago we hit 117F. The AC at our house died in the evening two days ago. Let me say right now our ferrets are fine, this isn’t one of those posts.

Being ferret owners my wife and I thought we were covered. We have a portable AC in our ferret’s room. We had bottles of frozen water ready to plop in their cage. We had a commitment from my mom that we could bring the ferrets to her house if all else failed. Well, it all failed.

1. The portable AC we had was not capable of keeping up with the heating for the room it was in. Our ferrets reside in our bedroom suite on the 2nd floor. The portable AC does great to help keep the room the 2-3 degrees cooler than what we set the rest of our house to. But when the main AC failed the best it could do was keep the area around the cage at 77F-78F and only at night. So we were able to keep our ferrets in our house that night.

2. The next day we broke out the bottles of ice. The standard advice is that the ferrets will snuggle with the bottles when it gets hot. As with all standard advice, the caveat is that individual ferrets might not act in the same way. Well, our three kept far away from the ice bottles. This was bad as the thermometer on their cage had edged up to 82F by noon yesterday.

3. While I love my mom to death and she loves her grandferts our idea of bringing the ferrets to her house was just that, an idea. When it became clear that the portable AC was not going to keep up and their lives were in danger we realized my mom’s place doesn’t have a ferret proofed room, doesn’t have a cage, and we had no portable cage. We couldn’t keep them cooped up in a tiny travel cage and without a complete ferret proofing we weren’t comfortable letting them roam in one of her spare rooms; especially with her 3 cats who have never seen ferrets before.

In the end we called our cat & dog vet (1/2 hour closer than our ferret vet) and boarded them at the vets office. Even then we were lucky since later that day they were completely full with other animals in similar situations. If that hadn’t worked out we would’ve tried the other vet’s office or sucked it up and figured out a way to make them comfortable at my mom’s.

As it was, however, we got them out of the house just in time. When I got them out of their cage it was 83F. By the time I got back home from boarding them at the vets the sun had moved to a direct face on that room and it was 91F. That was with the portable AC still trying its best to cool that room. Once we shut it off to save power the room spiked up to 96F.

We’ve been ferret owners for 8 years now. All 8 here in Vegas. We’re very aware of the issues with heat and ferrets. Even so, our planning wasn’t enough. We eventually got one room to a point where we were able to sleep. But that was at 2am and that point was below 90F, nowhere near healthy for ferrets.

We now know that if this situation comes up again we need to moved them and the portable AC into the smallest room. We know that the water bottle trick doesn’t work with our ferts. Most of all, we know we need more than just an idea of where we could take them. We needed a better away-from-home kit for our ferrets so we can take them someplace safe and feel reasonably secure in knowing that they are indeed safe.

As for our AC it was fixed today. The 24h emergency repair got bumped to 48h as many AC units have been failing. It wasn’t fixed in time to get the house cool enough for the ferrets to return. They’re still boarded with our vet, I’ll be picking them up in the morning. They’ll be getting lots of snugs, an extra helping of ‘tone, and free reign of their room for as long as they are awake.

First Night Home For… uhmmm….

Well, it has been almost a year since we lost Fex.  We decided it was time to return our business to three ferrets.  After checking with the local shelter we decided to go with a kit this time.  So tonight we headed over to Petco, played with a couple of kits and ended up bringing home the largest of the bunch.

We were told he’s the last of the previous batch and is a few months older than the other kits.  It shows!  He was a rambunctious terror in the cage, constantly tackling the other kits and gnawing on ears or scruffs or anything else that came close.  He wanted to play!  Apparently he was also adopted once and returned in short order, no reason given as to why.  But he was gentle with the other kits; never made them squeak.  When I held him he was kind of mellow and not chompy at all.

His First Night Home

On the ride home he sat in my arms.  So mellow it was unreal.  He was content to just watch the world go by.  I don’t think we’ve had a ferret sit that still since Samson.

At home he got introduced to, and play with, Daisy, Xena and Xara.  So far, so good.  He didn’t get into any huge fights with the girls.

Now onto the hard part, picking out a name.  Eadie’s leaning towards Xander to keep the X names going.   I had originally suggested Xerxes a few days ago as a joke.  But we’ll see.  Right now he’s home, he’s tuckered out and he’s sleeping.  That’s good enough for the first night.

Should I Adopt A Ferret?

This gets asked all the time on Reddit’s Ferret sub.  I type out basically the same answer every time.

As with anyone who asks here my standard response is this: Like any pet, you should be ready to care for a ferret for the rest of it’s life. The minimum for a ferret means a couple of hours play time, morning and night, fresh food, water and litter whenever they get low. However, unlike cats or dogs ferrets are very stoic when it comes to their environment. At least, that has been my experience with my ferrets over the past 6 years.

My cat’s food dish is empty, she meows at me to fill it. My dog needs to go potty, she barks at me to let her out. My ferrets’ litter is full, their water bottle is empty, their food dish is empty, they are silent.

This means you cannot trust them to let you know when they need attention. You simply must get into the routine of checking their living space morning and night, every day, for the next 5-7 (hopefully more) years.

Mind you, that’s the minimum they need. So before adopting a ferret ask yourself if you’re willing to devote yourself to caring for that pet in that manner for the next several years. If the answer is not an honest yes, please reconsider your choice and/or hold off until that answer changes.

Don’t get me wrong, I love my ferrets. I think they are wonderful pets and I think many more people could find joy in having ferrets in their life. But I have had the unfortunate need to rescue 2 ferrets from a private home, and adopted 2 more from an overloaded shelter who, at the time, had over 40 ferrets. I don’t want people to misunderstand what they are getting into with a ferret and have any more added to the rolls of local ferret shelters.