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Oh What A Ferret Mess!

Has your ferret ever made a mess like these ferret messes?

By Rebecca Stout
Posted: April 1, 2011, 5 a.m. EDT

damaged carpet and padding
Courtesy of Anne Kaelber 
Anne Kaelber's ferret River dug through the carpe and padding to get into the closet.

Most ferret owners would say that a highlight of owning ferrets is the unexpected surprises they bring. And boy do ferrets ever bring a variety of surprises — some funny and some not-so-funny. Ferret people love to trade "disaster” stories about the occasional catastrophic messes ferrets make. Hearing these, you might believe that ferret people are seeking the mother-of-all-messes story!

My own worst ferret mess story involves the lovely subject of fecal matter. Our fuzzy friends may not be tidy, but ferrets are actually clean animals. A typical ferret doesn’t want to get anywhere near poop, and some ferrets won’t relieve themselves in a dirty litter box. But one day an anomaly entered my life, Blacky the ferret; we later renamed him, Blacky The Poop. Blacky didn’t mind touching poop. In fact, he relished the feeling of it squishing between his toes and loved to paw paint with it. One day he decided to use the entire ferret room floor as a canvas. He carefully adorned it with perfect, tiny, poopy footprints from one end to the other. "No, no, no, nooo!” I said when I saw his creation. I then collapsed to the floor in frustration and held my head.

Unsupervised or escaped ferrets can be destructive sometimes. No one knows this better than Anne Kaelber of Arizona. An all-too-common and troublesome ferret behavior is that of carpet digging in front of closed doors. Some ferrets can’t resist the amazing, curious smells and sounds from the other side that drift beneath doorways. For a ferret, a crack means there is hope to get to a forbidden zone. Curiosity drove Kaelber’s tiny, female ferret, River, to begin a campaign to get to the other side of a closet door. After digging through the carpet and padding, she reached the slab foundation and wiggled through. She then enlarged the hole, which allowed Kaelber’s other ferrets to squeeze through.  "Imagine our unhappy surprise when we went to look for something in the closet — and found a ferret’s ‘litter box,’ plus the chaos any ferret wreaks on any unsupervised area! As for laughing about it? No. Not yet. It’s been two years, and we still cringe every time we think of what that cost us.”

ferrets raid cupboard
Courtesy of Susie Riddle
Susie Riddle's ferrets enjoyed taking Tupperware out of her cupboards and creating a mess daily, until Riddle ferret-proofed the cupboards.

Another home-wrecking activity that some ferrets enjoy involves going into other forbidden zones, such as cabinets. Susie Riddle of Texas is the director and owner of WeezleWings Ferret Sanctuary. She used to sell Tupperware to put herself through nursing school and has amassed quite a collection. Her ferrets’ fascination with getting into her kitchen cabinets resulted in a colossal plastic amusement park in her kitchen. "I had to pay to have those doors ferret-proofed,” Riddle said, "because my back and seven ruptured discs couldn’t take picking up 4,000 pieces of Tupperware every day.”

Although digging is a natural behavior of ferrets, many are well-behaved in a home. But even the best-behaved ferret will roll in fresh, lovely dirt if given the opportunity. Lorisa Zatz of Florida tells a story about one of her little pet ferrets, Rascal, that got into a potted plant in her parent’s house, "My dad found her, but it was too late. Most of the dirt was on the ground and she was completely dirty,” Zatz said. "It all got cleaned up, and Rascal was banned from the porch. Now we all look back on it and laugh.”

ferret standing in dirt
Courtesy of Mandy Marks
Mandy Marks' ferret Penny managed to make a mess by diving into a bag of potting soil.

Mandy Marks of Louisiana has a ferret that once found something even better than a potted plant. She discovered the ultimate, earthy wonderland. "My little Penny decided that it would be a great idea to go head-first into a bag of potting soil,” Marks said. "I still dread cleaning up that mess.”

Eric Kunz discovered that a ferret doesn’t always have to be out of its cage to find trouble. This resident of Washington State tells about his eye-rolling experience when his ferret, Jynx, decided to redecorate his cage. "One morning the bottom tray of the cage was covered in food and litter with the pan upside down in the middle,” Kunz said. "Needless to say since the litter was everywhere and the box was overturned, it was quite a mess to clean up before heading off to work.” This is a common and classic ferret mess.

ferret food bag
Courtesy of Nick Williams
Nick Williams and his ferret Ajax found out the hard way what happens when an ambitious ferret tries to drag a bag of ferret food down the stairs.

Nick Williams of West Yorkshire, England, lives with three ferrets, one of which is an especially ambitious critter. When he is home, Williams allows his "rope kittens” to run freely around the house to happily dance and dook about. They have access to a large bag of ferret food in a cupboard at the top of the stairs and are free to help themselves to an occasional snack and to stash as much as they like. One night, a loud crash sounded from upstairs and his ferret, Ajax, flew down the stairs and dove under the sofa. Williams investigated the noise. "I found that not only had Ajax decided he’d like to stash some food, but apparently couldn’t be bothered carting it one piece at a time — instead deciding to take the entire bag,” Williams said. "He hadn’t figured out what would happen when it got to the edge of the stairs.” Ajax quickly found out and was apparently more surprised than his owner that the bag had fallen.

If dry kibble can make a big mess, what can be done with soft food? Ardith Raine, a member of a ferret rescue and foster network in Nevada, found out. Her ferret mess story involves two rescues: an extremely feisty, tiny, female named Korbel and a sweet, sensitive ferret named Patch that is three times Korbel’s size. Korbel decided that Patch was the enemy and knocked him off his feet at any opportunity. The mess occurred when Raine gave the 15 ferrets in her care "ferret soup” in two separate plates. Korbel was eating at one plate with her "gang” and Patch was at the other plate with another group. "I started changing potty papers and gathering food and water dishes to wash’” Raine said. "I just stepped over the barrier with an armload when I heard screaming. Korbel had left her plate to see what the other guys had, saw Patch, and attacked. They were both in the soup plate, soup flying everywhere. By the time I could get to them, both were soaked in soup, and several others were trying to lick soup from each other. We had an unplanned bath day.”

See all of the Buzz On Ferrets columns 

Anything is possible with ferrets, so here’s a real twist for you — Robin Jones’ ferrets trained her to make their messes for them! Her ferret, Petey, loved plastic eggs. So she decided to surprise him. She bought as many bags of plastic eggs as she could during an Easter sale. She couldn’t wait to see Petey’s reaction to the colorful wonderland they would create. "When the day came, I took the area rug up off the hardwood floor so the eggs would roll all over the room. Then I opened all of the bags of eggs, hundreds of them all over. I was so excited,” Jones said. "I opened Petey’s cage and set him down amidst all his new toys. And he just sat there. Nothing, zip, zilch, nada. He could not have cared less. I spent the rest of the afternoon picking up eggs. I still have that big garbage bag of eggs.” Lesson learned. Ferrets only like their own messes.

Fitch with fake blood and without
Courtesy of Kristina Borgstrom
Fitch the ferret nearly gave his mom a heart attack after getting into some fake blood (left). He looks so innocent without it!

One of the strangest ferret mess stories is also one of the scariest. Kristina Borgstrom of Washington State is a volunteer and foster mom for Washington Ferret Rescue and Shelter. She has seen her share of ferret messes over the years, but ferrets can shock even the most seasoned ferret fanciers. She came home to a terrifying sight one day when her ferret, Fitch, greeted her. "I went below to the ferret room in my basement to find my ferret covered in blood. I screamed and grabbed him and immediately gave him an exam to find the wound. I looked all over his little body, and all I got was an annoyed ferret.” The relief she felt was short-lived, because she realized that her other ferret, Earl, must have been the one hurt. To her surprise, she found him safe and sound, snoozing away. Borgstrom got a warm, wet cloth to clean up Fitch and look for the wound again. "That’s when I realized this blood is awfully sticky, and this blood is really red. And is that mint I smell? Is this fake blood?” After searching the ferret room for an hour, she found a bag of Halloween make-up with a tube of sticky, bright red, mint-flavored fake blood on an impossibly high shelf.  "Thanks for the heart attack Fitch!”

Ferret lovers have all had their share of "heart attacks” for one reason or another. Fortunately, most are caused by comical events, and these ferret lovers wouldn’t have it any other way.

Posted: April 1, 2011, 5 a.m. EDT

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Reader Comments
I keep most of my plants in the kitchen, some on a rack beside the stove and others on the counters. The garbage can sits beside the stove as well. One day my husband set an empty box beside the garbage. Miss Violet our 15 ounce silver found that she could climb from the box, to the top of the garbage can, onto the rack, therefore gaining access to all counters. I had about 20 plants in teh kitchen, keyword being "had". MV had dug up every plant and thrown the dirt everywhere. My kitchen looked like a dirt bomb went off. We had to move appliances and everything to clean it all up. We bought a higher garbage can, and hubby has been trained to take boxes straight outside.
Teresa, Prince George
Posted: 4/20/2011 12:10:39 PM
Had to read it again. The article is THAT goooood. Such a joy to come home after a long and bad day to find out the ferrets had as much of a working day as I did. (We are not talking about useable productivity, we are on MISSIONS!) Still trying to understand why we laugh at things ferrets do when we would never tolerate the same from any other being?
Donna Weiss, Henderson, KY
Posted: 4/1/2011 5:29:03 PM
Afew years ago I had several ferrets,three of which were in a funnel home by Super Pets.It was a tall multilevel cage with bubble wave tubes across the top.One evening late in the fall the 10 pm news said we were to get a frost overnight.I brought in all my plants from our front porch (several of various sizes)I put them in random spots around the living room thinking I would later put them in more apropriate places.I had to be at work early in the a.m. so the morning routine was a rush.When I returned home from work that evening and opened my front door my mouth dropped in shock.There was potting soil wall to wall hardly a spot of carpet to be seen,on end tables and couches...everywhere!After standing there in shock for a moment one of my fuzzies,still happily digging looked up with dirt on her nose and an innocent expression as if to say "who me?" I had to laugh.I picked her up and gave her a big fur baby smooch.I found they had popped thier bubble tubes and escaped.After a long hard day at work I had a major mess to clean as for the 3 bandits they happily snuggled in thier hammocks to snooze after all it was alot of fun and hard work to manage to dig to the bottom of all those pots!
Lori Coffman Hauser, Foristell, MO
Posted: 4/1/2011 4:51:04 PM
It's safe to reply now that I've picked myself off the floor, cleaned the spit off the monitor, and changed my Depends.
This is waaaay too much fun!
Got too many of those same stories to tell...much more enjoyable to READ them. Thanks Wolfy.
Donna, Henderson, KY
Posted: 4/1/2011 4:36:02 PM
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