Q: I have two ferrets. Podo is about 4 (not really sure, she was a rescue) and Kali is about 2. Podo is very mild-mannered and well-behaved. She waddles around and does her own thing, pausing to ask for a treat every once in awhile, and never really causing trouble. Kali was a gift to me from a friend who was not able to take care of her and left her in the cage all the time. Kali is very active and likes to play, and both the fuzzies are out with me most of the day as I am not working right now. When it’s bedtime, or sometimes at 4 or 5 in the morning, Kali finds it necessary to throw temper tantrums. She scratches at the shelves in the cage making an awful racket, and grabs hold of the cage bars with her teeth and shakes and kicks as hard as she can. It has been so loud that it has woken me up on several occasions! This has only been happening very recently. She did it when my friend first brought her here, but when my friend left she quit doing it for a while. She is so sweet and loving and always has to stop while she is playing and make sure I’m paying attention to her. But now the temper tantrums? I started putting a blanket over the cage at night, and it helped for a while, but now she has started again. All the racket wakes up poor Podo, and it upsets her tremendously. I always check to see if Kali is doing it because of a need for food, water, whatever — but that’s not the problem.
I hate the cage I have; this was also from my friend. It’s held together with plastic pieces and the shelves are plastic and not very sturdy at all. As soon as I have a little money saved, I plan on getting one of the good Ferret Nation cages and hopefully this will help with a lot of this. It worries me though because Kali has gotten stuck several times, and I’m so afraid she is going to get hurt! Please help. She really is a sweet ferret. I just need some advice to retrain her as all of my efforts so far have failed. What can I do?
A: A larger, better build cage may work, but I am guessing that your ferret Kali has learned that when she has a temper tantrum, she always gets your attention. This is probably her goal.
I suggest two approaches. First, make the current cage more exciting and fun using enrichment. There is a lot of information at Ferrets magazine online to help make the cage more stimulating.
Second, ignore the behavior no matter how much of a challenge it is. Even if you get up to check the food and water, you are reinforcing her behavior. Since she has been stuck once, you can try to ensure the cage is as safe as possible. You can try using zip-ties or twine to make sure the shelves are secure.