Message Number: YG3012 | New FHL Archives Search
From: Christopher
Date: 2001-04-28 00:20:00 UTC
Subject: Re: ferrets and newborns

--- In Ferret-Health-list@y..., "Linda" <Linda@f...> wrote:
> am worried that they will go after the baby when he/she is born,
out of
> jealousy. Anyone know about how ferrets are with babies and

I hate to be the one to do the negative post!

When I was stationed at Beaufort Naval Hospital, we had two different
cases come in to the ER in one year where the family ferret had
repeatedly bitten an infant about the face and arms. At the time we
theorized it was the milk smell but none of us had a clue about
ferrets. One of the infants was bitten badly enough about the face as
to require reconstructive plastic surgery and was expected to be
scarred for life. Not trying to be negative, do want you to realize
the potential danger. An unsupervised ferret gaining access to an
infant is not a pretty thing. I worked a train wreck once and never
had a nightmare, these babies gave me nightmares for a very long
time. The bites were concentrated about the face which supported our
milk breath theory at the time. But bites were present all over both
infants. In an older child I expect the concentration would have been
around the arms and hands as defense marks.

Anyway. I've learned a little about ferrets since those days (never
thought I would be owned by one, much less six at that time).
Watching my guys with the squeak toy I use to call them, or
responding to Jamie's squeals when I hold him down and tickle him. I
think the crying of the infant is what set them off. Gabriel will
come running when I tickle Jamie and do his best to bite him in the
face if I'm not quick to snatch him up. Chance, Gabe and Chase have
all bitten my hand at one time or another when I was using the
squeaky toy to gather the troops. I'm not sure if they think it is a
distress call and want to help, or an injured animal they
instinctively decide is food. Seems to me the latter is more probable
or they would bite me for tickling Jamie and not bite him for

Then we have Café and Chase. If they get under the blankets with
I can count on a nip to the upper arm or waist or somewhere that the
flesh is soft and tender. Café gets really aggressive with the
old lady skin" as Mom puts it, on Mom's arms. I imagine a scenario
where the ferret got under the blanket, nipped the infant playfully
arousing screams to which it responded by attacking, which brought on
more screams... until someone rescued the child. A friend who's
ferret got to her guinea pig reinforces this idea for me. That it is
the sound that sets them off. There have been times I've wanted to
bite her squealing guinea pig LOL.

I don't blame the ferret in either case. A child with two or three
bites would have made some sense to me as a tragic and unfortunate
accident. The way these babies must have screamed and the amount of
time it had to have taken for the ferret to bite, shake, roll,
release, dance, bite again and the shear number of bites. I think
both cases should have been prosecuted as neglect and abuse. I was
not in a position to be privy to the outcome and perhaps they were,
but the ER staff wasn't called on to testify so it is doubtful.

I know I have painted a gruesome picture. I honestly hope you keep
your ferrets, I know I would but I would also be extremely paranoid
about them having any unsupervised access to my child. Both the
nursery door and the ferret room door would have to be ferret proof.
I'd have a padlock on the ferret cage for any time I left the child
in the care of a sitter or family member so I KNEW the ferrets
wouldn't be let out near the child unattended. My bottom line, in the
case of a responsible parent, like those who have posted successfully
raising their children with ferrets on this list, there is some
danger but the rewards of growing up with a pet in the house and the
opportunities for teaching a child responsibility, care, coping with
death, the enrichment of a child's life a pet gives all make it

I hope I've passed a little of my paranoia to you without actually
scaring you into getting rid of your fuzzbutts. You have cleansers
and insecticides and a host of dangers to your new baby once he or
she starts crawling. You aren't going to stop cleaning your home,and
turn off the electricity, but I bet you put child locks on the
kitchen cabinet and receptacle covers on the electrical outlets.. The
ferrets are the same scenario.

I applaud you for seeking advice and looking into this now. That
alone says to me this is a lucky baby coming to share his or her new
life with a very responsible parent. Congratulations!!!