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ERvetguy, ER Veterinarian
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Experience:  16 years veterinary experience, 4 years practicing
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I think I need some info about ferrets. I possibly have one

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I think I need some info about ferrets. I possibly have one hiding in my (small country) house. If so, it would most probably be an escaped domestic ferret.

- are there indications to help me decide what it is?
- if it's a ferret what size of trap should I use to catch it (without hurting it or catching a cat in it)?
- what would be the best bait?

If it isn't a ferret, it's a small mammal, and I'm fairly sure it's not a rat, and that it can climb. It attacked one of my 10kg reserve cat biscuit bags, just above floor level, tore sideways through the fairly strong bag.

My cats are wary of it, don't want to walk on the floor downstairs. If it is a ferret, it's not the first time, so could be a return visit.

Whatever it is, I know where in the living-room but haven't seen it. (I'm renovating a very old house and living out of boxes, etc.) I hear small noises, which also makes me think it's not a rat.

I haven't seen signs of chewed paper, or faeces, but it's in an area where everything is piled up, not easily accessible for the moment. There is a smell of urine, not very strong, but not exactly the same as cat's.

Whatever it is may have been here since earliest March, perhaps not all the time, and I don't think there are any young.

Since March two of my cats have had odd injuries, one of which was somewhat like a bird's claws either side of it's spine, above the hips, but it didn't seem to be a bite. However, the cat couldn't walk properly for 3 weeks afterwards; the other had the tips and edges of her ears mutilated, but I thought that was done outside the house.


ERvetguy :

Good morning, my name isXXXXX and I would be more than happy to answer your questions.

ERvetguy :

It does not sound as if you have a ferret, at least I would doubt that is the case

ERvetguy :

It could be another cat or another small mammal, raccoon, etc.

ERvetguy :

Sounds like you need a small trap, I would recommend a feral cat trap


I'm in the center of very rural, agricultural, France, in what we'd call a village. No raccoons here.

ERvetguy :

sometimes they can be obtained by your local humane society of animal services department


I want to be sure I don't catch a cat in it.

ERvetguy :

where are you located in france?


In the Creuse, department no. 23

ERvetguy :

well if it is a cat, then you can just relocate them or bring them to a local humane society


I have 7 cats and they're worried about this, trapping one of them would terrify it. If it's a feral cat, no problem, all of mine are rescues, but I don't think so, it wouldn't come in the house without the others accepting it first, and almost all cats come to me easily.


The ferret that hid in my house a few years ago had escaped from further up the hill. It came back a year later, for a while, then disappeared.

ERvetguy :

do you have animal services there in france?

ERvetguy :

hmmm, well similar can traps would likely trap the ferret too


There are two local vets, for farm animals; on the domestic side it's like something between the 16th and 19thCs .... although they're kind enough, they're not interested in domestic animals, but they'd probably lend me a trap if I knew exactly what I needed.


What bait would attract an animal other than a cat - tinned, fresh meat-based, or biscuits, cheese ...?

ERvetguy :

if you can get a smaller trap that would fit a ferret or cat, humane one obviously then place cat food in it, you would likely trap either

ERvetguy :

meat would trap either

ERvetguy :

canned cat food works


Do you think it could be a rat although I don't see the usual signs?

ERvetguy :

i doubt it, sounds like a larger rat in that case, always hard to say, i would make sure that the trap has smaller holes between the wired walls so that the rat would not be able to get loose

ERvetguy :

most of the traps your vet would have would probably work


OK, thanks for the advice, I'll have a go. Bye.

ERvetguy :

no problem, you are welcome, I will check on things in 2-3 days to see how everything is going and if you trapped the creature. Take care, talk to you soon! Dr. G

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Customer: replied 4 years ago.

Hi, I'd like your further thoughts if possible, please.


I just made a sad discovery. Whatever is in my house has eaten almost all of a 2-week old kitten: remains are part of the head with an eye, the tail, and the tip of a paw. The predator went up to the loft, found the kitten at the back of a large cushioned box, and ate it. The remains are quite fresh but cold. It could even have happened at night (8 am here) while I was asleep in the loft, and the mother was beside me. The box is almost next to the bed. There was nothing to alarm either the mother or myself. Perhaps it happened earlier, but the loft was very hot yesterday, so I think it was during the night, otherwise the remaining flesh on the head part wouldn't be so fresh looking.


Does the above give you any further idea what the predator is?


I'm waiting to receive a trap, and think I'll ask for a second one.


I've put the mother and other kitten in a large plastic animal carrying box, with metall grill door (closed). The grill is 2cm x 2cm, and I've put transparent plastic tape over it front and back, and also along part of the slits along the sides. There's nonetheless enough air for both mother and kitten.


Is there a suitable predator that could eat through the plastic tape and get through the 2x2cm grill?


While waiting to catch it, is there an odour that would discourage it? It preferred the kitten to the cat biscuits. I deliberately left a flat dish of cat biscuits and a bowl of water at the bottom of the stairs last night, but they haven't been touched. No sounds of movement this morning since I came downstairs.


Whatever it is has sprayed urine in various places, but I think not higher than 10-15cm. I give my cats tinned food late evening, and when there's some left I cover the tin carefully, and it stands on top of the washing-machine. One night recently I forgot to cover it and in the morning found it on its side, still on top of the washing-machine, but with the contents neatly - I suppose - eaten. Nothing else was disturbed.


Be glad of your reply.

I apologize for not returning your message earlier, unfortunately I had to put down my own dog yesterday.

It sounds like you are definitely not dealing with another cat and not a ferret either. I would suspect some other type of carnivore type of rodent or larger varmint, I don't think I would worry about it getting to the kittens or mother as I think you have done a great job keeping them out of harms way. You can put down ammonia in the area as that would discourage it from being around.

Dr. G

Did you get a trap yet since it has been a couple days, any other findings since then?
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Customer: replied 4 years ago.

I've been lent an old, double-entry, trap, which I'm just going out to clean, and oil the hinges (with sunflower oil).


Whatever it is emits an odour, similar to that of the ferret that was in my house a few years ago, but not as strong as then, when she (escaped female) was in heat. I broke open the cardboard box with the cushion (in which the kitten was eaten), and put a packet of incense sticks in it. Just now when I got up, as I moved the covers away I smelt the animal's odour coming from the 3-chambered insulated cat flat which I built between the wall and my bed, entrance being next to my mattress. Whatever it is has moved in there, and one of my cats came onto the bed having the same odour around its head, but I don't know where the cat had been sleeping.


I'm going to bait the trap with an egg so as not to attract a cat. I managed to find a wildlife expert yesterday evening who reassured me that I was in no danger, nor, he thought, my cats - and suggested that probably the kitten was dieing or dead and therefore got eaten, that the animal may have been HELPING the kittens' mother. The other kitten died later despite all my efforts - they seemed to have an irremedial problem.


The other suggestion, than ferret (which here is a domestic animal, none in the wild) is beech marten (marten cat) here called a "fouine". I had a long chat with the wildlife man and have a phone no to call a colleague of his today, and who lives closer, if necessary. They could help me dispose of (not kill) whatever I may catch.


I'm so sad to read about your dog. My apologies for bothering you at such a time. I've only had one dog in my life, an elderly alsatian, and I still have tears in my eyes when I think of him. I wish you much fortitude and hope you have many other friends of all kinds around you.


I'll get some ammonia from the chemist tomorrow as a precaution.


Thank you for your help - Caroline

How is the capturing going? Able to get a trap and find out what it was?

Keep me updated,
Dr. G
Customer: replied 4 years ago.

Local vet lent me a trap, I cleaned it and was about to lug it upstairs, when I realised there was no more odour, and silence. Also my cats are coming back into the house, not looking behind them anymore. So, perhaps it's moved out? Not sure, because there's a bad smell in one part of the loft which I can't get at immediately (floor rotten).

Perhaps it was the ferret, and the previous owner returned to their 2nd home here (they live in the next 'county'), heard I'd got something and came round. I saw her 2 days ago but she only just said hello. I'll have to wait and see. IF it was their ferret, I feel sorry for it. They're such fun creatures and don't leave unless they're very unhappy, too glad to play, eat and snooze otherwise!

I'll let you know - and thanks for asking - Caroline