Want to have a well behaved ferret? Here are some tips to help!
1) Make your home bomb proof! In other words: ferret proof by not only covering small holes, but by moving objects that they can easily break, knock over and get in to. If your ferret getting into an object or knocking it over will bother you, move it to where they cannot get into it or knock it over. This reduces stress for both you and your pet - after all, your ferret won't understand why you are upset with them when they are simply satisfying their natural curiosity.
2) Litters (or puppy pads) in every room! Have more than one clean litter or puppy pad in the ferret's play area, and encourage them to use the pads by placing them in the litters or on the pads after they wake up and if you notice them sniffing corners or backing up. Doing so will minimize the number of misses that you will need to clean up. If you do not want the litters to be visible to guests, feel free to conceal them in less visible corners to which the ferrets have easy access, but your guests cannot easily see.
*** it is important to show the ferrets where the litters are, and to keep them in the same place every play time - ferrets are creatures of habit and moving a litter without replacing it with an attractive, cozy looking ferret bed can lead to more misses.
3) Get your ferret to use its litter BEFORE being allowed out of the cage or ferret room to play. Once the animal uses the litter, they should be good for 2-4 hours. The first couple of times that you do this, your ferret will likely be confused. Place them in the litter and repeat the same command "use your litter" or something similar. Once the ferret uses the litter (they will need to use it sooner or later if they have just woken up), then praise them and let them out to play. They will catch on quickly. If your ferret is already awake and you are not sure if they have already used their litter, you can let them out but be sure to place them in the play area litters when you let them out, as well as every hour or two.
4) Plenty of toys and stimulation. Lots of tunnels, toys to hide, crinkle sacs, plastic bags, dig boxes etc to entertain your ferret helps keep them interested in their stuff rather than yours. If your ferret it allowed to run around the house, you can either take such items out when the ferret is most playful (generally just after they have woken up) or have the items "hidden" around the house. Tunnels can be placed behind couches, crinkle sacks underneath them, toys in attractive looking chests or toy boxes, dig boxes or rice boxes (which are a lot easier to clean up after) in a corner of the dining room and so forth.
5) Maintain a fairly regular schedule. This helps reduce stress on the ferret - they know that they will be allowed out to play at a certain time and are expected in bed at a certain time. Keeping a regular schedule is especially important with rescued ferrets who may have been caged constantly in their previous home. The schedule does not need to be bang on (it can vary by an hour or so) but having the ferret understand that it is going to be going in its cage at night and will be allowed out again the following morning can help decrease cage related stress such as bar biting and inside-cage demolition.
* Don't expect a previously 24/7 caged ferret to stop bar biting immediately - it will take anywhere from a few days to a few weeks for the animal to realize that it will, indeed, be allowed back out of the cage.
6) A tired ferret is a calm ferret. The more time out and the more adventures that your ferret gets, the calmer they will be. I have 4 super high energy ferrets that require hours of out time to keep them from becoming stressed. The ferrets are caged at night while I sleep, and have their own room for when we are out during the day. When we are home, they enjoy the run of top floor of our house. I have found that the more time that they get to be out, the less destructive they are, and the better they are at using their litters. To me this is really the key to having a well behaved ferret: time out of the cage; a tired ferret is a well-behaved ferret.
Personal example: We recently renovated our house and during the renovations, the house was less than pet friendly. We were forced to limit the amount of out time that the ferrets enjoyed, as well as the amount of space that they were able to run in safely and noticed a HUGE difference. The result was overly hyper, rather destructive little beasts that would fight a lot more often and fail to use their litters most of the time. I call this phenomenon the ferret-cage badness spiral . Once the ferrets were able to have hours of free roam again, they settled back down.
7) Don't expect miracles. Misses will happen, ferrets will run amok when they are first let out of their cage or room, ferrets will get into everything and hide your possessions - they will always be ferrets. These tips are to help you get a less stressed out, happier, more well behaved (aka tired) ferret, not a dog or cat.
If you are considering getting a ferrets, or have a ferret and are not sure if they are the right pet, please read the blog "is a ferret right for you?"
For more tips on living with ferrets, click here
For information about how to discipline your ferret, click here but always remember: ferrets will be ferrets; there is no point in disciplining them for getting into mischief!
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