How is a ferret census born? “When I became Education Committee Director for the AFA, we began editing some materials we use to help ferret owners take care of their fuzzies,” said Robin Landes. “It was then that we realized there was no accurate data on ferret ownership and total numbers kept as pets.” Landes suggested that a ferret census be done, and she credits volunteers at the AFA for making it happen.
The ferret census began in March 2012 and will end in March 2013. Ferret owners who wish to take the ferret census can access it via a link on the AFA website. As of early September 2012, Landes reports that 1,600 people have taken the ferret census.
In case you’re wondering, the ferret census is not limited to the United States. “We are receiving responses from all over the world!” Landes said. “Some of the locations are Japan, Malaysia, Indonesia, Mexico, Canada, Spain, UK, France, Scotland, Lithuania, Hungary, Latvia, etc.!” Despite this promising start, that still leaves many more ferrets to count, and the AFA is hoping that more people will respond.
“We are extremely excited about the buzz that the first-ever census is generating!’ said Sara Hamilton, AFA president. “Every ferret counts and every ferrent matters! We want all ferret owners to take the census, at home or abroad.”
Those who take the ferret census are automatically entered into a drawing to receive a free, one-year membership to the AFA. For those who might wish to remain anonymous, their responses still get counted, but they don’t get entered into the drawing. “It is the choice of the ferret owner as to how much information to provide/how many questions they will answer,” Landes said. “Each item on the survey will be analyzed separately.”
Results of the ferret census will be posted on the AFA website, in the AFA’s American Ferret Report and on the AFA Facebook page. “We have already begun to post regular updates on the AFA Facebook and Twitter,” Landes said. She posted an update on September 10 regarding caging. “According to the AFA census, to date, 78% of pet ferrets are caged while 19% have a room in which they are confined. This excludes play time and time interacting with their humans.”
Landes estimates that the ferret census has about 55 questions. It also allows for ferret owners to give details for each ferret owned. “Seems like a lot,” she said, “but it covers tons of data from ferret about the pet — age, gender/alter status, color/pattern, etc. — to veterinary care, foods, treats, litter, illnesses and disease and then the owner demographics.”
In addition to collecting and analyzing the data from the ferret census, Landes said the data on ferret health will be shared with veterinarians and data about products will be shared with manufacturers. “Many of the best products are difficult to find,” Landes said. “Perhaps knowing that ferret owners want to use these will help with availability.”
Previous to this ferret census, possibly the best source for ferret statistics was the American Pet Products Associations’ National Pet Owners Survey. That survey mostly deals with small animal pets as a group, with only a small bit of information specifically about ferrets. Landes said the AFA ferret census collects data on ferret owners, their pets and the many details related to their care. She also pointed out that the results will be free to the public and some ferret owners might be more comfortable providing their information to a ferret organization.
“We truly believe previous counts of ferrets as pets were inaccurate for a variety of reasons.” Landes said. The ferret census makes it easier for ferret breeders and ferret rescues/shelters to respond. And the information is kept confidential. “The AFA is a nonprofit with the goal of promoting, protecting and providing for ferrets,” Landes said. “We are not trying to sell anything, merely help our precious pets to live longer, healthier lives!”
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