Ferreting Around For Some Good Parenting

, , , , | Hopeless | July 6, 2017

(I often take my very tame, very friendly female ferret out on her lead to get some fresh air. I mostly get a lot of strange looks but for some reason people with small children act like ferrets are awful, vicious creatures that carry all kinds of disease. On my walk one day a young woman is walking along with a little girl, about three years old. I brace myself for the worst.)

Girl: “Mummy! Mummy, what’s that animal?!”

Girl’s Mother: *laughing* “That’s a ferret, sweetie!”

Girl: “Awwww, so cute!”

(I pause for a moment a few steps away from them, mostly out of shock, and a little bit because I’m used to people wanting to skirt me and my ferret in the street.)

Girl: “Can I pat it, mummy? So cuuuuuute!”

Girl’s Mother: “Remember we don’t touch other people’s pets without asking; they might get scared, or they might not like kids.”

Me: *still slightly stunned* “This one does. She plays with my nephews all the time. She can pat her if she wants to.”

Girl’s Mother: “Oh, thank you!”

(The mother kneels down and keeps telling her daughter, “Now, gentle! Don’t scare her; nice and soft,” and stopping her daughter from touching my ferrets face. The little girl is over the moon and incredibly sweet and gentle, giggling like crazy as my loveable lump of a ferret sniffs her and revels in the attention.)

Girl’s Mother: “Thank you so much. She LOVES animals.”

Me: “It’s no problem at all. Most parents yank their kids away like my ferret might set them on fire.”

Girl’s Mother: *screws up face* “How stupid! Our guinea pig has probably bitten more people than this little guy.”

(After a quick chat I learned they’d just moved in up the street from me and they were walking to the park down the block. Almost every afternoon for the next several months we met up along the same patch of sidewalk and the little girl would pat my ferret, and the mum and I would chat for a bit. When my ferret finally passed away last month of old age, they met up with me the next day with a card and a box of chocolates, and an adorable drawing of my ferret done by my tiny toddler friend. All it took was one person realising my ferret was not a danger to her kid for me to gain two wonderful friends.)

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  • Nightshade1972

    My condolences on the loss of your ferret. At least you gained two new friends.


  • I knew a ferret who acted like a cat, even enjoyed getting belly rubs!

  • Adrian Mckeehan

    Ferrets are adorable and seem to be very playful. I would love to have one but they are illegal in California.

    Anyway sorry for you loss OP. Glad you had some great friends when he passed.

    • Vulpis

      Careful, they can be *too* playful…they’re little bundles of energy and get *everywhere*.

      • Katrin Schirmer

        forget child proofing, ferret proofing my house is on a whole different level. XD

    • katherinemch

      Illegal?! That is so strange, have you any idea why? They are the third most common pet after cats & dogs. Banning something so ordinary boggles my mind, it’s like banning apples or something.

      • Adrian Mckeehan

        It’s because some time ago politicians were worried that since the Ferret is a member of the Weasel species that the would be a danger to the ecosystem. When in reality Ferrets can’t survive in the wild. There have been many groups trying to get this ban lifted but so far nothing.

        They are also banned in Hawaii but that is because they don’t want to risk rabies to be on the islands. Hawaii is the only state in the U.S. that is rabies free. They are also banned in New York City but are available in the rest of the state

        • katherinemch

          Thanks for all that info! I don’t like it though. Of course they can’t survive in the wild, they can barely climb onto their sofa without help let alone provide for themselves. Poor little cuties. I suppose people get confused because the domesticated animal shares a name with a wild animal. But they are not the same.
          (tangent: I fear that ignorant people who try ferret keeping and don’t like it, under this assumption that pet ferret= wild ferret, release their pets assuming they will be fine. I’m sure the survival rate is extremely close to zero.)
          Meanwhile cats and dogs do sometimes manage to survive as strays and establish feral colonies.
          Seems like irrational prejudice.

          • Adrian Mckeehan

            It really is.

  • BR

    Rodent pets are amazing and lovely; it is a shame that so many dislike them. They’re intelligent and sensitive. Almost all of them are colony animals, which makes them more likely to accept you as one of them! Mine will groom my hand. I hope you kept yours in a pair or more so they wouldn’t get lonely. Humans just aren’t equipped to have the conversations, grooming skills, or cuddling skills they need.

    • Leah Brown

      Everything else you said is correct, but ferrets aren’t rodents. They’re more closely related to dogs than rats.

      • Mechwarrior

        Though they’re mustilids, and thus are not close relatives of dogs: they’re closely related to weasels, otters, badgers, and wolverines.

        • Leah Brown

          Yes, but my point still stands. They are closer to dogs than rats. Same order and suborder.

        • Vulpis

          And skunks. 🙂 Now, I could see people being a bit worried that they were bitey…

          • Mechwarrior

            Actually, skunks are no longer considered mustilids, they’ve been placed in their own family (Mephitidae) as genetic testing showed them to be less closely related to mustilids than was previously thought.

    • chickenface

      We have 4 pet rats and they are wonderful. We got them from a great rat breeder who handles the babies all the time, and so they are potty trained and never go to the toilet on us, unless we’ve had them out for hours. And yes, they are very smart!

    • LadyDarkswan

      I could never do rats, I just wouldn’t be able to handle the short life span, its hard enough that my rabbit only has 8-10. My fiance wasn’t sure about bunnies before he met me, but Clover has him wrapped around her paw. (Yes, I know rabbits are lagomorphs, not rodents.. silly you.)

      • datawog

        Yeah, the short lifespan totally sucks. I’ve had a few over the years, and loved them all to bits, but… never again. It’s too heartbreaking.

  • Amber Harding

    I can’t see why people would want to avoid ferrets; they’re adorable, and so very playful! I want one. x3

    • Kitty

      They do look cute.

    • Siirenias

      Maybe it’s the fangs? I never got it either. I wish they were legal here.

    • Benny

      My mother says she doesn’t like them because they look like furry snakes. Personally, I adore them.

      • Nightshade1972

        A couple of years ago, somebody posted an ad on Craigslist because they’d found a “cat snake.” The ad said that they had no idea how else to describe the animal they found. At least they had the good sense to post a color photo–it was a ferret.

    • cylon_toast

      Well, they can be quite bitey, so it’s best to be cautious.

      • Katrin Schirmer

        a lot of animals are bitey if you scare them. its best to be cautious around everything that cant use words to tell you to back off.

        • cylon_toast

          True, but ferrets use biting to play and it hurts us a lot more than it hurts each other.

        • Lita

          Cylon is right, ferrets and others in that group use biting as a form of play and have very tough skin. You have to teach them that when they bite it hurts you because of this. Like a puppy, but worse. It has nothing to do with being scared.

    • Katrin Schirmer

      i’m planning on getting some. but things keep popping up that makes me have to delay it. i’m hoping to be ready to get them by the end of summer though.

  • Aaron

    I fully expected another parent to pitch a fit like it’s their business.

    I have never been so happy to be wrong!

  • Barroness
    • Benny

      Spaghetti rat

      • MouseyBrown

        We call them slinky rats!

    • Chris Hubbard

      living windsock

  • Vulpis

    I could see people being worked about the tube-snake being nippy, but disease-ridden? Humans tend to have more diseases at a given time than a well-cared for pet. :-/ The only other ‘downsides’ to a fert are their musk (which can be dealt with) and their high energy levels…neither of which fits in the situation of one going walkies on a leash.

    • Ty Williams

      Most zoological diseases can’t even be passed from animals to people. Just gotta worry about the occasional bite getting infected, which usually isn’t a problem if people practice basic hygiene. I’d rather be bitten by a yard full of dogs than one disease ridden human mouth.

  • Kitty

    Mhm, ferrets are evil creatures. That yappy, loud little king-sized rat you call a ‘dog’ is totally not vicious, even as it’s chewing my ankle…

    • Scott O

      Animals have a natural sense of whom they’re with. If it’s nice with others, and not with you, then you’re the problem.
      Unsurprising you blame the animal. I bet there’s lots, and lots of things that aren’t your fault.

      • Kimberley Jowitt

        So you’re never saying you’ve encountered even one small dog owner who insists that their small dog is totally friendly, even when its tail is down, ears are back, hackles raised, and teeth are bared? The owner who thinks that growling is cute, snapping is playful, and that their little dog can do no wrong?

        I have, far too many times. There are good small dog owners out there, but they’re seen as an easy option for beginner owners due to their size, and so many of them aren’t trained or socialised to the degree that they NEED in order to curb their aggression towards strangers and other dogs.

        • minipopcorn

          My coworker at my old job was being told that an animal was completely harmless, as it was biting him. He had to go to the hospital. I hate owners who don’t accept that their tiny little dog is more aggressive than the larger dogs.

        • Kimbra

          I had a friends family warn me repeatedly that their tiny dog was very vicious and to be careful, but it was too small to break the skin as it gnawed my ankle and I just kind of laughed it off. But I’d never let a child or another animal around it, and it’s always good to see people can see their pets flaws rather than “oh snoopy can’t hurt you!”

      • AJeS

        I think your Sarcasmometer isn’t functioning correctly

  • Kevin Conti

    Kid: “Can I pet him?”
    Arnold: “OK, but one at a time.”
    *kids all pet ferret at once*
    Arnold: “OK…yeah…good, now we are having fun.”

  • Leah

    There’s no way this happened in both Adelaide and Queensland, just saying. I would be curious to know where it happened though because I’d be surprised if it’s legal to even own a ferret in Queensland :-/

    • TheBigBadWolf

      It’s illegal to own a ferret in Queensland and the Northen Territory. But in the other states, it’s legal and you don’t need a license for it. So hopefully it happened in South Australia.

  • Kira

    That was some excellent parenting on the mother´s part. Teaching a kid to ask permission, not to rush towards an animal and how to pet it. I only wish more people would do this.

  • Crazed Sanity

    This is so sweet. So many parents don’t teach their kids not to grab and then are shocked when the animal (or person) is upset.

    I am sorry for your loss. I don’t believe in much but I like to believe in the Rainbow Bridge, where we’ll once again meet all our beloved furry ones.

    • chickenface

      My childhood cats (from before I can remember until after I graduated highschool) were a black cat and a pastel-calico-with-white cat. This morning I pulled out of my driveway and saw two neighborhood cats sunning themselves on the edge of the road: a black and a pastel calico with white. I’d seen both before, but never together, and it made me think of my two special kitties and made me smile.

      • Crazed Sanity

        It so bittersweet, when things happen that remind us of them. It’s so hard to lose them when they’ve been with us so long. I lost my 19 year old cat in February and she’d been with me since I was 12. It hurts to remember but I wouldn’t trade my memories of her for anything.

        • Nightshade1972

          My condolences on your loss. I’ve lost several elderly cats before, and it never gets any easier.


          • Crazed Sanity

            Thank you. She was just the sweetest little kitty I’ve ever met.

        • I am Jenn

          A friend just lost his 20 year old cat….he’d had her since she was a kitten. He lost her brother last year, same age….it’s never easy…I’ve only known the kitties for about 10 years, but I miss them too (even though I’m allergic!)….losing a pet is never easy. I hope you’re coping. <3

          • Crazed Sanity

            I’m doing better, thanks. I have another kitty keeping me grounded.

  • CassidyD

    There was famously a case where a ferret ate the face of a baby, disfiguring her quite badly. That girl (woman) later championed to make ferret ownership illegal in households with babies.

    • Ruttotohtori

      Had to google that. I didn’t expect to see so many cases of ferrets eating parts of a baby.

  • Ellie Paine

    … I had to look up what a ferret looked like because I kept imagining a Furret from Pokémon…

    • Madison Link

      Basically, yes.

  • Darth Pseudonym

    I don’t get why people would be afraid of ferrets — or even of fancy rats or snakes. A pet is not a sewer-dweller that harbors horrible diseases and parasites. It’s a *pet*, it shares somebody’s home… yeesh.

    • Benny

      To be fair though, I’ve known some humans I thought were likely disease-ridden parasites…

    • Janet Miles

      Some fears are simply non-rational. I’m that way about most (not all, but most) insects.
      Some are about unfamiliarity.
      Me, I think snakes are lovely if I’m assured by someone I trust that they’re not venomous, but I give them a wide berth in the wild. I like ferrets, but not enough to own one (too much energy!), and I’m not scared of pet rats but find their tails kind of disconcerting.

  • CeeCee

    Aw, I just adore ferrets. So sorry for your loss, I lost my own boys not too long ago and I know how hard it is. Such a great mom, too, teaching her child to be respectful of other people’s pets. They sound like wonderful friends.

  • Raven Odette

    I was all too familiar with this type of story when I took my pet iguana for walks. Kids would crowd around (which she loved because she adored being the center of attention) and parents trying to drag them away from the “filthy disease ridden creepy not normal (I.e. not a dog or a cat) animal”

    • Kimbra

      It’s so crazy because I’d probably be more worried about a dog biting than an iguana… then again I probably wouldn’t go at an iguana with grabby hands, because I don’t know enough about them 😂 but would defs take the opportunity to learn, because what I cool pet!

      • Raven Odette

        Mine bit when I first got her, she was a rescue pet from a home where her former owner neglected her and had a big dog that terrorized her, took a few months of working with her but she calmed down considerably and became a real sweetheart, I have quite a few stories of some of the silly antics she got up to


        This was her

        • Kimbra

          Oh my! What a muffin 😍😍 I’m not sure iguanas are allowed to be kept as a pet on Australia so I’m super intrigued! I’d love to hear those stories! Haha

          • Kimbra

            Just googled, can confirm that they are illegal here 😔 but one of my favorite zoos has one and i did spend like half an hour dancing with him on the other side of his glass enclosure

          • Raven Odette

            Well there’s the times she’d chase pigeons in the park. The time she licked a girls tongue, the time I taught her to sit up and beg like a dog, the time she farted in my lap, the time she stuck her head in my mouth…..

  • heymoe2001

    I thought ferrets were snippy until I had a few. They were just bundles of energy and curiosity. Never was bitten in the many years we had them.

    • Katrin Schirmer

      yeah, they can be absolute cuddlebugs if handled and socialized properly. i’m looking forward to finally getting some, soon hopefully. 🙂

  • Amy Susan Fisher

    It’s illegal to keep ferrets as pets in California. Some ferret lovers want to change that, but they’ve been unsuccessful so far.

    • I wish them luck.

    • katherinemch

      Do you know the reason for the ban? Seems super weird to me.

  • cylon_toast

    All children should be as good with animals as this one was.

    Also, I’m sorry for you loss of the ferret. They are really cute and super curious. (and usually rambunctious, but I love them)

  • Aside from the sad turn, I do love stories like this.

  • Brianna

    Given the choice between people petting animals (ferrets, dogs, etc) without permission/ feeling entitled to pet or parents encouraging them to avoid them (even if the manner is excessive)….I prefer the avoidance. It’s great that in this case that there was someone who was respectful and also was able to become something of a friend… but so many people feel like it’s their right to your animals, to the point they will even if asked not to (including adults).

  • Passenger_Zero

    So sorry to hear your ferret passed away, they are so cute.

  • SusanG

    I miss my ferrets. The female especially was a little thief. Our old sofa had a slit in the underside lining, and when we got rid of it I opened it up and removed two grocery bags full of assorted “treasures” – Christmas tree ornaments, Barbie shoes, nail polish, that sort of thing:)

  • Dan

    Uh, Adelaide is in South Australia. Its illegal to own a ferret in Queensland.

    • Fluff Muffin

      Actually, in many places in AUS it is perfectly legal if you have a permit to keep them. It’s not legal where I am in AUS, either, but fine if you have a special permit.

  • Random

    One of my dad’s friends had a couple ferrets. We were over there one time, had our coats on a chair. Went to pick our coats up at one point — we were either going home or going out to dinner or SOMETHING — and whoop, the ferret falls out of my sleeve.

    That was classic, man.

    • katherinemch

      Aww, adorable! Yep they can’t resist a tube of any kind.

  • Now I’m sad we’ve apparently run out of Not Always Hopeless stories.

  • bahknee
  • Lita

    I really wonder what they did to make a guinea pig bite. A rabbit is more likely to bite then a guinea pig. Then again if they only had one, which the little girl was implying, then I could see why. Guinea pigs are social and must ALWAYS be kept in pairs or groups.

  • Asiyd

    Uggghhh my heart is forever gonna be a puddle because of this website. Soft spot for animals, this little girl is my sister at heart, I swear!