Understanding ferret behaviours
Ferrets can be kept either indoors or outdoors, depending on the amount of space you have. If you decide you’re going to let the ferret free in the house, make sure you’re prepared. You’ll find things will suddenly disappear and a few holes in the carpet might appear too!
Ferrets are extremely social animals and need to be taken out of their living areas and played with daily. They’re playful pets, and love to play in tubes, hide in dark corners and chase balls. Ferrets are curious and love digging and trying to escape. As a result, it’s really important to make sure their housing is secure.
Ferrets naturally can give playful nips. If they feel frightened, they can bite hard. Luckily, it’s easy to train ferrets, so you can easily help them to reduce the amount they nip. For children who are old enough to train them, ferrets are a great pet. Just remember to be gentle and introduce your ferrets to the family slowly.
Training your ferrets
Ferrets will naturally back up to go to the bathroom in a corner. This behaviour is usually taught to kits by their mothers. However, some kits have been removed from their mothers too soon. Other older ferrets that have been adopted from other homes and not trained may need a refresher course.
If your ferret is missing the mark, consider the following tips:
When you take your ferret out of their housing to play, try waiting until they have used the bathroom (or check the litter box to see if there is fresh stool). Ferrets will always use the bathroom within the first fifteen minutes or so after waking up. But beware! Many ferrets will figure out your system and pretend to go to the bathroom just to get let out to play.
Put litter boxes in just about every corner of the house to begin with. Use a ferret friendly litter box with a high back and low ledge in the front. Your ferret will usually pick out a few favourites. Place a heavy waterproof mat under and around each litter box to protect your carpet from accidents. If your ferret likes to chew on the mat, spray it with some Bitter Apple. If your ferret is going to the bathroom right in front of the litter box, a lower front ledge may be needed. Male ferrets need larger litter boxes than female ferrets.
Eventually, start to put bedding, toys and food in the corners you don’t want your ferrets to use as a litter box. If you have recently purchased a new enclosure, you can expect litter box accidents. Ferrets will have adjustment issues when their environment has been changed. Just keep placing stool in their new litter box and try to put food and toys in all other corners. This problem should straighten out with time.
Ferret skin is much harder than human skin and they often do not mean harm when they nip. If you adopted a ferret from a shelter and it came from an abusive household, it could be nipping or biting out of fear. If the nipping or biting is coupled with hissing and backing away, give your ferret some space and wait until he or she feels secure again. Ferrets can also nip or bite to show dominance.
Here’s some tips on how to nip train your ferret:
If your ferret nips, do not hit your ferret or “pop” them on the nose. This will only encourage biting and more fear. Clap your hands and say “No.” Put your ferret back into their housing immediately. They will start to figure out that nipping or biting equals no more play time.
Purchase some Bitter Apple, Bitter Lime which taste horrible. Spray a small amount on your fingers, toes or anything else your ferret likes to nip.
If your ferret has suddenly become a “nipper” think about things you may have changed. Have you started wearing a new perfume? Have you started putting lotion on your hands and feet? Did you just wash your hands with soap? Are you wearing lipstick or lip gloss? Ferrets can react to certain scents, especially those that contain musk.
Can ferrets be aggressive?
When handled frequently from a young age, ferrets will develop very close bonds with their owners. This is why they can make great companions! However, it is important to be aware that ferrets can be aggressive towards new people and other ferrets.
Did you know?
On average a ferret can live from about 6 to 8 years but some have been known to live as long as 11-12 years.
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