Bolton Ferret Welfare

Yarm Ferret Rescue - January 2013

by Sue Lloyd

Millie

Hello, my name is Millie. I am a dark polecat-coloured jill. I have native polecat in me. I was bred for working and showing from winning lines, despite my being sold off as surplus stock. I was a bouncy kit and very friendly. I was born in May 2004 on a holding on the North Yorkshire moors.

I was bought by a woman who wanted to win rosettes. I was well fed, had ferret friends to play with and a nice cage. I was beautiful and won lots of red rosettes including Best Kit. The next two years were good and I won more rosettes and Best in Shows. My owner was well pleased and wanted more. The next spring I was to taken to visit a handsome dark polecat-coloured hob called Scooby-Doo and do we did, my tummy got rounder and rounder and eventually I produced ten babies. I can't understand why, but something was wrong and they soon all died. I was upset, my owner was upset, all sorts of theories were expressed. A couple of weeks later I came back into season and was back visiting Scooby. This time I had five and they soon died too.

My owner was determined to breed from me: the next spring I went to meet what they called a European Polecat hob and within weeks I had a huge tummy. So big was I that I was taken to a vet for a check-up. The vet said that my babies were fine but that I had inverted nipples and was unable to express milk to feed my babies. That explained a lot. My owner "geared up" to hand-rear the babies but when a local ferret rescue got to hear about the problem they arranged to find a foster jill for my babies. An article in the local paper resulted in two polecat-coloured jills with young babies being offered to help. They came to live at my home and we all waited and waited. The day came and I had ten babies again. They were taken away from me and I was upset. Six went to Emma who already had five of her own. Four went to the other jill who I never met, she had four babies of her own, one of my babies with this jill died so my owner took the rest of my babies that were with her away and put them all in with Emma. I ran up and down my cage trying to get to my babies so my owner put me in with Emma. Emma was a year old and we struck up a great friendship. I couldn't feed the kits but I could keep them clean and teach them manners.

Show season arrived: the kits of mine which had survived and pros-pered won rosettes and cups by the armful. We all wintered together and what a lively bunch we were! The next spring the male kits moved into a cage of their own and the only hob us girls visited was vasectomised. Emma and I were great friends and when our owner took in young rescue kits for a local rescue Emma and I looked after them; we love kits. One day I became very poorly and was taken to the vets who said that I had a build up of oestrogen. I was treated with medicines but my owner wouldn't pay to have me spayed, she said that she wasn't spending money on an old ferret. "Thanks, I wasn't that old!"

After the next winter things weren't so good for us ferrets. We weren't cleaned out, our claws over-grew, water bottles weren't changed daily and the food was plain. I started to feel itchy and I scratched and scratched. A young man called in once or twice a week to clean us out and to give us fresh water. When he pointed out to my owner that I was bald she just said I was old! Soon all of us ferrets were scratching.

Our owner wanted a holiday so she took us to the local ferret rescue who also took in holiday boarders. She never came back for us. The owner of the rescue had known me since I was a kit and she stared at me in disbelief: the only fur I had left was my mask and my tummy was covered in sores. We went to the vets who said I had sarcoptic mange. The treatment took weeks. I didn't like being sprayed and I certainly didn't like the Baytril antibiotic but it worked. Slowly I ceased to itch and my coat grew back.

Emma and I were together still and we had a young hob kit to bring up. The food was good, the water fresh and exercise was fun.

This year I never came into season and my coat never moulted but I enjoyed my food. I got upset when Emma disappeared for 24 hours. When she returned she had been spayed, then she removed the wound glue so off she went again to be re-glued. I've had two trips to the vet: I don't mind, I try to look my best like when I used to win at the shows.

I hear the word tumours and my tummy is getting big again. But I do like my food and now it's time for dinner.

Millie

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Last year was another busy one for us. Once again I say that whilst ferrets are in fashion the res-cues will remain full. Too many people are breeding ferrets for a 'fast buck'; I came across one chap last summer who had bred litters from two jills, he didn't even know how many kits each jill had had. They were well fed but the kits were sold far too young. Proceeds from selling the kits were to go to buy a pair of angora ferrets for breeding as this man had seen highly priced angora ferrets on the internet. He seemed totally unaware how difficult it is to breed angoras.

In the autumn I took a hob in who was being kept in a coal bunker, as cooler weather approached the bunker was needed for coal so it was bye bye to the hob. The hob had been obtained along with a jill purely for breeding. The jill was also kept in unsuitable accommodation and by the time the kits were half grown the jill was seen trying to climb a ladder whilst carrying the kits one by one up to a higher shelf. Several kits were dropped and were injured, the owner said he killed them. Then the jill was found dead, presumably also from falling.

Now that we are in a new year we seem to be in a now familiar pattern for at least my rescue and that is of constant phone calls once Christmas has ended and people keen to make a fresh start want rid of their pet ferrets having grown bored with them.

Over the years I've had many a ferret lock on, usually one not used to being handled. Well there's a first time for everything and December I took a young chap in aged 7 months. I knew that he was "a bit nippy". He locked on to a finger, with my free hand I nearly managed to prise him off. He opened his mouth and then clamped down again catching my thumb on the other hand so he had me by both! Thankfully he can't have liked the taste so he opened his mouth to spit me out but his lower canine was hooked deeply into my flesh. I managed to stay calm and unhooked myself which limited the damage. My bandaged fingers seemed to cause much amusement to others over Christmas!

(First published January 2013)

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