Posted: July 13, 2012, 12:15 p.m. EDT
Ferrets Pepperrmint & Simba/Courtesy Darren & Nicole Frey
Ferret play can look rough, but if blood is drawn, owners need to intervene.
Q: My husband and I have two ferrets. Squishy is a female that is almost 2 years old and Mow is a male. Squishy was the dominant one when it came to the two of them, because she was our first, so she was a little spoiled. They fought for about three weeks when Mow joined the family, and then were fine.
About two months ago, we added Fabio to our family. He is about 3½ to 4 months old and is pretty gentle. When we got him at the pet store, the staff told us he had been in isolation for six weeks out of the eight before we got him. He was pretty scared but took to me pretty quickly. He wouldn’t leave my side for two days. He was underweight and slightly malnourished when we picked him up.
When we got him home, we tried to do a meeting in a neutral place, but immediately after we introduced Squish to Fabio, she attacked. We introduced Mow and they were kind of running around together, occasionally fighting. This went on for a couple days. When we put all three together, Squish would freak out and attack Fabio and then turn around and freak out on Mow. (Squishy is very, very spoiled.) She was definitely showing dominance to the other ferrets by gaining a lot of weight and bullying.
We noticed when we put Squish and Fabio together or Fabio and Mow together that Fabio still freaks out and poops while they are fighting. We separated them the first times it happened, but it still hasn’t stopped when they fight. Squishy is no longer the dominant one, Mow is. Squishy has slimmed down and “given up” her position as the dominant one.
It has been two months, and we can’t seem to get them to get along. We have tried countless baths, switching their bedding, switching their beds, switching them in their cages and separate playtimes with Mow and Fabio, or Squish and Fabio. I’ve done that for about a week and it started to get better. I decided to gradually introduce them again and see if they would all get along, but Squish and Mow ganged up on Fabio and wouldn’t let up until they drew blood. I separated them and locked them in Fabio’s cage.
Squish and Mow won’t let up on Fabio. They keep ganging up on him, and he won’t quit barking and hiding. He won’t stand up for himself very much. He didn’t used to at all, but he fights back a little now. Any suggestions on how to get them to get along?
Also, when we put Mow and Fabio in a small enclosure together and let them duke it out, Fabio beats Mow up. Same goes for Squish. But when it is in a big area, they beat the crap out of him. Any ideas? I just want them to get along!
A: You don’t say why Fabio was in isolation before you got him. Maybe he has an underlying health problem that the other two ferrets are picking up on which makes them pick on him. Have you had him checked out by your veterinarian?
I would keep Fabio separated from the other two ferrets for now and try reintroducing them in a couple of months. I know that may be inconvenient for you, but it will give Fabio a chance to mature and grow a bit more before meeting the other ferrets again. Continue switching the bedding, or switching cages if that is easier.
When you go to reintroduce the ferrets, spray Fabio with some bitter apple or another bitter spray, so if the other two ferrets try to bite him, they will learn that he doesn’t taste very good. If you have a neutral room that none of the ferrets have been in before, use that as the introduction room.
Offer them treats as you set them on the floor together. Nutrical or another treat from a tube works best for this. You may want to have someone else with you to help you give the treats so that they can all get the treats at the same time. Continue giving treats to Mow and Squish so that Fabio has a chance to smell them while they are busy. Then let Mow and Fabio interact a bit while you keep Squish busy. If they seem to be OK together, then you can let Squish in on the introductions. If she goes into attack mode again, then you may have to start all over again with separating them for a while.
Ferrets are not naturally “group” animals. Some ferrets are very stressed by being introduced to other ferrets. Most adjust and form a pecking order, but some just never work it out. I also have had ferrets that would not get along with anyone else and then, all of a sudden a year or two later, they started acting like best friends. Don’t give up on your introductions, but don’t rush them either.
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