‘Breeding Faster Than We Can Save’: Responsible UK Ferret Owners Wanted | Pets
OWhen Angela Taylor was called to help three pregnant ferrets abandoned in a crate in a stranger’s garden, one of them was already in labor. “His kits didn’t survive,” says Taylor, who has run Chase Ferret Rescue in Derbyshire for more than 20 years, “but the other two had six babies, which is a lot of mouths to feed and then find a foyer.”
Now that the summer breeding season has arrived, animal welfare groups are reporting a massive influx of lost, stray or abandoned ferrets, often pregnant jills (females) whose owners cannot cope with extra kits, or hobs (males) who have gathered their notorious evasion skills to go in search of a mate. Inevitably, the impact of confinement on the ownership of pets is also felt: “They reproduce faster than we can save them”, sighs Taylor.
The Scottish SPCA launched an appeal to potential ferret owners last week, after an influx of fluffy mustelids into its shelters. There are at least 50 ferret protection and rescue organizations across the UK, many of which are run by a few committed people who rely on local fundraising, and they are ‘full to bursting’, warns Caroline Hornberger of the Heart of England Ferret Association in Droitwich.
“They’re amazing animals, but they’re not for everyone,” says Hornberger, who spends weekends visiting galas and parties to educate the public about ferrets and their ownership. “We always advise new owners not to buy kits, but to bring adults from a rescue center where they have been socialized and handled.”
During lockdown there was a spike in breeding, she says, with owners recognizing the demand and needing a source of income – but selling kits for a ten each perpetuates the idea that ferrets are a “disposable commodity”.
Far fewer people continue to work ferrets to hunt rabbits these days, says Mick Quelch of the National Ferret Welfare Society, but there remains a class of dedicated enthusiasts who attend shows and races who are now gearing up for their first summer events. since the pandemic. “They revel in silverware and rosettes, they are real specialists who want to get rid of this myth of the stinky, biting, trouser-pulling ferret, and show how beautiful they are when cared for. them properly.”
Unfortunately, he adds, there are those who can’t or won’t sterilize their animals, raising them unnecessarily “to make a quick buck”. And there are also those who acquire what they imagine to be an easy pet, not appreciating the specific care they need, such as daily handling to prevent them from becoming aggressive, vigilance in hot weather because they do not sweat, as well as often consistent care. veterinary bills.
A significant challenge for ferret owners is how to best manage them during the breeding season: these animals are induced ovulators, which means that unless they are bred or given medication hormonal, they cannot go out of season, which can be fatal. During the pandemic, ‘jill jabs’, as they are called, were difficult to organize, amid fears that neutering could increase the risk of adrenal disease, all against the backdrop of escalating veterinary bills.
Robert Morrison, animal care assistant at the Scottish SPCA’s Aberdeenshire centre, who currently has nine resident ferrets, including a jill who just had a litter of seven, remains a strong advocate for ownership: “It’s just about making research first.
“Yes, they do smell bad, but if you stay on top of it, it’s fine. They’re used to being in groups, so it’s good to have a pair, but make sure they have some room to climb in high and wide cages: they love to explore and go through tunnels.
“Ferrets are brilliant pets; they are really sociable and very intelligent and they thrive on interaction with their owner. Learn to handle them well and they won’t get snappy. And after a play, they’ll be happy to snuggle up in your lap.