Sunday, September 12, 2010

Ferret (mis) information pamphlets

Many pet stores have pamphlets to hand out to those who are curious about or who have recently purchased a pet. Most people assume that the information contained in these pamphlets is reliable and helpful. Unfortunately, this is not always the case, with some containing advise that is not only unhelpful, but could very well create a negative relationship between the pet and their new owner.

The most reliable and helpful ferret pamphlet that I have come across is, strangely, the one distributed by Petland Canada. The pamphlet was sparse in information, but did not contain any extremely false, misguided recommendations. I must admit, I was pleasantly surprised.

Path Valley distributes a pamphlet with the purchase of their kits which contains some decent information, but has one bit of dangerous advice: it tells new owners to flick the noses of the baby ferrets in order to nip train. While this advice may have been considered decent at one time, nose flicking has been shown to potentially foster negative relationships between the ferret and their owner, encourage aggression and even injure the animal (ferret's delicate nasal cavities can be damaged by flicking).

The worst pamphlet that I have found about ferrets, however, is one that I found at Pet Habitat in the Lower Mainland of British Columbia. This pamphlet is so bad that it is potentially dangerous to the welfare of the animal.

To be fair, the pamphlet does have a little bit of good advice. We will begin this rant by getting this short section out of the way.
1) It says that ferrets are social, so more than one is best, and that they play bite each other.
2) They say that ferrets do have a musky odor and should not be bathed too often.
3) It advises you to baby proof your home.
4) It informs new owners that ferrets require regular visits to the veterinarian for checkups.
5) It says that wire cages are best (rather than aquariums) and that bigger is better
6) The pamphlet tells us that ferrets are meat based carnivores

And now for the bad...
1) Key Points on the back page tell us not to point to ferrets as they will bite you for pointing (this, it claims, is due to their poor eyesight)... in reality: There is no truth to this statement.
2) More than one is best... TRUE, but the pamphlet goes on to state that you should not get another ferret until the first has calmed down. In reality, having more than one ferret, and letting them play, will tire them out faster, making them easier for new owners to handle and nip train.
3) Don't bathe ferrets to often... TRUE, but monthly bathing is not necessary and will not "keep them fresh"... infrequent baths are best as ferrets are always smellier following the bath; their skin needs to replenish the oils that have been washed away. Ferret cologne does not get rid of the natural musky ferret smell, but rather tends to create a very bizarre and often overpowering blend of the smells.
4) Once ferrets have been calmed down, you can let them play with other animals... In reality, there is no such thing as a CALMED DOWN playful ferret. In reality, ferrets should not be allowed to play with small animals as they cannot tolerate rough play. Play with cats and dogs should be supervised, but primarily to avoid harm to the ferret. Ferrets play rough, always.

The Manager's note...
It advises new owners to leave the ferret be for the first two days, then begin to stroke it and only handle it once it stops turning to look at your hand... OK, so REALITY CHECK: training a baby ferret is like training a puppy, not a hamster... if you leave it in the cage, alone, for two days it will go nuts when you try to handle it because ferrets need constant stimulation. Letting the baby ferret out in a FERRET PROOF room letting it sniff, then throwing toys for it, or wrestling with it (wearing a thick puppet or using a large stuffed animal) will help create a bond between the ferret and the owner and tire the little ferret out. Once the ferret is tired, the owner can handle it and stroke it. This good handling behaviour can be encouraged with treats such as ferretone. If the ferret does nip, then a scruff and no is recommended. The note also mentions TAMING your ferret. This is a term that irks me as it implies that the ferret is a wild animal. In reality, you do not tame a ferret anymore than you would tame a puppy. You can NIP TRAIN a ferret, but you are not taming an animal that cannot be wild.

Inside the pamphlet...
1) Marshall Ferret food is what your ferret should eat... in reality, it is one option, but there are many, many better high quality ferret and cat/kitten foods which are more suited to the ferret's nutritional requirements
2) Ornabac must be fed to the animal when it is young to prevent wet tail. This is just DANGEROUS advice. Ferrets, like kittens, do not get wet tail. Feeding them a pro-biotic designed for grain eating small animals could lead to future health problems.
3) Water bowls are not recommended for ferrets as they tend to fill them with shavings. Ferrets should NEVER be housed on shavings as shavings have been attributed to respiratory problems and even lung cancer. Personally, I find that parrot bowls which can be secured to the side of the cage work best as they cannot be tipped, and the ferret can dunk its head in the bowl for fun if it wishes. Water bottles can be used, but as they tend to leak, they should be used in conjunction with a water dish (which will catch the drips)
4) Ferretvite is needed as a daily supplement. NOT IF YOU HAVE PROPER FOOD, though the tube can be used as a treat, or as a nutrional device if your ferret is recovering from surgery or getting over a flu.
5) Small puppy pens are not a substitute for an area to run; they are often too small to give the animal adequate exercise and will not give your ferret sufficient stimulation. Additionally ferrets can scale most puppy pens, or squeeze through the gaps in the bars. One final note on the puppy pen statement: ferrets should be out for a minimum of 4 hours, not 2, especially when they are young.

And those are the most glaring corrections. I will send these amendments to Pet Habitat for their ferret pamphlet, and it would be nice if it was corrected, but I doubt somehow that it will be...

If anybody else finds terrible pamphlets, feel free to comment and tell us what the pamphlet said, and where it was from!!!