Surrender Ferret

When the shelter isn't the best solution...

In today's hustle and bustle of life, when lives change for whatever reason, sometimes as pet owners we contemplate a change... for us, and for our pet ferrets. There is one change which should be weighed very heavily in the hearts of ferret owners, however, that of turning an older ferret over to a shelter... any shelter, ferret or otherwise. While shelters are good, we must realize several things. For an emergency, a crisis... when there is no other solution -in a life and death situation- a shelter is acceptable. If there is a matter of convenience, or a desire for a change, there is undeniably no reason for a shelter life for your pet ferret.

Yes, in the worldly ferret community we think 'the shelter can provide better for my ferret now,' 'I don't have the time,' etc. Or perhaps the shelter knows what to watch for in an older ferret, etc. However, there is an undeniable action: abandonment. And your ferret will sense this, whatever the reason, whether you think it is for the better or naught.

For example: Dan (not a real name), called the shelter, "Hi, I need you to take my ferret; my work schedule has changed after several years and now I don't get to let my ferret out as often as I used to." Hey, this is a great, caring owner right? Perhaps, then the rest of the story was revealed. "My ferret is 5 1/2 years old and he should have someone who can give him more attention." Aha! This still sounds great UNTIL--we analyze the situation. An older ferret--who has been an ONLY ferret. The ferret lives in a great home, gets good food, and is comfortable but the owner can only give him an hour a day out of the cage now. Not so bad really.

So the alternative is, the ferret would come to a shelter. Most likely this ferret would lose the cage he is familiar with, live in a dormitory style setting, with lots of other ferret smells, all different sounds, different routines. Sure, he would get out an hour or so a day at the shelter, but would have to deal with other ferrets. Not so bad you think? Well what about the single ferret who doesn't even know he is a ferret--after all it has been him and his owner, two buddies, now he has to deal with these fur faced creatures who sniff both ends, push him around, etc. Stressful? YOU BET! It sure isn't home, not even close! All the security the poor ferret had is gone. This ferret will never know the owner abandoned him all in the name of a better life. Abandoned, you bet, and that is how the ferret will feel: for no reason dumped on the door of a strange place. He may be cuddled and talked to, but it won't be home. He may have food to eat, it won't be home.

So, what will become of this lost little ferret? Most likely the ferret will get depressed, develop loose stools, lack of appetite, lose weight and loss of the will to live. In human terms it is called RTS, Relocation Trauma Syndrome and this is seen often with (human) geriatric patients placed in nursing homes. In ferret shelters caretakers aggressively battle this with subcutaneous fluids, forced feedings, and medications. Sometimes it works, sometimes it does not. When it works, and I see it often, you are left with a ferret that eats, sleeps, battles underlying health problems which surface due to stress, and has virtually no life or luster. Yes, a ferret devoid of character, rejected, and forlorn.

Is this what you as a ferret owner would want to happen? Heck no. You can understand why in an extreme case a ferret would need to endure this existence, say if the family perished in an accident and there was no familiar place for the ferret to go. But because your work schedule changed? Heck NO!

When these points were addressed by the caller, Dan, he said, "You know, I never thought of that. I thought that he would get more attention. I never considered that what attention he got would be shared with umpteen other shelter ferrets. I bet that since his life expectancy is only a few more years, it would be better for him to stay at home."

Sure, I agreed, and told Dan whenever he had a question on behavior or health to call the shelter, that we would be happy to share our knowledge and guide him along. In the end, we know an older ferret was spared the shock, the fear of abandonment which he would have endured otherwise, due to his owner's good intentions.

-A.K. Drakiotes



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