Botticelli the ferret, owned by Rebecca Silber ’19, is one and a half years old and has been at Goucher since August of 2017. Silber has owned Botticelli for a little over a year.
“We met at Petco,” says Silber. “I’d been frequenting the local pet shops looking for the right match for several weeks. I went to visit him multiple times until I knew he was the right one. He was much bigger, and a bit older than the other ferrets because he’d been adopted and returned. The Petco staff said that he’d been returned malnourished, with cigarette burns on his ears. I couldn’t help but get him after hearing that.”
Now, Botticelli doesn’t have to worry about mistreatment. Silber cares for him just as much as he cares for her. As her emotional support animal, Botticelli helps alleviate Silber’s anxiety. “Having him grounds me to the space and allows me to feel a sense of home,” she says. “Having him means I have to be conscious of my surroundings and that I have to be there for him. Sometimes just looking at him helps calm me down, and if I’m having a panic attack I’ll let him out and he’ll run around. Focusing on him means not focusing on myself, and I calm down far quicker.”
Running around is one of Botticelli’s favorite activities, along with digging. Silber’s succulents have been dug up more than a few times, and most of them are now dead. Botticelli also loves cat toys, such as laser pointers and anything with a string. “He’s also a big fan of any sort of bag he can get into, especially if it makes noise while he rustles around,” says Silber.
Though ferrets are a fairly common pet in the United States according to the American Veterinary Association, people often do a double-take when they see Botticelli around campus. “He’s harnessed-trained, though many ferrets aren’t because you have to get them used to the harness as soon as you get them,” says Silber. “A lot of people think he’s a very small dog or kitten when they first see him. They often ask to pet him, which he loves, and he especially loves getting attention from children. I’ve had a lot of older people tell me that they remember ferrets from the ‘80s. He’s a unique one.”
Ferrets come in a variety of colors, including chocolate, silver, albino, and cream. Like cats, ferrets can squeeze themselves into nearly any space, thanks to their flexible rib cage. Unlike cats, though, ferrets require a lot of attention.
“Ferrets aren’t good for inexperienced pet owners. Botticelli can be destructive and loves getting into my trashcan. That he’s deaf doesn’t change the fact that he can be quite mischievous.” According to Silber, about 75% of white ferrets are deaf and affectionately known as Wardys. “Because he’s deaf the construction doesn’t affect him at all. He loves it here! I spend more time with him here than I do at home.”
Ferrets, like otters, are part of the mustelidae family and are carnivores. “[Botticelli] eats a special ferret food that I get off of Amazon. Most of the ferret food in pet stores is the equivalent of junk food for ferrets. Admittedly, he likes junk food a lot more, but I’m trying to be careful because malnutrition can lead to issues with the lymph system. He loves chicken and eggs,” Silber says. “A lot of people will feed their ferrets mice or chicks, but I used to have pet rats and I can’t stomach it.”
Botticelli is very friendly and can often be found sleeping, as ferrets sleep about seventeen hours a day. “He’s a great pet for a busy person. If you ever see us out and about, feel free to come say hi.”