Buster's Bite

Beware of The Dreaded Ferret!

(First published in the HERTS & BEDS HERPETOLOGICAL SOCIETY June 1995 Newsletter.)

Nobody ever told me that FERRETS are very, very addictive! And you don't even have to sniff them. As most of you will already know, during late summer last year I aquired a lovely friendly young sandy coloured hob ferret, and 'er indoors' (who incidentally, didn't want to get within 2 miles of the nasty smelly creatures) decided to name him Buster.

Now Buster turned out to be an extremely happy and friendly little chap, always on the go. As with all ferrets, Buster has a very inquistive nature, which means that he spends a large part of his time getting up to mischief. Being an "only child" didn't seem to bother him in the slightest and he seemed quite happy following me around all day or sitting on my shoulder (have you ever had a ferret whisper sweet nothings in your ear?) while I worked in the snake room, one of his favourite games was to lay an ambush from under our large Burmese Python cage where he would wait quite patiently with just his nose showing until some poor unsuspecting feet came into view, at which point he would rush out chattering loudly to himself while he frantically mock attacked his unsuspecting quarry. He also found that the Python cage was a great place to hide all the things that he collected during his excursions around the house, he had obviously worked out that if he kept his booty under the back of the cage against the wall then I couldn't retrieve them (clever little whatsit!). He also helped me write 'MOORE MUMBLES' although only being a baby his spelling and punctuation left a lot to be desired, so he was usually relegated to looking after the printer, which would, in his opinion, require constant adjustment of the paper. He would also have great fun chasing the cats around the house and invented a new game of tag to play with my very large male Rottweiler, who would gently put a huge paw on top of Buster and hold him down whenever he thought that the little fellow was getting a bit too carried away with his own importance.

Now, ferrets seem to have no fear, either of people or other animals and Buster is no exception, so one evening while the big fella was having his dinner Buster decided to PUSH HIS LUCK and tried to pinch some food from the bowl, now this proved that friendship can only be taken so far and Buster received one of those very, very extra special Rottweiler lip curling, teeth flashing, earth shaking, I really do mean business this time, blood curdling growls, obviously Buster is not a stupid ferret, he got the message straight away and decided that this was the appropriate time to make a very quick sharp exit, at this point he was off as fast as his little legs could carry him, we found him looking rather sheepish down by the side of the cooker and he wouldn't come out for anything, that is until the dog had finished eating and vacated the room. They are still the best of friends but Buster makes sure that he never gets anywhere near when it's dog feeding time.

Now this is where some people will consider that I made my second BIG mistake and got on that dreaded downward slippery slope that almost all ferret keeper seem to experience (the first mistake was getting a ferret in the first place). That is, I got to know other ferret owners, in particular Mary and Mike from the Bedford Ferret Welfare. Now these people are a rather 'strange' lot, they seem to spend most of their time in the company of ferret owners, travel great distances every weekend throughout the year to various fund raising events which usually have either Ferret Racing, a Ferret Show or maybe a display of Ferrets and do lots and lots of talking about Ferrets.

Does any of this sound familiar??

One thing that I have noticed about other ferret keepers is that they are a very happy group of people, maybe the fact that all ferrets seem to be full of life and very happy little creatures rubs off on their owners.

We thought that it would be nice for Buster to have a little play mate so that he would have company while he was out in his run, although he always seemed to find plenty of things to occupy himself, anyway I just happened to mention this to Mary at the Bedford Ferret Welfare and within a very short space of time I received a phone call informing me that she had come into possession of a young silvery coloured jill, and would I like to take Buster over to see if they got on o.k. So with Buster in his carry box off we set for Bedford, Buster doesn't like travelling in his box and usually travels out in the car, he seems to take an interest in the scenery and the other cars that we pass, it's just a little problem when he wants to change gear and I don't. Within minutes of arriving Buster and the little jill are happily running around Mary's house together, yes you've guessed it, it was love at first sight, so home again with two ferrets.

We decided to call the little jill Carrie. She settled in very quickly and was soon shown the 'interesting places' around the house by Buster. Carrie seemed to be a little more sedate than Buster, and would quite happily lay upside-down on your lap and go to sleep whereas Buster couldn't keep still for more than two seconds. One thing Carrie did which took us by surprise was climb, she must have been a mountaineer in a previous life, because if there was something to climb up then she just had to climb it, up the back of the freezer, into the washing machine, even on top of my largest Burmese Python cage, she also climbed up the wire fencing that was around their run, something that Buster had never attempted. So back to the drawing board with the run, problem soon solved, she could still climb the fence but couldn't get over the top.

For a while life went merrily on, two ferrets, twice as much fun, twice as much trouble, and definately twice as much mischief. Both Buster and Carrie are light coloured and I had always wanted a polecat coloured ferret so a quick phone call to the very helpful man who we got Buster from with the intention of asking him to save us a dark coloured ferret if he bred any this year. His reply was that he had a lovely little dark jill from a late litter last year and was looking for a new home for her, so after lengthy discussions it was off in the car to 'have a look', within an hour or so it's back home with a third little bundle of trouble, this little lady got on very well with both Buster and Carrie and seemed to love me but didn't seem to get on too well with Joyce, (or rather vice versa) this may have had something to do with her biting the hand that fed her, when Joyce offered her some ice-cream from the end of her finger. She's been stuck with the name of Ripley, mainly because Joyce reckons that with her outlook on life you could send her down any tunnel equipped with flame thrower and 25mm cannon and she would sort out any aliens that she came across, they'd probably run just at the sight of her. I had also mentioned to Mary that I would like a polecat coloured ferret this was not meant to be a request, more that I liked them.

Two days after Ripley arrived, I'm sitting indoors chatting to my good friend Bob about spiders and motorbikes and all the good things in life when there's a knock at the door, Joyce opens the door to be greeted by Chris Woodard, "hello Chris" says Joyce, "hello" says Chris "I've just caught this ferret and I immediately thought of Derek", "thanks a lot Chris" says I, Chris then proceeds to explain that during the course of his daily routine he had picked up this large albino hob which was found wandering around an old peoples home, and he wondered if we could take it, "I suppose so" was the stereo reply. Chris said that he would bring the little chap around later that day and then went back work. He duly arrive and we gave the little chap a good check over, very thin, extremely dirty, a couple of broken teeth, an intact maile, so he was a bit smelly, he seemed to be very friendly, a close inspection of his coat showed that he didn't have any ticks or fleas. I'd already prepared a cage for him so he was duly housed and fed after which he settled down for a good nap. Although he was supposed to be an albino, he was actually a dirty gingery-brown colour which made him look like a little teddy bear, so we've called him Teddy. The following day he was given a good bath and has settled down nicely.

That makes four!

The following weekend we were due to take Buster and Carrie Ferret Racing in Cambridge with the Bedford Ferret Welfare. That's where we collected number five. He's a polecat coloured hob named Ginger who was originally found half drowned down a drain, he has the sweetest nature, and could only be put with other ferrets who wouldn't bully him as he's a bit of a whimp. So that's it to date, Buster, Carrie, Ripley, and Ginger happily sharing one cage and Teddy still on his own. They will all eventually get to meet, but we can't allow it at the moment as Teddy had only just been neutered and still has all his hormones and Ripley has still to be spayed. Time will tell if they all get along. So now I have to race four little bundles of trouble to the back door whenever I let them into their run, I usually come second to Buster, who dashes through the door before I get a chance to close it, the trouble is, that when I've caught him I have to open the door again to put him out, and guess what, waiting for me are Carrie, Ripley and Ginger. Off we go again!

I'd better close now, Buster's tugging at my trouser leg, reminding me that it's past his tea time, or maybe he just wants to play.


The following sad and sorry tale appeared in the November, 1995 issue of the N.F.W.S. News.

Shoot First Ask Questions Afterwards

Two of our helpers - Joyce and Derek - who live in urban Hertfordshire came to visit Mike and myself with some disturbing news.

Recently two of their much loved ferrets had escaped.

Teddy, a cuddly albino hob, found safety with an Asian family who cared for him and thought he was wonderful.

Carrie, a coloured jill, found death. She went into someone's conservatory. The owner saw her - didn't know what she was - so he shot her!

Words fail me!

Mary Neale.

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