What to do if your ferret gets lost
Author: Shawnda McCollum
Losing a pet can be a traumatic experience
Ferrets are extremely curious creatures. They love to explore new areas, especially ones that have previously been forbidden. All it takes is one moment of inattention…one door not latched, a window screen that is loose or torn, or in one case a dryer vent hose that came loose, and your ferret can be out on a new adventure. The quicker you can act, the more likely you will be to find your fuzzy companion.
Unfortunately, when it happened to me, it was midnight on a cool, rainy night. Visibility was poor, and finding a sable ferret in the dark seemed like an insurmountable task. Ultimately, we waited until morning. It was all we could do.
Early the next morning, I started combing the neighborhood. I desperately called his name. I squeaked his favorite toy. I talked with every neighbor I saw, flagged down every dog walker, stroller-pusher, and jogger asking them to please keep an eye out for my ferret, Foster.
Next, I posted a notice in the “lost & found” section on Craigslist. I included some photos identifying my lost baby, hoping something would tug at their heartstrings and make them care enough to look. I posted ALL over Facebook, including my profile, local ferret club sites, and pet interest pages where I was a regular member. I let the owners of several local ferret rescue groups know that there was a lost ferret in my area and left my contact information. I also shared my information with the Humane Society and nearest pet stores in case anyone came in looking for supplies for their “new” ferret.
Another avenue suggested by fellow ferrents, was to put a travel carrier outside with familiar-smelling bedding and food. I had just the thing in my laundry pile: My boys’ well-used fleece hammocks had been begging to be washed, but sat in the laundry room waiting for their turn in the washer. For once, I was glad I’d procrastinated washing the load. I placed the carrier outside and waited. All night I waited. And? Nothing. Absolutely nothing.
The following day, I had a reply to my Craigslist ad. I anxiously opened the mail, hoping against all hope that someone had located my missing boy. Unfortunately, it was just a missive from someone suggesting a for-pay pet locating service. Throughout the morning, I kept thinking about the service, wondering if it was some scam, and evaluating the cost. I swallowed hard, took a chance and registered with www.mylostpetalert.com, entering my information and credit card number. There were several plans from which to choose: The free plan featured notices on the company’s Facebook page and several other social networking sites, as well as their own website. The next plan was $49 and also included 200 neighbor alert calls and 10 vet/shelter/pet store alerts. There were plans for $89 and $149 as well that expanded the contact area with a greater number of phone contacts. I decided that my ferret’s short legs probably didn’t carry him too far, so I chose the $49 basic plan.
Within an hour, the system had called and left messages with 200 landlines in my neighborhood. While many people today have cell phones and constant internet access, the people who are actually HOME in my neighborhood; those who are outside gardening and watching the wildlife, are the older generation, many of whom don’t have constant ties to social networking and would never see my frantic internet posts about Foster. It was the contact with these neighbors that made the difference. Within a couple of hours, the service had received two tips stating that a ferret had been seen a couple of streets over yesterday. I went to the locations (next door neighbors who had both seen him) and talked with them.
They said that he explored their yard most of the day, had attempted to play with their dog (yikes!), approached them several times, and tried to climb into their gardening bucket, eventually retreating under a nearby shed. My son and I attempted to locate our furry family member. I called Foster’s name and several endearments and squeaked a toy, but was unsuccessful. The lovely couple allowed me to place Foster’s carrier in their yard and come back later to check again to see if he’d emerged. I left, defeated, but encouraged that he’d stayed relatively close and wasn’t avoiding people.
I printed flyers, created by the pet alert service, and walked to surrounding homes, knocking on doors and asking them if they’d seen a ferret and would they be willing to look out for him. I returned home, hoping something would pan out. Around 7:30, just 8 hours after subscribing to the service, I received a call. It was a sighting. I asked when the caller had seen my boy and she said “just now…he was on my deck”. My pen flew across the page as I quickly jotted down the address and grabbed my phone and keys on the way out the door. It didn’t take long to arrive at the address given, and as I pulled into the driveway, I saw Foster casually walking into the garage of the home. The owner of the house was still holding the handset of her phone when she came around the house to find me hugging my errant baby. She happily accepted a hug as well.
I made sure to stop at the other locations that provided tips, to let them know I’d found my boy. The lady that had tried to “shoo” him away from “helping” her with gardening even asked if she could hold him while I collected the carrier and food from her yard.
My baby is now home, none the worse for the wear after his 48-hour great adventure. He was hungry and likely a bit dehydrated, but a nice meal of bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs seemed to hit the spot. I think he’s tired of the cuddles, however.
What have I learned from my experience?
1. Tell everyone and their dog that you’ve lost a pet in the area.
2. Have some sort of something to hand them with your contact information. In my case, I haphazardly grabbed my business cards from my purse and scribbled my cell phone number on the back. Maybe someone will want to buy insurance from me? I should have printed up flyers earlier in the process.
3. Do contact stores, vets, and shelters. They are likely to be the first place someone will go if they find a lost pet. Have the aforementioned flyers with you and ask if they have a lost pet bulletin board.
4. Use Social Networking. You have friends, your friends have friends, etc. If the theory of Six Degrees of Separation has any merit, you’re only 6 people away from finding someone that knows something about your lost pet. Use it to your advantage. Ask your people to repost.
5. Try to find a way to create a sense of familiarity to draw your pet back to you if they are still nearby. A favorite bed or blanket, food, or other items may encourage your pet to stay close even if you haven’t found them yet. If possible, use something permeated with your pet’s scent.
6. Considering using a service. Services do charge a fee for their premium features. If you can swing it, the service may end up being one of the best investments you’ll make. The one I used boasts an 80% success rate in reuniting lost pets with their families.