Ferrets at the Lamont Household

Some 12 years ago our two daughters, on seeing the ferrets of a colleague, were much taken by these very actived little animals and wanted to have one or two as pets. We already had something of a menagerie at the time; 1 elderly hen, 1 tortoise, 4 cats and 2 dogs. Did we want more animals?

We read up about keeping ferrets as pets as opposed to hunting with them and as a result, undertook to acquire two. Rather than buy from a pet shop, I thought there must be ferrets in need of a good home and accordingly rang the RSPCA. I warned the children that it could be several weeks before any would become available. Three hours after the initial phone call, the RSPCA rang back to say that there were 3 ferrets at their Warrington centre. We went to see them (school holiday time) a polecat jill and hob housed together and one albino hob next door. They seemed to be kept well separated from the other animals at the centre and the assistants wore gauntlets when handling them. We said we would take the two as they were obviously well acquainted. One assistant (braver than the others?) had handled the polecat hob and named him Beau; well, he was handsome and he knew it, we subsequently found! Of course, we went back for the albino; we could not bear the thought of him being left on his own.

Incidentally, we have never had the need for gaunlets, which is not to say that the odd nip ot two has not been administered from time to time.

Now we had three; Beau, Titch and Casper, all characters. We had bought harnessess for them and Beau especially enjoyed going for a walk, so much so that he took off one day on his own. He loved people and followed an elderly lady up the road who fortunately, recognising that he was a ferret and therefore dangerous, locked herself in her house and rang the RSPCA. They, equally fortunately, were able to collect the errant animal before he disappeared for all time. Meanwhile, tearful children were assured that notices around the village would generate a positve response, which they did. I rang the RSPCA: yes, a ferret had been collected and even now was on his way to Warrington. Next day, off to Warrington again, (no longer holiday time, a half day off work, one child recovering from some ailment in tow and complete with cat basket) to collect the wanderer. Half-way round a complex roundabout (Warrington has many of these) daughter says "Beau has got his head stuck in the cat-basket door mesh!" Is he choking? No, he's looking around with interest. Good, because I can't stop, I'm not that foolhardy. Down the M6, observing all the speed limits of course, call in at work; engineers saw through the restraining strut, back home with freed ferret. Is he stressed? No; are we? Yes?

Titch kept the hobs in order. She was a very pretty little jill who loved to hide things such as rubbers, pencils, balls and playthings in the settee base (the base cover had a conveniently ferret-sized hole in it). We had no idea how old they were. The vet thought that Beau and Titch were probably not more than a year old but that Casper was considerably older, maybe 4. (We had had all of them neutered.)

Casper, what a character! Undoubtedly my husband's favourite, he would scramble up on to Joe's lap, have a rest and a bit of a fuss and then, via Joe's shoulder, launch himself into the air off the back of the chair, eyes closed, down on to the floor, flop; then back on to Joe's lap for a repeat performance. Did he think he could fly?

Christmas, and the tree. Who could get to the top first? Casper; who could strip the chocolate decorations of their silver paper before anyone could wrest them from him? Beau favoured bashing the shiny baubles until they fell off and then admire his handsome reflection in them.

Thus life continued for about 2 years (it felt longer!) We acquired another ferret, this time from the local RSPCA centre and the gang of four settled in. On Christmas Eve came a phone call from Bob, the RSPCA man (I was beginning to know him quite well). Could we take another ferret? Bob would bring a ferret hutch with him as temporary accommodation. It was a very wet evening when Gordon arrived complete with hutch. Later, while waiting for the children to go to sleep (I was on Santa duty) I popped out to see how the newcomer was settling in. His roof was leaking so he was somewhat summarily introduced to the others. Christmas spirit prevailed; Titch showed him his place in the pecking order and Gordon, the doziest ferret ever, became an instantly accepted member of the ferret collection. He was large compared with the others, sort of sandy coloured, and old. He was of the school "Why run when you can walk, why walk when you can stand, why stand when you can lie down? and would allow some hapless human to carry him around for hours, given the chance.

Along the way, about 1998 or '99, we saw an article in the Times about ferrets and the NFWS, so we joined. Nice to know that there are a lot of people who are actively concerned with ferret welfare and introducing the unaware public to the joys (stresses?) of ferret ownership.

Since then we have had several other ferrets. Feisty Patch took over from Titch in maintaining the tradition of female authority; subsiequently Sandy, a very beautiful sandy jill, is continuing the practice. She arrived more or less at the same time as Salt. He was an albino who had been in an accident which had required reconstructive surgery to his waterworks. Not tht this slowed him down at all. Now, however, we are down to two, Oscar who is about 9 years old, and Sandy, who is about 7. Oscar has recently had an operation to remove a growth in his tummy skin and is showing signs of age. Sandy is as bouncy as when very young. I think that they will be the last in the line of ferrets (Bob has moved on...) but we have derived a lot of pleasure from them all.

(First published in NFWS News - #79 September 2007)