Message Number: YG2923 | New FHL Archives Search
From: Debra Thomason
Date: 2001-04-25 01:58:00 UTC
Subject: Ferrets and Infants

I've had ferrets since the early ninties. My daughter was born not quite
two years ago. The ferrets have certainly had to make adjustments... they
used to have free roam of most of the upstairs of our home any time we were
at home and always had their own room. With baby coming we had to replace
some of the carpet that really needed to go anyway due to ferret damage and
cheap original carpet. We didn't want repeats of the ferret damage,
especially since one of the offending areas was in the room that became the
nursery, and we needed to prevent unauthorized visits between baby and
ferrets. I was particularly concerned about my Sierra, who outgrew a nippy
kithood nicely but reacted violently to the last ferret we brought home 4
years after Sierra joined us (no other ferrets in between). I was concerned
that she might view the baby as another unwelcome interloper and attack her
as she attacked little Jewel. I gave up on integrating Jewel with Sierra
after months of attempts involving not only pee and poop flying but also big
tufts of hair, blood, etc. I had never been unable to integrate a ferret
with others before, but this one simply didn't work, and I didn't want a
repeat with a human child. The ferrets became more restricted... they
stayed in their room unless we could be directly with them, so outside play
time shortened to a couple of hours a day with Jewel and Sierra alternating
the days they were caged within their room and alternating playtime. Large
cages, a well-furnished ferret room, toys, and playtime seem to keep them
pretty happy and healthy. We also try to make them part of what's going on
by opening their room door and keeping them in with a plexiglass barricade
when we're upstairs but doing something that is not conducive to having
ferrets underfoot.

For interaction with the baby, of course it is always supervised. Up to
around 8 or 9 months it was only a bit of sniffing for the ferrets and
looking with a bit of brief help petting the ferrets. The baby was very
interested in the ferrets but not able to do too much on her own and the
ferrets would sniff, say "Big deal, what else is new?" and go on about their
business. Up to 15-18 months or so it was make the baby sit to be allowed
to pet a ferret held by the parents and teach her about gentle petting. She
had a tendency to want to grab at the ferrets or squeeze them. She was too
unsteady and the ferrets were not wary enough of her feet yet and we wanted
no injuries from a baby stepping on or falling on a ferret. From 18-21
months (present) Julianna has been learning to offer treats (with
supervision), to pet without parents holding the ferrets (just watching),
and that you cannot use the ferret's skin as handles! The ferrets pay much
more attention to the baby, she plays appropriately with them, and they are
inventing games to play with her. I saw Jewel play "tag" with Julianna the
other day... she would hide under something and wait for Julianna to look
for her, then sneak up behind Julianna, jump up and tag her on the rump with
her front paws and run away chuckling! Sierra gets along fine with the baby
and we're pleasantly surprised with how well they get along. I'd say give
it a try before placing your ferrets. They may surprise you!

Debra in Fort Worth