9 Tips For Adding a New Ferret to Your Group

by amy brockman · 1 comment ===> Tags: ,

With a bit of planning, adding a new ferret to a household with existing ferrets doesn’t need to be stressful. Just follow these few simple steps.

Begin With a Quarantine Period

Keep the newcomer in a cage alone in a separate room for a couple of weeks to watch for any signs of contagious disease, virus, or parasites. It’s an extra step that some find a bit of a hassle, but it beats spreading ear mites, or much worse, to every ferret in the house.

Quarantine time also gives you the ability to spend time alone with the new ferret to bond one-on-one and gives the incoming ferret a relaxed, less stressful beginning in their new home. Many new ferrets joining a household have come from less than ideal situations. The quiet time alone may be a welcome change.

During the quarantine period watch the new arrival closely. If the new ferret shows any signs of illness visit your veterinarian for treatment and wait for a clean bill-of-health before moving forward.

Start Slowly

It’s never a good idea to simply throw ferrets together in a cage who haven’t had a chance to become acquainted. A ferret’s cage is their own domain and many can be quite territorial about sharing it with a stranger.

After a couple of weeks in quarantine, begin the introduction phase by placing the two ferrets side-by-side, but in separate cages. This is close enough to allow them to get used to each others scent. You can also swap bedding from one cage to the other for the same purpose.

Allow each ferret time out of the cage to play separately at least once each day. These outings will give each time to visit where the other has gone, smell, and become familiar with sharing space before needing to do so face-to-face.

Don’t Rush to Make the Introduction

How long should the separate living arrangements last?

Anywhere from a few days to a few months. It depends on the ferrets, but is something which shouldn’t be rushed. You want the first  meeting to go smoothly. When it doesn’t, distrust between ferrets can build. It then takes even longer and more work to achieve harmony between ferrets.

In general, younger ferrets normally adjust and accept new ferrets easier than older ones. Ferrets raised for a long period of time as the only ferret in the house my not adjust easily to another animal invading their space. Elderly, ill, or inactive ferrets don’t always get along well with young, energetic kits. And some ferrets are just naturally more fearful and will require more time to adjust. Take all these things into consideration and trust your instincts.

Supervise Initial Contact

It is sometimes helpful to have the first introduction held in a neutral place. For example, if you normally keep your ferret in a “ferret room” take them to the livingroom for the first meeting instead. On neutral territory there will likely be no feelings of possessiveness from the old ferret, thereby eliminating at least one potential problem.

Expect them to be wary of each other at first, maybe even some hissing and staring. There may even be a bit of wrestling about. This all needs to take place for the new order of things to be understood and ‘alpha ferret’ to be established. The general rule of thumb is “No blood. No poop. No problem.” When a ferret is extremely scared they’ll poop. That’s a sign things are not going well and they should be separated. Likewise, when there is blood someone is getting way too rough and they should also be separated. Otherwise, allow them to carry on.

Provide them some blankets on the floor to crawl beneath and hide or tunnels to climb through. Tunnels have a way of equalizing things, especially if you are introducing a larger ferret to a smaller ferret. It’s hard for anyone to come out  much on top inside a tunnel.

Give Lots of Love and Attention

You’ll want to reassure your old buddy that a newcomer to the bunch doesn’t mean you love them any less. Ferrets can be emotional little critters and often get their feelings hurt easily. Give extra hugs and kisses and treats. It won’t go unnoticed.

Ferratone to the Rescue

Grooming another ferret is a sign of affection. You can artificially begin to create this behavior by placing a few drops of Ferratone on one of the ferret’s head to be licked off by the other, then repeat on the other head.

Dealing With a Bully Ferret

If one of your ferrets is a bully and always beating up on the other, you may need to get more involved to teach him or her better manners.

When one ferret is continually beating up on one of the others you’ll need to supervise time together more closely than ever. When the fight begins grab the offending ferret gently but firmly by the scruff of the neck and slowly drag him or her across the floor. This sounds odd, but what you’re doing is imitating what an alpha ferret does to show that he or she is boss. You’re showing that YOU are boss and won’t tolerate that behavior. As is normally the case when training animals, repeat as often as needed until the offensive behavior changes.

Until the bullying stops, you’ll want to continue to supervise all play time, and never, ever leave them caged together where the underdog has no way to escape.

Water Bottle Sprayer

When allowing two ferrets play time together who don’t yet accept each other, sit back with a water bottle and watch. You can normally see a fight about to begin before it happens — they cross paths and give each other “that look”, or each takes up residence in the same hidey hole.  A quick squirt with the water bottle is harmless yet distracting and often stops a fight before it has a chance to begin. Plus the ferrets love playing in water.

Finally, Acceptance

Most all ferrets will eventually accept a newcomer. Once they are playing together outside the cage you can start thinking about caging them together. Start by leaving the cage open while playing for them to come and go as they please. From there, move to caging them together but only for short periods of time when you’re nearby in case any fighting should break out. Once that works out, you’re probably good to go.

Now you’re finally past the initial get-to-know-you stage and the fun begins. There is nothing more delightful than watching a pair of ferrets chase and play, wear themselves out being silly, and finally snuggle in and curl up together in a favorite hammock.

Do you have anything you would like to include? Post a comment below. Let me know how you’ve handled adding a ferret to your home.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Doughboy October 9, 2011 at 12:48 pm

I thugoht finding this would be so arduous but it’s a breeze!

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