Fritz Ferret & Co

by Sheila Crompton

27th September, 1994

This time last year I would not have considered having a ferret as a pet let alone three of them! It all started at the end of October '93 when we found a young sandy ferret in the front street, the poor thing was being terrorised by a mob of Asian kids poking at it with sticks and throwing stones at it. Ron and a friend caught it. Ron received a nip in the process but the ferret can't be blamed for that - the poor thing was terrified! It was placed in a pet carrier and brought indoors.

I thought it would be easy to find someone to take the ferret off our hands. The local animal shelter didn't take ferrets, the Manchester branch of the R.S.P.C.A. were totally useless, the police were more helpful, they did at least give me some phone numbers to ring. I eventually got in touch with someone who kept ferrets but even he didn't want to take it.

After two hours I gave up trying to get rid of the ferret and we decided to keep it. We didn't know what sex it was but it looked like a male so Ron decided that it would be called Fritz Ferret. The only things I knew about ferrets were that they were carnivores, they were vicious and they chased rabbits!!

Ron lost his dinner that evening, the ferret ended up having the defrosted minced steak! The following day we went to the library to see what books they had on ferrets and then it was a trip to the d.i.y. store for building materials for an indoor cage. Fritz was stuck in the pet carrier for a couple of days while his new home was constructed.

We did our best for him, he was fed stewing steak, liver, egg, milk, bones etc. (The diet has since been changed to rabbit, day old chicks, with weekly egg and watered down milk, cat biscuits are dished up as snacks.) We were reluctant to try to handle him, the tales about ferrets not letting go once they'd sunk their teeth into human flesh was too instilled in our minds, his cage was kept clean, we used to talk to him but that was as far as it went.

It was in February that one of the local free papers carried an article about ferrets and gave a number to call for further information. A couple of weeks later I received an information pack from the N.F.W.S. I called the first contact number again and Gill and Stuart invited us and Fritz over to visit them. We actually wanted someone to look at Fritz and show us how to handle him. Fritz nipped Stuart but a couple of gentle taps on his nose convinced him that nipping was not allowed. We were advised to get Fritz neutered and vaccinated which we duly did. Stuart had noticed that Fritz's back legs didn't seem quite right, he was moving his body very low to the ground. Betty Shepard said that she thought his back legs hadn't formed properly due to a poor diet as a kit. I guess it must be a ferret version of rickets, but it doesn't seem to trouble him at all.

Gill and Stuart had informed us that ferrets like company and told us to get in touch with Betty about adopting one of her rescued ferrets. I was rather taken with polecat ferrets and wanted a polecat jill or may be even another sandy but definitely not an albino! Betty called us a couple of weeks later to say that she'd just got a polecat hob in and were we interested - we went over to Liverpool to have a look at Pepe but decided that he was rather too big, he was twice the size of Fritz.

Fritz had been having a great time exploring Betty's living room when she thought that he might like a playmate. Sophie an in season albino jill was produced. They both played together for a while, and then it was time for us to return home.

Ron and I had been at home for about half an hour when I said to him, "Did you like the albino jill?" The little albino jill that had about half a dozen different owners, the little albino jill that shivered and shook every time she was picked up. I 'phoned Betty and asked if we could have Sophie. We got Inga (ex-Sophie) in April after she'd been spayed.

Fritz seemed pleased to have a friend, now he had someone to play proper ferret games. Before Inga arrived Fritz was a well behaved ferret, he didn't know how to climb into closed drawers and hide - Inga taught him, she showed him how to raid the fruit bowl - we now move the fruit bowl before letting them out for play time.

It was about three months before we got Inga to go outside. I had tried to take her and Fritz for a walk a couple of days after we'd got her but she was so terrified I had to take her back indoors - the frequent changes of owners must have really upset her.

In August we decided that it was time to increase the family again - I still wanted a polecat jill, so it was another phone call to Betty. Yes she did have a poley looking for a home but it was a hob and he was already neutered. So off we went to Liverpool taking Fritz and Inga with us.

Betty was impressed with the improvement in Inga, she wasn't so timid and had put a bit of weight on. Fritz and Inga had a rough and tumble around Betty's living room before being introduced to Kurt (previously Tex). He was a lovely ferret, his coat was not in the best of condition, it was a bit on the thin side but Betty assured us that it would improve with a good diet. Kurt had been in the care of an animal shelter in Manchester for several months and had been fed on tinned cat food.

Fritz and Inga seemed quite happy to accept Kurt as a new friend. Kurt was overjoyed to have a couple of playmates - vertical take-offs, with vocal accompaniment were the order of the day. The two boys do however require a bit of supervision every now and again when they are wrestling. Fritz seems to take delight in rolling over and over with one of Kurt's ears held firmly in his teeth! Fritz also receives the same sort of treatment from Kurt. We act as referees and separate them but they never seem to hurt one another so I guess the protesting noises made by the victim are all part of the game.

We would actually like to let the 'kids' have more freedom in the house but we have six cats, Tiny and Sylvester don't seem to mind but Fred, Spock, and Bones (these three are all female) swear and hiss at them. Wimpey, another female, is too laid back to care. Spock always jumps into the cage when we take the kids out for a walk, she does a first class job of cleaning up uneaten rabbit and chicks.

The ferrets are normally allowed out for a couple of hours when the living room is free of cats. We have slipped up a few times and the ferrets have come across a cat that had been hiding, the general reaction from the cat is "Help! Let me outta here!" We are told that ferrets and cats get on alright together but we are not prepared to risk it.

Weather permitting we try to take Fritz and Co. a walk every afternoon. I'm not sure if the walk shouldn't be referred to as PR work, there are now a heck of a lot of people in Bolton who now know that ferrets are loveable animals. It takes us absolutely ages to walk across Victoria Square in Bolton, we get stopped dozens of times to answer questions about ferrets. We have been asked: are they weasels, stoats, otters, gerbils, rats, hamsters, mice etc. The next question inevitably is, "Do they bite?" Most people want to stroke the ferrets on being told that they don't normally bite and they seem to be surprised on how soft and silky Fritz's coat is. Inga seems to prefer to view the question times from the safety of her dad's jacket. I think we should have called her Yo-yo - she will walk a couple of yards and then want to be carried then she'll want to go down again for another short walk.

(First published in NFWS Newsletter 31)

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