Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Walk this way: Ferret Harnesses


Properly fitted (and proper) ferret harnesses are important when taking your pet outside. FERRETS SHOULD NEVER BE TAKEN FOR A WALK USING A COLLAR AND LEAD. Ferrets can slip collars within seconds and, before you know it, your pleasant afternoon wander will become a search and rescue mission.

There are quite a few different styles of ferret harnesses on the market - walking jackets, H-harnesses, and nylon string-style harnesses are the most common, but beware: when it comes to keeping your ferret safe, not all harnesses are created equal!

String style harnesses such as the one pictured here will not keep your fuzzy safe. I have had physically disabled ferrets slip this style of lead with relative ease - a perfectly healthy ferret would have the harness off in seconds.

Walking jackets, though considerably better than string-style harnesses, are simple for most ferrets to slip out of. The velcro closures of such walking jackets can easily be opened by most ferrets and will generally come undone when the ferret begins to 'swim' in the grass or on any textured surface (as ferrets love to do). Some companies have attempted to make their walking jackets more secure by adding snaps above the velcro to help keep the closure snug. In my experience, the nylon straps which are meant to hold the snaps snug tend to slip and loose easily, making them ineffective. Another problem with walking jackets is that most are built based on size and intended to fit a variety of small animals such as rabbits, rats and chinchillas - they are not specific for ferrets. This is not a problem is you have a ferret with a hefty build, or one that is overweight but if you have a healthy ferret with a slim build, you will find that the bottom portion of the walking harness cannot be made small enough to fit your ferret's chest securely.

Personally, I have had the most success with double snap H-style harnesses (those with velcro closures suffer from the same problem as walking harnesses with velcro closures). The H style harness tends to have quite a bit of adjustment and closely securely to discourage ferrets from slipping their harness. For those that are unfamiliar with H-style harnesses, here is what they look like:
If you have a particularly petite female ferret, you will notice that, in terms of size, that not all H harnesses are created equal. I have found that Marshall H harnesses tend to fit a bit on the large side (roughly to fit a 1.5 lb ferret), and while Living World brand harnesses do adjust small enough to fit a petite 1.3 lb (at its smallest setting), the only harness that I have found that can be adjusted to fit ferrets as small as 1 lb is the 5in1 harness and lead sets which can be found online at ferret.com or the ferret depot. The downside to this harness is that it is slightly heavier than both the Marshall and the Living World, and the bell and name tags on the collar is large enough to hit the floor when used on smaller ferrets (though the bell and name tag can be removed).It is important to keep in mind that no ferret harness is fool proof; ferrets are built to be able to slip through small spaces with ease.

To learn how to fit a harness, stay tuned for the next installment of "Walk this way"

- risk serious injury or death is high.