Posted: April 13, 2010, 5 a.m. EDT
Q: I need some advice concerning a naughty ferret I have. He was wonderful, and hit the litter box every time. But then he turned 4 months old, and now he goes potty everywhere in his cage, including in his food dish, on his bedding ... everywhere! I had things placed in all corners to avoid this, even "deterrent springs" and nothing has worked. He and his cage were clean last night, and this morning he has done his business everywhere! Any suggestions? I've had about 10 fuzzies over the years, and have never had one like him.
A: Each ferret is unique and poses its own problems — some more than others. Has anything changed in your ferret's cage? Does he share the cage with other ferrets or have you had any other new pets come into your house? Sometimes if there is more than one ferret, one ferret will bully the other and keep him from the litter box. If there is another new pet in the house, such as a new cat or dog, a ferret will poop around his cage to mark territory.
Are your ferret's stools firm and formed, or are they loose and runny? If they are loose, he may be having problems getting to the litter box in time. If so, have him checked by your veterinarian to make sure he doesn't have a medical problem.
You didn't say how your ferret behaves when he is out of his cage to play. Does he use his litter box outside of the cage? If he does, try putting one of those litter boxes in the cage and see if he will use it inside of the cage. Maybe he doesn't like the litter boxes that you have for him inside of the cage. Are they too small? Litter boxes for tiny kits are often too small for a growing ferret.
Do you use the same litter in and out of the cage, or is there anything different in the cage that may be bothering him? Is he out of his cage most of the day and then locked up at night? Maybe he is upset because you have him locked up and is showing his rebellion by pooping everywhere. Try putting more litter boxes in the cage, even if it's wall to wall litter boxes for a while. As he starts to choose certain litter boxes, start taking out some of the unused ones, about one per week. If he starts missing again, put one or two back in.
If you have a multi-level cage, make sure there are litter boxes in the upper level as well as the bottom level. If this is not feasible, then block off the upper level and keep your ferret on one level for a while until his litter box habits improve.
If your ferret is having a problem getting to the litter box outside of the cage as well as inside, take your ferret to the veterinarian to have him checked out. Sometimes when the kits are neutered and de-scented at a very young age, the sphincter muscle gets damaged and the ferret has a problem holding his stool as he gets older. Sometimes surgery to “tighten” the rectum is needed.
As a last resort, sit there and watch your ferret as much as you can while he is in the cage. If you see him starting to go to the wrong spot, shout "NO!" and quickly put him in a litter box. If he tries to run out of the box, grab him (gently) and keep putting him back into the box until he goes. Be persistent in this litter box training and he should come around eventually. If you see no improvement whatsoever, take him in to your vet for a checkup.
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