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Pet Product News Editorial Blog:

April 26, 2012

Ferrets: A Cautionary Tale

By Elizabeth Creith

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Ferrets, water and earrings—not three things you'd normally associate with one another, but they are inextricably linked for me.

To start with, consider Ferris. No, not Ferris Bueller, but Ferris the ferret.

Ferris long ago ascended to that great ferretry in the sky, but for one brief moment in the late 90s, he was front-page news. This was because Ferris found his way into the washing machine. Ferris had never heard that ferrets can't climb and somehow managed to get into the washer just before the lid was closed. Or maybe he was just napping in the laundry basket and got dumped in with the t-shirts and skivvies.

ferret bath
The newspaper article didn't say whether the machine was on “delicate” or “heavy duty,” or what temperature of wash and rinse it was, but when the owner went to put her load of wash into the dryer, she found a very clean, very agitated Ferris, alive, well and spin-dried.

Ferris escaped the fluff-dry cycle and probably didn't even get hung up (although I have a mental image of him clothes-pinned by his scruff to the clothesline). I'll bet he steered clear of the laundry room after that, and the laundry basket, too.

I also wonder if he gave his owner any payback. Ferrets aren't any more fond of baths than dogs are. The difference is where dogs do the resigned-suffering act, ferrets are a little more emphatic about letting you know how they feel.

I know this because many years ago, even before Ferris' little moment in the sun, David worked for a pet store in Toronto. I used to hang out there sometimes on the weekends. I liked to play with the ferrets, and Garen, the owner, allowed it because it kept the critters easy to handle.

One Saturday afternoon when I came in, David told me that someone had dropped off a ferret they no longer wanted.

"Poor thing was filthy," he said. "I gave him a bath, but he could use some love."

When I picked the little guy up, he climbed the front of my shirt and flopped on my shoulder. I walked around the animal room, petting him and scratching his ears. Without even thinking about it, I strolled past the sink. In that instant he stiffened under my hand and latched onto my earlobe. This was not a nip or a love-bite – it was a full-on ferret-type clampdown. He wasn't letting go, and from the feel of it, he was giving me a double ear-piercing.

I couldn't scream—there were customers in the store. I don't know how I kept my wits about me enough not to try to pull him off. With my eyes watering, I took him by the scruff, lifted him off my shoulder so his weight hung from my hand, and waited.

A ferret picked up by the scruff will go limp and, within a minute, yawn. That minute was the longest one I'd ever lived through. Finally he let go. I put him back with the other ferrets and stood bleeding quietly until David saw me and took me back to the staff area to clean up.

I do wonder if Ferris' owner learned the same little lesson that I did. Not the one that ferrets really don't like baths. I wonder if she learned that they're also self-piercing earrings.


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