LITTER TRAINING | FREE ROAM |TEETHING | FERRET PROOFING
ONE OR TWO FERRETS? |FERRETS AND OTHER PETS
Litter training of a ferret is not very difficult. Ferrets are natural latrine animals. They instinctively use a particular area as a toilet. Even young ferrets at the age of 3 weeks already demonstrate this instinct. Ferrets prefer to keep food, sleeping and play areas separate from the bathroom area. This makes the employment of litter relatively easy for ferrets. You can use regular cat litter and even recycled paper litter. Litters with lots of masking perfumes and scents are not recommended. Ferrets are suspected of being a little averse to such smells and it may in fact discourage them from using the litter box. I have used "Fresh Step" or "Yesterday's News" and they liked it. You should never use clumping clay litter with ferrets. First off, young ferrets may tend to play with the clumps. Secondly, and more importantly, when clumping litter is accidentally ingested by a ferret after cleaning himself, it expands in the intestines of the ferret and may cause obstructions that could lead to your ferret's death. Also stay away from cheap litter that has a lot of dust, powder and small granules in it. It may cause irritation to your ferret's sensitive areas and lungs. You can use the new clumping litters that are made from wheat or corn because they are digestible and they clump nicely for easy clean up. The only drawback appears to be that at certain times of the year, the edible clumping litters can attract ants. If that occurs, just switch back to clay litter for a few months.
Most young ferrets at the store will already demonstrate the litter box technique. However, many stores just fill a ferret cage with wood shavings. The ferrets end up using a corner or two and it looks bad. Never fear. Once you get a ferret home and put a litter box in his cage, he will use it. You may have to encourage him to use it in the initial stages. Here a few tips.
1) Ferrets have two iron rules they always follow and if you follow them you will easily litter train your ferret. One, they never eliminate near their food or water. Two, they never eliminate in their bedding. For a new ferret, it is a good idea to have the litter box on one end of the cage. Put the bedding right next to the litter box. On the other side of the bedding place the food and water bottle. Do not leave your ferret any play area because it may end up an unintentional litter box. To the left is a good example of a trainer cage. This may seem restrictive, but it works. It even works for older ferrets that need to be retrained. Once you are sure your ferret uses his litter box routinely, you can expand his area or move him to a bigger cage. A restrictive cage like this is not acceptable long-term housing for a ferret.
2) Ferrets demonstrate a backing-up-into-a-corner motion with their tail up over their hips when the need to go. If your ferret is not in the litter box, pick him up quickly and place him in the box. Don't let him out until he goes. A young ferret may have difficulty identifying what is a litter box and what is a play area. It is useful to leave a little excrement in the box so that he can smell it and know that this is a good place to go. This is not necessary for established ferrets.
3) Ferrets use their sense of smell for many things, including going to the bathroom. A ferret will often smell an area to see if it is used for a bathroom. If it smells like a potty stop, a ferret will likely reuse that spot. So if your ferrets makes an accident outside of a litter box, clean it up and remove the odor. Ferrets have a powerful sense of smell, so odors must be diligently removed. White vinegar works well with a little club soda on most surfaces including carpeting. Bleach can also be used if it is a problem spot on a hard surface or cage. You should try to remove the bleach after a few minutes with a damp paper towel or cloth. There are other cleaning agents on the market including enzyme type cleaners. Always keep in mind that any cleaning solution other than white vinegar can be harmful to your ferret if he comes in direct contact with it. Try to remove the cleaning agents before your ferret walks on it with his soft paws. Carpet spots can be very effectively cleaned with a portable steam cleaner.
4) Ferrets do not like dirty litter boxes. They will turn their noses up at it and may not use it until you clean it out. Or perhaps they will even throw some of their toys or blankets into the litter box as a protest. For one ferret, you should scoop excrement every day or two and change the litter entirely when needed.
Ferrets do need to be let out of the cage everyday for exercise and recreation, both for yourself and the ferret. I let mine out when I get home from work and they stay out until I go to bed. Often they are out in the morning before I go to work as well. Mine are well-trained and they are sometimes out of the cage for days at a time. If you are going to leave your ferret out, it must be litter-trained again. A ferret, once outside of the cage, will not likely return to the cage to use the litter box. Instead, the ferret will look for suitable spots around the house. Some of the ferret litter boxes sold at stores are far too small for your ferret. It should be large enough so that a ferret can be completely inside of the box and even have plenty of room to turn around inside the litter box. On the right is a typical corner litter box for outside of the cage, although it is a little on the small side. There is some plastic runner under it to help protect the carpet and it makes for easy clean up of litter trackings. When the ferrets were young, they wanted to move the litter box so I put some heavy rocks or bricks on the ends to stop them. On the left is a larger, tupperware-type container turned into a very good litter box with a lid. Several holes were cut into the sides to allow ferret access and several hole on top to allow air circulation. Every corner is a potential bathroom for a ferret. Here are some tips to prevent accidents around the house.
1) Keep a close eye on your ferret for the first few weeks that he is allowed out of the cage. At the first sign of trouble, pick up the ferret and place him in the litter box. Again do not let him out until he goes. Once he goes, you can relax for a while.
2) Place a litter box in a convenient spot for both you and your ferret outside of the cage. When a ferret has to go, he usually can't make a long trip to a litter box. Position the litter box in a corner of a room so that no matter what silliness the ferret is in to, it will not have to travel too far to get to the litter box. I got mine successfully trained to travel 32 feet at a maximum to reach a litter box. Perhaps this distance could be extended, but that's all the room I have.
3) Do not give the ferret too large an area to roam. The further a ferret has to travel to a litter box, the harder it is to train him to use it regularly. When your accidents are at a minimum in a particular area, you may try to expand your ferret's roam zone.
4) Discourage the use of corners as ferret bathrooms by placing immovable objects there. Books, furniture, playhouses, etc...Perhaps at a future date you can remove the objects.
Ferrets will make an accident on your rug once in a while. Maybe once every few weeks, months or longer if they are well-trained. This is an unfortunate fact all ferret owners must accept. (Although my female named Pookie never once in her lifetime made a boo-boo.) They simply are not as reliable as most cats. Fortunately, ferrets accidents are relatively small and easy to clean up. Ferrets are also occasionally known to make a doo-doo in the middle of your rug when they are upset. That might be their way of saying you need to spend more time with them.
Many people have asked me, "What do you do with your ferrets when you leave town for a few days?" If you are going to be away from your home for more than 24 hours, you should put the ferret back in the cage. You can leave a ferret or two locked in a cage for two or three days if you are away for a weekend. However, you better let them out when you return and make up some lost quality time. If you are going to be gone for a longer period, have someone visit at least every other day to check up on the ferrets. The food and water should be attended to and the litter must be changed. The ferrets should be allowed out of the cage for at least an hour during that time.
Potted plants are a large and silly invitation for ferrets. Ferrets are natural diggers and cannot be trained not to dig. It would be like trying to get a fish not to swim. If you leave a ferret alone with a plant, you will find a pile of dirt and a dirty but happy ferret. So how do you stop a ferret from digging in your plant? Move the plant to another room or put it on a high plant stand. If the planter is big enough, you could cover the top of the plant soil with colorful decorative gravel. Each piece of gravel or rock should be at least one and a half to two inches long. Put a two inch layer over the soil. This looks nice and the ferrets hate to put their paws on the rocks.
All ferrets teethe when they are young. When ferrets teethe, they are trying to relieve the pain and discomfort of their teeth growing in. It is not a sign of viciousness. Young ferrets need soft, yet firm things to grind their teeth and gums on. They will slowly stop teething by the time they are around four months old. A plastic toy, a finger and the rubber sole of a shoe, have all been victims of the teething process. I have even seen ferrets painfully attempt to teethe on the metal wires of a cage if there is nothing else to teethe on. The poor guys look like they have rabies! A very useful and recommended item is the teething "Super Chew" from Marshall Farms. I am sure there are other similar items on the market. Young ferrets will teethe, which creates a danger that a young ferret will ingest something that will cause an intestinal obstruction. The Super Chew is perfect for young ferrets to teethe, gnaw and slobber on. Ferrets seem to enjoy the taste. If a piece breaks off and is accidentally ingested, it is safe for a ferret's digestion. The same thing cannot be said of rubber or plastics. Providing a safe teething toy is a necessity. I wedge the teething toy between the wires of the cage which hold it in place, giving the ferrets easy access and leverage. If a ferret can teethe sufficiently, he will be less likely to teethe on you or something dangerous. Once a ferret is grown, he will no longer require a teething toy.
Ferret-proofing the home is essential if you have a ferret. Due to their incredible curiosity and fearless nature, they will, if given the opportunity, get into anything. Your ferrets must not be allowed into your cabinets where they can get into your cleaning agent, garbage, poisons, etc. They can open a cabinet by lying on the floor and working the door with their paws and claws. I had to put strong magnetic latches on all my lower cabinets to keep them out. To the right you can see jumpy who figured out how to climb up inside of my end table. He seems to love sleeping in the drawer, particularly when it is closed. Ferrets are not rodents and therefore do not chew on things like wires or furniture, but they will taste soap, detergents and poisons.
You must make certain your ferret cannot get under your stove, behind the refrigerator, between your washer and dryer or in any large appliance. They can find their way to a motor or fan belt and end up dead. They might end up stuck under your stove and you might not know he's there. Fortunately, most appliances are low enough that an adult ferret cannot get under it. But care must be taken to insure they cannot get behind an appliance where an opening might lead to the internals. The answer sometimes lies in using duct tape, wood and plastic.
If a ferret observes you entering another room and closing the door, the ferret is sure to try to follow you. If you have wall to wall carpet, he may scratch at it trying to dig into the other room. To remedy this situation, I put scrap pieces of carpeting or a plastic runners by that door. Sometimes I have to hammer down the runners to keep the ferrets from tunneling.
I have a hallway leading to the rest of my home and I chose to keep the ferrets from accessing the whole house. I developed a ferret barrier to keep them out while at the same time allowing me the convenience of stepping over it. I cut a two-foot high board which is exactly as wide as the hallway. It slides up and down for removal. On the walls are attached some clear pieces of plastic to hold the board in place. On the board, I taped a piece of cardboard all along the top which angles down to the floor like a roof. It is only attached at the top. A ferret can jump higher than a two-foot wall and drag himself over it. However, when he tries to get over my barrier, he has to jump over the angled piece of cardboard. It is slippery and when he tries to grasp it, it collapses and he falls to the floor. After about a half hour of effort trying to figure out how to get over the barrier, my ferret gave up and never tried again.
ONE OR TWO FERRETS?
A common question is whether to buy one ferret or two. There are both positives and negatives to this argument. Two ferrets cost twice as much. Not just the purchase price which is around $110.00, but also food, litter, and vet bills. They also require a larger cage which can accommodate two ferrets comfortably. Two ferrets get into twice as much trouble. However, two ferrets is the way to go if you can afford it. Ferrets are not like dogs. While they will bond with humans, they still need ferret companionship. Ferrets are very communally-oriented animals.
A group of fish is called a school, a group a whales a pod, a group of dogs a pack, and group of lions a pride, a group of geese a gander and a group of ferrets is called a business. I call it a funny business.
Having two ferrets helps keeps them from being bored and depressed if you're not home all day. Ferrets enjoy each other's company and almost always get along. Ferrets enjoy sleeping in a pile and playing special games only ferrets can play. Ferrets love to wrestle, bite and chase each other in mock combat. They are only having fun and get great exercise when this goes on. While humans can play many games with ferrets, there are certain natural ferrets games only ferrets can play. One ferret game is "fanging." This is a silly game where two ferrets face each other in a tight space with their mouths wide open as if to chomp down on each others' nose. They twist their little heads and roll around trying to "ferret out" the other ferret. Here is a series of images in which Tuco seems to be getting the better of Jumpy. It may look harmful, but they both love alternating between the attacker and the victim. Tuco has got a silly mouthful of fur in the first image, but fear not, Jumpy is actually enjoying it. Having two ferrets is not only rewarding for the ferrets, it is also rewarding for the owner. Once you see for yourself two ferrets playing one of their silly games, you will never regret getting two. It is simply one of the funniest things to watch.
I have observed my ferrets grooming and cleaning each other from time to time. While it does not seem as important a routine as cats attach to it, I nevertheless believe they do benefit from this in a way which I cannot be a substitute for. I have observed them licking each others necks, ears, faces, tails and so forth. I do give them a bath about every fourteen days, but nothing beats a custom grooming from another ferret.
If you are going to buy two ferrets, I recommend that you purchase them within 6 months of each other. I bought my two ferrets several months apart. In this manner, I was able to bond with each one individually at a young age. I initially kept both ferrets in separate cages very close to each other. This way they could smell each other and get used to each other's presence. They both were obviously excited about there being another ferret. I then physically introduced them to each other once the second ferret was large enough to roughhouse with the older one. The new ferret was 8 weeks old at this time. This was done over a two week period through short supervised play periods. The older, larger ferret will want to drag the younger ferret by the scruff under the nearest sofa as if it were a toy. Obviously, you should discourage this activity until the younger ferret is big enough to fight back. The play periods eventual got longer as they got comfortable with each other. Only then did I house both ferrets in the same cage.
I do not believe you will have too much trouble either if your ferrets are bought at the same time and are the same age. You will also have success if you introduce much older ferrets to younger ones, but I believe the best route is to keep them relatively close in age. An old ferret just may not want to rough house with a much younger ferret as much as the newbie wants to. As with people, it is nice for ferrets to grow up and age together.
FERRETS AND OTHER PETS
Ferrets will kill your birds, hamsters, mice and insects if they can get to them. However, ferrets can easily coexist with cats and some dogs. The most important factor is whether the other pet has a friendly disposition. New ferrets and other young pets have the best chance to bond over time but that is not the necessarly the rule. An established pet may accept a ferret into your home, but it is rare they will really bond with your ferret. Very territorial animals and ferrets should not be placed together. A ferret can handle its own with a declawed cat, but a dog must be friendly and trustworthy to have around ferrets. Ferrets learn their place in most instances and if a cat does not like your ferret, the ferret will not harass the cat, usually. At New Ferret City, Silly Tuco loves to jump on the backs of cats and scruff them till the are subdued. Most cats can avoid this and even fend off little Tuco, but he is sneaky, and can catch a fur ride on a distracted cat. Silly Jumpy likes to steals cat toys and hide them under a sofa where the cats cannot retrieve them.
You should not allow ferrets and cats to share the same litterbox. Cats may use a ferret litter box from time to time so the box should have a lid and holes in it so only a ferret can get in and out easily.