Posted: January 1, 2010, 5 a.m. EST
© Isabelle Francais/I-5 Publishing
Getting more toys and toys that stimulate behavior or simulate prey are just part of Bob Church's ferret resolutions.
OK, it is the beginning of a new year and you — like all ferret owners the world over — want to make next year an even better one for your ferrets. I know I do; it doesn’t matter how dedicated I am, there is always some area of ferret care open for improvement.
In all humility, I recognize that I am but a student of ferrets, and so I will always need to learn more. Because of that, I am always yearning to do better. So, these are my Top Ten Ferret Resolutions for the upcoming year.
Ferret Resolution No. 10. I resolve to get better toys for my ferrets. This is not to imply I don’t already have a lot of playthings for the ferrets to hide or destroy, but I think I need toys that tie-in better to the ferret’s natural behaviors.
Small balls are good toys because they simulate prey movement, crocheted eggs seem to stimulate cache behaviors, dark dens are great for sleeping, and tubes of various sorts fill a primal need for exploring tunnels.
That being said, I plan to replace any toy that might hold a ferret’s interest only briefly because it doesn’t tie-in to any specific natural behavior. Ideal toys either simulate prey or stimulate behavior. I’ll stink up a lot of the existing toys with a variety of exotic scents and flavors, hide some and even rub some on the cat for the ferrets to enjoy.
Ferret Resolution No. 9. I resolve to be consistent with annual checkups for my ferrets. The economy has been bad, and I’ve had some healthy ferrets, so I’ve relaxed my vigilance somewhat. The result is that I’ve compressed veterinary procedures into a shorter time span. I now have several major expenses in a much shorter time frame. This makes them harder to afford than if they had been spread out across the year.
Ferret Resolution No. 8. I resolve to be more consistent with nail trimming. If there were one thing I have a bad habit of slacking off on, then that would be nail trimming. I guess I’d rather play than trim.
Trimming nails isn’t something done just to prevent scratching; it is also a time to look at the bottom side of your ferret. I had put off trimming Belle’s nails for about a month, so when I finally got around to it, I was shocked to discover a tumor on her foot! While I was holding and playing with her daily, I never actually looked at the bottom of her foot. I would have caught it earlier had I done a better job at nail trimming.
Ferret Resolution No. 7. I resolve to give more outside time to my ferrets. I travel and am very busy, so I sometimes fail to take the ferrets out on walks as much as I — or they — would like. They simply deserve more outside time, as do I.
Ferret Resolution No. 6. I resolve to toss the towels and buy more sleeping sacks. OK, towels are cheap and they last a long time, but they get tattered and frayed and the loose threads can catch on a ferret’s nails — even if trimmed.
I am going to trade out the tattered towels for new bedding. Even if the warmth difference is minimal, bedding looks so much nicer and a ferret’s nose poking out of a sleep sack is darn cute.
Ferret Resolution No. 5. I resolve to have my veterinarian check my ferret’s teeth yearly. I already brush my ferret’s teeth, which they accept with little argument. However, they still get some minor tartar in some areas hard to hit with a brush. A vet checking the dentition, especially for those with worn or old teeth, can help keep the mouth healthy and the ferret healthier. A healthier ferret is happier and has lower veterinary costs, so we both win.
Ferret Resolution No. 4. I resolve to give more one-on-one time to each ferret. While I give my ferrets a lot of my time, much of it is spent with the group rather than the individual. I want to spend more individual time with each ferret, with no other ferrets vying for attention, to be used for grooming, petting, feeding treats or just wrestling.
I love my ferrets dearly, so what are a few extra minutes? It reduces stress in both of us, and that is a good thing. It is a very good thing.
Ferret Resolution No. 3. Speaking of stress, I resolve to cause less stress to my ferrets. I am very good at reducing their tension, but I forget sometimes that I myself could be a source of stress to my ferrets. I make loud and sudden noises, play music too loud, leave bright lights on and generally disturb my ferrets all the time.
I will be more faithful in using cage blankets to deaden noise and block light, turn down the music and TV a few clicks, and use dimmer or fewer lights. I must try to remember that although it is my room, it is also the ferret’s bedroom. I should either move them to a quieter location, or tone it down a bit.
Ferret Resolution No. 2. I resolve to create a "fun zone” for my ferrets. A fun zone is a location where the ferrets are not normally allowed to roam. This could be a room or an area generally kept ferret-free. Once a day, I will allow my ferrets into the fun zone to explore, run, frolic and wrestle — whatever they desire to do. The strangeness of the room will stimulate them to sniff every crevasse, look in every corner and generally become excited beyond measure. Might be fun to watch!
Ferret Resolution No. 1. I resolve to learn more. Knowledge is a strange thing; it seems the more you learn, the less you know. I’ve been studying ferrets for a long time, but still have a lot to learn. What is the appropriate diet? How should they be housed? How many ferrets are too many? How can I keep them from being bored? I will talk to other ferret owners, read what I can find and keep an open mind.
As with all resolutions, there is little doubt that some will be kept and some will be forgotten. But, that is not the point, is it? The idea is to always strive to make your ferrets happier, healthier and longer-lived.
Ferrets are special little creatures: clowns of the pet world. They can touch your heart in a special way, and so they deserve the best you can do. It is better to resolve and lose than not to resolve at all. Even if you forget or fail, you can be sure of one thing. You are trying, and that — at least for your ferrets — is a very good thing. Resolve that you will make this new year a better year for your ferrets!
See all of Bob Church's columns
Bob Church is a former photojournalist and current zooarcheologist with degrees in biology (zoology) and anthropology (archaeology). He resides in Missouri with 19 ferrets that keep his chicken blender overheated and his heart overfull.