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Ferrets are fabulous

February 26, 2008|By HANNAH TUSSING / Pulse Correspondent

This is the fourth story in a series on unusual pets and their teen owners. The series will be available at HMpulse.com.

What do Queen Elizabeth I, James "Scotty" Doohan ("Star Trek" actor) and a Hagerstown homeschooler have in common? They all owned ferrets.

Ferrets are sometimes mistakenly labeled as rodents, but this is far from the truth. Ferrets are in the weasel family, closely related to skunks, ermines and mink.

Ferrets are also meat eaters, bred in England to "flush" rabbits out of their holes and also to prey on mice and rats.

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Ferrets are lively, energetic pets, great for all ages. Well, maybe not all ages, according to Beka Jenkins, 15.

"I wouldn't recommend them to elderly or people with small children," commented Beka. She said ferrets are full of energy, and to fully enjoy them, you have to get down on the floor and make sure the ferret isn't hurting itself.

Bending down to grab a disobeying ferret is not something an older person or a small child could handle.

Beka's ferret, Josie, loves to nap in her hammock, jump and run wildly and explore new things.

Ferrets are curious, so you have to be careful to "ferret proof" your house so your ferret doesn't hurt itself.

"She's hilarious!" Beka said.

"Josie loves to climb on things I never expected her to be able to. She can even climb up a dresser from the floor!" she said.

Josie is a sweet, cute, loveable 3-year-old ferret. Although Josie is quite athletic, she is also deaf.

"Deafness isn't very common in ferrets and we didn't notice it when we bought her from Pugh's pet shop," said Beka. Despite her handicap, Josie's deafness does not seem to affect her in any way, Beka said.

So far, Josie has never bitten anyone. But if you were to ask the Jenkins family's three cats, they would have a different story. Josie has nipped each of the cats at different times and they have learned to stay away from her when she is roaming around the house.

Ferrets are clean animals, refusing to use their litter box if it is too dirty. They also sleep for 16 to 18 hours day, but will wake up whenever you are ready to play. Female ferrets are called "jills," whereas males are called "hobs" and baby ferrets are "kits." Neutered males are called "jibs" and spayed females "sprites."

Beka also commented that Josie is smaller than an average ferret, so she lives happily in a guinea pig cage. Taking care of her easy. All Beka has to do is give her fresh food and water daily, and empty her litter box each day. In addition to her regular food, one of Josie's favorite treats is tuna fish.

According to Mary Shefferman's book, "The Ferret," ferrets are the third most popular companion mammal.

Beka would agree.

"Josie's a lot of fun to play with," Beka said, "and she makes me happy."

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