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Possible Ferret Nation Cage Dangers

February 09, 2015: I found this piece on the Ferret Mailing List and thought is should be shared.
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Date: Sun, 8 Feb 2015 03:45:30 +0000
From: Bonnie Tormohlen
Subject: Another FN cage disaster
In ten years of rescuing/sheltering ferrets and using the Ferret Nation kennels we have never had a problem with the cage...until this morning. I went into the shelter to change out play groups and heard a slight noise coming from under one of the cages. Hanging by her neck and one front leg I found 5 year old Tinkerbell. Thankfully my kennel assistant and my husband were here to hear my screams for help. The wire panel that holds the bottom shelf pan had to be cut to remove Tink. Her entire head was purple and swollen.Tinkerbell is not a tiny ferret, she weighs 2.5lbs. How she managed to stand on her hind legs and shove her head between those bars from underneath I don't know, but she must have done it fast because her neck was kinked sideways and the shelf pan was laying on top of her head. The whole thing is just horrifying to think about and makes me sick to my stomach.
Tinkerbell is alive tonight. I am fortunate to have plenty of supplies on hand to treat emergencies with my animals here and one of our doctors always on speed dial. Only time will tell however, if there will be lasting neurological damage. Her neck is still bent to one side and she is very wobbly. Her color has finally returned to normal. She is eating soup slowly, and drinking water, peeing and pooping. She is on IV fluids to keep her hydrated and glucose in check, and pain medication. I would call it a miracle that she is still with us tonight. We have much to be thankful for.

Bonnie Tormohlen, CVT Managing Director Northern Arizona Ferret Alliance & Rescue, Inc

Date: Wed, 11 Feb 2015 04:25:21 +0000
From: Bonnie Tormohlen
Subject: Tinkerbelle and the FN incident

I want to thank all who wrote to send well wishes and support to Tinkerbelle. I am happy to report that she is almost fully recovered from her FN hanging. The swelling has gone away and she is up and walking around slowly. I put her back in with her cage mates, she seemed depressed in the hospital cage. She will finish her pain meds tomorrow.
X-rays were taken Monday, nothing broken, no disc damage, no sub Q emphysema. She is just one lucky little princess....even luckier, someone has put in an application to adopt her AND her two cage mates later this month. We don't get many 5-6 year old adoptions. The ferret guardian angels are working overtime around here it seems.

Bonnie Tormohlen, CVT Managing Director Northern Arizona Ferret Alliance & Rescue, Inc

On Monday, February 16, 2015 8:17 PM, Bonnie Tormohlen wrote:

I'm afraid I have some very bad news about Tinkerbelle. Tonight she is in critical condition, we are not expecting her to make it through the night.
Tinkerbelle seemed to be doing well this past week after her hanging ordeal with the Ferret Nation cage, up until last night. She refused to eat her soup and went back to bed, not like her at all. By 5am this morning she was whining and gasping for air with a temp of 93 degrees. She was rushed to my work where x-rays showed her chest cavity was full of blood and pus...a very serious case of pneumonia. Through today she has been on IV fluids and an antibiotic cocktail. Her chest has had to be tapped three times to remove pus and blood that was keeping her from breathing. I brought her back home with me tonight on an IV pump because there are no overnight technicians at our hospital. If she is going to leave us, I do not want it to be alone in a strange place.
Her doctors think that when she was hanging and thrashing she may have created a small tear somewhere in her chest cavity that has been slowly leaking into the pleural space, causing a severe infection. Nearly 100mLs of pus were removed from the space around her lungs. How she made it through the week I don't know. Yesterday morning she was at her soup dish eating with her sisters, tonight I can't coax her to even lick at her soup. In all my years rescuing ferrets, I don't know why I am still astounded at how they can appear normal one day and at deaths door the next. :(

Please pray for this sweet little girl.

Bonnie Tormohlen, CVT Managing Director Northern Arizona Ferret Alliance & Rescue, Inc

On Tuesday, February 17, 2015 6:31 AM, Bonnie Tormohlen wrote:

It is with great sadness that I report Tinkerbelle earned her fairy princess wings and passed over the bridge at 4am this morning. Through the night she slept on my chest to keep warm, her temperature was dropping and she stopped urinating. I whispered through the night for her to hang on, give the antibiotics a chance, and told her how much she is loved...but her Maker had other plans for her. At 5 years old, Tinkerbelle was a perfect, healthy, beautiful dark eyed white princess...which makes her death harder to bear. Thank you all for the prayers sent over night, it means a great deal.

Bonnie Tormohlen, CVT Managing Director Northern Arizona Ferret Alliance & Rescue, Inc

Correspondence with Midwest customer service:

Subject: Dangerous issue

I am writing to let you know about an issue with the FN 142 that resulted in the death of one of our healthy shelter ferrets this past week. Please know that in 10 years of using your product, we have never had this issue before. I am writing in hopes of preventing another tragedy like ours. Last week I found a healthy sprite, weight .92kg, hanging by her neck from the bottom of the cage. She had stood up on her hind legs on the bottom shelf and shoved her head through the bars that support the bottom shelf pan. By the time she was found, her head was swollen the size of a small mandarin, and her front leg was caught as well. We had to cut the bars to release her head and leg. Her tongue and head were purple. I am a vet tech, and fortunately had supplies on hand to quickly administer fluids and anti-inflammatory medication. She was xrayed the following day with nothing out of the ordinary found. After a day in hospital, she was eating, drinking and eliminating normally. Five days later she suddenly stopped eating, by morning she was at deaths door. A trip to the hospital and more xrays showed her chest cavity was full of pus and blood. She underwent three thoracocentesis procedures to remove the infected fluid. In spite of aggressive antibiotic treatment, Tinkerbell succumbed to pneumonia 12 hours later. Her vet believes she had a small undetected tear in her chest wall from struggling while her head was caught that had been slowly leaking into her chest causing massive infection. Please use this tragedy to correct the bar size in these cages so another healthy ferret does not lose its life so horribly. We have always recommended your product to our ferret loving clients and want to know you are concerned enough about this problem to try and correct it.
Thank you.
Bonnie Tormohlen, CVT
Managing director for Northern Arizona Ferret Alliance & Rescue, Inc.

Thank you for bringing this to our attention. We are so very sorry to hear this has happened, please accept our condolences for your loss. I have never heard of anything like this happening with the Ferret Nation cage. If I'm understanding your description correctly of where this occurred, she was on the outside bottom shelf and stretched up to the bottom unit and got her head caught in the bottom panel grid, is this correct? Do you have pictures of the cage that you can send showing where it occurred?

Angie Johnson Customer Service Supervisor Midwest Homes for Pets

Dear Angie,
Thank you for the response. I apologize for the delayed answer in return, it has been extremely busy around here. I am attaching a few pictures of the area of the cage where we had to cut the bar to get Tinkerbell's head out. Yes, your understanding of the issue is correct. She was able to stuff her head through the bars on the bottom panel grid. The only thing on the bottom shelf was a rug.
Your condolences are much appreciated, by us and by Tinkerbell's future adoptive mom who was devastated by this loss. As you might imagine, we are accustomed to losing ferrets to illness and old age, which is hard enough. To lose a healthy, adoptable ferret is especially painful. I appreciate your taking time to look into this incident and hope that something can be done to prevent any other ferrets from being harmed.
Bonnie Tormohlen

Thank you for your reply. I have discussed the incident with our quality manager. This is not something that he has ever heard of happening either. What is the wire spacing on the shelf grid on your cage?
Angie Johnson
Customer Service Supervisor

It is about 1" wide. Looking at the other 142's we have here, that seems to be the standard grid width.
Bonnie Tormohlen

Thank you Bonnie. This is definitely an unfortunate isolated incident. Having the rug on the bottom shelf provided her with something to support herself on so she was able to climb onto the shelf which gave her access to reach the bottom grid. With the 142, the wire spacing is 1” on all of the panels and we have never had an incident of a ferret being able to get there head in between the wires. Since the 142 has been discontinued there are no changes that we can make going forward. With the new design Ferret Nation cages and Critter Nation cages, the bottom grids have ½” spacing.

We can send you a replacement grid since you had to cut the wires on this one. Please let us know what address to send it to.
Thank you,
Angie Johnson
Customer Service Supervisor

Dear Angie,
Fair enough. I am glad the new models have smaller grids. Going forward, I hope that Midwest will be able to accommodate the large number of FN model 142 owners if they request a replacement bottom grid panel with smaller grids. All of our shelter kennels are model 142.

As ferret shelter operators, many of us answer to a board of directors and to the public regarding the care and safety of the animals we are charged with caring for. Every shelter I know of uses that bottom shelf on the model 142 to place extra "hiding" boxes, bedding, hammocks, toys, etc. No warnings came with the cages cautioning against doing so. My observations are that the ferrets will walk on the shelf whether there is something on it or not. While the rug may or may not have made it easier for Tinkerbell to stand on the shelf and stuff her head through the bars, the fact remains that the bars are wide enough for a 2lb ferret to stuff its head through. I don't feel like this fact should be negated.

Please advise whether there are replacement grids available in the smaller 1/2 inch size you mentioned that will fit the 142's. If so, what would be the cost per grid. I am anticipating that our board will want to retrofit the shelter kennels as a result of this tragedy.

Our delivery address is: [deleted]
Bonnie Tormohlen

Thank you for your reply. The individual bottom shelf grids are subject to availability. The cost of the grids is $8 + S&H. We will send the replacement grid to you at no charge.
Thank you,
Angie Johnson Customer Service Supervisor

Dear Ferret Friends,
As many of you read last month, we lost one of our precious shelter kids as a result of an accident with one of our Ferret Nation 142 model cages. Since then, I have been in written contact with Midwest, the company that manufactures the Ferret Nation cages, regarding the tragedy with our little Tinkerbelle. Obviously nothing will bring Tinkerbelle back. My hope was that Midwest would take action to make the size of the bottom grid panel bars smaller so the ferrets cannot get their head trapped. The spacing between the bars on the bottom panel grid of the model 142 is about 1 inch.
Through this series of emails between myself and Midwest representative Angie Johnson, it appears that Midwest is able to provide a grid panel with smaller bar spacing “subject to availability”. The model 142 has been discontinued and the new bottom grid panels for the 182 are only ½ inch wide. We will be ordering these panels for all of our kennels.
Anyway, I am sharing the communications from Midwest for those of you that may interested in replacing your model 142 bottom grid panels. Also, some might be interested to see the implication made by Angie Johnson that Tinkerbelle would not have been able to stand on the shelf were it not for a rug that was on the shelf (we cover the bottom storage shelves with washable cotton throw rugs). I’m trying really hard not to be upset with her implication, because maybe she’s right. Maybe having the rug there was a contributing factor in Tinkerbelle's death. Either way, Tinkerbelle is gone. We will remove the rugs and replace the bottom grid panels, and pray we never have another tragedy like this again.
Hug your furkids.


Shelter Ferret Nation Cage Modifications:



Mar 7, 2015, at 1:02 PM, ferretbowlers2 - wrote:
Regarding FN cage panels.
  I have both a 142 and a 182 model FN cage and both my bottom panels, (the one for storage and the one to support the bottom pan), are both 1 inch spacing. I thought the 182 was supposed to be 1/2 inch? I think all these cages should get a free replacement from the manufacturer to help keep this from happening again. Until then, I am applying a thin fiberboard cut to the bottom panel and securing it with tie locks.
So very sorry for your loss. Sue Burda


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