When is using a water dish not a good idea?

At the shelter every cage has both a clip on water dish and a water bottle.  This is something I have done for a long time.  Family and close friends will tell you I can worry about that 1% that may never happen.  That’s mostly true, but, once in a awhile I am proven right.

When my dear friend Helen was killed instantly at 10:30 at night in a car accident; her cousin contacted my mid morning the next day when they went to Helen’s house and saw the large poster in her ferret room that I had made for her and insisted she hang up.  I went so far as to “bully” her standing there with push pins and tape. I wasn’t leaving until she hung it up. Then we could have our tea. Because of this poster, her cousin knew who to call to take care of Helen’s ferrets!  Helen was not close to her family as they  did not like any of her pets so know one would have known whom to call if not for that poster.

When Jeanne and I arrived to collect the ferrets that morning; several of the cages had no water.  Like most of us, I am sure Helen told herself that 1/3 of a bottle would do till she got home after work and then she would top up all the bottles (she had 13 ferrets housed in 5 cages).  She was probably running late to get to work. We will never know the circumstances for the empty bottles but the fact was she was literally 5 minutes from home when she was killed. From 10:30 pm  till 10:30 the next morning is a long time before I arrived at her house.

None of the ferrets were in distress because of course it was only 12 hours  or so hours.  But, it reaffirmed my being anal about having both the water dish and the water bottle in each cage.  We expect to return home.  We expect to fill dishes or top water bottles but we just have to run one quick errand. Even in larger families, during an emergency/tragedy everyone is focused elsewhere and the animals can be overlooked.

Having said all of the above, sometimes, a ferret will defy your perfect logic.  Meet Buddy.  Buddy is an un-socialized ferret living in the playpen in my living room  giving me access to him till bedtime.  He is coming along. He no longer hides under the blanket. He used to only come out under the cover of darkness to eat and drink. Now he will eat and drink even as I walk by, he will play with the stuffies. He will run through the tube in his cage. He will even sleep/rest on top of his blankie and watch me as I walk back and forth from the kitchen into my living room.

I have a water bottle hanging from the playpen.  I also have a small dish clipped at the bottom.  I keep topping up the dish.  I have seen him drinking from the bottle.  I have seen him at the water dish.  He must be a very thirsty ferret! The water dish seems to be empty every time I go by.  This morning I was working on my laptop minutes after giving Buddy fresh water in his dish.

I hear the sounds of splish splash and look up in time to see Buddy happily paddling in his water dish. The floor mat is soaked and so is the Christmas sleep sack. Heh, stop that Buddy.  He slunk off and crawled under his towel in the nest box. Hmmm, not a thirsty ferret at all.  Just a water baby!  When he is a little easier to handle he is going to have fun playing in the bathtub!

So for Buddy, it now means I will hang two water bottles for that “just in case something happens and I can’t get home in time”.  I’m leaving the water dish and yes I will top it up! Can’t deprive Buddy of the joy of splish splashing in his water dish!

 

Advertisements

WHEN WAS THE LAST TIME YOU CHECKED THE TOYS?

A huge thank you to Dan and Melissa for allowing me to share their heartbreak loss of Sara.

Sara passed away at home from what we feel was  an undiagnosed blockage. You see sometimes when a ferret eats something they shouldn’t it causes a partial blockage. The ferret is still eating “sort of” and pooping but not a normal poop, kind of stringy.  When they have the start and stop eating and pooping you can be thrown off thinking it is a flu or tummy upset and not a blockage.

Could we have saved Sara? She was seven years old and getting frail. Would she have survived surgery?  This blog is not about the blockage. It is about checking your ferret’s toys on a WEEKLY basis.

The chewed tennis ball was found the night Sara passed.  Now this tennis ball had been part of her toys for the last six years and she had never chewed on it.  What made her decide to chew on it this time? We will never know. It wasn’t chewed like the picture below, but enough of the fuzz was pulled away from the tennis ball that Dan & Melissa realized that she had been chewing on it.

even the fuzz off the tennis ball can cause a blockage

even the fuzz off the tennis ball can cause a blockage

I know I am on my soap box but if my nagging can help just one family put this safety protocol in place, then Sara has not died in vain.

You see, I have seen this in the shelter over and over.  A stuffy that everyone loves and is carried around but never chewed until it is. A blankie that is dragged into the nest box behind the TV suddenly has chew holes in it!

I have had the stomach churning panic of discovering a chewed stuffie, blanket, even a broken jingle ball without the ball!!!  Years ago after having to hairball 20 ferrets because I did not know which ferret had chewed the stuffie.  All the toys were checked and  any toy that might cause a blockage was thrown out. Out went all the tennis balls. Out went all the stuffies with foam inside. My ferrets were not happy but I had peace of mind.

I have a dedicated play room now  for the fuzzies and after each play time I check the toys and floor for any bits of material. I admit to being paranoid about blockages and yet I still get the occasional scare when I find that blanket with a chew hole in it! grrrrrr

Every Saturday, I throw all the washable toys in the washing machine. I check each item closely and if I see any signs of seams wearing or signs of chewing; the toy is discarded.  The toys are washed with soap and  vinegar so that they are clean and sterilized!  The same goes for all those blankies in all those extra nest boxes all over the house.

The message here is don’t assume that the safe toys will always be safe. Check them weekly for any signs of chewing and of course the toys have to be washed at least every month or every second week.

Safe Toys for Ferrets

Ferrets will play with just about anything you put in front of them. If you have ever owned a ferret, you know that you can put 20 great toys in front of them only to see them running off with something they have found that could be deadly if chewed.

As a shelter mom, I have had the hairs on the back of my neck stand up in fear as I am shown the newly surrendered ferret’s toys. A blockage just waiting to happen! They are quietly tossed away or donated to a dog shelter.

Have I scared the pants of you yet? Hope so, because a great homemade toy is your pants/sweats/jeans. Ferrets love to tunnel and they love crawling through the legs of your pants. You’re headed out right now to Value Village to buy up some old pairs of jeans, right?! Grab some old sweatshirts too.  Not only do they love to sleep in old sweatshirts but the arms make great mini tunnels.

Other great homemade toys are:

plastic grocery bags with the handles removed to avoid strangulation. Paper bags any size, they love the crinkly noises they make                   any cardboard box with different shaped holes cut out – your ferrets will think of themselves as the new whack a mole as they pop out of the different holes.                                                                                                some of us even let our ferrets play in the plastics storage cupboard; allowing our furry to “sneak” in and spend the next 30 minutes pushing all the containers and lids out on to the floor                                            you can play magic carpet ride by dragging an old towel across your floor with the ferret catching a ride!

There are some great safe toys that you can pick up at your local dollar store such as: jingle balls, rope toys, stuffies without beads or foam, MFA knotty knots etc etc

assortment of safe toys

assortment of safe toys

maize created with plastic tubes

maize created with plastic tubes

 

round tunnel, elephant tunnel

round tunnel, elephant tunnel

hard plastic/hard rubber ring baby toys-NOT GOOD FOR FERRETS

hard plastic/hard rubber ring baby toys-NOT GOOD FOR FERRETS

I have taken pictures of a small display sample of bad toys for ferrets. Toys that the ferrets can chew pieces off and end up with a fatal blockage. check out my blog BAD Toys for Ferrets.

One last tip, before you give your ferret what you hope will be a fun toy ask yourself the following: can my ferret chew and swallow a piece, can my ferret strangle on cords or handles, can my ferret suffocate?