QUESTION: I have two ferrets but one is having behavior problems that I can't deal with anymore. I can't litter train him, I can't get him to stop biting and going to the bathroom all over the floor (and now on my things) I don't want to have to give him up because I don't want to have to separate him from his companion, but he is just getting to be too much for me to handle. I have had all sorts of advice but nothing is working so I will have to go to the last resort. Selling him. :( I don't want to sell them both, but I have hear that they will die from separation anxiety almost everytime and I was wondering if you knew any coping methods to prevent this from happening. They are both a year old.
ANSWER: Hi Hillory:
Ferrets are SO sensitive and such social critters......it sounds like something is going on causing these problems....he is TRYING to twll you something, please trust me on that. They just don't misbehave for no reason.
Has he had a full check up from a good ferret vet? He may be in pain, or deaf, even blind, or if you have not had him since he was a baby, he may already BE suffering from previous separation anxiety from a situation he was in. My best guess, tho, is that he has some kind of health situation going on. It would be a shame to add to his problems if he is trying to say "SEE ME!!! I don't feel good!" Or possibly he is having jealous feelings from the other ferret getting more positive feedback and closer relationship to his person. Just like kids, they can misbehave as a reaction to just not feeling loved enough. Even negative attention can be better than no attention...even with ferrets, just like with children.
Separating ferrets always affects both (or all) ferrets involved. Your "good" ferret may become a problem ferret if the other ferret is removed, she may stop eating and waste away...many things *could* happen, but it is hard to say WHAT it will be....there is always a price to pay in situations such as these, for both ferrets.
Some ferrets actually ARE better as only ferrets who receive more attention....he may be one of those! I strongly recommend being very certain you fully explain his behaviour problems to a new owner, OR he could become an abused ferret. Please do NOT let him go to anyone who is not an experienced ferret owner, even if you end up giving him to a ferret shelter or rescue person who knows how to determine why he is acting out like this....please. You may be thinking of trying to recoup the money you have invested in him....but if he was a "bad" child, would you do that? Of course not! You would try to find someone who knows how to work with problem kids. Ferret abuse VERY OFTEN starts just like this....the buyer not knowing enough about ferrets to figure out his problem....instead they could constantly be angry they 'bought' this problem. "Selling" him is NOT the solution to this problem. GIVING him to someone who can help him is the ONLY right thing to do....PLEASE don't set him up for abuse, possibly living his life being ignored in a filthy cage because the owner doesn't know ferrets are VERY SOCIAL pets, unlike any other....and unless you are experienced with ferrets and aware of how to redirect bad behaviors into good behaviors WITHOUT punishment of any kind. He is in serious need of HELP and if he doesn't get "figured out" what is causing the bahavior, he is doomed to a miserable, abusive life. Honestly....you know how he is....would YOU "buy" him??? Of course not! He NEEDS someone who is willing to give him the EXTRA attention, love and the guidance he needs...to just sell, or give him to anyone who is not very very ferret savvy is assuring he will have a very very sad future.
I hope you will reconsider your plans and get him to a ferret rescue or shelter, or an experienced ferret owner who can help him. If you need help finding someone in your area who can help him, write to me again and let me know your city, state and zip code and hopefully we can get him the help he needs.
The future of your remaining ferret may not be good either. Once they are used to being together, removing one and leaving the other alone *can* mean dire consequences unless you have a very very close relationship with her, i.e., take her most everywhere, etc. Ferrets arevery social critters and yes, they commonly die of a broken heart when removed from their 24/7 buddy. It's hard to say for SURE, as every ferret is different.....I have had experiences both ways....when the companion dies shortly after the other ferret passed awat, and one where the companion ferret seemed a little slow and sad for a few days, but because I took the ferret with me 24/7, he did pull through, but I had to hand feed to get it to eat, etc. It can be very difficult for the ferretk andk very very timeconsuming for the owner. It just depends one the ferret's personality and your relationship and dedication to the welfare of the ferret.
I wish there was a yes or no, definite reply I could give you, but no two ferrets are alike, o it is just an unknown outcome. To be safe, possibly you may want to consider rehoming BOTH ferrets together...again, however, only to an experienced ferret owner and with ALL information about the ferrets.
Best of luck. Wish there was at better reply for you. This one is an unknown, nfortunately. The only "for sure" thing is "selling" or even "giving" the problem to an unsypuspecjting and/or inexperienced owner almost assures that ferret's abuse and sad future.
If can help further, please write again. There is no good news here and I know that. Wish I had a better, more definite reply for you, but no one can know the outcome for sure if you separate the. I am so sorry. Please do consider the well-being of both ferrets, tho, which I think you are already somewhat on the right track. Best of luck...uespecially to your little problem child. This is just a very sad situation any way you look at it
---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------
QUESTION: Thank you so much for the advice! I let them out this morning to play and cuong was so stinkin happy to be cage free that he was non stop bouncing the whole time. I think I just need to let them play more and just be better. I have never owned ferrets and didn't realise how much work and attention they needed. I made them harnesses and leashes and I am going to start taking them on short little walks and I am going to be more attentive. I am also going to put a litter box out for them so they don't have to go back in the cage to go to the bathroom. I think that's part of the reason that he went on the floor, because when I catch him in the act, I put him in the cage until he goes, so I think he sees that as punishment. I will set up another litter box. Also, they are descented, but still smell up my room like a pet store. can I give them a weekly bath?
OH MY GOODNESS!!! I am so happy you wrote back again....now I see exactly what is going on!!! I had no idea you were having litterbox problems and keeping him caged because of it! SOOOO EASILY FIXED!!!
Here's how I litter box trained ALL my ferrets in LESS THAN ONE DAY (that's 20-years of ferrets!) we have this one licked. You don't have a bad ferret...you have a little guy who NEEDS exactly what you have started to give him. Let me give you a few tips to make it so easy you won't remember your first email in a few weeks!
I put new ferret(s) in the bathroom with toys all over the floor - even a towel, let them play hide and seek, carpet rides, etc. A few little balls, small stuffed animals that have no eyes or decorations that can come off for them to swallow when you are not looking. Have a dish of food and one of fresh (bottled if possible, their kidneys are tiny and filtered (but not distilled, they need the minerals). Make yourself comfy on the floor on a pillow, but where you can move around easily...and at least one litter box. You can do one ferret or both at once if she is not really good at the box already...a few tricks always help and they can play and entertain each other while learning the litter box rules.
1 - Never train with treats, no matter what other sites tell you....NOTE: also, raisins are poisonous for ferrets, as few as three can cause kidney failure (fairly new information because ferrets LOVE raisins so much we used to tear a raisin in 1/4-ths and give as treats....never do that now that we know what we know about raisins) . Also, ferrets are "obligate carnivores"...their tummies lack the ability to digest fruit or plant material of any kind and there is SOOOO MUCH for new owners to learn, it will be hard for me to stay on track, but I will try.
2..have at least ONE high-sided rectangle shaped litter box (some ferrets refuse to use low side or triangle boxes. Rectangle high sided are always a good deal.
3...play with ferrets on bathroom floor until you see one of them start to back up...usually into a corner, but sometimes they just back up....the tail lifts slightly....you gently but quickly put the ferret into the litter box, which has about 2-3 full cups - minimum- of NON-CLUMPING CLAY CAT LITTER ( or Yesterdays News litter box pellets (most prefer just regular, non-clumping clay litter...I use Johnny Cat because I can get it easily at Walmart, grocery store, etc. Ferret will finish backing up into corner (if he does not - if tail is still UP, keep returning him to the box till he goes. If the tail drops, he lost concentration...but still has to go,so watch carefully and when he starts to back up again, place in litter box. Keep doing this till he goes, either pee or poop...(most do both at once). IMMEDIATELY praise ferret, give kisses, "GOOD BOY!!!" Etc. That ferret probably won't need to potty again for about 15-minutes, but I would continue to keep ferret WITH YOU IN BATHROOM, PLAYING until next time, then repeat.
4...BE CONSISTENT. DO THIS EVERY TIME FERRET BACKS UP....PRAISE RIDICULOUSLY WITH KISSES AND CUDDLES AFTERWARDS.
BOYS and GIRLS: if it looks like your ferret has a belly button, it is a boy...that is his penis. His pee will be about 2" in front of his poops in litter box. No "belly button?", it is a girl. Her urinary opening is sooo close to her anus that her pee will be practically on top of her poops.
I tell you this because you ZMUST scoop the litter box (i use a big serving spoon (not slotted) from the kitchen....keep it marked for litter box and nearby the box. When you scoop the box every AM or PM, be sure to remove ALL WET LITTER along with all poop. It is the wet litter that will cause odor. Their poops basically just smell like wet dirt. Urine is very strong ammonia smell. Replace any removed litter with clean, new litter.
5. After several times in the bathroom, maybe just one day, they will start using the box every time. It is a RARE ferret who won't use litter box 99% of the time, altho sometimes they get so busy playing, they suddenly have to go potty and the box is waaay over there....solution? After the initial training time in the small bathroom with one box, MOVE TO A LARGER ROOM WITH TWO BOXES, ONE ON EACH SIDE OF THE ROOM SO THEY CAN GET TO IT. They are kinda like little kids, they get busy playing and unless it is close, they will just go in any close corner, then back to playing.
Just remember, do not move to the bigger play area until they have mastered the small room 100%. If they backslide, move back to smaller room, more closely supervised, etc. Until they get it. In a normal sized room, my last ferret had full roam of my bedroom and I had 3 boxes in here. My current ferret has only one box and has no mistakes. It just varies, no two ferrets are the same.
The trick is to take 1/2 or a full day of CLOSE supervision and putting them into the box before they go, and then LOTS of love afterwards, to do the job. Once they are trained and YOU are trained, if their behavior changes, it means they are ill, angry, something is going on. A normal ferret is VERY CLEAN and wants to use the box, even INSISTS the box be cleaned daily or they won't use it!
Now that I know you are a new owner, I STRONGLY recommend you read everything you can find about ferrets....remember, tho, this is the internet and not all information is 100% correct.
Here is a great well trusted websites you can start with....altho at this point, some information is a bit outdated.
Another great site is: http://www.mdferretpaws.org
It is CRITICAL that you learn some things immediately for your ferrets health and well being....life and death kinds of stuff. Your ferrets are more like 2-year old toddlers than dogs, cats, hamsters, etc....TOTALLY different than other pets, so take nothing for granted in working with ferrets until you look it up on a trusted site. The most important things you need to read immediately are:
FOOD REQUIREMENTS ...go to the mdferret paws website... they have a food chart. Totally Ferret food or 8-in-1 ULTIMATE (ONLY...their other foods are junk!), or EVO for Ferrets are all excellent foods. Your ferrets health is pretty well determined by his food...i.e., your vet bills will be lower and your ferrets healthier and longer lived.
FERRET PROOFING THEIR PLAY AREAS, CAGE, ANYPLACE THEY ARE SPENDING TIME. Something as simple as a rubber band spells DEATH for ferrets! (Same with any sweets, chocolate (SERIOUS - WILL KILL!!) learn what is and is not safe. Best treat: FERRETONE (or FUROTONE...(same stuff) needs to be 1/2 'tone and 1/2 olive oil for safest treat (can overdose on vitamins in Ferretone if not diluted AND, no more than about a tablespoonful total over a weeks period of time. All ferrets need Ferretone...its their favorite treat, gives them soft, beautiful coats and longer lives too!
SAFE HOUSING REQUIREMENTS- much already covered in Ferretproofing, but use baby receiving blankets, T-shirts or baby blankets (I get mine from the thrift storefor 50-cents each....wash them x2 weekly to keep ferrets from getting hairballs (deadly!)
HOW TO PREVENT, RECOGNIZE AND TREAT POSSIBLE HAIRBALLS (probably one of the most common causes of death in uneducated ferret owners...it is imperative to keep fur OUT of your ferrets intestines or they become blocked. Know this is deadly very quickly...anytime a ferret stops eating/pooping,you have a sick ferret who could be dead in 24-hours without proper care.
FERRET NOT EATING OR DRINKING: can be dead in24-hours....always observe ferrets...they MUST HAVE AT LEAST 2-HOURS of SUPERVISED OUT OF CAGE PLAYTIME DAILY.
SAFE TOYS- I get mine from thrift store...they LOVE toys that make noise, they can hide in or under or chase each other thru, etc., but can't have ANYTHING with rubber on/in it....shoes are deadly...they will eat the insoles and get an intestinal obstruction...be sure to keep all shoes from ferrets
GET A REAL FERRET VET...NOT just any dog and cat vet will do. Ferret vets will advertise as "exotics specialist" or state they treat ferrets...NEVER assume any vet knows about ferrets...learn how to know the difference and questions to ask. Your ferrets need RABIES AND DISTEMPER VACCINES yearly....find a ferret vet ASAP because no doubt they are due....babies get a series of shots every 6-weeks for 3 times, then once yearly for adult ferrets. This is a perfect time to get to know what vet you can use and how to contact them, even on weekends. A real ferret vet KNOWS a sick ferret can't wait till Monday.
That's a start anyway...just a beginning. You are invited to join ferret group on FACEBOOK called THUNDERING FERRET PAWS, where you can get me just about anytime, as I started the group and all my contact info is there. Also check out our "files" there, which discuss in great detail information every ferret owner needs to know. I am still working on getting all of them posted (I was writing a book, but decided to put the info online for all ferret owners instead).
Hope this helps. I know there is a ton of stuff to learn. Begin with lots of cuddling and snuggling, kisses and love. Never poke a finger into a ferret's face...he thinks you want him to taste it! Always hold ferret securely or they will bite also....they WANT to be put down if they don't feel secure...its a long way down!!
Hope to see your name pop up on the group! If not, then you can usually get me here, but I cannot control how long it takes for them to forward my replies to you on here.
Hope to "see" you soon....I have written a book. I just hope it helps you discover you have TWO awesome, loving ferrets...and really not a bad boy. I don't know ANY bad ferrets...only owners who are not familiar with ferrets!
(Please forgive any typos...in a hurry and so much I want to tell you! :-))