Ferrets Have a Rubber Fetish

by Tina Blue
January 12, 2001

          Ferrets have a thing about rubber. I don't know why (and I'm not sure I want to), but they are really attracted to the stuff.

          Dinky, a two-year-old female ferret I babysat for during about two weeks several years ago, acted out her rubber fetish by stealing flip-flop sandals. At that time I had a home daycare, and I kept a set of plastic stacking baskets in the foyer for flip-flops and other odds and ends of toys and equipment that the kids and I used when we played outside.

I had a large cow tank that I used as a swimming pool for the daycare, and I kept flip-flops in a lot of different sizes for the children to wear to and from the pool, or if they wanted to get out of the water and play on the ground.

          But suddenly the flip-flops started to disappear. They disappeared slowly. One or two would end up missing every couple of days, but never a matched pair, so it wasn't likely that a child had simply misplaced the ones he was wearing.

          Then one night, I got out of bed at about 2:00 a.m. and went into the bathroom. As I came out, I saw a movement on the floor near the cabinet that sat in the corner by a window in the living room. It was Dinky, dragging a flip-flop backward into the space under the cabinet. The opening she had found beneath the front of the cabinet was no more than one and a half inches off the ground, but ferrets are collapsible, so they can squeeze into astonishingly small spaces.

          But that flip-flop was a lot less collapsible than Dinky was! Her efforts to maneuver it under the cabinet with her were also complicated by the fact that the flip-flop was at least as large as Dinky herself.

          She had to turn it this way and that, angle it, and squitch part of it up on its edge, while simultaneously achieving impossibly contorted positions with her own little weasel body. I watched her for some time, holding perfectly still so she wouldn't be startled into abandoning her efforts, which I was entirely amused and delighted by.

          Eventually she got her prize stashed away, but the effort must have exhausted her, because she didn't come back out, though I stood for several minutes and waited for her to re-emerge.

          The next morning, when I was sure Dinky wasn't under there, I moved the cabinet. There they were, a half dozen rubber flip-flops in varying sizes and colors. Naturally, the difficulty she'd had the night before explained why only the smallest children's flip-flops had gone missing. It also explained why only one flip-flop disappeared at a time.

          The next night, I watched for Dinky to set about restoring her flip-flop nest, since I'd returned her stash to the stacking baskets in the foyer. Sure enough, she went on a late-night raid, climbing first into the bottom basket, and then into the one just above it, until she found a flip-flop small enough for her to handle.

          I had put the smallest ones into the second basket from the bottom. I hadn't wanted to make her task impossible by putting them up too high, but I did want to see how she managed to get the ones that weren't in the bottom basket.

          It is amazing how determined and clever a ferret can be about accomplishing such a difficult task. Now, understand, a female ferret only weighs between one and a half and two pounds. Nevertheless, little Dinky did manage to pull and push that flip-flop up to and over the edge of the basket, until it finally fell to the floor. Then she half-climbed, half-tumbled down, took hold of the flip-flop with her teeth, and started dragging it backward to the cabinet.

          Once there, she performed the same sort of contortionist maneuvers as the night before, until after about eight or ten minutes she had gotten the flip-flop under the cabinet, where I assume she snuggled down with it and fell asleep, since she did not come back out again while I watched. I don't think the poor little thing had it in her to handle two flip-flop moving jobs in one night.

          I actually thought about buying her a pair of her own to keep under the cabinet, so I wouldn't have to keep taking them away for the kids to wear. But that wouldn't have kept her from returning to the baskets each night for more. After all, she'd had six of them under the cabinet the first time I checked, so it wasn't just having the flip-flops that mattered.

     Obviously, she was addicted to the hunt.

For more ferret stories, see Pam McInnis' website (click here).
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