Friday, January 29, 2010

Ferrety Misconceptions

Well, ferrety Friday has arrived once again, and it seems to be the only topic I’ve been able to write about lately. I’m not terribly unhappy about that since all the ferrety posts will provide a lot of information to anyone contemplating getting a ferret. But I haven’t been motivated to write about much else. I do have dozens of ideas floating around my head, but haven’t felt like sitting down and putting them into words.


Today’s post will consist of a list of common misconceptions about ferrets. By writing them down and offering a brief explanation about each one, perhaps some of them will dissipate, although I’m not entirely convinced of that. Some people are so dogmatic that even when presented with facts that dispel their delusions misconceptions, they just won’t budge. These people are beyond help.


Now, the question is: “Why have ferrets gotten such a bad rap?” I don’t know, but there always seems to be some poor animal that ends up with a reputation it doesn’t deserve. Most misconceptions about ferrets are really outrageous and leave you wondering how in the world people came up with them. But a couple may have a smidgen of truth in them that has been blown completely out of proportion. I’m hoping that by listing the most common myths, it will help clear some of the cobwebs in many ‘misguided’ minds.


10) Ferrets Bite

Of course they do. And so does Fido the dog, Fifi the cat, Fluffy the rabbit, Frisky the hamster and any other four-legged, furry creature you have living in your home. All animals have the ability to bite and ferrets are no exception. But the fact in the matter is that dogs are five times more likely to bite than a ferret, and their bite is much more damaging. Ferrets are perceived as dangerous when they are far from that. These little animals, when properly cared for, are quite gentle. And like any other animal that is abused or provoked, a ferret can become aggressive.

9) Ferrets Sleep More Than 20 Hours A Day

They certainly can. But if they do, they’re either bored or depressed. A healthy, happy ferret that is allowed out of its cage (if you cage it) will sleep 15 – 18 hours a day. Ideally, your fuzzy should be allowed out to play four hours daily. If a ferret isn’t given enough exercise, it will become sluggish and out of shape, which will lead to it curling up into a little ball to sleep more than it should.

8) Ferrets Are Wild Animals

This is a misconception that is way out in left field. Even though the domesticated ferret has been a common house pet longer than the cat, people still think it’s a wild animal, like the squirrel that invades bird feeders and destroys gardens, or the raccoon that rummages through garbage cans. The truth in the matter is that ferrets depend on humans for their survival and would readily perish outdoors.

7) Ferrets Use Litter Boxes Like Cats

There is definitely quite a bit of truth in this, although it’s important to understand how this works. Yes, ferrets can be trained to use a litter box, but they will never use it the way a cat does. In other words, while a cat will go looking for its litter box no matter where it’s sleeping, playing or hanging out in the house, a ferret won’t. If you don’t have a litter box in the same room where the ferret is playing, it will use a corner as its toilet. I have read a case about a ferret that would go running to its cage to use the litter box in there, but this is extremely rare. When it comes to a litter box, the ferret’s motto is: “Out of sight, out of mind”

(I’ll write a lot more about this in a later ferrety Friday)

6) Ferrets Can Be Kept In A Cage All Day

No. No. No. A ferret is not a hamster. Or mouse. Or some such animal that can be left in a cage indefinitely. Ferrets need to get plenty of exercise by running around and playing. Make sure your pet is allowed out of its cage a few hours a day, minimum 2, but preferably 4. A ferret left in a cage for too long will become bored and depressed, and may develop bad behaviour.

5) Ferrets Are Nocturnal

Nope. Ferrets are active mostly at dawn and dusk. They are able to sleep through the entire night, unless they’ve been left in their cage all day long and instead of exercising, they’ve been sleeping. And if that’s the case, then who can blame them for being wide eyed at night.

4) Ferrets Carry Rabies

This is another one of those ‘way out in left field’ misconceptions that people get stuck on. The fact is that ferrets are quite unlikely to become infected with rabies because they are extremely resistant to the virus. Furthermore, studies have shown that even if a ferret does become infected, the amount of rabies virus found in the saliva of this animal is negligible. For your information, there has never been a recorded incident of a person contracting rabies from a ferret, and there have only been a handful of reported rabies cases in domestic ferrets in the entire 20th century. When it comes to rabies, I’d be more concerned about Fido’s saliva. So come out of the fog about this one, people.

(By the way: You should still take your ferret in for its annual rabies vaccination, just to be safe.)

3) Ferrets Are Short Term Pets, So It’ll Be Easy

Now where in the world did you get this idea? Ferrets typically live anywhere from 6 – 10 years, so you’re looking at quite a long-term commitment. And because of that, you should know what you’re getting into. Ferrety Fridays is a good place to start.

2) Ferrets Need To Eat Vegetables

Okay, you have to come a little closer for the answer to this one. A little closer...just a bit more… There… [smack upside the head]. What part of obligate carnivore have you not understood from previous posts? [smack…smack…] Now, listen carefully: “Ferrets are strictly carnivores; they are unable to properly digest vegetables. Moreover, a small piece of undigested vegetable matter can cause an intestinal blockage and put your pet’s life at risk.” Got it? Good.


1) Ferrets Are Rodents

What? Oh, come on. You can’t be serious. How can you possibly still think that ferrets are rodents after all the times I’ve written that they’re not? Repeat after me: “FERRETS ARE NOT RODENTS. They are carnivores that eat rodents. Amen.” Are you finally getting this? Good. Now don’t let me hear you call a fuzzy a rodent again. Or else.

That’s it for now folks. I’ll admit that I had some of these misconceptions too. But now I know better.

Finally, let’s check in with Bailey and see what she has to say:

[rolling eyes] Okay Bailey...

Friday, January 22, 2010

Ferrety Vision

Here we are again. It seems like it was only yesterday that I was working on ferrety Friday. And while I’m certainly happy to be working on yet another one, I’m a little startled that I’ve hardly added any other posts this week. I hope that as we head closer to spring, my writer’s block (the worst I’ve ever had in years) ends.

That being said, let’s get on with this week’s ferrety post, which will focus on ferrety vision. The question of the week is:

“How well do ferrets see?”

And the answer is: “Not very”

From what I’ve discovered (and apparently what studies have shown), ferrets have very poor vision when it comes to seeing objects far away from them. On the other hand, at close range (a couple of feet in front of them), a ferret’s eyes see detail better than you, and even better than a cat. I guess this would make these little fuzzies nearsighted.

Photo from SXC

Furthermore, their peripheral vision is said to be much better than their frontal vision, which would explain why they often bump into objects. And to top it all off, most of these little furballs have very little depth perception, so they’ll happily walk off a table or counter with no hesitation since they probably can’t see just how far down the floor is.

A few other things I learned:

1) Ferrets see much better at dawn and dusk
2) Their eyes have trouble adjusting to bright light
3) They do not see very well when it’s pitch black
4) Domesticated ferrets can only see red; everything else is just shades of gray
5) Ferrets lose their eyesight as they age

Interesting, no?

Well, I kind of felt bad that Bailey has poor eyesight, so I decided to try and help her.

Hey Bailey, what do you think of the cool frames?

I think you look great. They even make you look really smart.

By the way, don’t try this (putting glasses on your ferret) at home kids!

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Eat Well, Spend More

When I was growing up, the majority of the time we enjoyed home cooked meals. It was rare that we ate out, and there was no such thing as frozen food in our house. My mother, who spent the first 22 years of her life in a small town where everyone grew their own food and prepared everything from scratch, wouldn’t dream of serving processed food.


Because these eating habits were such a huge part of my upbringing, three things happened when I left home:

1) Although I enjoy an occasional outing to a restaurant, there’s only so much of that I can handle before it sickens me. The taste of restaurant food just isn’t the same as a home cooked meal, especially home cooked meals that include fresh ingredients.

2) Aside from some frozen pizza, some of which isn’t all that bad, I really dislike the taste of frozen food that you buy at the supermarket. The few times that I’ve eaten it, it just sat in my stomach like a ton of bricks, my body refusing to digest.

3) I enjoy cooking. I spend a lot of time searching for interesting recipes on the internet, and I have a couple of shelves worth of cookbooks, some of which have become tattered from overuse.


All this to say that I generally cook up a storm each week because I enjoy preparing meals and because it’s the absolute best way for the whole family to eat healthy since I have control over the ingredients that go into our food.


This is all fine and dandy, especially after reading this week that overweight and obesity rates have skyrocketed and that this is becoming a global epidemic. And because this has become such a hot topic, everyone has something to say about it. Blah, blah, blah. Magazines, books, newspapers, TV commercials, government bureaucrats, actors, etc, etc; it seems that every expert (sometimes self-proclaimed) is preaching about how we should eat healthy food and get off my butts. And of course, let’s not forget all the companies that are aggressively peddling their ‘low fat’, ‘lean’ and ‘sugar-free’ products. If you live in city, I don’t think you can walk a block without being bombarded by some type of advertising geared towards this ‘epidemic’.

Okay, we get the message. We understand that we should eat healthy food and do some kind of physical exercise. And many of us live that type of lifestyle, to the best of our ability.


(And here is where I insert my two cents worth of a rant)

Has anyone noticed that the healthier the food, the more expensive it is? For example, I always make an effort to buy lean meats, which are less fatty and more nutritious. But sometimes I don’t. And you know why? Because they’re often too pricey. And like many other people that work with a grocery budget, unless this type of meat is on sale, I can’t have it. The same is true of fresh fruits and vegetables, and of quality fish and whole grain breads. And don’t get me started on the inflated prices of low-fat versions of common products such as mayonnaise, cream cheese, cottage cheese, jam and so on.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that there is a whole lot of preaching going on about the ‘right’ kinds of food we should be eating. But one thing no one ever mentions is that when you do start buying higher quality food, your grocery bill will rise. And this, unfortunately, is something many people just can’t afford to do.

Eating right should not cost more. Damn it.

(End of rant)

What do you guys think?

Friday, January 15, 2010

An Interview With Bailey

Another edition of ferrety Friday is here, and I have to say that I just don’t know where the time goes. The days and weeks seem to go by so quickly.


Today I’m going to do an interview with Bailey. She's been complaining that she hasn't been allowed to say very much, so I decided to let her answer some questions about herself. After all, who better than a ferret to explain ferrety things.

So, here we go.

Me: "Welcome to another edition of ferrety Friday, Bailey."

Bailey: “Thanks. Achoo...achoo...achoo... Sorry about that little sneezing fit.”

Me: “Well, might as well start with that. Why do you sneeze so much?”

Bailey: “I walk with my head very low to the ground, and as I stroll along, I sniff everything along the way, and I mean everything. Well, you can imagine all the stuff I inhale, some of which irritates me, like dust. It’s those irritants that make me sneeze. So, if you hear me sneezing, there’s really nothing to worry about – unless my sneezing includes a runny nose and watery eyes; then I probably have a cold.”

Me: “I’ve noticed that after you wake up, you shiver for awhile. What’s that all about?”

Bailey: “When I sleep, my body temperature drops. When I wake up, I shiver to raise my temperature. This can last for up to 20 minutes.”

Me: “Do you get annoyed when people call you a rodent.”

Bailey: “Well, yeah. Wouldn’t you? Your species can be pretty dumb, I tell you. I mean, I eat rodents, for heaven’s sake.”

Me: “Maybe it’s because you look a little like a rodent.”

Bailey: “Well so do some people, but you don’t see me calling them rodents.”

Me: “Speaking of food. What do you like to eat?”

Bailey: “I’m an obligate carnivore, so I like meat, meat, and more meat!”

Me: “What about vegetables?”

Bailey: “He-llo. What part of carnivore don’t you understand?”

Me: “I’ve noticed that your heart beats pretty fast. How many beats per minute?”

Bailey: “Between 180 – 250, with the average being about 225.”

Me: “Wow, that’s pretty fast.”

Bailey: “Not for us fuzzies”

Me: “How are your survival instincts? If I released you outdoors, what would happen?”

Bailey: “I’d probably die. My type has been domesticated for so long that we’ve lost most of our natural instincts.”

Me: “So you rely on humans for all your needs?”

Bailey: “That’s right. Thankfully, I’ve got good humans caring for me.”

Me: “Aw, thanks Bailey. I’m touched.”

Bailey: “Yeah, yeah. Just don’t get all teary-eyed on me.” [Yaaaaawn] “How long is this going to take? I’m getting a little sleepy.”

Me: “We’re almost done. Tell me, do you get along with other pets?”

Bailey: “Some. You shouldn’t leave me alone with a dog because it could hurt me, even kill me. And you shouldn’t leave me alone with a rabbit, rat, mouse, bird, reptile, hamster or fish; they’re all animals that I ‘instinctively’ prey on. And even though I don’t hunt anymore, I shouldn’t be completely trusted.”

Me: “You didn’t mention cats. What about them?”

Bailey: “If you’re going to team me up with another pet, a cat is your best bet. We get along pretty well. But you know that already. You brought Nacho the kitten home a couple of weeks ago and we're cool together.”

Me: “What do you think about Nacho?”

Bailey: “She smells a little funny, but she’s alright.”

Me: “She smells?”

Bailey: “Sure. Come to think of it, you smell kind of funny too.”

Me: “I do? What about you? People say you’re smelly.”

Bailey: “People don’t know what they’re talking about. I think I smell real nice.”

Me: “Well, maybe we’ll save that topic for another ferrety Friday.”

Bailey: “Does that mean we’re done?”

Me: “Yup. Do you have any pictures you want to share?”

Bailey: “Always. A good looking gal like me was meant to be photographed. The picture below is my sad face look, which turns you into mush, which in turn makes you spoil me. Pretty neat trick, huh?”

Me: “Oh Bailey...”

Bailey: “And this is how I feel right now”

Me: “Alright, I get the message. Good night Bailey...”

Bailey: “Zzzzzzzzzzzz...”

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Here Kitty, Kitty...

Nacho! Where are you Nacho? Naaaaaaaacho...

There you are my little furball. What are you up to?

Oh? And what would that be?

Container of water? Let me take a closer look...

Oh, no... No, no, no... You might want to play with the fish, but I’m sure the fish doesn’t want to play with you.

Yes, but Bailey’s a ferret. And ferrets are not listed in the ingredients of your food.

What??? NO WAY! Stay away from the fish, young lady. You hear me?

That’s a good kitty.

Isn’t my little Nacho the best? So obedient...

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

A Flower On The Horizon

Well, there’s no doubt that I’ve disappeared from the writing scene, both here on my blog and on my houseplants website. The truth is that not much has been happening on the crescent-shaped street that I live on. It’s not that nothing has been going on; it’s that nothing interesting has been going on. Nothing interesting enough to write about.

I had planned to write about the birds visiting the feeders hanging near my kitchen window but there isn’t that much feathery activity going on since the squirrels literally wrap themselves around the feeders daily. I did battle with these pesky rodents for a number of days, hoping to rid my feeders of them, but I couldn’t keep up with their determination and boundless energy. Eventually, frustrated with the whole ordeal, I waved a white flag. I suppose I should have taken down the bird feeders since the squirrels are the only regular visitors, but every now and then a chickadee, a cardinal or a Blue Jay drop by, which rekindles whatever little hope I have of viewing some kind of feathery activity outside my kitchen. So I let the feeders continue to hang outside.

I could write about the weather and take lots of photos of snow, snow and more snow, but [yawn] that would get very old, very fast. I’d love to write about my gardening adventures, but it’s January and there’s nothing growing out there this time of year. So that leaves the indoors, which includes the family, pets and houseplants. Nacho the cat has been introduced, Bailey the ferret has her ferrety Friday spotlight and the family, well, there’s nothing I can think of to write about them. We’re now down to houseplants, and although there isn’t anything earth shattering going on with them, I was pleasantly surprised this afternoon when I went to water my Vriesea splendens.

Take a look at this:

Now, correct me if I’m wrong (that means you Mr. Subjunctive) but isn’t that a flower emerging?

It seems that the Amaryllis’s recent flower display has shamed this lovely plant into blooming. And I have to tell you, the Vriesea splendens produces one of the most impressive blooms you’ll ever see. If this plant does indeed grace my home with its lovely flower, I think I’m gonna just about explode. Not because the flower is so pretty but because it’s a plant that doesn’t bloom that easily. It will be the ultimate compliment to my green thumb.

Stay tuned...

Friday, January 8, 2010

Selecting A Good Ferret Breeder

Christmas and New Year celebrations got in the way, so it’s been awhile since ferrety Friday. But despair no more, my dear readers, because this blog’s favourite theme is back.

[Yawn] “Where in the world did you ever get the idea that we care about ferrets?”

Oh, be quiet! Maybe you don’t care but I have other readers that do.

[Snort] “Yeah, right...there are readers that care...zzzzzz”

Of course they do. They come for Bailey. She’s the most famous ferret in world.

“That’s because there aren’t that many blogs writing about ferrets because NO ONE CARES”

Just go away...

“Fine! Wake me up when it’s over”

Hmmm... Now, where was I?

Ah, yes. The last time I added a ferrety Friday on my blog, I wrote about where you can actually get a ferret, which included 1) Pet store, 2) Shelter, 3) Private breeder and 4) Classifieds. And since the information for the pet store was getting a little long, I decided to place the different subtitles together in another post or each one in its own. Well, after some research, I’ve decided to break the remaining three into at least two separate posts. Today, I will write about private breeders and in the future I will add some information about the other two.


The first thing you must do if you’re interested in getting a ferret from a breeder is to find a good one – a breeder, that is. Well, a ferret too, but you still have to start with a good breeder. Good breeders breed good ferrets. What I mean by a good breeder is a reputable one. And the way to go about finding one is with some research.

Now, like any other type of breeder, there are good and bad ones. Some breed because they really love ferrets, others breed only for profit. Not that the ones that love ferrets don’t breed to make money. Obviously they do or else they’d be giving away the baby fuzzies instead of selling them. But the former is concerned about the health and welfare of the animals (this motivates them to provide good care) while the latter raises ferrets in substandard conditions (this can affect the long-term health of these fragile animals). If you’ve ever visited a breeder (I have once, when I was searching for a Siamese cat), you’ll get a feeling for them just from the conditions you’ll find the animals living in.

But I digress. Let’s just say that there are good and bad breeders, and concentrate on how to go about choosing a good one.

One of the best methods for selecting a reputable ferret breeder is by word of mouth. Try to meet people locally who have acquired a ferret from a breeder. They will be able to assist you in your search by sharing their own experience. Hopefully you’ll meet people who are happy customers that can recommend a good breeder. You can also find reputable breeders in ferret-specific magazines or by meeting some people in online ferret communities, such as forums and such where you can ask for advice and suggestions.

When you do finally settle on a specific breeder, make an appointment for a visit. You’ll want to drop by and see how the little fuzzies are being kept. Once you’re there, pay attention to the living conditions of these little animals. Are their cages clean? Are they spacious? What type of food do they have? Do they have enough food? Is their drinking water clean? Are the ferrets alert and active? Are they allowed out of their cages to play and exercise? Do they have regular human contact? Are they picked up, petted, held and offered affection? Ferrets that are hand raised are more likely to grow up docile, friendly, happy, eager to be held and highly-sociable.

A good breeder will have no trouble accommodating your request to stop by for a preliminary visit to check out their place because they’ll have nothing to hide. In addition, a good breeder won’t just hand their fuzzies over without asking a few questions; they’ll want to make sure that a ferret is the right pet for you and that you are right for a ferret. They may inquire about you, your home, your lifestyle, what knowledge you have in caring for this furry critter and whether you are prepared to dedicate time and effort to its care, which may include supervised play time. Feel free to ask questions of your own, such as how long they’ve been in this business, whether they offer some type of guarantee and whatever other information you feel is pertinent.

Once you’re comfortable with a specific breeder, it’s time to select a ferret. The breeder will show you the available pets, and may even try to match you with one that best suits your personality and lifestyle. After you’ve decided on a fuzzy and finalized all the details, including payment and whatever paperwork needs to be done, it’s time to take your pet home. The absolute best way to get your fuzzy home is in a small pet carrier that is padded to make it more comfortable.

That’s all there is to it folks. Choosing a ferret from a private breeder with a very good reputation is often much better than choosing one from a pet shop. Good, caring breeders provide optimum care, which in turn produces healthy and highly-sociable ferrets.

Now before I wrap this up, let’s hear from Bailey:

[Blush] Shhhhh Bailey! We don’t have to air our dirty laundry. And anyway, the pet store where we got you from was walking distance from our home, so we didn’t feel that a carrier was necessary.

Great, now I have guilt...

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Bailey & Nacho - BFF

So we decided to just throw caution to the wind and put Bailey the ferret and Nacho the kitten in the same room and see what happens.

This is the result:

After running around painting the town red together, these two little ladies cuddled up to relax. Looks like Bailey has found her partner in crime.

Bailey & Nacho = Best Friends Forever

Aw, shucks...

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Introducing Nacho

No, not the popular snack originating from Mexico, but a little furball originating from the local humane society.

This is our Nacho:

She’s just a little over three months old and the newest member of our household. I’d planned to get a dog after the holidays but that’s been put on the backburner for awhile and for several reasons (frigid Canadian winters being one of them). In addition, this little kitty will be a much better playmate for Bailey (our ferret, for those of you that don’t already know) than a dog could ever be. The two have already had a nose to nose sniffing match while being held by different arms. I’m happy to report that there was no hissing, paw slapping or teeth bearing. Nothing to worry about. In fact, kitty purred through the whole ordeal and Bailey pretty much just stared at her dully. Both good signs.

Anyway, Bailey and Nacho will get a few more days of sniffing sessions followed by a few days of short face to face interactions. Eventually they’ll spend more and more time together, which will probably turn out to be quite interesting. Two super playful furballs? Can you say circus performances?

And no, it wasn’t me that came up with the name Nacho for this sweet little feline. That was my daughter’s idea. I was leaning towards Tortilla :)

Friday, January 1, 2010

And A Happy New Year

When I was much younger, time seemed to stand still. In my older years it seems to be racing by. I remember thinking at the age of fifteen how astonishing it was that I’d be around to witness a new millennium roll in, possibly with young children in tow since I’d only be in my mid thirties by then. Well, almost thirty years have gone by since that day, and now I find myself thinking how incredible it is that we’re already a decade into the 21st century.

2009 was a very busy year for me and my family. A lot of changes came our way, most of which we embraced happily. 2010 promises to be a quieter, uneventful year – or so I hope. I haven’t made any resolutions since I’m already so perfect. Ha ha... I’m just kidding, of course. There’s always room for improvement.

I do hope to do more writing now that the holidays are coming to an end. And I certainly look forward to the arrival of spring, which, as far away as it seems now, will get here eventually.

In the meantime, I’d like to wish you all a very happy new year. May it bring you happiness and peace, health and prosperity, and everything else that you desire.

Happy 2010 to all of you!