Posted: June 13, 2010, 5 a.m. EDT
Q: I was given a ferret by a friend about two months ago (never had one before). My friend’s other two ferrets didn't get along with her, they were too old, 5 and 6, so Princess and I became a family.
I've noticed with my work schedule (sometimes I can be gone more than 12 hours a day) that Princess sleeps a lot, even when I'm home. I thought she was bored, so I decided to get her a friend. Honey Bee joined our family about four days ago. Now the problem I'm having is this: When they play they seem to have fun, hopping around and wrestling, biting, rolling and hissing at each other. They seem to like each other, that is, until bedtime.
Princess has her own cage and Honey Bee has a smaller one. I didn't want to pay for another cage, hoping they will eventually be able to sleep in the same one. I keep both cage doors open during the day while I'm here and put them in their own cage when it's bedtime for me or I'm gone. Honey Bee seems to love napping in Princess’ cage during the day, to the point where she's kicked Princess out. She also "vandalizes" Princess' cage. Princess has always kept it neat — her blanket under the ledge, the litter area in its right area. Honey Bee plays in the litter area, digging in every area of the cage she can, making a huge mess inside and out. She also drags the sleeping blanket all over the cage, even the litter area.
Princess doesn't nap in her cage anymore, preferring to sleep under my bed or sometimes in it. So when it's bedtime, I have to take Princess and put her in her cage and take Honey Bee and put her back in her own cage. Is this right? Am I doing this wrong?
I was told not to put them in the same cage for a while until they get along better, but when they're in the cage at the same time they both start to hiss loudly and seem to fight a lot more and one of them leaves, usually Princess. Should I stop letting Honey Bee do this by making her nap in her own cage even when my ultimate goal is to get them to sleep together? I'm at a complete loss here. Please help!
A: The first warning signs that you mentioned were when you said the ferrets were biting, rolling and hissing at each other. These are not signs of ferrets having fun; they are establishing dominance. As long as they are not breaking skin, they will probably work things out in the long run.
Vandalizing Princess' cage might be Honey Bee's way of telling Princess that she wants to be boss. It can also just be her way of saying, "I'm bored." Not all ferrets keep their areas neat. Princess, in the meantime, is feeling rejected and is seeking solace in your bedroom.
Try offering your ferrets treats together so they learn that being together means getting a reward. A few tiny treats a couple of times per play session can help them learn to tolerate each other.
Because you already have had them out playing together, you might as well try putting them in the cage together for short periods of time when you are around. Don't leave them in there all day while you are gone yet, though. When they get to the point where they can last the night together in the cage, then I would feel free to let them stay together all day. For some ferrets this may take a few more days. Other ferrets may take weeks to get along better. Just be patient and give both your ferrets a lot of love and attention.
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