Posted: May 1, 2012, 4 a.m. PDT
Q: I have a male ferret named Ares that is about 3 to 4 months old. I just recently bought an approximately 2-month-old female ferret that I’ve named Raissa. I got her about a month after Ares. I need help to get Ares to get along with her. What he does is pin her down, almost like he’s hugging her, and he is rubbing his head all over her and then starts to bite her. When she tries to escape from him, he goes after her. He bites her neck and pulls her ears. And I can’t tell if he is playing rough sometimes because they are tumbling all over each other until he starts biting her neck and ears, and then I’m confused and have to separate them. Sometimes she even goes back to him after he performs these things to her. I tried holding them apart, but Ares has his mouth open trying to get at her. She is quite small compared to him, so I’m worried that he is going to hurt her. I need help understanding why they are fine one minute (he walks right by her, smells her, ignores her), and the next minute, he’s on top of her. Raissa does not give up without a fight and will defend herself, so I wonder if that is why he continues this, because he hasn’t established dominance over her. Help please, I’ve tried everything to get them to get along, and I seem to be making progress but then it’s back to square one.
Also, Ares is aggressive when it comes to eating from his bowl, he is a very sweet ferret to me and others, but when it comes to food, he doesn’t want to share. I’m worried that if and when he starts getting along with Raissa, that this will be an issue because even though he loves to be around me, he gets all uptight when I put my hand in his bowl. I’m worried that when Raissa starts to eat with him, he might hurt her. He never bites me, but he just takes whatever is in his mouth and turns away and then continues to eat that. What can I do to fix this problem?
A: What you describe sounds like a completely normal ferret interaction, especially for young ferrets. You didn't mention screaming or any actual biting, so I would let your ferrets be together, and they will figure each other out. It is quite amazing how ferrets are designed to tolerate a lot of neck biting (just ask your veterinarian at vaccination time).
Regarding the feeding issue, because Ares' response is to turn away, I wouldn't worry about your ferrets sharing food. As long as your ferrets have access to the food all day, they can work out a system. You could also add a second food dish that Raissa could use if Ares pushes her out.
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