FERRET POPULARIZATION: RUSSIAN EXPERIENCE

In the present article, we would like to tell about certain advantages and shortcomings that come up to us with the popularization of ferrets.

Veterinary aspect. The number of domestic ferrets sharply grows, and the demand for veterinary care for these animals increases. Our veterinarians become more competent and experienced in treating ferrets, and the quality of veterinary services rises as well. Already now, there are some veterinarians, to whom we can entrust our pets. This is undoubtedly a positive aspect of the popularization, because one or two years ago veterinarians in many Moscow clinics were just unaware of how ferret looks like!

Information aspect. It is logical that an increasing popularity of ferrets should be accompanied by a progressive supply of information concerning their proper keeping.

To the present day, such information in Russian is available only in the Internet. In printed form, there is only one small brochure issued last year, but its content is so incompetent that it can be more harmful than educational.

While such skills as ferret training or grooming can be learned from experience, the other things like castration preconditions or the appropriate menu for ferrets are completely shrouded in mystery for many owners. It often happens that people, who are unaware that ferret female in estrus should be either covered or castrated, begin to worry only when the female suffers from a hairloss caused by a long estrus.

Recently we conducted a small sociological research to estimate the owners' expertise in the choice of food for their ferrets. About 30% of owners feed their ferrets self-made diets, based on natural products (meat, eggs, by-products, rice, sometimes fish, supplements). About 58-59% of owners use premium kitten foods or premium ferret food. A few people (1-2%) feed ferrets with laboratory mice, rats or chickens. Unfortunately, about 10% give their ferrets unsuitable food such as cheap cat foods, dog foods, sausage, potatoes and other. We note, that we recommend feeding premium kitten food, because high-quality ferret food is practically unavailable in Russia.

We try to make our own contribution to the spreading of confident information necessary for people and their pets. Now, our web-site is available for breeders, owners, and people who want to purchase a ferret. At any time, we are ready to answer questions and to provide recommendations; we keep in contact with one of the best Moscow veterinarians specializing in exotic animals. In the nearest future, we begin to issue a newsletter in Russian designed for ferret owners. We also plan to publish a comprehensive book on domestic ferrets.

The problem of choosing your ferret. As a result of an increasing popularity of ferrets, they begin to appear in press and on TV. More and more people become aware of the existence of such animals as domestic ferrets and decide to keep them at home.

In Moscow, there are two ways to purchase a ferret - from one special petmarket or from small breeders. Most ferrets are purchased from the petmarket that receives animals from fitch-farms. These are babies from 2 to 5 months old, very aggressive and wild, grown without human attention. It takes much effort and time to tame such animals, and sometimes owners-novices just fail in their attempts to train them. Two months ago, such a ferret - a young female, uncontrollable, wild, and biting violently - was given to us by the owners, who lost all their hope to discipline her. We have done our best to tame this beast, but she is still not very loyal to human beings.

Ferrets sold by small breeders are usually tame and very friendly to people, but, unfortunately, sometimes physically defective. The last breeding season in Moscow is marked with many cases of rickets caused by a nutritional deficiency of phosphorus and/or vitamin D; some babies have a weak and/or deformed vertebral column, others have weak hind limbs or grow very slowly. This problem has resulted from the fact that many owners, who got interested in breeding ferrets, made mistakes because a lack of knowledge: covered females that were too young, improperly fed pregnant animals, brought close relatives to mate, etc.

In this situation, we see only one solution - the cooperation of skilled breeders raising healthy animals with adequate character and behaviour. When people ask for our guidance in purchasing a ferret, we recommend them only experienced breeders and further actively help with advices and information.

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