Posted: September 27, 2013, 9:30 p.m. EDT
Ferret Jazz/© Courtesy Lisa Schuster
Getting a ferret to play and wear himself out before bedtime might be a way to stop him from staying up all night.
Q: I am 15 years old, and I have a major ferret problem that I need help fixing immediately. I have two darling but devilish ferrets, Micha and Dakota, who are both females. Dakota is fairly decent. My problem with her is that she chews the side of the food bowl and water bowl when she eats. We took her to the vet a few months ago because of it, and the vet said she had a mouth infection. We gave her medicine and put her on wet food until the infection was gone. So the chewing isn't as bad now, but it is still there. She has done this since I got both of them about four years ago. Is there any way to break this habit? I should also mention that when she was on wet food she did not do this.
Now on to my little devil of a ferret, Micha. She is the major problem. She digs constantly. Every morning she gets up and digs, and it wakes me up. Sometimes this is 2 or 3 in the morning. Because of her I have not had a full, good night sleep in probably three or four months. She will continue to dig throughout the day. What happens is that she digs right next to the litter box. She used to move it and poop behind it until I fastened it to the cage. Ever since then she digs next to it. I put a blanket on the bottom of the cage to muffle the sound, but it just doesn't work at all. It seems to encourage her to dig. I went out and bought a scratch board for a cat that had no catnip in it. She knows how to use it because she does, but after a few minutes she just scoots it over and continues digging on the blanket. I have tried putting toys in, but that doesn't work for long.
She has done this since we got her, it has never been this bad though, and I have moved her out of the room into another room before. However, I can't anymore because there is no place for the cage except my room. I start school in three days, and I have to get up at 5 every morning to make it to school on time. I really need this problem solved. I am about to the point of getting rid of them. I do not want to, I love them. But I can't go to school with a few hours of sleep. Last year I went on about five hours of sleep a night. I can't do that this year. I am supposed to be getting nine hours of sleep at my age, and I really need those hours of good sleep this year. I will be in all honors classes this year, and I can't go on barely any sleep because of my ferrets. If you can help me please do. I want to keep my ferrets because I love both of them. They are both adorable, fluffy, crazy and funny. If there is no solution then I might be rehoming them, as much as I don't want to.
A: Dakota may have gotten into the habit of chewing on her bowl because her mouth bothered her while she had the infection. Have you been back to the veterinarian to be sure she is clear of the infection? If she has a clean bill of health, then this is just a bad habit that she has developed. Try using a different style of bowl and see if that helps. You may have to buy one that attaches to the wall of the cage and raise it up so she has to eat the food at a different angle. You can also continue with the wet food for a while longer. Just make sure that it is kept fresh. It is better to give her small amounts several times a day instead of filling her bowl and leaving it out all day where bacteria can form and make your pets sick.
Micha is accomplishing her goal — to get attention! She knows that you are in the room and wants you to pay attention to her. Try letting her out to play for a while just before you go to bed. Let her wear herself out and then give her a treat (some of the wet food would be appropriate). This may help her sleep through the night.
You can also try placing a towel or small blanket over the side of the cage that faces your bed. (Make sure that it’s an old one, not one of your mom’s best!) If she can’t see you, she may be less likely to try to get your attention.
Ferrets often dig at their cages if they are bored (not enough play time or attention outside of the cage) or if the cage is not big enough. If your ferrets have grown since you fist got them, it might be time for a bigger cage, especially if they are cooped up all day while you are doing other things or when you are in school all day.
If this doesn’t work, talk to your parents about locating the cage in another room. Is there space in your family room or living room? Is the cage portable so you can move it out of your bedroom at night? Re-think these options before you give up on your pets.
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