By Mike Steele
Fighting for dominance is normal when introducing ferrets. The severity of which can range between almost no fighting to an all-out battle. It’s best to hope for the best, but “prepare” for the worst, which should make anything less than ferret to ferret warfare seem acceptable. It is important to be patient throughout the process. Many times things tend to settle down in 3-14 days however there have been instances where peace is not achieved for 3-5 months, or longer. In general, it appears the longer a ferret has been kept away from others, the longer it takes for them to adapt to the new space and time constraints. Aside from being rewarding, you can take comfort in your ferrets having a playmate readily available to them which can be a great experience for you and your fuzzies!
Many times it is easier to introduce a new ferret, while the “old” ferret is relatively new themselves. When you have an “old” ferret who’s used to being the only one, or a group that has been together for some time, you’ll find it may take them more time to tolerate the new arrival. Also, you may find it best to introduce more than one ferret (two) at a time which can divert attention between the two, allowing for a quicker acceptance.
There are several techniques available to ease with this transition. Remember that no one will work for every ferret, so plan to use a couple of these. During this process always make sure your ferrets know that they are ok, and that they are loved.
• It is extremely important that you make sure the newcomer is disease-free and current on all vaccinations prior to any interaction. Also, you may choose to quarantine the newcomer for one or more weeks to allow everyone to get used to each others smells, noises, and to help eliminate direct fighting altogether.
• When available, and being sure of the health of the ferrets at the breeder, shelter, or other location where you are looking to purchase your new ferret, try taking your “old” ferret along to pick a new ferret. That way they can choose a new friend on their own. A kit can be a good choice but requires more precaution. Because a kit is smaller, if they are played with “too” roughly you may need to cage them separately until the kit grows larger. Remember, a kit that is constantly drug around or played with too roughly may not wish to associate with other ferrets EVER, so extra care is needed to insure the proper impression is made for both of your ferrets.
• Introduce ferrets in neutral locations, even other ferret owner’s homes. Since the location is new for both ferrets, they should spend more time adjusting to the location, allowing for easier acceptance of one another. With these instances, it would also be good to have more than just the two ferrets there, making each other seem far less like rivals, and more like a multitude of friends looking to have fun!
• If you are not comfortable having your new ferrets meet right off the bat, try housing them separately. Doing this, you should have supervised visits often, while let one ferret out at a time. This should allow the new ferret to adjust to their surroundings while sparing the “old” ferrets feelings in regards to them. You can also switch their bedding back and forth, this will your ferrets to become used to one another’s scents and smell.
• Immediately bath your ferrets together so that they smell the same. Bathing your ferrets together may help because misery most often loves company. You could also put vanilla extract on their noses to confuse their smelling as well as Grannick’s Bitter Apple on their necks to discourage biting. Smearing Ferretone on their faces will encourage licking rather than biting.
• Initially hold the ferrets in either arm letting them sniff each other. Gradually, when you feel more comfortable with how they interact, give them more freedom to do so with each other. You should expect fighting, always supervising in case the fighting escallates. When pulling wrestling ferrets apart, should the loser go back for more they’re probably just playing rough. However, if your ferret bites with a darting motion and shakes his opponent roughly or they tear at the skin this suggest they are being more aggressive than normal. If left alone, one ferret can end up with a neck injuries, infection or worse. It is usual when a ferret is being hurt for them to get very loud vocally , often screaming, but this isn’t always the case, so supervision at first is a must.
• When unsolicited aggression occurs, immediately “scruff” the perpetrator with your hand, or better still with your mouth, gently shaking them. Scold them loudly, and up close. This simulates the discipline a mother would give her kits when they aren’t getting along. Next put the perpetrator in their cage for a time-out. Do not hit them, even a tap to the nose, could make your ferret afraid of you. If “scruffing”, scolding, and cage time doesn’t work, your ferret may need a little more time to adjust. Also be sure to find the newcomer and reassure him he is safe and loved.
Got lucky!? Your ferrets groom each other, often around their ears and neck? This is a sign of acceptance, but we’d caution not to leave them unsupervised until you’re positive they’ve accepted one another.
“Information re-written with permission Ferret FAQ, By Pamela Greene”
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