QUESTION: Hi Jacquie
I was wondering if you could give me any insight into behaviour I'm finding odd in my new male ferret. I've had ferrets for over ten years now and have never experienced this before so not sure if it's normal or I should be concerned.
My ferrs were always surgically doctored as soon as I got them and I've tried the chemical implant for the first time with my new male, which was implanted nearly 6 weeks ago. I adopted my new male ferret from a shelter so not sure what age he is. I was looking for one close to my current female's age, but he's certainly younger than I was told, which was 4ish. I'd say he's nearer 2 from his behaviour, teeth etc (unfortunately my Vet couldn't give me an idea of his age when the implant was inserted as he was a bit of handful at first, so he guesstimated' by looking at him!). Anyway, I got him when my female lost her male cagemate whom we both adored and miss dearly, and she has just turned 5 so unfortunately there appears to be a bit of an age gap.
He has settled into the house really well, and as he was an abuse case this delights me. He also seems to worship my female ferr and follows her around all the time. However, the age difference is showing a bit and he tires her out quite quickly....so she wanders off to sleep and I entertain him. My question is, when he plays with my female all is well for about 10 mins and then he starts to hiss and continues to do this constantly. He's not being aggressive when he does it....he just does it like a bad habit. He never done it at first and my female just stares at him as if he's insane, but I do know that this is normally a back off warning sign. He also hisses at me if I lift her out of his reach and when he's approaching her if she's sleeping in her cage or drawer. Any idea what's going on? I was wondering if the implant was fully active yet? I was also wondering if you think it's a good idea to get him a younger male or female playmate? I have my eye on a 4 month old male rescue ferr at the moment and wondering if that would be a good pal for him?
I have my male and female in separate cages when I'm not in the house as he can annoy my female to the point I'd worry about them being in the same cage when I'm not there. I don't think it would be fair to her, however I'm also wondering if it could be part of the problem too and I should be putting them in together now? I'm aware separating can make things worse. They have the run of the house and interact constantly when I'm home at night for 3-4 hours and half hour in the morning, however I do lock him away from her when she first goes to sleep in order to tire him out a bit in the hope he will then go upstairs and settle down with her instead of annoying her to get back up! Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't!
I was also interested to read in other answers that ferrets shouldn't toilet on their bedding. My female has always stood up to defecate and does so on her bedding quite often as well as where she should go! I've never thought anything of it Jacquie, so please let me know if I should be concerned about that too?!
Many many thanks, and don't worry about a prompt reply. I hope you are feeling better soon.
ANSWER: Hi Misha & Kids:
Bless your heart for rescuing him! I think you are onto something as far as them being separated as being the cause of most of the bad behavior all the way around.
I think she is attempting to tell him..."this is MY place" and he is hissing at her to try to get her to play more, knowing he won't have a playmate if she goes to bed.
I would be sure the cage is BIG so they don't have to be on top of each other if she really doesn't want to be bothered yet, and at LEAST two newly washed beds so they have options if they don't want to sleep together. I would first attempt to have them sleep together while you are there to monitor behavior. I *think* it is all a matter of them getting used to each other, then probably will be inseparable, but, it may take a while since she has been alone for so long and he is so desperate and needy for affection and attention from her (but especially from you).
I think that adding another ferret at this time is like adding fire to fire....let them get used to each other first. The implant may not even be working yet as far as the aggressiveness goes...,likely to take WEEKS. Give it more time, lots of safe toys and lots of space, so they don't feel forced together, and if that it doesn't work, try Lupron monthly injections next time (in the MUSCLE OF THE HIP ONLY...JUST IN CASE YOUR VET IS NOT FAMILIAR). I have seen it be more effective than the implants. I have only used the injections, and they were very effective. Until that has time to work, either way, it could still be a bit of aggressiveness from adrenal. Only time will tell tho. I haven't heard much in the way of success with implants tho. Being newly "adopted" is a hard place to be in too.
Be sure they have plenty of fresh water daily...maybe even two of them, same with food, so they don't HAVE to share if they don't want to. I really think in time you will be happy about your decision to adopt....however, don't ever forget that you never know how ignored he may have previously been, unloved, desperate for attention...no hugs and love...etc, so be sure there is absolutely nothing that happens to him from now on that could kick off memories of his previous life...i.e., don't punish him in any way, just redirect behavior with good behavior like happy playing instead of being aggressive...separate him from her (and ALWAYS treat them she really the same) OR give him even MORE love and attention as you have been. She is just not used to sharing mommy, but she will get used to it eventually and will bond with him. It is very very rarely that two ferrets won't bond in time.
Try some "fun" activities like dragging a sheet through the house and let them jump on for "rides" and get silly with them to redirect behaviors into FUN things together. Teach them they can be each other's best friend! Also, give both of them a bath in the same shampoo (Johnson's & Johnsons baby shampoo is great because it doesn't burn their eyes, then rinse really well and dry, then let them play while wet...in a small place like the bathroom with several towels on the floor to play with them as they dry....so they don't itch really well...add another litter box if she continues her behavior (make sure they are rectangle not triangle shape...very few ferrets like or use triangle boxes).....also, wash all toys in the same shampoo OR mild laundry detergent and rinse & dry really well...litter box too....best to use mild bleach in cleaning it, but wash & rinse everything...also litter boxes!...really well and wash it away from them so they can't accidentally get anywhere near bleach...very dangerous!..just so everything (including CAGE) smells alike...not so either claims it as theirs and THEY smell alike. That in itself should help them bond. Treat them to some warm chicken met baby food or Hills A/D if possible...a lot of bonding goes on around a shared treat. If bedding smells like her...where is his? See how he could feel like the odd one out? The baths and toy/cage cleaning will makea big difference....should anyway. Please let me know how it goes in a couple weeks....I bet they will be well bonded by then.
If I can help more, don't hesitate to write again. I really think these things will help incredibly. Best of luck & lots of love to all.
---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------
QUESTION: Hi Jacquie
This is just a wee update on my boy as requested. I was just about to get him into the same cage as Miss Foxy Brown at the weekend as you'd advised when he started acting extremely strangely. He'd been a bit quiet on Friday but nothing I'd worry about, but by Saturday night he seemed terrified when I got him out his cage and kept running away and hiding. It was so bad I phoned the Vet and took him for an examination wondering if the castration implant was having a bad impact on him, but was confused about that as his behaviour came on so quickly I thought it would have happened weeks ago if the implant wasn't agreeing with him - this is his 11th week with it, but hey ho...you need something to blame, right?! He also had a minor rammy with my cat, so maybe he got a wee nick or scratch from that? Anyway turns out, he had a raging fever from some kind of infection and was given meds for this - nothing to do with the implant. However I mentioned to the Vet that I thought his eyes weren't quite right as since I got him he often would jump from the coffee table to the couch and miss, dropping down in between. I also thought he was staring past me instead of at me when I called him. He has a congenital eye defect Jacquie. Apparently his lenses are not shaped right, so he can't see like a normal ferret. His pupils do react tho, so they don't think he is blind. I'm so very glad I've got him as I've had blind ferrs in the past and can make sure he gets the best care possible, and after his abusive past he's getting used to me smothering him quickly, bless him! Anyway I now have him housed with his beloved and he is as happy as a lark...no spitting/hissing...well, only occasionally when playing and that's allowed!...and fever all gone.
For info, the implant does appear to be working well. Aggression suppressed, calmed down, smell gone, less interest in Foxy in an err, natural way(!) and testicles absorbed back into his body. The only odd thing which the Vet has now noted (and strangely has happened to my friend's male too who got the implant a couple of weeks behind Atticus) is that he has completely changed colour...from dark ginger to bright white and black! Hormones according to my Vet. So with his big black (slightly wonky!) eyes and white/black fur...he is truly a very handsome chap! Happy ending Jacquie, at least I hope so. I'm still keeping an eye on this implant business as I do tend to view them as `so new we don't know a lot about them'....but if it does protect him against adrenal as I've been told and is working as well as it seems to be, I'd say it's a good thing.
My last question to you on this saga is: when can I adopt another ferret/s and would it matter which sex? That male I have my eye on is still available. I also know someone with 12 week old ferrs, both male and female which need adopting, but thought Atticus may be slightly too much for a youngster? Not least because his poor eyesight makes him adorably clumsy and he's a big boy at three pounds...he often knocks Foxy out the way never mind a 12 week old, tho I'm sure he'd love all the action! But seriously I prefer to adopt unwanted adults.
Many many thanks for your help once more Jacquie.....you were spot on of course! Hopefully I won't have to wait as long for my next ferr to calm down before housing in together with another. It's definitely a bit of a drawback of the implant.
I absolutely would NOT add another ferret at this time. You need to find out what is going onwith ones you already have. I strongly recommend you try a different vet - it siunds like the one doesn't know what he is doing...or at the very least has not explained it ti you adequately. Mthe one with eye problems definitely hascenough problems without adding another ferret.
First off, the implants have absolutely nothing woth neutering the ferret. They are to trear adrenal glan disease...nothing whatsoever to do wirg testicles or neutering. That should have been explained to you.
Also, the infection needs to be gotten under control....hoe wo you know if what he has is contagious?
I very very strongly recommendnyoy take Aboth ferrets to a different vet for complete exams and explain the problem to them just as you have to me and tell them you need answers.
Also, I strongly recommend you get a goof, thorough book on ferrets and study it thoroughly. Sometimes the best examination our ferrets can give is by us explaining to the vet correctly and thoroughly what is wrong with the ferret.
I hope you will not take time, but get them both in to a good vet immediately, unfortunately. I cannot diagnose him thru the internet, but I can tell bery plainly that something,is very very wrong with these guys.
Please get them to a vet as soon as possible.
I am so happy you got him to a vet for a full exam. That is SO weird anout his color changing. That's a new one on me! Minteredting...thanks for letting me know about it as a possibility!!
Also, SO happy to hear your little guy is doing better. As far as new ferrets at this time, it really might be a good idea, now that you know what is wrong. Sometimes a blind , deaf or otherwise disabled ferret will attach himself or herself to another ferret. Since he doesn't seem to take to your other derret, he just might to another.
Also, one thing I keep in mind when someone is fairly new to ferrets and thinking of getting more is: will they really take care of the ones they already habe? As far as I am concerned, you have my definite approval and 'go ahead' on getting two more who need a home. I think you are a very very good ferret mommy - and I don't say that to ,amy people.
Best of luck - go for it...and let me know in a few months if he bonds to another. I bet he will...at least there will be a group for him to choose from and to follow.