Posted: April 1, 2012, 11 a.m. EDT
Q: I just rescued an 11-week-old ferret from a very neglectful and abusive family. I don't know exactly what all they did to this pretty, little ferret, but I do know they let their little kids poke at her and throw things at her through the bars of her cage and that she was not fed or watered properly. They also kept the ferret in a cage made and set up for a hamster. The ferret became so aggressive that when I finally got her she attacked anything close to the cage; it didn’t matter if it was a finger or a toy. I have some thick gloves I sprayed well with Time Out spray, which is how I have handled her so far. I have two other ferrets, one is 9 months the other 1 year 3 months. I don't know what to do to help the baby ferret. I read your advice to feed treats through the cage to let a ferret know that hands are good. Would this be OK with the baby ferret, even though she already attacks stuff too close to the cage? I was scared this may encourage her bad habit. I have only had her for a few days. She is already starting to calm down when I come close to the cage, but she still sits there shivering and still bites sometimes. I don't know how long I should wait to start taking her out of the cage, how much to try handling her and when it will be safe to introduce her to her new ferret family. Any advice you have is appreciated. I can’t let her be put down. It's not her fault.
A: Ferrets with a history of abuse or lack of socialization take time and patience to rehabilitate. Be patient and allow the other ferrets to help her understand that you and your hands are safe. Hand feeding her (not through the cage) can help her understand that hands can be fun and friendly. Don't pick her up from the cage, but allow her to come out of the cage and solicit your attention to be touched. I would certainly allow her to be with the other ferrets as soon as possible, as that will help her.
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