Kim Garland, 53, Bristol, tells her story...

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Walking around my estate, people stopped in their tracks.

‘Good evening!’ I said sweetly, strutting past.

Their jaws hung open.

‘Look at that lady’s dogs!’ I heard one child squeal.

Except they weren’t dogs… They were ferrets!

I fell in love with ferrets aged 6 after seeing them on a farm.

‘Eww, look at those rats!’ I said at first.

How wrong I was.

Ferrets are about the same size as a large rat, but I soon learned they were loving, intelligent creatures who are very obedient.

I soon warmed to them, but didn’t own one until age 38.

My friend Terry bred them. And one of the babies in his latest breed despised him…but loved me!

‘I’ll take him,’ I said, as Blondie cuddled up.

He stole my heart and left me devastated when he died four years later.

I never forgot him.

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Even when I first met my husband Paul, 57, weeks after Blondie died, I couldn’t keep quiet about him.

And my ferret love must be contagious. Because after me and Paul set up home.

‘Shall we get a ferret?’ he asked.

Soon, we adopted Stripe, now 9, and Eric – who lived until he was 5. A year later we got Bandit and Rusty.

Sadly, Rusty passed, too. And for five years we stuck with Bandit and Stripe.

The terrible twosome kept us on our toes. And in February last year, I saw an ad on Facebook for two ferrets. Their owner couldn’t look after them any more.

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‘Look at these cuties, Paul!’ I said.

I didn’t even need to ask him. They were going to join our brood.

We adopted Olov and Stitch, now 2.

But last November, Bandit died and we got lovely Trevor, now 2, from a rescue centre in Wiltshire.

They’re spoilt lads. They get fed chicken, beef, mice and rats.

My two kids have grown up and flown the coup, so my ferrets are like our babies.

Why shouldn’t I treat them?

When Paul and I take them on days out, we push them in their very own special buggy. It has air con, too!

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They always get attention, and love posing for pictures. I walk them every evening.

Sometimes it can take up to three hours, as they’re always sniffing and digging holes.

Usually, they play for a few hours in the morning, and the same in the evening.

They do love a snuggle. Just not with our eight cats. We’ve had to break up a few fights!

Ferrets can live until 12 and I hope we have ours that long.

Some people think I’m crazy, especially with all the dead rodents in my freezer. I don’t care. Ferrets are my babies furr-ever!