Bolton Ferret Welfare

Yarm Ferret Rescue May 2011

by Sue Lloyd

Nicki to the Rescue

My friend Nicki offered to be a foster mom for my rescue. She was very keen, which made me wonder if she knew what she was letting herself in for! The call came in, "We've got a ferret; we can't handle it. We've advertised it but no-one wants it, the RSPCA won't help and we're scared the dog will eat it." Apparently the dog, a German Shepherd x Rottwieler had already eaten four hamsters! The girl sounded desperate: action was required.

At the time I didn't know they'd run out of ferret food. Apparently their local pet shop had informed them that it was okay to feed the ferret on dog biscuits, which they did by poking them through the cage bars!

I told Nicki, who came to the rescue with her faithful Renault 'Cleo' and her partner Neil. It was lucky that Neil was able to go with her as they had to go to a somewhat 'down part' of a north eastern town which even the police are reluctant to venture into, whilst doctors can only make house calls if they have extra insurance cover on their vehicles.

Having reached the address, they looked around apprehensively. Many of the houses had boarded-up windows with 'don't mess with me' type of men on the street accompanied by their even meaner looking dogs. Nicki was quite rightly nervous about leaving her car as in that area: vehicles can be stripped in minutes.

With precision co-ordination the rescue took but a few minutes. The ferret cage hadn't been cleaned out and the albino jill was filthy. With the boarded-up windows the rooms were dark and as there were no lights on, one can only assume that they had no electricity. The ferret's owner struggled to keep the dog shut in another room where it growled and barked somewhat threateningly. There were other cages in the room full of budgies and apparently, upstairs there was a rabbit - maybe the dog wasn't allowed up there?!

Neil hovered trying to help whilst still keeping an eye on Cleo and with the jill secured they made a dash for it. Nicki said that the house was so filthy she wiped her feet on the way out!

Once home, Nicki assessed the little jill who, whilst being feisty due to lack of handling and having long nails, seemed healthy enough. Although both Nicki and myself would have loved to have kept her she now lives with a young gentleman that we know who spends lots of time spoiling her.


Angie is a small, dark polecat jill born in 2005. The family who bred Angie gave her to a retired zoo-keeper who used to have a lot of ferrets but due to his various health problems, had cut back on the number he kept. He kept his ferrets on a farm and the farmer fed and watered them, but they were only cleaned out once every two or three weeks and never got any exercise.

Eventually, only Angie remained and her owner used to take her to various agricultural shows; she always looked well and she was injected with Receptol to keep her out of season. She nearly always returned home with a rosette. However, her future looked unsure and I felt sorry for this little jill who just froze when you picked her up to put her on the judging table. I steward at many of the agricultural shows' ferret sections and at one of these I suggested to Angie's owner that she would be better off coming home with me. He agreed.

My ferrets get to play with their tubes and toys in an empty stable so when I returned with Angie I wasn't too sure where she was going to live as the rescue was pretty full. Fortunately, she's a good mixer and happily moved in with another polecat jill. But the stable completely bewildered her. What was she suppose to do?

Cautiously she stepped forward to investigate but it took a couple of weeks before she was ready to play 'bounce' with her new friend. Now every time I open their cage up, Angie jumps outs and does a circuit round the other cages just to make sure that she can still have her playtime! One day she explored too far: I just happened to see her on a driveway across our busy road. I shot across and managed to grab her before she entered a cattle shed where she would have been trampled for sure. Obviously runs-out would have to be better supervised!

A month after arriving here I was horrified to feel a lump in her throat area. Having experienced viral lymphoma amongst my ferrets, I didn't fancy facing that again. However a trip to the vets confirmed a thyroid tumour for which no treatment is available. Not long after her neck swelled up, making her resemble a cobra; it felt soft and, sure enough, an abscess broke out; the tumour had ulcerated a lymph gland. After a course of antibiotics her neck swelling went down and she was fine, running and playing as normal. That was over a year ago. She continues to eat and play, she only complains when she has to have repeated courses of antibiotics to keep the abscess site clean - it's not possible to operate. Meanwhile, the tumour has thankfully been slow to grow and she still has plenty of quality of life.

Foster Jill Register

Spring is here and my ferrets are kicking out their extra bedding from their nest boxes.

The arrival of spring also means... breeding season! With so many ferrets about please don't breed any more. Hopefully, I'm preaching to the converted. Society members have spent many years working hard to publicise 'jills ills', neutering, jill jabbing, etc. so please lets try and get the 'don't breed' message out there.

I will be running my Foster Jill Register again so if you have a jill available to foster kits, or you need a foster jill, please phone/text me on 07817 415645.

(First published May 2011)

Rescue Round-up