It was the middle of the night when I heard noises in the kitchen, something or someone was moving around and my wife’s worried expression said… it was my duty to check it out. I crept in quietly, not knowing whether I’d find a burglar or a large rat, neither a comforting thought at 2am. Flicking on the light I jumped into the room shouting… “Arghhh”! The noise stopped, but the room was empty. I stood in my PJs wondering if we’d imagined the noise.
It was only a moment before the noise began again; it seemed to be coming from a drawer near the kitchen counter. Having no idea what I’d find I eased open the drawer, prepared to give whatever was inside a good whack. A furry twitching nose and two pink eyes brought a smile, easing any fears; it was my daughter’s albino ferret.
Casper, my daughter’s name for her albino ferret friend, was busy living up to his scientific name, Mustela putorius furo which translates loosely to “stinky little thief”.HISTORY FACTOID: Mustela putorius furo is the scientific name for the domesticated ferret. Other family members include weasels, minks, otters, badgers, wolverines, and skunks. Certain Egyptian tombs display pictures of ferret-like creatures on leashes. It is believed their domestication may precede both cats and dogs and that they were carried to Britain approximately 2000 years ago with the Romans who used them to drive away rats and find rabbits, which they used for food.
While there are wild cats roaming the streets, foraging for food and fending off attackers, ferrets can’t survive without human involvement having been bred for domestication for thousands of years. Friendly, furry and forever curious, they can make ideal pets, but just like a dog, you’ll need to make a commitment and have patience with your albino ferret. Whether you choose an adult ferret (there are many in shelters needing a home) or a baby (called a kit) with a cute cuddly face, you can expect them to live (if properly cared for) about 7 to 8 years becoming part of the family.
My daughter’s ferret is albino with pure white fur and pink eyes; this isn’t a defect, simply the genetic makeup. All baby ferrets (kits) have white fur at birth with their respective coloring showing as they approach 4 weeks, albinos remaining pure white and sables gradually adopting their adult coloring. The albino gene is recessive, so breeding an albino and a sable will never produce a white ferret with dark eyes. Males, called hobs, will grow to an average of 17 to 24 inches weighing about 3 to 5 pounds. Females, called jills, average 12 to 16 inches and weigh approximately 1 to 3 pounds.
Extremely agile (more so than any cat) they were historically used to follow rodents into smaller holes and protect stores of grain. Most likely they migrated to America aboard colonist’s ships, earning their keep on rat patrol. In later years (and occasionally still today) you’ll find them in remote dairy barns keeping rodents at bay.
FACTOID: Electrical contractors have been known to use ferrets to pull electric and telephone wires through ducts too small for conventional methods.
Your friendly ferret, either albino or sable, will gives you hours of entertainment and years of love and affection.