Maryland Pet

Introducing the Newcomer Ferret

Many people find themselves too busy to devote a lot of attention to their pet ferret. Yet, the ferret enjoys interaction. Apart from non-neutered males, they will generally seek the company of others and want to play and explore. To solve that problem, many will get another ferret. But ferrets, like most mammals, are territorial and may be wary of strangers. What to do?

Before you introduce a newcomer, try to ensure that they carry no diseases they could transmit to the existing ferret(s). They should have at least their initial shots. The closer in age and time you get them, the more likely they are to bond quicker. Dealing with more than one can be a lot of work, but introducing them to the environment no more than a month apart is best.

Fortunately, there are a great many simple techniques that, applied with patience, can usually create one happy family in any scenario.

Ferrets use their sense of smell, in part, to identify who is part of the ‘pack’ and who is not. But newcomers will introduce an unfamiliar scent, of which the established ferret(s) may be cautious. That hurdle can be turned into an advantage.

Take the new ferret and place it in a second cage near the first one. There may be some hissing and clawing, but neither can do any harm this way. After a day or two, switch part of their bedding, mixing the two scents together. Sometimes in a few days, sometimes a little longer, they’ll regard that scent as part of their normal environment.

Then you can introduce the pair face-to-face. Hold one in each arm and let them get close enough to get a good sniff and a look. If you set them down, just as with dogs, it’s helpful to have each on a harness leash, at least at first. A certain amount of rough housing and dominance behavior is normal and harmless. But the leashes are there to make sure it doesn’t get out of hand.

Wearing leather gloves, let them off the leash in a large but enclosed area, devoid of holes to crawl into. Observe their behavior and make sure no one gets too rowdy. Biting is part of their play, but if it goes too far you can have a wounded ferret with scratches or punctures that can get infected. The gloves are to allow you to pick one or both up without getting scratched or bitten yourself in the heat of battle.

Bathing them together can be a challenge, but will help them mix scents again. That will be made much easier if you have another pair of human hands to help. Controlling two ferrets and bathing them simultaneously would tax anyone.

For those ferrets who persist after a couple of weeks, try some bite deterrent spray. Spray a little around the neck. The odor will discourage the more aggressive one.

Persistence, patience and treats will go a long way toward getting your ferrets to form a social group. But usually sooner rather than later, the newcomer will be looked at as someone to play with. Each will be happier, and you will too.

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