Benefits & Risks of Ferret Shows
Veterinarian, Author, Internationally recognized expert on ferrets
Judith A. Bell, DVM, PhD

Ferret shows are good sources of information on ferret lore. The animals are beautifully groomed and display common and uncommon coat colors. Local ferret clubs are usually represented, and can provide information on anything you need to know about keeping ferrets as pets.

Ferrets are exhibited in cages, and brought to a judging table where the judge examines each animal separately, evaluating its temperament, conformation, coat, and color. There are costume classes, yawning contests, and special classes for biggest or smallest ferret, ferret with longest tail, oldest ferret, cutest trick, etc., and classes designed for breeders of special colors and neutered pets.

What is evident in every ferret show is the pleasure people get from their pets, and the tolerant attitude of the ferrets to the fuss made over them. Costume classes display the patience learned by pet ferrets (animals that are not famous for their patience) when buttoned into doll dresses and carried around that way for an hour or more. They rarely try to squirm out of their clothes once they realize you intend them to be subjected to this indignity. They even wear hats with chin straps without trying to scratch them off. Ferrets waiting for judging hang limply over their owner's arms, passively observing the proceedings.

One danger of ferret shows is that if there is an infectious disease in any of the animals at the show, all those exposed are likely to get sick soon after they go home. Occasionally these are fatal illnesses, although more often they are upper respiratory viruses that cause sneezing for a few days. The problem with infectious diseases is that when everyone goes home with the ferrets that attended the show, all their other ferrets are exposed and hundreds of ferrets not even at the show might also get sick. ECE appeared in 1993 after a big ferret show on the east coast, and decimated populations of show ferrets as far away as the midwest.

Ferrets must have proof of up-to-date boosters for distemper before entering a show, but other contagious diseases cannot be controlled with vaccines. Ferret clubs are run by responsible people who cancel shows rather than expose ferrets to a dangerous infection, but some people are more willing than others to take risks. Electronic mail messages about ferrets alert all interested listeners when there is an outbreak of some sort of illness after a show, and can get the warning to people planning on attending another show in the same area.

For more information on showing ferrets, see: http://www.ferret.org/events/shows.html

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