AN orphan polecat, rescued as a kitten after his mother was run over, is now thriving as part of his adoptive family.
Tommy was found, still blind and helpless, by Gary Cox of Shalbourne Stores and Post Office, in September.
His wife Polly said: “Gary was delivering papers and, sadly, came across a dead polecat in the road. It had been run over. But then he noticed something moving nearby.”
The baby polecat – known as a kit – was so young it was unable to feed itself, so Mr Cox kept it warm and took it home.
At first the new arrival needed constant warmth and care and had to be fed by hand.
The Cox’s sons Dave, aged eight, and six-year-old Bertie, fell in love with him at once.
Mrs Cox said: “His eyes were still closed so we thought he must be only a few weeks old, about the size of your palm.
“We offered him some raw meat and ferret biscuits soaked in water and he seemed happy with that. We gave him a cuddly toy for company and he settled in.
“Dave has formed a really close bond with him and has become his adopted mother.
“As Tommy has grown he has become part of the family. We kept him in a hamster cage to start with, but he soon outgrew it and wanted to play with our dogs and the boys so he started just having the run of the house.”
She added: “One evening I went up to tuck Dave in and found Tommy nestled up with Dave in his bed.
“They’re such good mates now and while Dave is at school Tommy spends his time chasing our dogs, Colin the terrier and Siskin our lurcher.
“Tommy is becoming ever more adventurous and likes to see what he can climb.
“He drinks out of our fish tank, has fallen in the bath while Dave was in it, goes out into the garden with our dogs for a sniff about, then returns when you call him.”
Despite his size, Tommy still sucks his toes for comfort, just as a human child sucks its thumb.
The Cox family keeps ferrets – the polecat’s domesticated cousin – outdoors and they have been introduced to the newcomer.
But only Tommy gets the run of the house.
Once a common native species, the carnivorous mammals were driven to the brink of extinction in Britain early last century after persecution by farmers and gamekeepers.
However, like the otter, they are now making a comeback, particularly in West Berkshire.
Polecats are closely related to the domesticated ferrets and have blackish hairs with yellow underfur on the body, and a dark ‘bandit’ patches around the face.
Their name comes from the French ‘poule chat’ or ‘chicken cat’ because they were thought to be a threat to poultry.