Posted: February 1, 2011, 5 a.m. EST
Q: I have a silver mitt, jill polecat. She’s well-bred and the finest of showing stock. She’s 6 months old, and I’ve had her for two weeks. I’m very familiar with handling ferrets, because I used to show and breed them. I have never come across one like her. She lets me pick her up in her cage without too much nipping, but when she’s in an open room with space, she launches forward on all fours and bites and vigorously shakes her head. I do not snatch my hand away. I say a loud “No!” command, but she does not release her grip; instead she increases the bite to the extent where she locks on. I’ve had to go to a hospital for stitches. Can you help me? I’ve never known a ferret to bite in this manner. She’s well-fed and has plenty of tunnels, toys and tubes to play with, but my hands seem to be more appealing to her than anything else. I’ve never had trouble before, even with fear-biters, but this ferret is biting to cause damage and not nipping. I’ve tried lemon juice on my hands. I’ve never flicked or scruffed her. Is she tameable? I’m very concerned that her behavior is of the wild instinct and not the friendly tameable ferret that she should be.
A: I can only make a few comments without needing to know more.
I can only assume that the ferret was rarely handled out of her cage for the first 5.5 months of her life and is therefore not used to it. She may not have had time out of her cage to play and get excited and is therefore biting out of the unknown. This is a pretty severe reaction and would imply she doesn't have any bite inhibition, which worries me.
I am not sure that she is well-bred, because she is rather old to be placed and seems to have very little history of being socialized. I would need to know more and get an in-depth history before I could guess whether she is going to be handle-able in the future.
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