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Ferret Behavior

Ferrets make wonderful pets because of their engaging personalities, playful activity and fastidious nature.

They can be easily trained to use a litter box because they tend to habitually urinate and defecate in the same places. Provide a low-sided litter box for easy entry and exit. More than one litter box may be necessary if the ferret has free run of the house. There is no innate animosity between ferrets and dogs and cats, and all can usually share a household with little difficulty. However, ferrets have been known to attack pet birds, so it is advisable for owners of both to take appropriate precautions to prevent these encounters.

Ferrets are naturally inquisitive and can squeeze through very small spaces. It is important to "ferret-proof" your house before bringing your pet home. Thoroughly check every room it will inhabit, sealing all holes and openings wider than 1 inch in diameter. Make sure that all windows that maybe opened have secure screens. Check the openings around plumbing, heating and air conditioning ducts or pipes. Some kits are small enough to squeeze under some doors. Ferrets are so small and silent that you will usually not hear them approach. They are easily stepped on when they are sleeping under a throw rug or suddenly turn up under foot. Their love of tunneling and their inherent curiosity frequently places them in potentially dangerous situations. They could very easily crawl unnoticed into your refrigerator, into the bottom broiler of a stove, through the rungs of a balcony railing, out the front door, or even end up in the washing machine with clothes under which the ferret was sleeping. Other dangers include folding sofa beds and reclining chairs. The obvious solution to avoiding accident and injury is to learn your ferret's habits and be constantly vigilant.

To help protect your ferret, especially if it is allowed free run of the house, obtain an adjustable, lightweight cat collar, the kind with elastic on one end, a small bell, and an I.D. tag. The bell will signal that your ferret is underfoot or has perhaps slipped out the front door. The bell also helps to warn caged birds allowed unrestricted freedom in the home that the pet ferret is nearby. Unfortunately, we have seen a number of cases of serious injury and death to pet birds caused by ferrets. The collar also indicates to unknowing neighbors (many people have no idea what a ferret is) that whatever it is, it must be someone's pet. While ferrets are not destructive to most household items (furniture, clothing, etc), some have a tendency to chew on soft rubber. This is especially dangerous because the pieces of tennis shoes, Barbie Doll toes, or other rubber items can become impacted in your ferret's intestines. Ingested pieces of kitchen gloves or sponges with household chemicals can also threaten your ferret's life if eaten. Latex rubber squeak toys should not be given to ferrets because they may swallow parts of them, causing intestinal obstruction.

All ferrets have an affinity for people. Some enjoy people more than others. The older a ferret is, the more mellow it is likely to become. Young kits tend to be nippy, but no more than a new kitten or puppy. They just nip with more enthusiasm. Some kits never nip at all, but most that do eventually outgrow it. Ferrets have tough skin and kits have sharp little teeth. The roughhousing a kit may do with its litter-mates may not be appropriate for its owner's finger. Many new ferret owners mistake this nippiness for viciousness, even though the same behavior in a new kitten or puppy is accepted. There are a number of documented cases of ferret attacks on infants and very small children. Some of these involved serious injury to the child. Parents must either forbid encounters between pet ferrets and their infants or very young children, or closely supervise all of these encounters. It is important to point out, however, that these unfortunate encounters are far less common than those involving household dogs and cats. Ferrets are unusual animals, but not "exotic." They have been domesticated for thousands of years and can be treated under the same set of disciplinary rules you would use for any other domesticated animal. Ferrets are extremely intelligent and can quickly be taught what they may and may not do.