Editor’s note: This is a monthly installment by the co-founder of SC-CARES that spotlights some of the more non-traditional animals undergoing rehabilitation at the shelter.
Bon Bon is a white-footed ferret, which is a form of a wild European polecat that’s been domesticated.
Ferrets were rare as pets until the 1980s and by 1996 it was reported that there were 800,000 ferrets in homes across the United States. Some states have since banned them as pets or require a permit to have a ferret considering the risk of disease, like rabies and distemper.
Ferrets were released in the wild to reduce the prairie dog population in the west due to the prairie dogs digging burrows causing injury to cattle as they broke legs stepping into the holes. The ferrets are carnivores and in the wild will kill other small mammals like prairie dogs, rabbits and mice. In captivity, they are sustained on a pelleted carnivore diet.
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Ferrets are what’s called crepuscular, which means they prefer to sleep 14 to 18 hours a day and are most active at dawn and at dusk. Other crepuscular creatures include deer, big cats and bears.
The name ferret comes from the Latin language, meaning “little thief,” and if you’ve ever been around a ferret you know this to be true. They are curious, playful creatures and live to find “things” and take them to their secret hiding spot just for the sake of having it!
Ferrets only have a life expectancy of seven to 10 years and most will succumb to adrenal tumors from being spayed and neutered too young. Male ferrets are called “hobs”; females are called “jills.”
Ferrets are very entertaining to watch; they play hard but only in spurts then it’s time for a nap. When they’re excited they’ll do what’s called the “weasel war dance” which is a combination of hopping, jumping side to side and pouncing.
Here at SC-CARES we’ve had the privilege of giving a home to several ferrets. Currently our ferret family consists of two: Bon Bon and Doc. Bon Bon was abandoned in an apartment when her caretakers moved out; for whatever their reason, she was left behind locked in a pet carrier. Thankfully a neighbor looked in and saw her in time before she would have certainly met her end with no food or water.
Bon Bon’s coloring is called sable and according to our veterinarian, judging by her teeth, she seems to be fairly young, 3 years old or so. She does show signs of adrenal issues but hopefully we can keep her healthy and happy for a few more years.
Bon Bon and Doc are out running through the hut for several hours in the mornings and of course getting into mischief. If something is missing we know their hiding spots and will usually find the items there. They are so much fun and such sweet creatures.
If you’re thinking of having a ferret as a companion, please consider adopting one instead of purchasing one. Currently there are more than 400 ferrets in rescues across the U.S. looking for loving homes. Check petfinder.com for more information on them. Do your research on ferrets so your decision can be a commitment that you can live with for the animal’s lifetime.