Posted: January 13, 2010, 5 a.m. EST
Q. I own a 3-year-old male ferret. I bought him when he was about 6 weeks old. He bites me and everyone else who tries to play with him. I’ve tried everything to stop him: timeout, telling him no, wearing gloves, bitter spray and even ignoring him. Nothing works. Sometimes he seems to be biting because he just wants to play, but when I get down to play, he bites me more. I don’t think my ferret ever does it because he’s angry. He has no reason to be angry. He’s well cared for. I know that when ferrets play, they’re rough with each other and bite, which is what he seems to be trying to do. I would get another ferret friend for him, but I don’t have the money to care for two ferrets. If you have any suggestions on getting my ferret to stop biting, that would be great.
A. Young ferrets, or kits, can play roughly, but with handling and training they should get out of their biting stage before adulthood. You did not mention if your ferret was neutered. Some intact males can be more aggressive when they are in rut, but this is usually aimed at other ferrets and not at their owners.
Your ferret could be of poor pet stock, being from a fur farm instead of a pet ferret breeding facility. Ferrets bred for fur instead of the pet trade can sometimes take two to four years to stop their biting habits.
You may also want to have your ferret checked by a veterinarian to see if there is something medically wrong with him. Some blood work or an X-ray might be in order to see if there are any abnormalities in your ferret that are causing him to be aggressive. If your veterinarian doesn’t find anything wrong, then just continue to be patient and work with your ferret several times daily to try to bring him around.
Work with him in 10 to 15 minute intervals rather than one long work session. You can also try offering him a treat when you go to play with him. Sit down and distract him with the treat as you start to play with him, or else he will think that you are rewarding him for biting you. A liquid or paste-type treat is best because you can offer the treat on a spoon and not put your hands in harm’s way.
Pet your ferret or talk to him as he eats the treat to get him used to you being with him in a nonplay mode. You can even try holding your ferret in your lap or in the crook of your arm while giving him the treat. If your ferret still doesn’t respond to your training techniques, then you will have to love him as he is.
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