Ferrets' blog

A blog with news about my ferrets: Tata, Izzie and Liira. There will also be reminiscense about Tenchi, Adric, Ker Avon, Ryo-Ohki, Nyssa, Lady Ayeka, Romana, Pertwee, Podo, Kodo, Ella, Zephyr and Chin Soon, all of whom are gone now.

Monday, October 31, 2005

A Very Special Anniversary

Exactly seven years ago today I went to a local pet supply shop to buy ferret litter. They had run out. This presented a problem. I had learned that if I changed my ferrets' litter they magically forgot their litter training. After all, they couldn't be meant to poop in that wonderful new dig box I had given them in place of a litter pan, could they? I mean it probably looked and smelled like their litter pan but the stuff inside was different and fun to play with. They'd relieve themselves somewhere else, like on a corner of the carpet. Can't mess up the fun new toy, can we?

Needless to say with six young, playful ferrets at home I absolutely, positively had to have something that the ferrets knew was litter. I went to another area pet store that I normally didn't frequent -- one that sold ferret kits. By then I knew that we had a ferret shelter in North Carolina that was full and I preferred to support stores that didn't sell animals.

Anyway, I went in and there was this absolutely tiny ferret kit, smaller than any I had ever seen. She was crying and wouldn't stop. I had never heard a ferret cry before. I asked the help in the store, all high school kids, if I could pick her up. After a "yes" I had a crying, biting tiny ferret in my arms. To quote from Romana's web page:
...it soon became obvious why she was upset. They were feeding her solid food and she only had her milk teeth! She was starving to death with a full food bowl. It was the weekend, the managers weren't there, and the help had no idea what to do and didn't seem too keen on listening to me. I was afraid she'd die if I left her there, so I took her home, resolving to talk to the store owner during the week.
Prior to that time the store had only sold Marshall Farms kits and had cared for them very well indeed. None had ever arrived at less than seven weeks old. Romana came from a different breeder and was the youngest they ever had. They took care of her like they do all of their ferrets but that simply couldn't possibly work for a five week old.
My housemate and I fed Romana soft food and she literally spent two days with her head in her food bowl, even falling asleep with her head laid there. As our vet at the time (now retired) said about Romana: "All she needed was groceries." The right groceries, mind you. Yes, the manager of the store was good and offered me my money back if I wanted to return Romana but by then we had fallen in love with her and had decided to keep her. The picture on the left is Romana, by then at a healthy body weight for her size, at age nine weeks.

This next picture is of Romana, a thirteen week old kit, climbing our screen door. We quickly put a stop to that.

Romana today is a happy, healthy, exceptionally affectionate seven year old ferret. She's still tiny. I don't know if that is because of her being starved at such a critical point in her development or if it was because she was the runt of the litter. That hasn't ever stopped her from climbing everything and anything (as you can see) or from jumping farther than ferrets three times her size.

Romana is one of the last two surviving ferrets from the eight we brought home in 1998. (Nyssa is the other.) She is the reason Halloween will always be special to me. The final picture below was taken earlier this year here in Cincinnati. Happy Anniversary, Romana!

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Ella and Nyssa go to the vet

Last Thursday, with more business travel looming for me, Summer took Ella and Nyssa to see Dr. Holly Weston at Jordan Lake Animal Hospital, our vet in North Carolina. I really appreciate her doing that. Thankfully my business travels are likely over for now and I can give proper care to my ferrets again full time.

Ella went because she had been showing some hair loss which we originally attributed to the usual seasonal coat change. Then her vulva became swollen and Summer realized that Ella's adrenal disease likely has recurred.

By the time the appointment came around two days later Ella's vulva was back to normal. I saw these kind of on again, off again symptoms with Nyssa when she had adrenal disease about five years ago. Our vet at the time, Dr. Dan Hudson (wonderful ferret vet, now retired) took a conservative approach and waited until the symptoms were clear and didn't go away. Nyssa had her adrenal surgery about nine months later. Dr. Weston takes the same conservative approach. She believes that it is likely that Ella does have adrenal again, but considering all the potential for problems and complications after a second adrenal surgery she wants to be absolutely certain before doing anything. Having experienced pretty much everything that could go wrong with both Pertwee's and Ryo-Ohki's second adrenal surgeries I appreciate her caution. I also know, in the end, if, as everyone expects, Ella does need surgery it isn't the end of the world. Pertwee had three and a half very good years with no adrenal glands and was still my totally insane wired weasel much as before.

So... I'm worried about Ella but for now it's simply time to watch and wait and see how things develop.

I guess I'm used to hearing a horrible prognosis when Nyssa goes to the vet. She's lived longer than anyone expected already. Dr. Weston truly believes that Nyssa is now in the final stages of lymphoma and that she doesn't have long left. Nyssa weighs only 1.5 lbs., down roughly a pound from a healthy, normal body weight for her. 2.7 lbs. was a normal winter weight in the past. She really is just skin and bones. Dr. Weston believes the diarrhea was caused by lymphoma invading her GI tract. She also noted that Nyssa's teeth, especially the broken canine, are in really bad shape.

Anyway, it was definitely time for yet another change of medications for Nyssa. Dr. Weston started her on amoxicillin (an antibiotic), both for her teeth and for the off chance that the stomach problem is a bug rather than lymphoma. She discontinued the Mylanta and didn't resume the diarsanyl. While the diarsanyl worked for Nyssa's tummy troubles before it was Dr. Rosing (our Ohio vet) who prescribed it and Dr. Weston just isn't familiar with it. She put Nyssa on Kaopectate instead and that should also coat her stomach the way the Mylanta did. Nyssa is still on the same dosage of prednisolone and we still have the torbugesic in case she needs pain medication.

The net result, a week later, is that Ella seems fine. The hair loss is about the same and she's not showing any additional adrenal symptoms at all. Nyssa's responded very well to the new meds, either the amoxicillin, the Kaopectate, or both. In any case her poop is normal. She has a voracious appetite as always so we're hoping she won't lose any more weight and may even put a little back on. She's clearly feeling better again. We seem to have had yet another little miracle for Nyssa and bought her some more time. I am very grateful for that.

This weekend I go to North Carolina and, after spending a couple of days with Summer and the ferrets there, I get to bring them home to stay. I can't wait.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Spending More Time With the Little Weasels

Last week and this week I had to leave the ferrets with Summer because of my ongoing travels. For example I have to fly to Green Bay, Wisconsin this evening. The ferrets can't come because I can't bring five on a plane. Besides, I don't think Nyssa would tolerate that sort of travel well. The good news is that current plans have me going back to North Carolina this weekend and bringing the ferrets home, this time hopefully for good. I'll probably be posting in my Entropy Blog about the changes in my work situation which should mean, with any luck, that I'll be back in a mostly non-travel position where I can be the full time caregiver for the little weasels.

Yes, the ferrets were part of the reason for this. I miss them terribly every time I leave them. I also feel guilty about leaving them, especially Nyssa right now. This is true even though I know Summer loves them and gives them wonderful care. The ferrets have also always been my stress relief. No matter how lousy a day I've had, no matter how depressed I might feel, coming home and letting the ferrets out to play was always the cure. They would always do something so funny, so mischievous, or just be so lovable and affectionate that I couldn't help but smile, laugh, and just plain feel better. Without the ferrets I don't cope quite so well with the stresses of my work or of life in general. If I get depressed I stay depressed. That had to change.

So... yes the ferrets are coming home. I can't wait.

I'll post about the vet visit next. I promise :)

Monday, October 24, 2005


Before I post about Nyssa and Ella going to the vet I realized that I had never, ever posted the obligatory cute picture of Ella. OK, it's time, isn't it?

This summer Ella slimmed down and became a typical skinny weasel. This past spring, though, after recovering from adrenal surgery, she was doing a fair imitation of a miniature Kodo. Kodo, who was big in every way, earned the nickname of Big Bear. With Ella on the pleasingly plump side I started calling her Ella-bear because she really did remind me of Kodo. She, like Kodo, is a big sweetheart. OK, she's a little sweetheart now but she was a big sweetheart then.

Here is Ella last April taking a snooze on a comfy blanket with one of her toys.

My next post will have the latest Ella news and Nyssa news.

Saturday, October 22, 2005

Last Sunday: Nyssa and Trust

Last Sunday night Nyssa was really active again. I don't know if it was just that I was there for her or still something leftover from her chance to go someplace different on Saturday, but she was alert, explored everywhere and anywhere she could, and made sure to relocate and check on her beloved stuffed doggie she's had since she was a kit.

When Nyssa, who has always been quite independent and never cuddly, decided she wanted to be picked up I, of course, picked her up. She settled on my chest and shoulder and went to sleep. She's never done that before. I sat down and watched the news and was sure not to disturb her and gently stroked her back. It's the least I could do for Nyssa and she was obviously most comfortable with me that way. She rested there for about an hour.

Nyssa has always been very bonded to me. She clearly trusts me more than anyone else. I just hope I have some more time to show her how much I love her.

The bad news is that by Sunday Nyssa's diarrhea had returned and we are pretty sure it's her lymphoma invading her GI tract. Monday we made a vet appointment for her...

Friday, October 21, 2005

Last Saturday: Playtime For 14

From last Friday through Monday of this week I was down in North Carolina and so were the ferrets. One of the highlights was a visit to my friend Cindy in Clayton. Cindy currently has nine ferrets of her own, two of which are recent rescues. Her ferrets and mine have gotten together before and it always works out well. Playtime for 14 ferrets was just plain wild as always. For Ella and Zephyr this was the first time.

Zephy was in absolute ferret heaven. She was the only ferret of the entire two businesses to run and play the entire three hour plus time we had. Cindy has a rice box and a biodegradable, non-toxic peanut box for digging, both connected by an intricate tunnel system. Zephyr thought this was the absolute best. Any ferret who came over to wrestle was happily obliged. It didn't matter if Zephy won or lost the match. Play was the order of the day.

Ella didn't take quite as much advantage and was more interested in exploring and, after maybe an hour, finding a really plush cloth tube to take a nap in. She came back out to explore again towards the end.

I learned quite a bit about Chin Soon during the three hours. She'd run into most of these ferrets before at a TriFL meeting and didn't like it one bit. That was back when she was scared of every other ferret except Podo. Since then she's really bonded to my other four, loves to wrestle and play, and even became super close to Nyssa, her one time nemesis. I thought that she'd be fine with Cindy's ferrets too. Silly me.

Chin Soon is still terrified of any other ferrets she doesn't know. If one of Cindy's approached her she just ran, ending up back in her travel cage. At one point she and Romana were in there and Tux, one of Cindy's newcomers, decided to explore the cage and then wrestle with Romana. Tux wrestling with Romana terrified Chin Soon, who screamed and pooped on the spot. The poor little scared weasel wasn't even touched. I picked her up, comforted her for a while, and put her in the dig box with Zephyr. Seeing Zephry and only Zephyr was there she relaxed and started playing like a happy ferret again. Once a lot of Cindy's ferrets decided it was nap time Chin Soon also was able to explore and climb to her heart's content.

Nyssa has met several of Cindy's ferrets on many previous occasions, but mostly where I used to live in North Carolina or at TriFL meetings. Cindy's house is a place she hadn't seen in years. She was stimulated by the new surroundings and was more active than I'd seen her in a long time, exploring every possible nook, cranny, corner, and toy. She even ran through Cindy's ferrets' tunnels. The only bad news was that to the other ferrets Nyssa probably seemed like any other active, normal ferret at that point. One of Cindy's more aggressive boys, Little Man, decided to wrestle with Nyssa. Nyssa is still our dominant alpha and is still a fierce wrestler. It didn't take her long to send Little Man running. As has always been the case in recent months a good wrestle takes all the energy Nyssa has. Within two or three minutes exploring was over and the hammock in the travel cage was where she chose to sleep. Still, I think Nyssa enjoyed her new surroundings and definitely got more exercise than I'd seen in a while, which is all good.

Romana has always been a great explorer and Cindy's house gave her great new opportunities to go back to something she seemed to do endlessly years ago as a kit: climb everything and anything. Romana still loves to climb and I had to warn Cindy a few times about the interesting places Romana was getting to in order to make sure that Cindy was OK with it. In a couple of cases we moved breakable things but I only had to remove Romana once. Romana the intrepid explorer was definitely back. She eventually found Nyssa and curled up with her but not before a nice, long run.

Cindy's newcomers, Tuxedo (Tux for short) and Pinafore (Penny for short) are wonderful, beautiful, relatively young ferrets. Cindy was concerned about integrating them but it didn't take long at all. By the end of playtime Tux was sleeping curled up with Slithor, Cindy's old man of maybe nine years. Penny was in a hammock in the big cage with five other ferrets. I think they'll get along just fine. Oh, and yes, they played and ran and wrestled.

Speaking of Slithor, both he and Mosaic (Cindy's other old man) were absolute sweethearts and gave me lots of kisses. I remember when Slithor, whose original name was Nascar, was surrendered at the very first TriFL visit to Ronald McDonald House in Durham. That had to be at least seven years ago, probably more. It's great to see these old ferrets still doing well in a great, loving home. I'll never understand people who think an intelligent, loving pet is somehow disposable. Thank G-d for people like Cindy who take them in and give them forever homes.

All in all I think Saturday was a great time for everyone.