Ferret Friendly Facts and Advice by Erika Matulich, Ph.D.

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Ferret Show

©Erika Matulich
Zodiac shows off her unique markings.

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Zodiac Reports on Her First Ferret Beauty Contest

© Erika Matulich, Ph.D.
By Zodiac, with the help of her mom, Erika Matulich

Hi! My name is Zodiac. I'm an 8-month-old sable-colored female ferret with white trim, and I own two nice human beings, John (Dad) and Erika (Mom). We live with nine other ferrets in a nice house in Florida.

It's always pretty exciting around our house, but something particularly interesting happened to me last week.

The week started out normally. First, Mom fed me some yummy ferret oil and clipped my toenails. Then she took all the sleep sacks and hammocks out of the cage I share with the big boys (Morgan, Rascal, and Stevie) and laundered them (the beds, not the boys).

Then came the bad part: bath time. Getting wet and soapy isn't so bad, but ear cleaning and tooth brushing I can do without! I tried to tell Mom so by running off and drying my fur in some nice, dark potting soil under a plant.

She gave me another quick bath, but she must have learned her lesson, because I didn't get my teeth brushed or ears cleaned the second time around.

Who're you calling mutt?
The next morning, I woke up just in time to get put in my travel carrier. Oh, no! Another trip to the vet? (At first I was in a carrier, with the boys, but they kept sitting on me, so then I got my own carrier.) I scratched and scratched at the carrier, trying to get out, but it was no use.

Finally, the noisy vehicle engine quit and my carrier and I were taken inside and put on a table.

There were two nice people there who picked me up and declared that I could be entered either in the “mitt” class (for my pretty white feet) or the “mutt” class (because my pretty white feet are charmingly uneven and I have cute white blotches on my tummy and head).

Mutt? Really! Mom chose the mitt class.

That's my hammock!
Next, someone checked my VIPs (very important papers) to make sure I had all those ouchy vaccinations the last time I was at the vet. And then there was another vet—as if they didn't believe I was healthy! But he checked me all over anyway, and I know he was a great vet, because I didn't get any more shots. (I must be training these humans well.)

And lo and behold, while Mom was taking me through color check, paper check, and vet check, Dad had set up my entire cage! I couldn't wait to sleep on my hammock with the boys.

By then I'd figured out where we were: a ferret show. It's like a beauty contest for ferrets. “Great,” I thought, “this is looking like fun.”

I had a nasty surprise, though: In addition to my buddies, there were a bunch of other ferrets in my cage who didn't belong! (It's true they live in my house, but I never have to share a cage with them.) What's worse, one of them was in my hammock! The very nerve! I tried to drag these intruders out of the cage, but instead of helping me, Dad put me back in the carrier. Just because the rest of those crybaby ferrets made a lot of noise when I grabbed them.

Ready, set, ... show
Mom let me out a bit later to have a lady show her how to file my nails. The whole nail file thing was boring, and I had things to do. I could see many tables around, all with fun ferret toys and sleep sacks and food and tunnels and ... wow—simply tons of other ferrets!

As I stared around in wonder, Mom cleaned my ears again. Then she took me away to these rows of chairs where other ferret parents were waiting. There was a ferret on every lap! When my number came up, Mom took me up to the judges.

These people paid lots of attention to me. They carefully checked my ears (squeaky-clean, thanks), eyes, teeth, feet, skin, and fur. They rubbed me up and down, felt my bones, held me at different angles, and talked about something called “symmetry”—a new word for me.

Then they surprised me by sounding a squeaky toy right behind me, so I whipped around and grabbed it. “Alert,” one of them commented.

They didn't clean my ears or brush my teeth, so I knew I had done a good job. They scribbled lots of numbers on a piece of paper, and Mom came and got me.

Then we watched those judges do the same thing to all the other waiting ferrets. I thought this was sort of boring, especially because the judges spent so much time cleaning and disinfecting between each ferret. I was really tired, so I went to sleep on Mom's lap.

The prettiest ribbon
Suddenly, I felt Mom tense up. The judges were calling up numbers again. When the first numbers were called, Mom said, “Wow, Zodiac, I'm so proud you didn't get last place, with your uneven mitts!”

Then my number was called and we walked up to the front of the room and picked up a beautiful ribbon bigger than I am! It says “Ferrets in the Sun 2000, Third Place” and has a picture of me in the rosette. My housemates all won ribbons, too, but mine is the prettiest.

Later, we all went to Grandma's to celebrate—it was Mom and Dad's first show as well as mine. I celebrated hard by digging up Grandma's begonias. She just laughed and took a picture.

I can't wait until next year, except Mom says I have to be in the mutt class from now on. Those silly judges really seem to be hung up on symmetry!