'Tis the Season
By Mary Van Dahm
The holidays will soon be upon us. Parties and family get togethers are popular in most households during this time of year. Unfortunately these events can present many dangerous situations for our ferrets.
Most of us do our best to maintain a safe environment for our fuzzies. We ferret proof our houses (and re-check them periodically!) and take special precautions when we know that guests are coming over.
Hopefully most ferret owners safely lock their ferrets up in a cage or a ferret-proof room with a barrier across the doorway. But what can you do if unexpected company stops by? It’s not polite to tell people, “Come back later – my ferret is out playing!” While another ferret owner may understand this request, the average person might be insulted!
One solution is to invite your friends in, but let them know right away that there is a ferret on the loose. Ask them to wait by the doorway while you locate your pet and tuck him away in his cage. If you cannot find your pet right away, ask your company to watch their steps carefully and check all sofas and chair cushions to make sure that a little furball isn’t nestled inside or underneath before they sit down. Hopefully your ferret will hear all of the commotion and strange voices and come out to investigate. If there still is no sign of your pet, caution your guests about the following things:
- Bathroom – make sure that everybody puts the toilet seat lid down. Some people are not aware that many ferrets can climb or pull themselves up and could fall into the bowl. Don’t rely on your guests to remember to put the lid down, either. Verbally remind them to do it when they come out of the bathroom or check it yourself.
- Carpet Lumps – these are not always the sign of a careless housekeeper – they are often furry ‘speed-bumps’ and should not be stepped on!
- Snacks/Drinks – caution your guests about leaving glasses or bowls on the floor. Not only might your ferret make a mess if he sneaks up to investigate and tips things over, but the contents may also be harmful to your pet.
- Refrigerators – you might be amazed at how fast a ferret can sneak into an open fridge! Unfortunately the thin coats that most household ferrets have are not enough protection against hypothermia.
- Purses, Gloves, Hats and Boots – these are all tempting items that your ferret may try to investigate. Disappearing hats and gloves can be more than annoying. Some ferrets like to chew on these items and can end up with a blockage. Boots can also cause blockages if chewed, but also carry the added danger of being coated with de-icing solvent, sidewalk salt or other chemicals. Purses can be the biggest danger of all due to the wide variety of items that many women carry—from rubber bands and medicines to practically the kitchen sink!
- Coats – hopefully you had room in your front closet to hang your company’s coats. If not, you probably laid the garments across your bed. Have your guests pick up their coats carefully in case a little furball decided to take a nap inside the coat or up a sleeve. Make sure that your guests check their pockets, too, for stowaways. I know of someone who thought he had his gloves in his pocket and got halfway to his car when the ‘gloves’ started to move! I don’t know who was more surprised – the guest who discovered the ferret or the owner when he answered the door and was handed a fuzzy package!
Other things to watch out for during the holidays are holiday decorations. Trees, lights, tinsel, ornaments and wrapped packages are all temptations for our fuzzy friends.
Evergreens can be dangerous to ferrets because of the pine sap that can make a ferret sick and from the chemically treated water that many people use to keep the trees fresh. Wrap your tree stand with chicken wire or hardware cloth so your ferrets cannot get to the water to drink it. Better yet, get a short tree and put it up on a table where your ferrets can’t reach it. I’ve even seen trees that have been hung from the ceiling by a hook to keep the ferrets and other pets away from it. (Make sure thatthe trees are away from anything that the ferret can climb to jump over to the tree!)
Gift wrap and ribbons can pose hazards to ferrets. Many ferrets are attracted to the shiny paper and ribbons. The paper can cause a hazard if it is chewed and swallowed – especially if it is foil based. Wrapping paper does not break down easily and can form a blockage in a ferret’s intestines. Ribbons can be a hazard if they are swallowed. Not only can pieces of ribbon form a blockage, but they can also cut up the intestines. Ribbons can also pose a hazard, not only if swallowed, but if your ferret gets his head stuck in one of the loops of the bow he might strangle himself.
Tinsel, like ribbon, is also an intestinal danger. Lights can pose a shock hazard if your ferret chews on the cord. Your ferret also might chew off a bulb and cut its mouth, or worse yet, get electrocuted. I strongly recommend, if you have to have a full sized tree, that you make the room that the tree is in totally off limits to your ferrets while the tree is up.
I hope that these suggestions and precautions will help you have a safe and enjoyable holiday season with your pet!
Ron O’Hara, a FAIR member from Michigan, sent in this additional list of dangers that ferret owners should be aware of all year long:
- Box Springs – many ferrets tear out the underlining of the box spring of the bed. This not only makes it hard to retrieve the ferret, but the ferret may get injured or stuck.
- Stuffed Animals – do not let your ferret play with stuffed animals that have protruding or glued on plastic parts (Especially eyes, nose, mouth, etc). Watch ears, limbs and tails for signs of chewing and take the toy away from your pet if you see these signs.
- Tennis Balls – Watch for chewing. Tennis balls are made of rubber which can entice a ferret to chew on it. Even the fuzzy covering to the tennis ball can cause a blockage if it ‘pills up’ and is swallowed. Check all of your ferret’s toys regularly for signs of wear or chewing and throw worn toys away – even if it is your ferret’s favorite!
- Pigs Ears and Rawhide Treats – Pieces chewed off of these common dog treats can form serious blockages in your ferret’s intestines.
- Tissue Boxes – some people give these to their ferrets as an inexpensive toy. Make sure that you take all of the plastic off from around the opening. Some ferrets chew this and can get a blockage or choke on the plastic.
- Toilet Paper/ Paper Towel Tubes – ferrets have gotten their heads caught in paper tubes and have suffocated. If you insist on giving your ferret these items to play with, then at least cut the tube lengthwise so your ferret can easily release itself from the tube.
- Carrier Parts – some pet carriers have black rubber or plastic tips on the prongs that you squeeze together to open the carrier. Ferrets have been known to pull these tips off of the prongs!
Let’s make a real effort to keep our fuzzies safe during this upcoming holiday season and through-out the new year!