© Courtesy L. Vanessa Gruden
Work to make your ferret think of the cage as a refuge, not a prison.
Q: Recently, my boyfriend and I purchased a female kit from our local store. Her name is Kiyoko. A few days later we went back to the same store because we just had to buy another one. We purchased another female kit, naming her Misa. After we have our playtime with both kits to get them tired out, we put them back in their cage to eat and drink some water or maybe even just take a nap, but Misa has been chewing the wire bars and pulling on them as well, almost as if demanding to come back out. We are concerned that she will eventually chip her tooth, hurt her gums or something along those lines. We’ve tried to lightly tap her nose telling her no, and we have also brought her back out, but once out she doesn’t want to seem to be out. Is there anything you can recommend to help us prevent a trip to the veterinarian?
A: When you said that Misa seems to be “demanding to come back out” when she chews on the bars — well, that’s exactly what she’s doing!
When tired, some ferrets are fine with being placed back in the cage to sleep. Others, like Misa, just hate being locked up. She may not particularly want to do anything outside her cage; she just wants the option available. How do you feel when your car is being repaired and you don’t have transport? You may not have had travel plans, but now, perversely, you want a road trip!
Clearly Misa is a high-spirited little girl. You’re right to be concerned that she could chip or break a tooth; but nose-tapping won’t help. You can’t punish anything — furry or human — for their personality. And Misa might channel her frustration into something worse — like biting you.
Our ferret shelter has accepted angry “biters.” Some will go right for hands. Often smart, they understood hands locked them inside the hated cage and began to hate hands. Just being loose in the shelter room 24/7 quickly improved them.
You can try putting a ferret-safe treat inside the cage when you’re finished playing, so Misa begins to associate the cage with something yummy. Keep a couple of safe, interesting toys inside. Fun infant mobiles are distracting and easily hung from the top of a cage. Another option is to switch to a metal pet playpen; it’s more open and may make her happier.
The goal is for Misa to see her cage as a refuge, not a jail. Keep the door open while playing so she can go in and out as she chooses. When you’ve finished interacting, don’t put her away — let her decide to return when she’s sleepy. Leave the door open for a while. Knowing freedom is a few short steps away will let her feel less trapped. When she is soundly asleep, before you head to bed, quietly latch the door. Hopefully she won’t wake you at 2 a.m. If she does, ignore it! You don’t want to give her attention or she’ll quickly “train” you to her bidding. Good luck!
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