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Rehabilitating An Abused Ferret

What’s the best way to start rehabilitating an abused ferret?

By Ailigh Vanderbush
Posted: July 1, 2010, 5 a.m. EDT

Q: I have five ferrets, and I am having problems with one. His name is Cinnamon. He is about a year old and is neutered. When he was a young ferret, he was abused by my friend’s ex-boyfriend (he used to be her ferret). Cinnamon was thrown up against walls, starved and teased. Now, I can't even feed him treats without being bit, or let him out without fear of him attacking me. I have noticed he is very hypersensitive to sudden movements. I have to keep a harness and leash on him to let him out and play, so I can catch him to put him away. Do you have any suggestions on how to tackle this case? I have confidence he can be rehabilitated, but I just don't know how to start.

A: The most important suggestion to help out this poor ferret is patience. Give him time to adjust to the new situation and time to bond with you. Try to teach him that hands are good and not something to be feared by handing him tasty treats to eat in and out of the cage.

I really like that you keep the harness and leash on him when he is out because this probably helps keep him less stressed by having you pick him up and keeps you safe from him biting!

As soon as you find something he likes, try to use that as often as possible to show him that he is safe with you. Above all else, be patient with him and realize that it may take months for him to feel safe and comfortable.

See all Ferret FAQ questions and answers>>

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Reader Comments
I run a ferret shelter, so I have had my share of abused furries that have moved into our home, I used gloves and ferretone and it usually doesn't take long and I don't have to use the gloves.I had a little black eyed White, named pepper. She was nasty, and after 6 months for the most part she is good, but she is still proctective about her cage,patients is the answer.
Bridget, Steinbach, MB
Posted: 1/13/2011 10:35:04 PM
We had a ferret that had been kept in a cage outdoors with birds ... You can guess why we initially named him Tazmanian Devil. He came to us spitting, hissing and growling. Within one day, from knowing a bit about ferrets (we operated as a temporary shelter) we decided he was biting not out of anger, but out of fear, and we renamed him Razamataz (Raz for short). He would look at us with eyes that said "Please love me" and as soon as your hand got near him, he would attack it visciously. To help him get over his fear, we would hold him in a manner that kept him from biting us ... on our lap, on his back, and stroke him gently, while speaking to him softly. We kept telling him :You don't need to bite - we will not hurt you." I am sure having a house full of happy ferrets around him, helped in his rehabilitation. Once he began to trust us a little bit, we were afraid that if we gave him to someone else, he might never trust a human again. I will not say he never stopped biting ... but he did begin to trust us after a few months. His biting, instead of going for the kill, was more a method of communication "No, I don't mean that, No, I don't want that" and was therefore not always the cause of pain and bleeding. He died with us after 8 years (we suspect he was about two when we got him) so he lived to be a ripe old age. He ended up being a very good leader of our gang and only in the last few months of his life did he lie peacefully in our laps to sleep. He was a light sleeper for most of his life. Not a day went by without us saying "Boy, am I glad we kept him for ourselves, instead of finding a home for him". He was always special to us (they all are, for their own individual personalities) and we still miss him.
Kate, Den Helder
Posted: 8/4/2010 2:51:13 AM
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