Friday, March 5, 2010

Ferret Shelters

Another day, another Friday dedicated to fuzzies, those impish, fun-loving little creatures that will steal your heart with their exceptional adorableness. And today’s “everything you ever wanted to know about ferrets but were afraid to ask” post is going to include some information about adopting a ferret from a shelter.

Now, I’m not going to climb on my soapbox (as tempting as it is) to point fingers at pet owners that have surrendered a ferret to a shelter. Sometimes unexpected and difficult circumstances leave us with no choice but to give up a beloved pet that we can no longer properly care for, especially when an illness strikes. So in all fairness, there are (very often) understandably good reasons to pay a visit to a shelter.

Photo from SXC

Of course, not all ferrets end up in shelters as a last resort by a heartbroken owner; some have had more difficult lives. Their furry little experiences may have included abuse, neglect and mistreatment. And many of them end up at shelters simply because they were bought on impulse and their owner decided one day that s/he’d had enough of caring for Mr. Ferret and all his ferrety ways. Others end up in shelters after their little bodies and spirits have been bruised – intentionally. These are the bad reasons that ferrets end up in shelters with the latter being the worst of all. And it’s situations like these that make me want to climb on my soapbox and lecture and wave a finger and chastise and scold and foam at the mouth. Because I cannot for the life of me understand how anyone with even half a heart and a shred of compassion can hurt a living creature, a particularly vulnerable one at that, without feeling any remorse. What sick and demented pleasure can one derive from the pain of a helpless animal?

One of my favourite quotes is from Immanuel Kant, which goes something like this: "He who is cruel to animals becomes hard also in his dealings with men. We can judge the heart of a man by his treatment of animals."

Isn’t this true?

And then there’s Ghandi with: “The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated.”

Don’t you agree?

I mean, you’re not obligated to have any pets in your home. And you don’t even have to like any. But you certainly have no right to hurt them just because you’re a heartless SOB who feels somehow empowered by bullying the smaller and more vulnerable creatures in this world. Why don’t you pick on someone your own size, you miserable excuse for a human being? And why not take on someone with enough strength to fight back? Or hey, how about I toss you into a cage with a lion and see just how big and strong you feel then? Hm? Not so tough now, are we?

Alright, so I scolded...a little... Now let’s move on to shelters.

Like any other animal, ferrets end up in shelters. And like any other animal, they need to find homes that will love them and care for them as they should be loved and cared for. Ferret shelters, after all, (should) only serve as temporary sanctuaries for these small, furry little creatures that find themselves homeless at some point in their short lives. They shouldn’t be a final destination.

Photo from SXC

Shelters are a wonderful source for ferrets, especially if you’re new to these charming pets. In addition to the assortment of fuzzies to choose from, the people working at these shelters are very familiar with the ferrets under their care and can help you select one that fits into your lifestyle. By spending so much time with these homeless ferrets, and interacting with them regularly, people working in shelters get to know each ferret’s personality and habits that by now should be established since most of the ferrets there are considerably older. An employee in a pet store, on the other hand, can’t possibly suggest the right ferret for you because s/he is usually dealing with kits that are about 8 weeks old when they arrive, and since the personality and activity level of a ferret will change considerably within the first year, it’s impossible to help you make a good selection. The older the ferret, the more set it is in its ways.

If you are a first time ferret owner, choosing an older ferret from a shelter may be the best way to go. Baby ferrets can be quite challenging for owners with no previous experience with them. They are highly energetic, they need to be trained (particularly litter-trained) and there may be certain habits (like nipping) that need to be dealt with. Also, very young fuzzies will gnaw incessantly (sometimes at two or three in the morning), as they go through the teething stage, which will keep you up at night. Basically, what I’m trying to say is that younger ferrets need substantially more training and socializing than older ones.

And to toot the horn of shelters a little more, here are some more things to ponder:

- Adoption fees at shelters (which go back into the shelter to help pay for ferret care) are usually much lower than prices at pet stores.

- Shelters work closely with veterinarians, so ferrets at shelters will be up to date with their vaccinations and examinations when they’re adopted.

- Because they’re not in business to make a profit, the goal of a shelter is to find a good home for the animals they care for.

- Many shelters request that the adopted ferret be returned if things don’t work out.

- Shelter workers and volunteers are there because they care very much about the animals they look after therefore you know beyond a doubt that the ferret you adopt from one of these places has been properly cared for.

- Some shelters, if not most, also offer support after the adoption, especially if you’re new to ferret care.

I suppose I can go on and on about shelters and all the wonderful work they do and how terrific it is to adopt a pet from there, and blah, blah, blah. But you probably already know all that. What most of you didn’t know is that there are shelters specific to ferrets, where little fuzzy pets are surrendered by owners who picked them up impulsively at a pet store, unaware of how much time and commitment is required to fulfill their special needs.

Of course, not all areas have ferret shelters; my city certainly doesn’t. The closest one to my home is about a 90 minute drive away; not terribly far but certainly not a hop, skip and jump away. But if you do live in a city that has a ferret shelter, pay them a visit if you’re contemplating getting a ferret, even if you’re set on picking up a baby fuzzy from a nearby pet store. You might just fall for a shelter ferret in need of a loving home.

Now, let’s hear from the fuzzies...


Not to worry, Bailey. We'd never take you to a shelter!


Oh's obvious you've been hanging around with Bailey...getting to be just like him...

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