Actually, there *are* rather inexpensive and very effective cures for everything you are
having problems with. The trick is, you have to really want to keep the ferret *and* be
willing to put some effort into it.
I'd almost be willing to bet that the reason your ferret is acting the way he is, is because
he was abused, neglected, or otherwise lived a bad life, before you got him. Animals aren't
born evil...people make them that way.
I've had what appeared to be "evil" ferrets when I first got them. Chewy, for instance, got
his name because he literally tore up my left hand. Blood all over the place, the fingers
were numb, gashes all up and down the palm and wrist. This all happened while we were still
at the home where I was rescuing him from!
I still took him home with me anyway. I stopped at a pharmacy and bought
bandages and antiseptic and fixed myself up well enough to make the drive home. When I got to
the house, I had to carry his cage by the sides, because it was too big to carry from the
bottom. Got my fingers torn up for all my trouble. Again, bandages and antiseptic.
However, I didn't hit him, or yell at him, or even punish him. What I *did* do, was put
ferretone (an oil supplement for ferrets, that they also like as a treat) all over my hands
and fingers. I then stuck my hand inside his cage. No one was able to do that before,
without getting their hand gnawed off. He ran for me, but stopped cold and sniffed the
ferretone. He then licked it...and licked it...and licked it. He spent more than 15 minutes
getting every last molecule off my hand. Not once during this time, did he bite.
Four days after rescuing this ferret, he no longer bit me. He also let me put my hands in
his cage, he let me hold him and he even let me take him on short walks on a leash. Only
four days. Ferrets can change, if you have the time and are willing to do the work.
(Results not typical. Your mileage may vary. Consult owner's manual for
details on how long to wait between oil changes. Because ferrets vary, your
time-to-peace may take more or less time than mine did. One other note, I
have never been afraid of my ferrets. It might be because of this that it's
easier for me to get my ferrets interested in a new behavior. A frightened
person is easy to detect by an animal. Some animals can use this against you.
Remember, your ferret can be kind and can behave. Don't be afraid of them.
They don't *want* to hurt you.)
Almost all of my ferrets (I have 11 of them) had done the carpet digging from time to time.
I found that putting pepper on the carpet where they like to dig, tends to teach them not to
dig there for very long. After a time, they give up and find something else to do. Pepper is
easy to vacuum up later, too.
If the ferrets get into cabinets, simple hook-locks can keep them out of your cabinets. I
know...two of my three cabinets are locked in this manner. Kinder locks also work well
(provided none of your ferrets are skinny!), as do simple velcro strips.
For the bed, simply buy an additional box spring and remove the frame you've been using,
replacing it with the extra box spring. The bed stays about the same height and ferrets can't
get under it--either to stash rottweilers, or to rip out the lining.
As to the cage problem, get a better cage. You might have to save up some money for this,
but it can be worth the time. The best type would be a cage with a door that slides up and
down. You only need to use a small lock to keep the door shut at the bottom. The rails that
guide the door keep the sides secure and the lock keeps the top and bottom from being
compromised. Also, be sure that you get one with only one door, but that the cage can be
removed from the tray for easy cleaning.
If he uses the entire bottom of his cage for a litter box, simply line the tray with newspaper,
then put litter on top of it (the litter helps absorb fluids, as well as helping to dry out
droppings). When it comes time to clean the cage (do this when he's out and about) just lift
up the cage, roll up the newspaper, replace paper and litter and put the cage back together.
To keep corners from being abused, tack some plastic (you can buy a plastic tarp for covering
things like boats for the winter, at a home improvement store, for about $5 for a huge piece)
down in each corner (about 2 feet by 2 feet square, plus about 6 inches up each wall). Use
thumb tacks and a small hammer to put them in, but don't pound them in hard, as you'll want to
remove them to replace the plastic from time to time. After the plastic is down, put newspaper
over it and tack it in place, too, using separate tacks. Put litter on top of the newspaper
(not a lot, so it doesn't get dragged around). When the paper needs changing, just roll it up,
fold the ends and toss into a plastic grocery bag (remove groceries first! :)). You may find
that having friends and neighbors save their newspapers for you will help. Also, before
replacing the newspaper,
use an all-purpose cleaner (I use Clorox Clean-Up) and some paper towels to wipe down the
As far as him stealing everything, all you need to do is watch him carefully for a few days
while he is out. Watch to see everyplace he can get to. Once you've identified where he can
get to, as well as those places he can't, make a list and make sure everyone knows where they
can put things and where they can't. Buying an (inexpensive) key hanger (basically a piece of
wood with some hooks on it) can keep your keys safe. Putting your clothing on top of furniture
that he can't get up on will keep it from being stolen. Put wallets, purses, etc. on top of
dressers that he can't get up on. You can also build (for just a few dollars) a small angled
box (similar to a magazine rack) and put it on the wall (well above his jumping reach) and put
things such as wallets, purses, etc. in there. That not only keeps him out of these things,
but it also makes it easy (once you've gotten into the habit of using this) to find your
things. Build a shelf in the bedroom (where he can't jump onto it from another piece of
furniture, or climb up from the floor) to put your shoes on.
(commonly called FFZ, or Ferret-Free Zones)
It is also rather simple to keep him out of certain areas, while not restricting your access.
You can buy sheets of plexiglas (not cheap, but you can work out how much you need, then buy
one large sheet and have the home improvement center cut out the segments that you need), and
some "firring strips" thin strips of wood about 1" by 2". You nail these in the edge of
doorways as a brace. You measure the doorway (say it comes to exactly 30" wide, you would make
the sheet of plexiglas for that doorway 30 1/2" wide) and put the sheet in by flexing it a bit
to fit and pushing it back against the firring strip to keep a fert from jumping at it and
pushing it in. Measure the inseam of the shortest person in the house, then cut the vertical
measurement of the plexiglas about 1" lower than the inseam. This way, you can easily step
over it to go from one room to the next. I suggest you put small plastic stickers on the
plexiglas, to make it easy to see when it is in place.
In order to combat the smell, change the diet. The food you give them can impact the litter
box odors a great deal. If you feed a high-quality food, the odor can be cut dramatically.
Not only does it smell less, it also saves money in the long run, because the ferrets
metabolize more of the food, meaning they don't need to eat as much. Reduced odor, reduced
useage, less money spent. I recommend Iams. If they don't eat it at first, put a few squirts
of ferretone on it (stir to mix it up).
Now, you may say "I don't have the *time* to do all of this!!!" That isn't true. Yes, it
will take time to set it all up, but you can do it one project at a time until its all done.
Once done, it doesn't take that long. I have 11 ferrets, as I said before. It takes me a
total of about 1/2 hour per day to feed and clean up after them all...and I don't particularly
hurry when doing it.
The whole thing in a nutshell, is that, if you really love your ferrets, there are inexpensive,
non-time-consuming, easy-to-implement ways to keep them from driving you nuts. The big thing
here is that you have to *want* to. If you are really just looking for a reason to move them
on, then just say so and offer them up. Don't worry about what others feel on this matter.
They aren't you and they don't live in your house. Their opinions are unimportant. The only
suggestion I have to make on that matter though, is that you be extremely honest as to the
behavior of your ferret(s) that you find new homes for.
Another pair of ferrets that I rescued, lived with a family that also had a dog and some cats.
These ferrets didn't even have a litter box to *use*, let alone get trained for one. They also
bit your feet (no, not "nip"...BITE!), harrassed the cats and dog--drawing blood on several
occasions. They did their bit where ever they wanted to. They also ate disgusting food and
stank to high heaven. I rescued them (for $150) from the family. They lied to me, saying
they didn't bite, they always used a litter box (where was the litter box???) and they got
along great with cats and dogs. They were just trying to get rid of them.
However, after about three months, they all eat Iams (no ferretone needed), they share Chewy's
cage (they are the "kids" play group) and play time, they use a litter box most of the time
(Run, a girl, has to be reminded a few times per week, but remembers for a few days afterward),
they don't bite (they do still nip just a bit, but only occasionally, when they want your
attention and you aren't giving it to them!) and are very kind to the cat--they give him at
least three seconds notice before chasing after him! :) They also love to play with me,
inviting me to get down on the floor and wrestle, chase and otherwise have a good time. They
also dance just for the pure joy of dancing! :) They've *got* to get better music, though...
I'm getting a little tired of the Bee Gees.
Basically, it comes down to:
Do you want to find a way to keep your ferret(s),
or do you just want them to go live with someone else and free up your home again?
Whatever your decision, make it, then follow through. If you want to keep them, but want advice
on how to either prevent something, or change a behavior, drop me,
Todd Leuthold, a line and ask. I have had
ferrets for about 8 years now. My ferrets have a wide range of personalities and mental
capabilities (Hershey is a genius, while Stuffy is close to being an idiot!), so I've had lots
of practice in learning how to "proof" things, as well as how to protect myself and
everyone/everything in my home. I am willing to share my experiences with my ferrets, if you
want the help.
Todd and the (We ain't trained...we just haven't figgered out how to beat his proofing yet!)
Fuzzbutt Rodeo Clowns!