If your ferret escapes there are a number of strategies that you can employ to increase your chances of having them return safely.
When out in the big world by themselves, ferrets are usually pretty friendly and may freely approach people however, other ferrets will take cover in a spot they deem to be safe (dark, enclosed areas in which they can burrow, such as under a deck). People who are unfamiliar with ferrets may have misconceptions that they are aggressive by nature and unwilling to help, or that ferrets are actually wildlife and do not realize your ferret is someone’s family member and in need of help. Other people will quickly fall in love with their new friends and decide to keep them. For these reasons, it is extremely important that you act quickly.
Start the Search Indoors
Check your home very carefully, searching in every little nook and cranny including common ferret hiding places like behind drawers, under furniture, inside cupboards, and within clothing. Enlist other people to help you, as different people notice different things. Once you have looked everywhere, look again.
Not all missing ferrets are lost, yet all ferrets are masters at hiding in obscure and seemingly impossible places.
Social media is the key for most owners of lost ferrets, with access to your friends, family, and a community of fellow pet lovers at your fingertips.
Post your ferret’s name & picture online, asking for anyone willing to share your post and/or help join your search party. The search must start now.
Contact the following Facebook pages and your community’s social media page(s) to post your ferret’s information. Many communities have a lost and found pet group in addition to their main community group.
Notify Veterinary Clinics and Shelters
Contact your veterinarian, other local veterinary clinics in your own community (especially those that see ferrets), surrounding communities, and all of the 24-hour veterinary hospitals in the area, advising them that you have lost your ferret and to contact you if any information becomes available. Provide each organization with a copy of your lost poster.
To create a lost report in Calgary, call the City of Calgary Animal Services at 311, the Ferret Rescue & Education Society at (403) 567-3737 and the Calgary Humane Society at (403) 205-4455. Visit the Calgary Humane Society website every few days to check for any ferrets that have been turned in to their facility.
Outside of Calgary, contact your local ferret rescue, local veterinarian, Humane Society or municipal government for information on how to proceed.
Notify Your Ferret’s Microchip Company
If your ferret has a microchip, contact the microchip company to notify them that your ferret is missing and ensure they have your current contact details.
Move the Search Outdoors
Grab a good flashlight, treats, +/- a squeaky toy and start the search.
Wear comfortable clothes that can get dirty.
Make sure everyone takes along a fully charged cellphone.
Take Advantage of Your Ferret’s Acute Senses A ferret’s sense of smell far exceeds our own; use this to your advantage when searching for your lost friend. Remember, just because you don’t smell them, doesn’t mean they don’t smell you.
Use smelly and/or enticing foods and treats; this may be your ferret’s favourite packaged treats, warmed baby food or a fatty acid supplement.
TIP: If you own multiple ferrets, searching for your lost ferret with another one of your ferrets WHILE SECURELY HARNESSED may prove successful.
Put Yourself In Their Paws
Begin your search at the suspected exit point from your home. Look around. Where would you go if you were your ferret? Put yourself in their paws. Look on the ground for fresh tracks in mud or on the sidewalk for an idea of which direction your ferret may have travelled.
Extend your search from your yard to your neighbours’ yards in every direction. If you have helpers, spread them out in different directions. Remember, ferrets are burrowing animals – look down under. Using your flashlight, look under porches, decks, stairs and tarps; and look inside small openings, sheds and garages. If the weather is harsh, focus on areas that would protect your ferret from the elements. Ferrets will most likely run along the sides of homes as opposed to running in a more exposed area so pay special attention to hiding spots close to home.
Don’t be shy… Talk to everyone!
During your search, alert everyone you see about your missing ferret and knock on every door, making sure to show them your ferret’s picture. Ask them if you can check in their yard, shed and garage; you will search more thoroughly than they will. You are ferret-focused.
Notify your mailman, paper boy, kids, and anyone else you can think of that is outside on a daily basis. TIP: Alert kids in the area; they notice everything and are sometimes keen to work for the reward.
Dog owners are another great source of information, as their dogs may have noticed your ferret or picked up on their scent. Ask the dog walkers if their dog was acting strange in a certain area for no apparent reason – they may have found your ferret’s hiding spot.
Bring the Inside Outside
Upon returning home, leave food and water outside your home. Place your ferret’s bedding, their used litter box, and some of your unwashed clothing outside; these are familiar scents. Remember, their nose knows! Making a burrow out of a cardboard box with a small hole cut in the side may even be a better option so that cats can’t take over your cozy ferret refuge. If the weather is unfriendly, place the food and water in an area protected from the elements, but still easily accessible by a scared ferret. If possible, keep your garage door open slightly and set up food, water and bedding inside. Leaving a baby monitor near the food may help you hear if there are any visitors.
Continue the Search – Dusk & Dawn
The best times to search are at dawn and dusk, as the neighbourhood is typically quieter.
Every night before going to bed, check the safe spots you have identified and call out to your ferret one more time.
If you have recently moved, expand your search to your previous home and hang posters in the area between your previous and new homes.
Make a missing ferret poster and plaster your neighbourhood. Deliver the poster door to door. Hang the poster at bus stops, pet stores, grocery stores, convenience stores, schools, churches, community centers, on lampposts, and at major intersections in the area. If you have access to sandwich boards, make a big poster to place at the major intersections entering your community.
Create a lost poster with your phone number, a close-up colour picture of your ferret, your ferret’s name, and the words “Lost Ferret” (+/- “Reward”) in a font large enough that people can see it from their vehicles and as they walk past. Make it clear your ferret is a pet, not a wild animal. If offering a reward; do not quote an amount, as people may not think the offer is worth the effort. Indicate if your ferret is on any medication; this may deter people who agree with the saying “finders keepers”. You may also consider adding vertically cut strips with your contact info at the bottom of the page for people to tear off.
(Note: Be sure to download this template from your desktop)
TIP: Slip posters in a plastic sheet cover (with the opening at the bottom) to prevent them from getting damaged by rain or snow.
Keep Hope In Your Heart
The search can be physically and emotionally draining; stay strong. Ferrets are hearty little creatures; their resilience can keep them safe.
Keep the search alive and current by periodically updating your posts on social media, calling all of the vet clinics and agencies above and hanging “Still Missing” posters in your neighbourhood.
There are some things you can do to prevent your ferret from escaping in the first place, which can be easier said than done since ferrets are extremely curious and fearless, a combination that screams adventure!
To prevent a ferret’s escape, ferret-proof your home, this is the ongoing process of making your home safe for ferrets. For more information on how to ferret-proof, consider purchasing “Ferrets for Dummies,” a great book for every ferret owner, or contact your local ferret rescue.
The most common routes of escape from your home are:
- Pushing out a window or door screen
- Pushing open a door that isn’t shut tight
- Crawling out of a dryer vent
- Hiding in a purse, backpack, or garbage can
- Squirming loose from a harness or leash
- Jumping from, or falling off of a balcony
You can also try to train your ferrets to respond to a squeaky toy, the shake of a treat canister, a clicker or some other noise device, which can definitely aid in recovering a lost ferret within their hearing distance. For deaf ferrets, you can train them to respond to a strobe light.
Lastly, having tags and/or a harness for your ferret will let everyone know that it is a pet rather than a wild animal and perhaps won’t be so hesitant to approach your ferret.