Hello Ferret Friends!
We're coming up on St. Patty's Day, and Ferret Designs has a special coupon offer -- make sure to check the ad in this newsletter for the coupon code!
If you haven't been reading my blog, you might want to read the entry for Sunday (March 14). I think it's something you can all related to.
In this newsletter we're going to tackle the sticky problem of getting ferrets to get along.
We'll also cover how to tell a boy ferret from a girl ferret.
--Mary & the Fuzz
In this newsletter:
How To Solve Problems Associated With Adding Another Ferret
Did You Know That ... (determining the sex of a ferret)
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How To Solve Problems Associated With Adding Another Ferret
By Mary R. Shefferman
You've thought about it. You've done a cost and time reality check (see "Ferret medical care expenses" in FerretNews #54). You know your ferret will benefit from a friend of his "own kind." So you go and get another ferret, and the two ferrets hate each other. Now what?
Will the two ever get along? Is it really "hate" or just rough play? Should you bring the new ferret back to where you got him (shelter, pet store, breeder)?
Roughing It Up
Ferrets play rough. It looks a lot like fighting, but often it's just the usual wrestling that ferrets do. We call it "mock combat." Most people who have only one ferret have never seen the way two ferrets interact with each other. They are often surprised at how roughly ferrets will play. They're surprised at the squeaks, the hissing, the intense wrestling holds, the neck biting ... all the normal occurrences when two well-matched ferrets are playing. Yes, playing.
Once you get used to seeing your gentle little critters tossing each other around, you can actually come to enjoy the way they play. But what if they're not playing? How do you know?
No Blood, No Foul
Many experts will tell you that if a ferret doesn't draw blood on another ferret, then everything will work out okay ... eventually. True enough. But you will need to supervise playing that frightens one of the ferrets into pooping, hiding, or screaming (believe me, you'll know a ferret is screaming when all your hair stands on-end -- it sounds like a baby screaming).
This one-sided rough play is more likely to occur when the first ferret has been an only ferret for a long time (say, more than a year and a half, depending on the ferret). It is also likely when the two ferrets are not well-matched size-wise. An adult ferret may frighten a kit who is not used to rough play. A new ferret may frighten a ferret who hasn't played with another ferret for a long time.
If you put down the two ferrets and they get into an intense tussle, pull them apart (being careful not to get a finger between the grabbing teeth!). Put them down again. If one of the ferrets runs to hide, that ferret doesn't realize the other ferret is only playing. If the two ferrets run at each other and continue rough play (with no blood, poop, or screaming), let them work it out.
Getting two ferrets together when one is frightened of the other will take time and patience. A few tricks:
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- Wash both ferrets in the same ferret shampoo and see if that settles things.
- Give each ferret the other's sleep sack or blankets so they can get used to each other's smell.
- Get a cage that neither one can consider his or her pre-existing territory.
- Get them to share Ferretone together, dabbing the Ferretone on each one's nose (again, this "neutralizes" the differing smells).
- Put some Grannick's Bitter Apple on the backs of their necks to discourage biting.
- If one of the ferrets is a kit, keep him separate until he is better matched size-wise to the other ferret.
- Continue to monitor their playtime as they work out their differences.
When we brought home Bosco and Trixie, Ralph beat up on them something awful. Trixie quickly figured out that she could "protect" herself if she went in the tubes. She also figured out that if she stood up to Ralph, he'd back down. Bosco took longer. I remember watching Marshmallow playing very gently with Bosco; he'd bat at Bosco gently with his front paw, then back up, so Bosco understood that Marshmallow wasn't trying to attack him. When Bosco got bigger and a little bolder, he stood up to Ralph and the two were friends from then on.
What If It Just Won't Work Out?
Things didn't work out quite as well with Cauliflower as they did with Bosco. Cauli had been an only kit -- the only surviving baby in his mother's litter. His mother used to beat on him a lot, even when he got much bigger. When Cauli moved in with us, he was nearly a year old. He set out to attack every one of our ferrets! And he meant business. It wasn't that Cauli was aggressive or mean; he was terrified of other ferrets. We never successfully blended him in with our group. But he and Koosh did end up being good friends. Again, Koosh was a big ferret and was better size-matched with Cauli.
If you have two ferrets who just won't get along, you don't have much in the way of options. You can house the two ferrets separately, giving each a separate playtime. Of course, if you got a second ferret to keep the first company, this kind of defeats that purpose. Also, if you do not have the time to give each ferret the time and attention he needs (for example, if each ferret only gets half the playtime), you're not doing him any favors by keeping him with you.
The thing is, when you bring an animal into your home, you have a responsibility to care for her for her lifetime. That does not mean you can't find another home for a ferret who just won't get along with others if keeping the ferret means you will not be able to give her proper care. It does mean that you owe it to the ferret to exhaust the possibilities, including reading more about getting ferrets to get along, consulting with a ferret club or shelter in your area, and giving the ferrets time to work out their differences.
If you do have to find a new home for the ferret, contact a ferret shelter to help you place the ferret. Ferret shelters are good at screening potential adopters. Offer to keep the ferret with you until a new home is found. Even if it's a little inconvenient for you, it will help out the shelter a lot if you can avoid transferring the costs (money and time) of caring for your ferret to the shelter. Most ferret shelters are run by private individuals; they do not have funds to house and care for very many ferrets. For the service of helping you to place your ferret, you should consider offering a donation to the shelter (it can be money, ferret food or supplies, or time).
Fortunately, most of the time, ferrets get along all right. We had seven ferrets before we brought home one who wouldn't integrate. Some of the transitions were a little touch-and-go, but everyone ended up with a pal. So, yes, there is hope!
Modern Ferret Issue #10: Integrating Ferrets By Eric and Mary R. Shefferman
Modern Ferret Issue #11: The Business Dynamic By Sheena Staples (ferrets getting along)
Modern Ferret Issue #17: New Ferret Introduction - Jenny's Story By James O'Heare
Modern Ferret Issue #18: Marshmallow Explains It All: Boys Will Be Boys
Modern Ferret Issue #31: Ferrets of New York By Tama Janowitz
Modern Ferret Issue #33: Dear Gabby: Advice for first-time ferret parents
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Ferrets for Dummies is not for dummies! It's for everyone who wants to learn!
Kim Schilling covers a lot of ferret territory in her first ferret book.
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Did you know that ...
By Mary R. Shefferman
It's easy to tell a male from a female ferret. Look on your ferret's belly, if your ferret looks like he has a belly button, he's a boy. If you can't see a belly button, then you have a girl. Another method is to run your hand up and down your ferret's belly, if you feel a little bump, it's a boy. No bump? It's a girl.
Male ferrets also differ from female ferrets in size. Although you won't necessarily notice until the ferret is full-grown (at between 6 and 8 months), males can be up to twice as big as females.
These photos are from Modern Ferret magazine Issue #33 and feature our ferrets Koosh and Trixie as models:
Koosh is a boy ferret
Trixie is a girl ferret
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That about wraps up this edition of FerretNews. We hope all of your fuzzies are doing well. We'll have another newsletter same time next week!
-- Mary, Eric, & Gabby (the lone ferret)
Stay tuned for more. You can always get updates by reading my blog (a blog is an online journal). I keep it sporadically and it usually runs to the more personal stuff. But you might like it. It's at
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