Dianne was the first ferret to arrive at my home. It was December 1994, and I was on one of my many visits to a local humane society. One of the staff asked if I had ever considered a pet ferret. I laughed at that since there had been many occasions when friends had pulled me away from ferret displays at local pet stores, reminding me that I had other things to spend “that kind” of money on. Since I didn’t have any of those friends with me at the humane society, my heart’s desires triumphed over the financial considerations. I bought an extravagant cage, complete with a hammock and “ferret condo”, and Dianne moved in.
Dianne was about two years old and had been surrendered by her previous owner who had become “too busy” to care for her. At first my cats were skeptical (that’s their job, after all), but eventually harmony was established. Dianne was happy and healthy, but it soon became apparent that she needed another ferret to play with. I got word to the people at the humane society that I wanted the next ferret that arrived.
I received a call from the humane society on February 8, 1995. They had been contacted by a woman who had purchased a ferret “on a whim” in November and who now wanted to give the ferret to someone who knew more about them. I called her and made arrangements to pick the ferret up on my lunch break the following day-my first rescue, although I didn’t know it until I saw the ferret.
When I arrived at the house, a woman and two small children came to the door. They seemed rather apprehensive until I explained who I was and why I was there, then the woman seemed very relieved and started explaining the situation. According to her, she had seen a ferret display at a local pet store (she couldn’t recall which one) and had purchased the ferret without knowing anything about them, because it was “so cute”. She had come to the conclusion that something was “wrong” with this ferret because it wasn’t eating. She then disappeared into another room and emerged with a small pet porter, roughly 24″ long by 12″ wide, by 8″ tall – this had been the ferret’s home since late November! The ferret that emerged from this prison was nothing but skin stretched over bone and was covered from nose to tip of tail with dried feces. It was even packed in the ears.
When I picked the little one up, it was impossible to tell if I was holding a male or a female, a sable or an albino. I asked a few questions, all the while attempting to suppress my fury. I found out that the ferret had no access to a litter box, the gender was unknown, and each of the kids had a different name for it. Then came the bombshell: the only interaction this ferret had received, practically since the day he left the pet shop, came once a day when the woman would go into the basement and let him out so he could be fed. She figured out that something was wrong because day after day he would ignore the food and run toward her or start “jumping around” (what ferret people refer to as the “weasel wardance”, which is an invitation to play). Since he didn’t seem interested in eating, she would put him back in the porter and go upstairs until the next day’s “feeding”. This poor little one was literally starving for attention! I gave each of the kids $5.00 for the “great ferret” and left.
I went immediately to my vet, who looked the ferret over as well as he could, and determined that it was “in great shape for the shape its in”. Vaccinations had to wait until after bathing, so I went home (thank the gods for flextime). It took three complete baths to get rid of all the fecal material, and I was left holding a light sable male. I put him into Dianne’s huge cage not knowing if he would survive (he was so very thin). He seemed delighted to discover that not only was there another ferret in the cage, but that there was a food dish and it was full. As he ate his first meal in who knows how long, Dianne cleaned his ears. They then curled up together and went to sleep.
With constant love and attention from Dianne, and with my care and love, not to mention daily doses of ferretvite for weight gain, Casey thrived. While he remained small for a male, probably because of early malnutrition, he was one of my three or four dominant ferrets. I also believe was the early malnutrition played a major role in Casey’s death in early 2000 at barely age 5. Dianne joined him in January of 2001 at age 8 1/2.
Even though Cassey and Dianne eventually had many brothers and sisters, they still seemed to have a special bond and one was never too far from the other. Casey even stayed with Dianne at the vet’s when she needed adrenal surgery (he was her moral support). I credit Dianne with Casey’s survival. I honestly do not think he would have made it through the first few days without her constant attention and nurturing. The power of ferret love truly triumphed over human ignorance.